Confined Spaces: Considering Performance, Madness, and Psychiatry

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Corpus Christ College, University of Cambridge
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Madness and theatre are not unfamiliar bedfellows. Their twinned histories are in evidence since the earliest examples of literature. Eschewing the somewhat hazy link between madness and creativity, however, this interdisciplinary conference opens up a critical dialogue between mental ill health and theatre and asks how far performance might be a useful methodology for understanding and articulating alternative mental experiences. We are particularly concerned with the shifts in notions of mental ill health, its treatment, and its spaces from the late nineteenth century onwards and how this psychiatric and human history might speak to a concomitant theatre history. The conference is addressing what theatre practice has taken place in this period about this subject but also what performance work has taken place within its institutions. Moreover, it raises questions about the performativity of health and illness. The conference will also explore notions of space and place and interrogate the relationships between theatrical and medical environments. This conference, then, invites scholars and practitioners from all disciplines to share their research at the intersection between medicine and the arts, between science and culture. Papers are invited, but not limited to, the following areas:

 Theatre and psychiatric environments (hospitals, asylums, community settings)
 Madness and dramaturgy
 Stand up comedy and mental health
 Madness and architecture
 Madness and metaphor
 Madness and testimony
 Applied theatre in mental health contexts
 Madness, voice, and silence
 Madness and spectacle
 Madness and embodiment

The conference will feature a keynote paper from Professor Kay Redfield Jamison alongside papers from an international array of scholars including Professor Paul Crawford, Professor Ellen Kaplan, Professor Susan Cox, Dr Juliet Foster, Dr Anna Harpin and Dr Carina Bartleet. The conference will also include workshops and screenings from The Comedy School and Stand Up for Mental Health.

The AHRC supported conference is organised jointly by the University of Exeter and the University of Cambridge. For further information please contact Anna Harpin ( or Juliet Foster (

To propose a paper: Please send abstracts (up to 350 words) via email to Dr. Anna Harpin at:, and Dr Juliet Foster at: by March 28, 2012.

To book online: Go to