Skip to main content

Stages and Contexts of 9/11


School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies

TH216 - Aspects of Theatre and Performance: Stages and Contexts of 9/11

Tutor: Prof. James Harding (email: J.M.Harding)

Spring Term 2012

Seminars: Tuesday 1600 - 1800

Room: G56.

50% = 1 x 3000 word essay (essay questions to be released in week 5)
50% = 1 x 1.5 hour exam in the summer term

Module Description: 
The 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 has been cause for reflection not only on the deeply problematic political course that the U.S. and Europe have taken during the last decade, but also on specific communities that were profoundly affected by that course and, indeed, by the events of 9/11 themselves. The performance community is no exception here. Within that community, the events of 9/11 precipitated a fundamental rethinking of the role that the arts have to play in history, in politics and in the lives of citizens in a democratic society. In simplest terms, then, this module will examine how, over the past decade, performance communities have defined themselves and their roles as artist/citizens in relation to profoundly significant political events. Taking “Stages and Contexts of 9/11” as its general title, this module will have as its specific focus an inquiry into the dramatic, theatrical and performative exploration of the cultural and political contexts preceding, surrounding and following the events of September 11, 2001. As a larger objective, the module will challenge students to learn how consider a complex interdisciplinary nexus of ideas drawn from the study of recent history, of competing political and cultural ideologies and of the performing arts.



1) Subject Knowledge and Understanding:

-- Students will gain a demonstrable and critical awareness of the theories, issues and debates relating to the events of September 11, 2001 that have emerged in the theatrical community over the last decade.

‑‑ Using the events of Sept. 11, 2001 as a focal point, the module will help students understand how historical events and issues of culture influence the development of drama, theatre and performance as well as the interpretation of them.

-- Through careful study of statements that theatre practitioners have made about the events of September 11, 2001, students in this module will become familiar with the multiple ways that members of the theatrical community have conceptualized their roles as artists and as citizens in a politically volatile society.

2) Key Skills:

-- Students will learn to access and collate relevant primary and secondary sources.

-- Through carefully prepared and structured debates, students will learn the principles of civil discourse and of the constructive, free exchange of ideas.

-- Students will learn to engage in the exchange of written ideas.

3) Cognitive Skills:

-- Examining works of dramatic literature, performance events and events defined as “performative,” students will learn to critically analyze diverse forms of theatre and performance practice.

-- Students will learn how to develop and utilize a broad definition of “performance” as a conceptual paradigm for understanding the significance of important events in cultural and political history.

-- Through written analysis of the course material and through class presentations directly related to those assignments, students will become more proficient in critical reading and writing, and in oral expression.

4) Subject Specific / Professional Skills:

-- Extrapolating on the particular example of post-9/11 performance, students will learn more generally to describe, interpret and evaluate performance texts, production techniques and performance events within their historical a cultural contexts.

-- By coordinating our examination of drama, theatre and performance with readings in political theory and history, the course will help students understand how to use political theory and studies in political history in the analysis of dramatic literature and performance events.

-- Given the diversity of opinions and perspectives that the students will encounter during the terms (both in class debates and in the course material), students will learn to engage critically with a range of critical and theoretical perspectives.


Week 1 / Introduction and Background Material

Karlheinz Stockhausen, September 16, 2001: Interview Excepts

Harold Pinter “Nobel Prize Lecture”


Week 2 / Theatre Artists as Citizens

*Marvin Carlson “9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraqi: The Response of New York Theatre,”Theatre Survey 45.1 (May 2004): 3-17.

*“Up Front: American Theaters Reflect on the Events of September 11,” Theater 32.1 (2002): 1-21.

*Stephen Sondheim, Assassins


Week 3 / Performing Terrorism

*Robin Soans, Talking to Terrorists

*Simon Stephens, Pornography

*Audrey Cronin, “Behind the Curve: Globalization and International Terrorism,”International Security 27.3 (2002/03): 30–58


Week 4 Vanguard Acts and Avant-Garde Art

Adriano Shaplin, Pugilist Specialist

*Richard Schechner, “9/11 As Avant-Garde Art?” PMLA 124.5 (2009): 1820-1829.

*Mike Sell, “Al Qaeda and the Avant-Garde: Towards a Genealogy of the Taliah,” Modernism / Modernity 18.2 (2011): 395-404.


week 5 / / Tragedy and Terror

*Deborah Brevoort, The Women of Lockerbie

*Anne Nelson The Guys

* David Roman (ed.) "A Forum on Theatre and Tragedy In the Wake of September 11, 2001," Theatre Journal 54 (2002): 95-138.


*Peter St. Johns, “The Politics of Aviations Terrorism,” Aviation, Terrorism and Security.. Ed. Paul Wilkinson and Brian M. Jenkins, (Routledge, 1999) 27-49.

Week 6 / Reading Week

Review: Harold Pinter “Nobel Prize Lecture”


week 7 / Identity Anxiety, Xenophobia and Performance Politics

*Culture Clash Anthems

*Yussef el-Guindi 10 Acrobats in an Amazing Leap of Faith

*Muneer Ahmad, “Homeland Insecurities: Racial Violence the Day After September 11,”Social Text 72 [20.3] (2002): 101-115


week 8 / Performance -- Afghanistan

*David Edgar, Black Tulips

*Simon Stevens, Canopy of Stars

Nicholas Cull, “Staging the Catastrophe: The Tricycle Theatre’s The Great Game: Afghanistan and Its Diplomatic Journey from London to the Pentagon, 2010–11,” Theatre Topics 21.2 (2011): 125-137


week 9 Performance -- Iraq

*David Hare, Stuff Happens

*Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo, Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom

*Heather Raffo Nine Parts of Desire

*Jon McKenzie, “Abu Ghraib and the Society of the Spectacle of the Scaffold,” Violence Performed: Local Roots and Global Routes of Conflict. Ed. Patrick Anderson and Jisha Menon. (Palgrave MacMillan, 2009) 338-356

week 10 / A Decade Later

*Headlong Theatre, Decade (excerpts).

Concluding Thoughts.