English | Special Topics in Literary Study & Theory
L680 | 12117 | Vogel

L680 12117 VOGEL (#6)
Special Topics in Literary Study and Theory

4:00p – 5:15p TR


“Performance” is traditionally thought of as embodied acts,
while “performativity” is defined in philosophical writing as the
class of utterances that do not simply describe something, but
actually accomplish something in the act of being said. This course
will explore in depth the relationship and productive tension
between theatrical acts and speech acts, paying attention to the way
this tension has shaped various interdisciplinary fields of
scholarship, including performance studies, queer theory, feminist
theory, and critical race studies, as well as what insights it can
bring to disciplines such as literary studies, theatre studies,
history, and anthropology. Some of the questions we will ask are:
What do words do? How do language and embodiment work with and
against each other? What is the relationship between recognition,
identity, and the theatrical act? What do performance and
performativity have to do with questions of gender, sexuality, and
race? How does performance frustrate or confound (on the one hand)
and legitimize and substantiate (on the other) positivist
historiography? What is the role of performance in practices of
cultural memory? In approaching these questions, we will trace the
lineage of speech-act theory and ordinary language philosophy, from
Wittgenstein and Austin through Derrida, Cavell, Felman, Sedgwick,
Butler, and Das. We will read these trajectories alongside theories
and histories of performance, performance studies, and embodiment.
Reading will be heavy (about a book a week, sometimes more) and
often dense; however, no prior knowledge of critical theory or
performance studies is required or expected.

This course is designed as a year-long sequence taught in succession
by Shane Vogel and Ellen MacKay, who will offer the second part of
the course in the spring. Students can take one or both of these
courses: You need not take the first to enroll in the second, nor
are you required to take the second if you complete the first. But
students who enroll in the full sequence will have the opportunity
to immerse themselves in the field of performance studies and deepen
their ideas over the span of a year.