CFP : "Performing grief"

Performing Grief International Conference

Paris-Sorbonne Université
October 17-18, 2014

Confirmed keynote speakers :
Pr. Isabel Karremann (University of Würzburg)
Pr. Diana Taylor (New York University)

Looking at grief amounts to parsing a semantic conflation, as the term
can in turn designate the site of sorrow, its origin, quality,
consequences, or its written, physical, mental traces. It can also be
perceived as interaction, whether suffered or inflicted. As a phenomenon
conventionally associated with the private sphere yet whose expression
is framed by social norms, grief places its victim in a more or less
submissive situation of performance, constraining her to become the
closely watched actor of her sorrow.
Whether it emphasizes the discrepancy with an implicit decorum or the
validation of expectations, the expression of grief is approached
through a performance perspective, in other words featuring the
necessary components of a spectacle.

Yet the process by which the pain is externalized can rarely be allowed
to become manifest, as it may cast doubts on the private side of truth.
Grief may then enter into a relationship based on reticence, if not
outright resistance, to the theatre, beyond the framework of didacticism
or metatheatre. It should not come as a surprise that its representation
has been dramatically foregrounded, recurrently as well as
problematically so.

We will analyze its theatrical treatment, and beyond, its aesthetic and
social expressions across the English-speaking world from the Early
Modern period onwards. Grief will be approached as a discursive site in
constant flux, negociating its passage through a liminal space between
opposite poles (public/private, performer/spectator, acting/truth,
ephemerality/repetition, mourning/restoration, archive/repertoire,
presence/absence, origin/effect, etc.) We will interrogate the various
means to invest the interstices, as well as the presuppositions behind
those binary constructions.

The papers presented will aim to take stock of the state of the field
through the dual lens of performance and grief, articulating the
aesthetic, curative, and ethical implications of the terms.

Recent scholarship in the field of Performance Studies provides a point
of reference, especially approaches aiming to break away from the
dominant – comparative and synchronic – model to adopt a transhistorical
perspective. For example, Diana Taylor (The Archive and the Repertoire,
2003)’s assumption that the performance gesture can be as complex to
reconstruct in a contemporary as in a past context, when the
transmission of cultural memory bypasses a written framework or when
written traces remain partial or cryptic.

Situating our approach between cultural history, aesthetics and
literature, we will look at archives and practices usually perceived in
their aesthetic dimension to restore the broader performance conventions
they reflect, and vice versa – the theatrical encoding allowing for a
closer outlook on social rituals, due to the reproductive potentialities
of this living artform.

From the work of Tobias Döring, Isabel Karremann and Thomas Rist on the
representations of rituals and funeral commemorations in the Elizabethan
era, to those of Peggy Phelan and Diana Taylor on the theatricalization
of mourning in the contemporary world, connections remain to be
established to foster a methodological dialogue. Following Jon
McKenzie’s lead, our claim is that performance can be an episteme and
not only an object of analysis.

Suggested topics may include but are not limited to :

  •  Realities and representations
  •  Expressions of grief in the theatre, music, visual arts, and dialectical connections between the arts
  •  Evolutions in the treatment of grief in religious and cultural practices
  •  Repetition, commemoration, ritual
  •  Spaces and scenographies of grief

    Please send an abstract and short bio to by
    May 31, 2014.

    The event is organized by Marie Brossollet Pecorari and Denis
    HDEA-CSTI (dir. Marie-Madeleine Martinet), Paris-Sorbonne
    Institut des Amériques, pôle Nord-Est