Event – ESEH Diversity Committee Webinar: Call yourself a Feminist?: Gender, Allyship and Environmental History – 20th May 2021 (Register below with Eventbrite)

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New Romantics:
Performing Ireland and Cosmopolitanism on the Anniversary of Human Rights

3-5 July 2019

Queen’s University Belfast

Supported by the QUB AHSS Faculty Research Initiatives Fund and the GIS EIRE


Professor Stephen Wilmer, Professor Emeritus of Drama (Trinity College Dublin) Dr Drew Milne, Judith E. Wilson Reader in Poetics (University of Cambridge) Paula McFetridge, Artistic Director (Kabosh Theatre Company, Belfast)

Dr Drew Milne, Judith E. Wilson Reader in Poetics (University of Cambridge) Paula McFetridge, Artistic Director (Kabosh Theatre Company, Belfast)

Much of modern Irish drama and performance has been concerned with political and social issues related to human rights in Ireland and within a wider European context, and there is a substantial body of contemporary literature, theatre, performance and life art concerned with human rights activism in Ireland. Since the Eighteenth Century Enlightenment which conceived the concept of human rights, literature, drama and theatre have become strongly associated with ideas of moral philosophy and cosmopolitan humanism. The powerful role of drama in 18th century French and British society led to theatres being a space of public performance for the political and social reforms of the Enlightenment. Plays such as Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer (1773) and Diderot’s Le Père de Famille (1758) explored the connections between class and wealth. During the tumultuous events of the French revolution the dramatists and theatres were profoundly engaged with revolutionary ideas around social reform. British and Irish theatre also battled with the impact of socially restrictive laws on class, religious and gender divisions in the Georgian era (1714-1837). During the Enlightenment and Romantic period European dramatists such as James Thompson; G.E. Lessing; Denis Diderot; R. B. Sheridan; and Samuel Taylor Coleridge developed plays and dramaturgical theories designed to create human empathy across cultural and religious divisions. Their dramatizations of empathy were influenced in particular by Scottish enlightenment concepts of moral sentiment and sympathy as well as theories of the good passions. These ideas can also be read within the context of a European-wide ‘Celtic’ literary romanticism. This conference will examine a trend towards a ‘new romanticism’ with a growing cosmopolitan dimension in contemporary literature, performance and live art that explores Ireland’s role in Europe.

The conference will be held on 3-5 July in the year of the 230th anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (26 August 1789). The conference asks in what ways a ‘Celtic Cosmopolitanism’ (Le Coadic, 2000; Wulff, 2008 and an ‘Irish Cosmopolitanism’ (Wulff, 2008; Pearson, 2017), emerging from humanist Enlightenment and Romantic traditions, inform human rights activism in contemporary theatre, performance, literature and the arts. In Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (2006) the contemporary cosmopolitan philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah defines Enlightenment Cosmopolitanism as a combination of ‘obligations to others’, and a ‘shared citizenship’ with respect for the differences of individuals and the rich potential to ‘learn from our differences’ (10). In Cosmopolitanism (2002) Sheldon Pollock, Homi K. Bhabha, Carol A. Breckenridge, and Dipesh Chakrabarty argue that ‘in contemporary cosmopolitical thinking’, ‘Refugees, peoples of the diaspora, and migrants and exiles represent the spirit of the cosmopolitical community’ (6). The conference will explore how international contemporary frameworks of critical theory such as New Materialism relate to human rights activism and cosmopolitanism in Irish literature and performance and in what ways they continue, critique, or challenge humanist moral philosophy and enlightenment thought. Can contemporary performances be said to dramatize their own ‘Compositionist Manifestos’ in Bruno Latour’s terms as they reimagine humanism on stage in new compositions created from a range of intercultural influences? Does theatre, poetry, and live art perform a kind of ‘radical solidarity’ as conceptualized by Judith Butler in her Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly (2015)? How do we engage in research and analysis of these works? Are methodologies such as Karen Barad’s diffractive readings encouraging us to imagine a ‘working model of wholeness’ (Stewart Parker) of the interconnection of all life on this planet? What is the role of the Environmental Humanities, Ecocritical Theory, and the extension of sentiment and affective empathy for non-human life forms arising from the ‘good passions’? In Bodies that Matter (1993) Judith Butler describes performativity as ‘that reiterative power of discourse to produce the phenomena that it regulates and constrains’ (2). What are the implications for communities and bodies recast as the marginal, precarious, migratory, foreign, female, minority or racialized other?

Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Human Rights activism in the arts.
  • Conflict and peacebuilding.
  • Intercultural understanding, Transcultural exchange and cosmopolitan communities.
  • Performativity, myth-making and the nation-state/Performing the State/Statelessness.
  • Environmental histories of migration as told through the arts.
  • Precarity in everyday life/State power and control in incidents such as the evacuations of refugee camps/deportations of immigrants.
  • Identity politics and contested spaces/Borders/Border States/marginalised communities
  • The impact of climate change on human rights and non-human life forms.
  • Freedom of speech, thought, movement, religious expression – restrictive versus liberal laws from the eighteenth century until now.
  • Comparative analysis with 18th century/Enlightenment political satire – such as a comparative examination of the 1737 Licensing Act (Britain) and The Chapelier Law of 1791 (France) or anti-Walpolean British satire and contemporary censorship.
  • Brexit and the rise of populism/alt right marches.
  • Sex and gender, reproductive and social rights.
  • Performance and the power of the public (and political) gesture/Site-specific theatre/Ranciere’s Emancipated Spectator.
  • Social division in the theatre space – Impact of Boal, Schechner etc.
  • Material Memoirs (Alaimo) – the body as a site of environmental precarity and control.
  • Border States/Contested Spaces – marginalised and peripheral communities.

The deadline for 200 words abstracts is 15 May 2019 Email : NewRomantics2019@gmail.com


Dr Eva Urban (Queen’s University Belfast)

Dr Lisa FitzGerald (Université Nice Sophia Antipolis)

Advisory Board and Review Committee:

Professor Anne Goarzin (Université Rennes 2), Scientific Adviser Professor Sylvie Mikowski (Université de Reims)

Professor Fiona McCann (Université de Lille)

Professor Hélène Lecossois (Université de Lille)

Professor Clíona Ní Ríordán (Université Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle) Professor Marie Mianowski (Université de Grenoble)

Dr Mark Phelan (Queen’s University Belfast) Dr Stefanie Lehner (Queen’s University Belfast)

Dr Ulrike M. Vieten (Queen’s University Belfast)

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Black Gold: Digitally-Simulated Environments and the Material Aesthetics of Oil

Black Gold: Digitally-Simulated Environments and the Material Aesthetics of Oil

Transformations issue 32 (2018) http://www.transformationsjournal.org
ISSN 1444-3775


Sensory embeddedness (with an emphasis on environmental interdependency) has played an important part in ecological art practice. In the emergence of process- or systems-based art, and its indebtedness to early cybernetics, there is a focus on the interplay between artwork and spectator and the world or umwelt that emerges from their co-existence. This article will examine how this emphasis on embeddedness has translated into digital and new media aesthetics using John Gerrard’s digital simulation, Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas) 2017, as an example. I argue that this genre of ecological digital art can be situated as a bodily practice within the wider framework of an environmental narrative. Moreover, there is an integral performativity in new media artworks that can contribute to a deeper understanding of the anthropogenically-driven environmental crisis.

