Department of Performance Studies

New York University

H42.2617 / Fall 1998 / Mondays 4-7, Room 636,

Sections: Fridays 10-12, 12-2

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Fred Moten

Dan Bacalzo, Gilad Melzer, Heather Schuster


The course is organized around three events through which we will explore various understandings of performance, performativity, and performance studies. We will pay close attention to events that we actually experience. We will extrapolate issues from them, read theory through them, and explore methods for documenting, analyzing, interpreting, and writing about them. Readings will contextualize the performances we experience as well as offer models for how they might be studied.


Readings for the course are available at the NYU Book Center, on reserve in Bobst Library, and may be found in the Performance Studies Archive. Where possible, the full text of selected readings will be available online.

Electronic Access and Resources

This web site will be updated during the semester. See Electronic Access for additional features and resources, including our newsgroup, announcements and guidelines, bibliographies, electronic texts, and links to other sites.

Electronic communication is an essential tool. Workshops on Friday September 4 at 10 am and 11 am have been organized to help you get started. Also take advantage of workshops offered throughout the semester by the Academic Computing Facility (Warre n Weaver Hall, Room 201, corner W 4th St. and Mercer) 998-3333. These workshops will introduce you to the many features of your email account.

There will also be workshop at Bobst Library Tuesday September 22, 4-7 pm and Friday September 25, 1-4 pm.

All students are expected to participate in class discussion through the course newsgroup: Those so inclined are encouraged to write components of the home page for the course.

Be sure to take advantage of the many features of the NYU home page and specifically of Bobcat Plus. Please note that you need to log in through your NYU account in order to take advantage of many sp ecial features.

  • CARL Uncover lets you search thousands of journals for articles, either by searching the entire database or by browsing the table of contents of a journal. They will also fax articles to you for a fee.

  • Muse offers online access to the full text of recent issues of Performing Arts Journal, Theatre Journal, Theatre Topics, Diacritics, and Postmodern Culture, among others.

  • JSTOR offers full text of the full run of many journals, from the beginning to five years ago.

We strongly recommend that you use a program such as EndNote or ProCite with Bookwhere 2000 to manage and format bibliographic information, as well as notes that you take on the readings. These packages are available at a special price for NYU student s and faculty at the NYU Computer Store. See online reviews and comparisons (and download demos) from CHORUS.


Assignments for the course include close reading of texts, careful observation of live performance, and a series of writing exercises and revisions of them. The final grade will be based on a portfolio of all written work produced for the course and a ctive participation in class discussion.

Everyone is strongly encouraged to take advantage of The Writing Center (269 Mercer Street, Room 230), where individual tutorials can be arranged without charge. Call 998-8866.

Attendance at all Monday sessions, the discussion sections, and assigned performances is mandatory--the grade will reflect attendance. If for a very pressing reason you cannot attend a session, please notify us in advance, find out what yo u missed, and arrange to make up the work. Classes will start on time and everyone is expected to arrive promptly.



UNIT I Performance/Performativity/Performance Studies

    KEYWORD assignment revised--DUE 9/28

UNIT II Object Performance

    PERFORMING THEORY assignment--DUE 10/19

UNIT III Total Performance

    HALLOWEEN assignment--DUE 11/16

UNIT IV Diasporic Performance

    DIASPORIC PERFORMANCE assignment--DUE 12/7


Please note:

1. Short writing exercises designed to focus discussion of the readings are assigned weekly. Please see syllabus for details.

2. The Friday discussion section prior to the deadline for the writing assignment at the end of each unit will be devoted to working on your drafts.



1. 9/11, 9/14 WHAT IS PERFORMANCE?

Bring a draft of the keyword assignment to the discussion section on Friday September 11. Revise the keyword assignment for Monday September 14 and hand in 3 copies. Save a fourth copy for yourself. The following week we will focus on the term perform ativity.


