New Modernist Performance Studies (abstract due 1 June)

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Editors: Glenn A. Odom and Julia A. Walker

New Modernist Performance Studies
Glenn Odom and Julia A. Walker, editors

This book charts new territory at the intersection of Modernist Studies and Performance Studies—two fields of scholarship that have radically redefined their traditional objects of study. As yet, neither field has ventured deeply into their shared terrain, even though many modernist and postmodernist art forms boast a performative dimension. The essays in this book seek to map that no man's land, proposing new ways to envision both fields.
As reimagined by the scholars associated with the Modernist Studies Association and its flagship journal Modernism/Modernity, "modernism" is no longer limited to accounts of formal innovation, but is understood as the cultural expression of the changed social relations that have accompanied the historical period of modernity. As Douglas Mao and Rebecca Walkowitz have recently noted, this new definition of modernism has resulted from scholarship that expands the purview of its research across vertical, horizontal, and temporal vectors. Where modernism was once understood to pertain strictly to a high cultural aesthetic, it now includes popular art forms and mass cultural expressions; where its study was once circumscribed to urban centers of the West (e.g., London, Paris, New York), its manifestations are now recognized throughout the global periphery. Where modernism was once dated to the turn and first half of the 20th century, its origins and enduring legacies are still being contested. Indeed, the "alternative modernisms" that continue to appear in our own moment testify to modernism's uneven development and expansive global reach.
Performance Studies has also radically redefined the central object of its study. Once primarily the domain of theatre and dance scholars, "performance" is no longer understood strictly as an aesthetic practice but has been enlarged to include everyday "doings" that can be approached from philosophical, anthropological, sociological, and political perspectives. To borrow Mao and Walkowitz's terminology, the field has thus experienced its own kind of "vertical" expansion. It also has been stretched along a horizontal axis—as seen in the global compass of Performance Studies research regularly published in flagship journals such as Theatre Journal, TDR and Theatre Research International. By means of both vectors, performance has emerged as a central paradigm for the study of subjectivity. Understanding subjectivity to be both a discursively constituted position and a dynamic by which to reproduce and/or contest discursive structures, Performance Studies has reframed the theatrical concept of "character" to speak to the experience of contemporary social and political realities.
With its emphasis on process and enactment, Performance Studies offers new ways of understanding the dynamism of the "movements" and "-isms" so characteristic of modernism, the historical avant garde, and contemporary postmodernisms. With its emphasis upon history and the emergence of new subjective experiences within the modern and/or postmodern period, Modernist Studies offers a historicist perspective to the study of performance. This book draws on innovations in both fields to understand performance in relation to the larger cultural-historical forces of (post)modernity, while yielding new insights into this historical period by enlarging the traditional scholarly focus on objects of analysis to include processes, practices, and performances.
The virgule (or parentheses) so common to discussions of modernity and/or postmodernity suggest that beginning and end points marking this historical period have yet to be definitively set. This book eagerly takes up that challenge, featuring essays that offer competing paradigms and explanations from a variety of theoretical frameworks. Whether "modernist," "late modernist," "postmodernist," "neo-baroque" or some other term is used, these essays each attempt to situate a performance practice within the contours of its specific authorizing culture, while acknowledging how those contours have been shaped by larger forces of modernity and the related frameworks of "modernization," "globalization," "imperialism," "post-imperialism," "colonialism," and "postcolonialism."
We propose to collect the best recent work in the field from both established and emerging scholars, and invite submissions that address one or more of the following areas of current scholarly investigation:
1) performative interventions in the formation of modern subjectivities, especially via discourses of gender/sexuality/ethnicity/race/nation/transnational diasporas;
2) performance as a means of conditioning the modern subject to changes in the experience of space and time, especially as altered/regulated by technology, or as a means of restoring the subject to a "primitive," "natural," or "organic" experience of space and time;
3) performance as a conduit in the circuit and flow of global/transnational energies, especially as channeled/blocked by collective and indigenous practices.
Please send a brief abstract or completed essay (c. 7,000 words) by 1 June 2010 to the editors at and We hope to make our decisions by 15 July 2010, with the goal of receiving completed essays by 31 December 2010.