Keywords: Digital and new media art, eco-digital art, ecological art and activism, petrocultures


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Black Gold: Digitally-Simulated Environments and the Material Aesthetics of Oil

A presentation for A Clockwork Green: Ecomedia in the Anthropocene
ASLE Sponsored Virtual Conference


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Making Tracks: Lisa FitzGerald

Environments needle their way into our minds, becoming the settings for our stories but also telling their own tales. Landscapes push back, shaping our bodies as we move through our lives. As Seamu…

Source: Making Tracks: Lisa FitzGerald

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New Publication – Re-Place: Irish Theatre Environments

Re-Place: Irish Theatre Environments (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2017)


What role does nature play in the cultural world of the theatre? Is the auditorium not a natural environment, and how can theatre and nature aesthetics co-exist in the productive expression of performance? Re-Place: Irish Theatre Environments proposes a new way of thinking about Irish theatre: one that challenges established boundaries between nature and culture and argues for theatre performances to be seen as conceptual ecological environments. Broadening the scope of theatre environments to encompass radiophonic and digital spaces, Re-Place is a timely interrogation of how we understand performance history. This book examines the work, both as text and in production, of three canonical Irish playwrights, J. M. Synge, Samuel Beckett and Brian Friel, and looks at how theatre documentation can further the idea of a natural performance environment. The questions under consideration extend Irish theatre history into the field of the environmental humanities and draw on new materialist discourse to offer exciting and innovative ways to approach performance.

Lisa FitzGerald is an environmental historian and ecocritic whose research interests include the role of nature in theatre and performance, environmental art practice, eco-digital art, urban ecologies and the relationship between nature and technology. She holds a PhD from the National University of Ireland, Galway and is a fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU Munich. Her forthcoming project, Eco-Digital Art: Nature and New Media Aesthetics, examines the ecological implications of artistic representations of the natural world in digital and new media art and the emergence of ‘new natures’ from within the digital sphere.


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RePlace: Performative #Landscapes as Conceptual #Ecological Environments

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Modern Drama Review – Mapping Irish Theatre: Theories of Space and Place

CHRIS MORASH and SHAUN RICHARDS. Mapping Irish Theatre: Theories of Space and Place. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. xi + , illustrated. $95.00 (Hb).
Reviewed by
Lisa Fitzgerald National University of Ireland, Galway

The process of place making and the concretization of space have always been a principal component of theatre performance. The expansion of spatial discourse and geographical metaphors into cultural studies has produced many remarkable theories concerning the production of space (and consequently of place). Irish theatre scholarship has followed suit, with Chris Morash and Shaun Richards describing their research as part of “a self-consciously spatial turn in Irish Studies” (5). Their book comprises seven chapters, each centred on a specific mode of place production. Juxtaposing broader spatial theories from Lefebvre, Ubersfeld, Tuan, and Nora with the peculiarly Irish theatrical motifs of colleens and country kitchens, Morash and Richards expand on the traditional rural and urban binaries of Irish theatre. They query these underpinnings by asking an intriguing question: “If theatre in performance creates an event that is by definition local, why is theatre – particularly Irish theatre – so often considered in the [End Page 147] context of the national?” (18). The nation-building rhetoric of mainstream Irish theatre practice, from the birth of the Irish Literary Theatre onwards, is teased out. Written in a clear and straightforward style and with deference to previous scholarship, Mapping Irish Theatre seamlessly moves between global theorists and resolutely local ideas, such as the Irish tradition of dinnseanchas and the “unspoilt spaces of the West” (41).

The first chapter, “Making Space,” contends that the concept of a national theatre “is actually a misnomer” (124). As theatre is inherently local, the depiction of rural shebeens on an urban stage illustrates the increased congruence between theatrical performance and imagined nationhood. What developed was a national theatre that capitalized on the particularities of the rural and performed them for an urban audience, as yet another nation-building exercise. There are tantalizing glimpses of the alternative national aesthetic that ran counter to the peasant plays of the early Abbey Theatre: the Edward Gordon Craig screens, commissioned by W.B. Yeats, and the “non-representational utopian theatre space” of Hilton Edwards and Micheál Mac Liammóir, at the Gate Theatre (24). What is evident, in accounts of the years following the 1922 foundation of the Irish Free State, is the impact that a narrow image of nationhood – the rural peasantry of the west of Ireland – had on the construction of a distinctly Irish theatre. As Morash and Richards argue, in the second chapter, “Staging Place,” “the real enemy in Cathleen Ni Houlihan is not the colonial power but the deeply entrenched sense of place in the rural domestic interior that is the very embodiment of a fantasised Irishness” (46). That “fantasy” has subsequently sustained contemporary authors, such as Martin McDonagh and Enda Walsh.