Collect the various ways in which the word "performance" is used in daily life, including conversation and the media (sports, arts and leisure, business, travel, technology, etc.). Write a one-page keyword entry for "performance," based on the materia ls you have gathered. Bring 2 copies to class.

You will return to the recommended readings throughout the semester as you revise the keyword assignment at various intervals. By the end of the semester you should have read many of the recommended readings for this unit. Some will be required for l ater units. Please tell us about other readings you find that might be useful for writing a keyword essay on the term performance.

Attend as many performances as you can of:

International Festival of Puppet Theater

September 9-27, 1998

Take advantage of spectacular events in New York City over the Labor Day weekend:

Sunday September 13: Wigstock on Pier 54. 774-7470

Monday September 14: West Indian-American Day Carnival on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. 718-625-1515


Williams, "Introduction," "Culture," Keywords, pp. 11-26, 87-93.

Schechner,Introduction Draft for textbook on Performance Studies under contract with Routledge.


The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism

Schechner, "Points of Contact" and "Performers and Spectators,Transported and Transformed," Between Theater and Anthropology, pp. 3-34, 117-150.

Phelan, "The Ontology of Performance," Unmarked, pp. 146-166.

Auslander, "Liveness: Performance and the Anxiety of Simulation," in Performance and Cultural Politics, ed. Elin Diamond (1996), pp. 198-213.

Dening, "Theatricality and the Paradoxes of Acting," Performances, pp. 101-127.

Hibbits, Coming to Our Senses: Communication and Legal Expression in Performance Cultures"

Goffman, "Performances," The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, pp. 17-76.

Goffman, "The Theatrical Frame," Frame Analysis, pp. 124-155.

Veltrusky, "Man and Object in the Theater," in Garvin, A Prague School Reader on Esthetics, Literary Structure, and Style, pp. 83-91.

Barish, The Anti-Theatrical Prejudice (1981). See introduction.

Wagner, Adversaries of Dance from the Puritans to the Present (1997), pp. 363-397.

Bauman, "Performance," Folklore, Cultural Performance, and Popular Entertainments, pp. 41-49.

Mullaney, "The Rehearsal of Cultures," The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England, p. 60-87 (See specially, pp. 69-71).

Taylor, "The Theatre of Operations: Performing Nation-ness in the Public Sphere," Disappeating Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalis in Argentina's 'Dirty War."

Williams, Argument: Text and Performance, in Huxley and Witts, The Twentieth-Century Performance Reader, pp. 369-383.

Feral, Performance and Theatricality: The Subject Demystified, in Murray, Mimesis, Masochism & Mime: The Politics of Theatricality in Contemporary French Thought, pp. 289-300.

Zito, "The Performing Body and the Clarifying Text," The Body and the Brush: Grand Sacrifice as Text/Performance in Eighteenth-Century China, pp. 110-117.

Roach, "History, Memory, Performance," Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance, pp. 1-31.

Egginton, "An Epistemology of the Stage: Theatricality and Subjectivity in Early Modern Spain," New Literary History 27, 3 (1966): 391-413. Online:

Schimmel and Ferguson, eds. Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object (1998)

Pavis, Patrice. Dictionary of the Theatre: Terms, Concepts, and Analysis (1998).

Sayre, "Performance," in Critical Terms for Literary Study, eds. Lentricchia and McLaughlin, pp. 91-104.

Nelson and Shiff, eds. Critical Terms for Art History (1996)

Keller and Lloyd, Keywords in Evolutionary Biology (1994).

Jay, Cultural Semantics: Keywords of Our Time (1998). See introduction.


II. 9/18 Discussion section: PERFORMATIVITY

Keyword exercise continues, this time focussing on "performativity." Bring in a revised draft of keyword exercise, incorporating a discussion of performativity. Be prepared to discuss the Austin reading.


Austin, How To Do Things With Words, chpts 1-3,9,10,12.


Cavell, Stanley. "Wagers of Writing: Has Pragmatism Inherited Emerson," unpublished conference paper, 1995.

