In late August of 2015, I am going to take my second comprehensive examination in the Ph.D. Program in Theatre at The Graduate Center, CUNY. This page includes all my posts about my progress as well as some visualization of it. I start reading on December 1, 2014 — please send me all your positive thoughts in the comments below — and my reading ends on July 15, 2015.

These three posts contains all of my field descriptions as well as my reading lists/bibliographies for each of the fields. They include full references to all the books and articles I am reading:

  1. The Roots and Routes of Burlesque and New Burlesque (major, historical, field with Professor James Wilson)
  2. The Digital Humanities and Theatre and Performance Studies (minor field with Professor Peter Eckersall)
  3. Critical Perspectives on Embodiment (minor field with Professor Jean Graham-Jones)

All, in all, here is some of my numerical breakdown of my exam (currently estimated as my fields are still pending approval):

Total number of books: 68 books
Total number of articles (incl. chapters from books): 60 articles and chapters
Total number of pages: 18,784
Days between Dec 1 and July 15: 162 (not counting weekends)
Pages per day (if I read 5 days/week): 116 pages/day

This graph will display my reading every single day until July 15. The bump you see on the red line on Feb 25, means I regulated the number of pages I need to read per day for the remainder of the time in order to get to the goal on the set day.

Progress Towards Finish-Line


All Blog Posts about the Second Exam


Fields

The examination defines my dissertation field as burlesque and new burlesque, and is accompanied by two minor fields with reading lists of 25 major books each with a rationale for each field. Presumably, I should, after the examination, be prepared to teach an upper-level undergraduate course in these fields. Below, I have included the rationale for each field as well as a link to all the posts in my blog that are tagged with each field.

The Roots and Routes of Burlesque and Neo-burlesque
Burlesque is a genre that seems to have had nine lives, and historians and critics have kept defending its legitimacy. It has repeatedly been declared dead, taken up again, re-performed, picked apart, scorned, and reclaimed. It has been defined as pure comedy, erotic entertainment intended solely for men, but also offensive, feminist, and a queer art form.

The striptease and the figure of the stripper are usually regarded as central tropes of the genre. For example, during the “Golden Age” of burlesque — the 1910s–1930s — Gypsy Rose Lee is well-known for her attempt to legitimize the element of the stripper by renaming herself an “ecdysiast.” But according to most historians of burlesque, the stripper and the striptease came about only later in the development of the form. The striptease is often blamed for bringing the genre’s Golden Age to an end, with closings of burlesque theaters in many cities around the end of the 1920s and the early 1930s; in New York, specifically, in 1937. But it is also integral to the millennial burlesque (or what has been referred to as “neo-burlesque”), indeed what defines it.

This historical field, then, will examine accounts of the roots of burlesque in Europe, particularly late 19th Century England and France, as well as its later history in New York City and around the United States. In addition to examining the way striptease functioned in burlesque, I am interested in pursuing such questions as: What was burlesque’s relationship to vaudeville and how was it circulated among other and later popular entertainments, including the musical revues, film and early television? What role does nostalgia play in “re-performances” of burlesque in the later the 20th century with shows such as Sugar Babies and Ann Corio’s This Was Burlesque as well as the popular neo-burlesque movement?

Latest five blog posts

The Digital Humanities and Theatre and Performance Studies
The “digital revolution” of the past fifteen or twenty years has created not only new methods of (intercultural) communication and exchange, but also changed our ways of conceptualizing both performing arts generally, and the knowledge-production in and around the performing arts. In recent years, the field of Digital Humanities has been the locus for a more general, interdisciplinary conversation around these issues. The question of how the performing arts can fit into the discourse of digital humanities seems to be a fairly new one. For many scholars, the digital humanities and performing arts have been equated with the quantitative study of plays and other textual elements of theatre as well as movement in certain dance-related projects. In this field, I aim to understand the interaction between the field we call the “Digital Humanities” and Theatre and Performance Studies as a discipline in a more complex way.

The divide between “the digital” and “the analogue” has undergone an incredible change over the past ten years, and it has affected conversations within the larger field of Performance Studies and Theatre Studies as well. The arguments presented in (now classical) works such as Peggy Phelan’s Unmarked: The Politics of Performance, Philip Auslander’s Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture, and even Donna Haraway’s theorization of the cyborg and its many applications within the field of theatre and performance, have been vastly re-interpreted, re-contextualized, and re-visioned. In this field, I will look at the seeming contradiction between liveness and mediatization in theatre and performance in the 21st century, and focus specifically on three areas where these questions are coming to the fore.

First, on a very basic level, I will focus on questions of documentation of and archival practices around performances and productions, which also entails questions surrounding copyright and accessibility. Second, I will look at conversations around the use of digital technologies in performances, and by extension, what has been referred to as “new media dramaturgies”: a transformation of live performance taking the cue from new media and technologies. Third, I will focus on the questions arising in relation to the unstable dichotomy between analogue and digital surrounding the ontology of performance and its consequences for the aesthetic regimes of performing arts generally, as well as the temporality and location of performance.

Latest five blog posts

Critical Perspectives on Embodiment

This theoretical field will focus on how the body and its perceived differences, in particular as they are performed or represented—on stage and beyond—have been theorized by scholars working in a number of different disciplines and critical perspectives: feminist, disability studies, queer, crip, critical race, and posthumanist. Initially, those scholars described the body as a cultural construct, a slate on which gendered, racialized, and class-based power structures inscribed themselves. Crucial to this understanding of the body are Judith Butler’s theorization of performativity, Teresa de Lauretis’ discussions of gender as representation, and Gloria Anzaldúa’s notion of masking as a metaphor of understanding racialized and gendered performances of the body (and ultimately identity).

The field will also include studies in the past decade that problematized a one-sided understanding of the body as socially constructed, and which originated in a feminist engagement with the physical materiality of the body. Instrumental in this shift was initial work by Sandra Harding on the idea of feminist empiricism and Donna Haraway on the metaphor of the cyborg body. Many scholars, such as Vicky Kirby, Jane Bennett, Rosi Braidotti, and Elizabeth Grosz, have all continued the attempt to entangle nature and biology with a performative perspective on the body. As they try to come to terms with the “thingness” of matter and question of identity, agency, politics, and the body, they do so with a deep awareness of the anti-essentialist poststructuralist critique. Applications of such theories to the field of theatre and performance studies will also be included.

Latest five blog posts