Theatre and Performance Studies Research Seminar – School of Literature, Art and Media Theatre and Performance Studies Research Seminar – School of Literature, Art and Media

Theatre and Performance Studies Research Seminar

Our seminar this week exemplifies two different ways of deploying performance, and performance studies research methodologies, in projects focused beyond the theatre. James Dalton will be sharing some early experiences of his fieldwork in a major teaching hospital where he is studying the ways in which students on clinical placement start to develop a sense of professional identity as doctors-to-be. Adrian Howe will then lead us on the (possibly not-so-long) trek from Feminist critical legal studies to a practice-based performance studies project wherein Shakespeare’s Othello is “repurposed” with the aim of challenging men’s violence against women.


Through a Class, Darkly: Experiencing field work in a hospital while trying to hold the lens of ‘professional identity formation’
James Dalton, PhD Candidate, Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Sydney

Medical education is regularly thought of as both a passage through time and rites of conversion, transforming those undertaking it from lay person to initiated professional. A recent paradigm in medical education literature is that medical students individually form a professional identity through this process, rather than learn and embody standardised professional traits. Cognitive reflection, argues much of the literature, is the skill students must develop to forge the raw material of their learning experience into their bespoke professional identity. What is missing from this neat, rational narrative?

Since proposing this paper, initially a fluffed-up literature review, I have begun field work at a hospital site. This paper combines therefore an elaboration of my developing sense of professionalism, socialisation and identity as they pertain to medical education literature, as well as some of my own first experiences in sites where medical students are “passing” through to medical professionalism. One way of entering into this (physical and disciplinary) field is to acknowledge that I am a lay person with privileged access to the more closed aspects of the medical profession, and at times this anomaly places me in moments where my lack of medical skill, knowledge and values has an affect on me. How this will enrich my ongoing field work and future analysis will be part of the discussion leading on from this paper.

The Othello Project – Shakespearean Dramaturgy as Political Theatre
Adrian Howe, PhD Candidate, Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Sydney

Originally conceived as a trilogy of plays for young people,the Othello project deploys Shakespeare’s Othello as a vehicle for dramatising continuing high levels of men’s violence against women in western societies. Focusing first on intimate partner femicide cases, the project set out describing itself as a foucauldian problematisation of so-called ‘crimes of passion’. Had it been informed by performance theory it might have called itself verbatim theatre with a Shakespearean twist or perhaps feminist Forum or political theatre. But as it was conceived and developed outwith performance studies, it had no knowledge of that body of work or indeed of the existence of those various theatrical forms.

The paper presents a genealogy of the project, tracing the itineraries followed across the fields of inquiry that have informed the writing of the first play in the planned trilogy, “Othello on Trial”. It then provides a brief account of the play’s five-year performance history in order to highlight the key question that has arisen therein – one that I now know has a history within performance studies, namely that of ‘the possibility of a more extensive socio-political efficacy of performance’ (Kershaw).

There will be a reading of two short sections of the script by University of Sydney postgraduate students.

AV Room (S113) Woolley Building, University of Sydney (entry from Manning Rd)


Apr 12 2019


3:00 pm - 5:00 pm




John Woolley Building (A20)
University of Sydney NSW 2006

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