Bearn, Gordon. "Sounding Serious: Cavell and Derrida," Representations 63 (1998).

Sedgwick and Parker, eds., Performance and Performativity (introduction, chapters by Roach, Gould, Butler).

Butler, "Gender is Burning" and "Critically Queer," Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex, pp. 121-140, 223-242.

Butler, Excitable Speech.

"The Recombinant Theater and the Performative Matrix," The Electronic Disturbance, Critical Art Ensemble (1994).

Jon McKenzie, All Performance Is Electronic: Feedback Requested

Fabian, "...From Informative to Performative Ethnography," Power and Performance: Ethnographic Explorations through Proverbial Wisdom and Theater in Shaba, Zaire, pp. 3-21.

Phelan, Mourning Sex (1997).


9/21 ROSH HASHANA: class cancelled

9/22 4-7 RESEARCH WORKSHOP(Bobst Library)

9/25 1-4 RESEARCH WORKSHOP(Bobst Library)

Attend one of these two workshops.



Bring 4 copies of revised keyword entry to class. Be prepared to locate your own intellectual and artistic biography and your keyword essay within a history of Performance Studies as it emerges from the readings.


Schechner, What Is Performance Studies Anyway

Pelias and VanOosting, "A Paradigm for Performance Studies," Quarterly Journal of Speech 73,2 (1987):219-231.


Phelan and Lane, eds. The Ends of Performance (see introduction and

Schechner's "What Is Performance Studies Anyway")

Drewal, Margaret. "The State of Research on Performance in Africa," African Studies Review 34, 3 (1991):1-64.

Zarrilli, "Toward a Definition of the Field of Performance Studies," Unpublished paper.

McNamara, "TDR: A History," Unpublished paper.



This unit will be built around a toy theater workshop conducted for the class by John Bell and Mark Sussman of the Great Small Works and Stephen Kaplan, Performance Studies alumnus, puppetry scholar, and expert builder. We will be theorizing performan ce and performing theory through readings, discussion, video documentation of object performance, building and performing toy theatres, and a short writing assignment that integrates these elements.


VIEW: Videotapes are on reserve in the PS Archive, thanks to the generosity of John Bell and Mark Sussman. These performances will give you some idea of the kind of toy theater we will be building and performing over the next two weeks. Please che ck with archive for times that these tapes will be screened.

Bring the readings to class. Please mark one (or more)passages in each eading that offers a concept useful to our discussions of performance as a keyword? How do the passages you have selected historicize the term performance, whether or not this ter m is actually used? Identify other keywords and the "cluster" they form? Try to link the terms and concepts to the artistic practices envisioned by the authors.

To contextualize the readings, look up names and keywords in The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism and Critical Terms for Art History. Online.


Bell, "Puppets and Performing Objects in the Twentieth Century," Performing Arts Journal 56 (1997): 29-46.

Kleist, "On the Marionette Theatre," TDR T55 (1972), 22-26.

Craig, "The Actor and the Uebermarionette," in On the Art of the Theatre, 54-94.

Schlemmer et al, "Man and the Art Figure" and "Theater (Buehne)," in The Theatre of the Bauhaus, 17-46, 81-101.


de Man, "Aesthetic Formalization: Kleist's "Ueber das Marionettentheater," The Rhetoric of Romanticism.

Breton, "Surrealist Situation of the Object:Situation of the Surrealist Object," in Manifestos of Surrealism (1969).

Leger, "The Spectacle: Light, Color, Moving Image, Object-Spectacle," in Functions of Painting (1973), pp. 35-47.

Tillis, "The Actor Occluded: Puppet Theatre and Acting Theory 1," Theatre Topics 6, 2 (1996): 109-119. A critique of Craig.


10/9 Discussion section: TOY THEATRE WORKSHOP--Introduction

NO required reading this week. Introduction to toy theaters in the Discussion Section. Get started on the readings for 10/19.


Bell, "The Sioux War Panorama and American Mythic History".

