R. Justin Hunt and Louise LePage, 9 February 2012

Our next London Theatre Seminar is 9 February, 6.30pm, in Room 261 (Senate House, second floor).  Our postgraduate speakers will be:

R. Justin Hunt (Roehampton), Swapping Spit

Swapping Spit is a paper that describes rather than criticizes. It employs writing as a means of saving and, thus, sharing an experience of queer culture. It’s anti-social, insular. It drips. (Salvation comes in many forms.) In this paper I describe Mitch & Parry’s I HOST YOU. NOW TONIGHT, LET ME SHOW YOU (2009). I describe the experience of experiencing – of watching and being with a piece which spits in the face of the Other. In this way the paper attempts to queer ethnography, or, maybe, to ethnographically engage with queerness. Ethnography requires of its participant observer description which oozes with reflexivity – with analysis hinged on the self-Othering capacity of both experience and writing. Through this paper I hope to share a ritual of queerness, which utilizes anti-social behaviour, and consider the queerness of ritual, which might disturb meaning, spitting in the face of any easy identification (if that can ever be).

Louise LePage (Royal Holloway), ‘What a piece of work is a man’: A Post/Humanist Approach to Modern Dramatic Characters

Last year, the National Theatre produced a contemporary dramatic version of Mary Shelley’s nineteenth century novel, Frankenstein. Featuring a role-swapping device that saw its actors switching, bi-nightly, between the characters of Frankenstein and the Creature, the play finds that the identity of ‘the human’ does not lie in the naturalness of its status but in its capacity to change and to re-make itself; this human is not a creator or a creation: it is both and, in being so, it is its own protean product.

Having articulated the human self in such post/humanist terms as a complex and hybrid natural-cultural entity – significantly, as an agent-product – I argue that its roots may be found in Renaissance humanism. I also argue that this human’s complex and protean form are lifelike and bound to the birth of modern dramatic character, in particular, to Shakespeare and the figure of Hamlet. In short, my paper posits that conventional ways of knowing the human, and of interpreting dramatic character, as a stable, coherent, and autonomous form (i.e. as a liberal humanist subject) or else as an inhuman product (i.e. a vacant subject position) are problematic and that a post/humanist model of selfhood offers a more precise and, potentially, illuminating approach to dramatic representations of the human.