Workshop: Japanese Performance Theory Workshop

imageJune 10–17, 2017

Apply by April 1!

Open to undergraduates, graduates, and faculty.

The Japanese Performance Theory Workshop (JPTW) intervenes between Japanese Studies and Performance Studies to foster generative critical engagements with Japanese performance. Through seminar-style discussions, performance screenings, research presentations, and writing exercises, this intensive week-long summer workshop will help participants working on Japanese performance at the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty levels develop better conceptual, methodological, and pedagogical tools.

At a basic level, the JPTW represents an experiment designed to address a few overlapping gaps. The initial idea for this residential workshop emerged several years ago, mainly out of frustration with a prevailing conservatism in the study of Noh drama within the Japanese academy especially. The theoretical and methodological worldliness that often characterized literary study of premodern and modern narratives did not obtain for some sectors of the academy devoted to “traditional Japanese theater.” It felt like there was a wealth of fascinating material being underserved by painstakingly informative but unduly positivistic approaches. What if there was a way to energize that material along different lines?

There also seemed to be a gap between conceptually vibrant performance studies scholarship that dealt mainly with modern and contemporary western forms, on the one hand, and historically astute but conceptually dilute work on traditional Japanese performing arts, on the other. Performance Studies programs tend to neglect East Asian performance traditions, while studies of East Asian performance—of the premodern era, in particular—tend to lack theoretical rigor. While there exist intensive summer opportunities for students of various academic and artistic backgrounds to study Japanese performance traditions, both in the U.S. (e.g. the Noh Training Project) and in Japan (e.g. the Traditional Theater Training Program), there are no comparable opportunities for university students and faculty to study Japanese performance with an emphasis on strengthening conceptual approaches to it and analytical writing about it. Given these circumstances, the basic aim of the JPTW will be to provide a venue in which to study Japanese performance practices and critical theoretical approaches to Japanese performance in relation to one another within the context of an intensive summer workshop.

JPTW is a residential summer workshop that focuses on improving engagements with Japanese performance and performance theory. The program will host advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty (five each), working across fields such as performance studies, Japanese literary and cultural studies, ethnomusicology, visual arts, dance studies, and creative writing.

To the extent that a rigorous engagement with Japanese performance need not require Japanese language skills or a performance background, neither of these is required for admission to the program. Indeed, this background can often inhibit more adventurous interpretations. Along these lines, the JPTW will maintain a critical stance toward prevailing notions of expertise and will explore forms of producing knowledge that do not adhere strictly to either an Area Studies model or a practice-based model.

Summary of Important Dates

The JPTW will be held at the University of Michigan from June 10–17, 2017.

January 15, 2017: Application Cycle Begins
April 1, 2017: Application Deadline
April 15, 2017: Admissions Decisions Announced
May 1, 2017: Accept/Decline Notification Due


What sort of participants are you looking for?

Short answer: “Interesting and interested ones.” Longer answer: JPTW seeks a diverse cohort of participants willing to make work and share work in a constructively critical environment. We seek intellectually ambitious participants at different career stages who are willing to refine their projects, rethink notions of what rigorous work should entail, and learn from each other. While I imagine a majority of applications coming from students of drama or Japanese language and culture, the goal is to assemble a group whose different perspectives and skills will offset one another in productive ways. Ideally, in addition to there being an even mix of undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty, there would also be theater practitioners and visual/media artists joining the group.

Does my application really stand a shot even if I’m not majoring in something Japan-related?

Yes! The JPTW encourages applications from undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines, and faculty within and beyond fields like Japanese Studies or Performance Studies. In addition, JPTW also welcomes participation by playwrights, dramaturges, visual artists, and independent scholars with demonstrated interest in Japanese performance. If your investment is sincere and you’re doing interesting work, please apply!

How many participants will be admitted?

This program is open to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as postdoctoral fellows, faculty, independent scholars, and artists. Fifteen slots are available; roughly five slots apiece will be allotted for participants in the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate (e.g. faculty/artist) pools.

What about tuition, travel, and lodging expenses?

Tuition for attending the JPTW (including course readings/materials) is free for all accepted participants.

Moreover, lodging and travel expenses will be covered for undergraduates, graduate students, and participants unable to secure funds by other institutional means. Faculty will be expected to use research funds if possible, but limited funds are available to defray costs for faculty demonstrating need. Note: Admissions decisions will be made irrespective of financial circumstances and every effort will be made to accommodate accepted participants at all levels, regardless of financial need. No potential participant should refrain from applying for financial reasons. Translation: If you’re broke but possess skill, sincerity, and hustle, then we’re willing to expend the funds and effort to get you here.

What if I’m not based in the U.S.?

Applicants from outside the United States are also welcome, though travel funding for multiple international participants may prove more limited. That said, every effort will be made to accommodate international participants’ circumstances.

What will the language of instruction be?

Given the nature of the readings, seminar discussions, and writing exercises, applicants must have high proficiency in English (reading, writing, speaking, and listening comprehension). Skype interviews will be conducted as part of the admissions process, both to learn more about applicants and, in some cases, to assess non-native speakers’ English language proficiency.

Applicants need not have previous Japanese language experience. Original language versions of texts will be available for interested participants, however.

No Japanese necessary? Why not?

Because having good Japanese doesn’t necessarily translate to having good ideas. Moreover, extensive training in Japanese language and culture, while beneficial in some respects, can also inculcate an expertise that limits the more exploratory work the JPTW pursues. Put simply, each applicant’s entire application will be evaluated and advanced training in Japanese will not automatically secure better chances of being admitted.

For full details and to apply, see the original post  on the CJS website. 

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