What Is Performance Studies? NYU and Northwestern Define an Elusive Field
Jacobson, Lynn, American Theatre
Performance studies is the ideal field of study for the intellectually promiscuous. In what other academic program can you research the death rituals of the Yanomamo tribe, compare them to the construction of the self in a Jane Fonda exercise video, and then present your findings in the form of a modern dance piece?
This particular project has yet to be undertaken, but compared to a list of actual performances studies dissertations written by students at Northwestern and New York universities, it doesn't seem that far out: "Playing at Death," "Performance, Play and Pigs in Hawthorne's Social Romances," "The Peasants' Theatre Experiment in Ding Xian County"...
So what is performance studies, anyway? Depends on who you ask. But rest assured, the answer will never be brief. Pressed for a one-sentence definition of the term, Dwight Conquergood, the recently appointed chair of the department of performance studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., ventured, "We begin with the definition of humankind as homo performance, as an essentially performing creature, and pick up where theatre leaves off," and then continued, "We study text through performance, but non-dramatic texts: autobiographies, diaries, prison notebooks, poems, novels, short stories, ethnographies, oral traditions and so forth. And then we move …
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Publication information: Article title: What Is Performance Studies? NYU and Northwestern Define an Elusive Field. Contributors: Jacobson, Lynn - Author. Magazine title: American Theatre. Volume: 11. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 1994. Page number: 20+. © 1999 Theatre Communications Group. COPYRIGHT 1994 Gale Group.
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