Interested students in the English department are invited to focus their study of literature and culture through the lens of performance. The Theatre and Performance Studies Research Group approaches performance as both an object and method of study. As an object of study we understand performance in a range of broad, as well as highly focused, manifestations, including theatre history and dramatic literature; avant-garde and experimental performance; the performance of politics; performances of everyday life; performances of race, gender, sexuality, class, and nation; and performances of myth and ritual.
As a method of study we ask how all modes of performance—as embodied acts, speech acts, and staged spectacles meant to be witnessed—can help us better understand literary, cultural, and political events, whether early modern sea spectacle or queer nightlife performances; whether the political acts of the Black Arts Movement or the electoral performances of presidential contenders; whether postmodern stagings of classic dramatists such as Sophocles, Shakespeare, Wilde, and Beckett, or new and upcoming future classics in black, postcolonial, and transnational drama in English.
Interdisciplinary, cross-historical, and theoretically multifaceted, The Theatre and Performance Studies Research Group offers a rigorous research program that foregrounds the interplay between embodied texts and textual bodies, internal and external modes of performativity, language and the impact of visual media, in order to examine the experience, production and transformation of cultural meaning. We study theatre and performance in discrete historical periods as well as the transmission of historical and cultural performativity in its myriad creative and concrete forms.
Students can take advantage of a number of resources (in the English Department, at Indiana University, and in the region) to augment their study of drama and performance. The Drama and Performance Studies Reading Group meets several times throughout the year. English faculty and advanced graduate students working on issues of theatricality, drama, performance, or (more broadly) the embodied transmission of culture meet to present work-in-progress and to discuss new and classic literature in the field.
As they complete their coursework, students may take relevant classes with distinguished faculty in the departments of Theatre and Drama; Gender Studies; Anthropology; African American and African Diaspora Studies; Folklore and Ethnomusicology; Cultural Studies; Comparative Literature; and American Studies.
Students are also able to immerse themselves in a vibrant performance culture, including the productions of Bloomington’s two theatre groups (Cardinal Stage Company and the Bloomington Playwrights Project), productions at Indiana University’s Department of Theatre and Drama, and world-renowned performances of opera, ballet, and symphony staged by IU Jacobs School of Music. In nearby Indianapolis, students will find the Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT) and The Phoenix Theatre. In Louisville, Kentucky (90 minutes away) students can enjoy productions at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, including their annual Humana Festival of New American Plays.
Some recent graduate course offerings in Theatre and Performance Studies have included: