CFP: [Theatre] A Symposium on Violence and Laughter on the Modern European Stage

full name / name of organization: 
Kelly V. Jones
contact email: 

CFP: A Symposium on Violence and Laughter on the Modern European Stage, UK

Proposed Date: Saturday 6th October 2007.
Venue: Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies, University of
Wales, Aberystwyth and A14 Hugh Owen Building, University of Wales,

Confirmed keynotes:

Professor Joe Kelleher, Roehampton University, London
Professor Dan Rebellato, Royal Holloway, University of London

In The Poetics, Aristotle equates comedy with the painless, ‘the
ludicrous, that is, is a failing or a piece of ugliness which causes no
pain or destruction’, but very often laughter is provoked from an audience
attempting to cope with theatrical visions of violence. In such instances,
does laughter at the horrific defuse the unease felt by an audience or
create further anxiety? This symposium proposes to challenge conventional
definitions of the comic and its relationship to mimetic acts of brutality
on the modern European stage. The symposium aims to facilitate an
exploration into the intersection between violence and comedy as exhibited
in a range of dramatic texts either written and/or staged on the twentieth
and twenty-first century European/British stage. The symposium aims to
integrate critical thought, performance practice and a text-based study of
drama and will provide a forum for discussion amongst academic scholars in
the field of Theatre Studies.

Papers may consider, amongst other topics:

- The relationship between comedy and violence in the plays of a
variety of modern dramatists such as Sarah Kane, Martin McDonagh and
Howard Barker.

- Theories of the relationship between violence and laughter in
relation to the dramatic medium.

- The role of violence and comedy in pre-twentieth century drama on
the contemporary stage.

The symposium will seek to explore the following questions:

- What kind of meaning does a theatrically represented act of
violence assume when combined with the effects of laughter?

- What causes a violent act to become comic when it is presented via
the dramatic medium?

- What are the differences between naturalistic and expressionistic
or stylized representations of violence in their provocation of laughter?

- Is there a difference between realizing the comic impulse of the
mimesis of violence in reading the text versus its mediation through

- Does a dramatic text court a certain reaction to a representation
of violence or is such a response necessarily and inevitably organic? Does
the playwright possess a moral responsibility towards the effects of
laughter provoked by a theatrical representation of violence?

- How can laughter that follows the violent impulse serve as an
agent of reflection to encourage a social/political

- Does such laughter enforce or destabilize the cathartic impulse?

- What effect does laughter have on the experience of the audience
as a community of spectators? Does it provide a cohesive effect or does it
problematize the shared experience of spectatorship?

Papers should be no more than 20 minutes in length. Please send a 100-200
word abstract to Dr. Kelly Jones ( and/or or Catherine Rees ( by 31st
August 2007.

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Received on Mon Aug 06 2007 - 06:58:27 EDT