Shershow, Puppets and Popular Culture (1995).

Baldwin, Toy Theatres of the World (1992).

Speaight, The History of the English Toy Theatre (1969).

Becker, "Text-Building, Epistemology, and Aesthetics in Javanese Shadow Theatre," in The Imagination of Reality (1979), pp. 211-143.

Keeler, Javanese Shadow Plays, Javanese Selves (1987).


V. 10/12 TOY THEATRE WORKSHOP--Construction

10/16 Construction cont’d

10/17 Saturday Toy Theater Workshop

We will meet in the Studio at 10 am. The morning and

afternoon will be devoted to developing and rehearsing

performances and making the last adjustments to the physical

theaters themselves. The performances will take place in

the Studio starting promptly at 7 pm. Family and friends

are welcome.




Bell, "Death and Performing Objects." PForm: A Journal of Interdisciplinary and Performance Art 41 (fall 1996): 16-19.

Barthes, "The Three Writings" and "Animate/Inanimate," Empire of Signs, 48-55, 58-60.

Kott, "Bunraku and Kabuki, Or About Imitation," Salamagundi 35

(fall 1976): 99-109.

Bring texts to class and mark passages for discussion.

DUE--October 19: 2 paragraphs reflecting on the process of "performing theory" and/or discovering theory in performance, based on the readings for this unit, your experience creating and performing a toy theater, and class`discussion. Post your statem ent and participate in online discussion.


Adache, Backstage at Bunraku (1985).

Proschan "The Semiotic Study of Puppets, Masks, and Performing Objects," Semiotica 47-1/4 (1983): 3-44.

Veltrusky, "Man and Object in Theatre," in A Prague School Reader on Esthetics, Literary Structure, and Style, ed. Paul L. Gavin 1964), pp. 83-91.

Bogatyrev, "Semiotics in the Folk Theatre," in Semiotics of Art, 33-50.

Pietz, "The Problem of the Fetish I," RES 9 (spring 1985): 5-17.

Rykwert, "Organic and Mechanical," RES 22 (autumn 1992): 11-18.

Fried, "Art and Objecthood," in Minimal Art, 116-147.

Sayre, The Object of Performance: The American Avant-Garde since 1970.

Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Outside the Frame: Performance and the Object, A Survey History of Performance Art in the USA since 1950.

Schimmel and Ferguson, eds. Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949-1979 (1998).



This unit will be built around Halloween (and Day of the Dead). We will focus on theoretical approaches to play, ritual, and carnival, with special reference to the city. We will combine ethnographic and historical methods first, by attending Hallowee n events during the period October 22-31, and second, by working with historical material.

Attend and document at least one Halloween event during the next two weeks. See Halloween Links 98 for leads. Take field notes on the event. You may also use video, audio, and photographic techniques.



Bring Mother Camp to class and a one-page tip sheet on Newton’s techniques of ethnographic fieldwork and writing, to be handed in. Look specifically at her interviewing techniques, her use of participant-observation, her fieldnotes and the way she integrates her interviews, fieldnotes, and observations into her text.

SATURDAY FRIDAY OCTOBER 31: Halloween. Class is encouraged to attend the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade and to participate in it, if so inclined (go to their Web page, which is listed on Halloween Links 98, and/or other Halloween events in the city listed there. Check Time Out Magazine and the WWW for possibilities.


Newton, Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America. In NYU Book Center and on reserve in Bobst.

Barsz, "Confronting the Field(Note) In and Out of the Field, Barsz, ed., Shadows in the Field, 45-62.

Butler, "Gender is Burning" and "Critically Queer," Bodies That Matter (for Friday discussion section).


Kugelmass, "Designing the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade," in Santino, ed., Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life, 187-217

Kugelmass, Masked Culture: The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. Copies in NYU Book Center. Screen: Paris Is Burning

Schmidt, Leigh Eric. "The Commercialization of the Calendar: American Holidays and the Culture of Consumption," Journal of American History (Dec. 1991): 887-916. Copy in Archive.

