What is the significance of distinguishing European theatre culture(s) between East and West? What histories are recalled or forgotten in making this distinction? When did Eastern Europe, or East-Central Europe, become identified as distinct from "the West" - by and for whom? Prior to being the "Other Europe" of the Cold War, and the "New Europe" of the 1990s, "Eastern Europe" was a colonial designation of Prussian and then Nazi empires. And prior to this, these terms designated confessional empires, distinguishing Catholic (then Lutheran) and Orthodox regions, as also Teutonic and Slav domains, while today the nations of the "European home" are all partners of a European Union. Is all Europe "Western" today, with a capital in Brussels (or even Frankfurt)? Is Eastern Europe like Shakespeare's legendary Bohemia, with its imagined deserts and shorelines? Or is it like Jarry's Poland at the end of the nineteenth century - somewhere that is remembered culturally, but which doesn't exist politically? How is a geographical region - with its histories of empires (including the Ottoman), nationalities, minorities, and changing borders - thought of in terms of its theatre practices? This module will explore the emergence of a new critical discourse about "Eastern Europe" (principally in the context of the visual arts) and reflect on ways that twentieth century "art theatres", "experimental" or "laboratory" theatres, National theatres, "director's theatre", ensemble theatre, repertoires, "classic" and "contemporary" plays, have been understood in English translation(s) as "East European".
Amongst topics to be considered will be: the relation between romanticism and modernism; realism, socialist realism, and the avant-garde; the impact of two pan-European wars and the aftermath of foreign occupation; censorship, exile, "inner emigration", and dissidence; organisations and festivals for exchange, such as the ITI, UNIMA, IETM, and BITEF; the haunting figure of "Hamlet"; and besides the dramatic canon, examples of cabaret, performance art, and puppet theatre. Amongst artists (besides Craig), we will consider the example of two, exiled Poles as professors of theatre at the College de France (Mickiewicz and Grotowski); the particular history of Stanislavsky in Poland (in the contrasting legacies, pre- and post-war, of Limonowski and Witkacy, Grotowski and Kantor); the legacies of Brecht and Müller, both during and after - but also across - the division of Berlin (where, in a real sense, 1945 only occurred in 1990); the European Yiddish legacy, with the example of Ansky's The Dybbuk (read with Derrida, Krall, and Warlikowski); the changing situations of Vaclav Havel's theatre work; and the example of two theatre critics, historians, and theorists, Jan Kott and Dragan Klaic. The module is based on the premise that performance is essentially a social and cultural practice. As such, it is to be analysed, understood, explained and questioned in terms commensurate with its composite nature and socio-cultural complexity.
The terms of this analysis are provided by an interdisciplinary approach which will draw, notably, on theatre and performance studies, cultural theory, anthropology, ethnography, philosophy, and aesthetics, among others. Although the module is primarily theoretical, it assumes that theory is constantly in dialogue with practice. Thus, it uses the latter to explore and develop points of theory; and uses the former to foreground aspects of theatre and performance practice. The module is anchored on the idea that learning and critical inquiry are based on cross-referencing, cumulative and in-depth acquisition of knowledge. Its structure fosters initiative and independence in research and presentation of work, and collaborative effort in class discussion.