The subject of the third chapter, “Spaces of Modernity and Modernism,” might seem surprising, given that so much Irish theatre has a reputation for being resolutely anti-modern, but Morash and Richards argue, persuasively, that this reputation is unfounded. The Abbey plays were not realist, in a traditional sense, but a “curious kind of hybrid realism.” The Abbey was an institution that dismissed conventional realism and naturalism as “modern urban forms” (49). Theirs was a self-styled authentic folk theatre, grounded in the west of Ireland, and their brand of authenticity became more potent through the repeated use of specific sets and props. A deep attachment to this brand of authenticity – termed the “monad of realism” by the authors – countered a vigorous deconstruction of realist representation in Europe (56). These processes contributed to the deep-rooted connection to place, in the Irish theatre, that is more a memorialization than a representation of authenticity. What transpires is theatre as lieux de mémoire, a place that is open to McDonagh’s parodic challenges, but that also incorporates the heavy sense of loss and nostalgia that is evident in the work of Brian Friel and Tom Murphy. [End Page 148]

Moving into contemporary theatre, the final two chapters explore the global and the local repercussions of place-attachment. The touring company Druid Theatre is an example of a group that is making the place-specific transferable at a global level. As part of their rehearsal process for staging Synge, their journey to Inishmaan on the west coast of Ireland (the place that inspires Synge) was, according to Morash and Richards, “clearly taking the specificity of place as a factor in understanding his work to the ultimate level, transmuting the Aran Islands from inspiration into the inevitable destination of all analysis” (134). The tightly ravelled density of historical connections and long-standing theatrical references point to the centrality of place in Irish drama, one that shows no indication of dissolving, given the strong growth of site-specific theatre in Ireland since 2005.

Using Yeats’s observation that “the days of the drama are brief and come but seldom,” Morash and Richards seek to capture the fallout of what could arguably be the high-water mark of Irish theatre practice (175). Synthesizing transnational theory and local theatre work, and mapping the evolution of Irish theatre space, from the foundational Werburgh Street theatre in 1635, to the collapsing spatial boundaries between audience and performer in site-specific theatre, Mapping Irish Theatre succeeds in maintaining precision, while being extensive. The central thesis, that theatre is a “machine for making space into place,” is reinforced chapter after chapter (75). The study will be of interest to theatre scholars and cultural historians and invaluable to those studying the formation and emergence of an Irish performance of place. The authors say, in the introduction, that they “harbour the hope that the theoretical approach we have taken will allow others to navigate the space of theatres in different places” (5). The breadth of understanding that the authors clearly show – combined with their insight into the practicalities of staging theatre – will ensure that this hope is realized

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Review: Modernity, community and place in Brian Friel’s drama by Richard Rankin Russell


Modernity, community and place in Brian Friel’s drama by Richard Rankin Russell

Lisa Fitzgerald

Taylor & Francis Online :: Author Services.

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Performance Matters Contemporary Theatre Discussion Group NUI Galway

Performance Matters Contemporary Theatre Discussion Group will resume on 25th September (Thursday). It will be held every fortnight in Room 1003 on Floor 1 of the Hardiman Building, NUI Galway. Feel free to email play suggestions to performancematters@gmail.com.

Everyone welcome!

Enquiries: PerformancemattersNUIG@gmail.com



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