Jackson, "Interviewing," Fieldwork, 79-104. Book in Archive.

Geertz, ‘Thick Description," The Interpretation of Culture.

ASSIGNMENT: Begin the historical research assignment, which will be due Monday November 10. The class will be divided into groups of 3-4 people, each group will be assigned a period between 1850 and 1998. The task is to search for Halloween material , starting with the following tools: Readers Guide to Periodicals, Index to the New York Times, Dialog (to be issued a Dialog account, go to the Avery Fisher Center in Bobst). Before beginning the research, strategize with the librarian at the Reference D esk. Those so inclined are encouraged to use the archives of the New-York Historical Society and any other archival collection in the region that has pertinent material. See also the GSAS Guide to Graduate Research. Follow the links for Academic and Pub lic Libraries, Historical Resources, and Cultural Resources.

Each group will report on their findings in chronological order during the November 9 class, by designating one person to report on behalf of the group. Our goal is to discover historical problems presented by the evidence and to relate the historical material to contemporary Halloween practices. Roach's Cities of the Dead is our model.



ASSIGNMENT: Bring typed up field notes to class. In one paragraph, identify concepts in the readings that bear on the events you witnessed.


Tambiah, "A Performative Approach to Ritual," Proceedings of the

British Academy 65 (1979): 113-169.

Huizinga, Homo Ludens, 1-27. In NYU Book Center, Bobst Reserve, and PS


Bakhtin, "Carnival Ambivalence," in The Bakhtin Reader, 194-244. In NYU

Book Center, Bobst Reserve, and PS Archive.


Bell, Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice.

Van Gennep, The Rites of Passage, 166-194.

Turner, ‘Liminality and Communitas,’ The Ritual Process, pp. 94-165.



Work with the concept of genealogy in the Roach reading to think about the historical material you found. What would Brecht and Artaud have found interesting about Halloween as you understand it both from the historical record and from your fieldwork?< /P>

ORAL ASSIGNMENT: Bring in the results of the historical research (see above for instructions) and hand in your own report on this material (2 pages). Each group will designate one person to make a five minute (500 words) oral report (from a written te xt, to be handed in) to the class characterizing the historical evidence and identifying the historical problems that it provokes, in light of the readings.


Roach, "History, Memory, and Performance," Cities of the Dead, 2-31.

Marin, Notes on a Semiotic Approach to Parade, Cortege, and Procession," in Time Out of Time, 220-228.

Brecht, "The Street Scene," in Brecht on Theater: The Development of an Aesthetic, 121-129.

Artaud, "The Theatre of Cruelty (First Manifesto)," in Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings, 2452-252.


Boyer, "The City and the Theater," The City of Collective Memory: Its Historical Imagery and Architecture.

Davis, Parades and Power: Street Theater in Nineteenth Century Philadelphia.

Ozouf, Festivals of the French Revolution.

WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT DUE MONDAY NOVEMBER 16. In 6 pages, while presenting your historical and ethnographic evidence, identify a methodological model (Newton, Kugelmass, Tambiah, Bakhtin, Roach, Marin) found in the readings and demonstrate its usefulness for analyzing your material and making connections between ethnographic and historical evidence. Distinguish methods of documentation and methods of analysis and show to what ends they can be used. Be explicit about what you are trying to do and how you a re doing it.


Sessions 10-13: 11/16, 23, 30, 12/7 Final Unit

Session 14: Wrap up session. Final Portfolio due.

For the final portfolio:

Gather all the work you did for the course. This should include all written assignments, drafts (including comments), revisions, workbook for the keyword assignment, fieldnotes, etc.

Be sure to include:

    1. Final revised version of the KEYWORD assignment.
    2. Revision of the major writing assignment for either unit III (Halloween) or IV (Diasporic Performance).
    3. Cover letter guiding the reader of your portfolio. What did you focus on in terms of your own work, where do you see progress, what do you want to continue to work on?