Assistant Professor Aaron C. Thomas has a new piece in the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism (Vol. 35, No. 2). The essay explores confusions that follow the word ‘performative’ within theatre and performance studies and offers ways to use this confusion productively.
The essay enumerates the multiple uses of ‘performative’ (as noun and/or adjective; as token of ritual power and/or empty gesture; as linguistic sister to “theatrical” and/or a term of its own unique denotation) as well as its various arenas (in actorly training; in cultural, religious, and/or political ritual), tracing its history from Judith Butler’s 1988 publication “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution” to Anne Cheng’s 2000 analysis of “performativity’s infelicities” in The Melancholy of Race and charting what expectations and impacts surround performance and performative acts.
What might we gain by examining performance as something more fleeting and less permanent, a line of flight rather than an action that either succeeds or fails to remake the world?
Aaron C. Thomas is an Assistant Professor in the School of Theatre and a Co-Director of the BA Theatre Program. His major research area is theatrical discourse surrounding sexuality and violence, and he writes primarily about images of violent masculinity in contemporary culture. As an antidote to writing about violence, he also writes extensively in the field of musical theatre studies, where his work, again, focuses on theatrical discourse surrounding sexuality, masculinity, and violence.
More information about his work can be found at his website.