Prof. James Harding
Stages and Contexts of 9/11
1) The events of 9/11 and those that followed elicited a wide range of responses from different theatre communities. The American and British theatre communities, for example, were in no way uniform in their responses to the events surrounding 9/11. Using the material that we have examined in this module, characterize their differences and explain what those differences tell us about theatre in the U.S. and in the U.K. in the post-9/11 era.
2) In the weeks following 9/11, the editor of Theatre Journal David Roman “invited a number of theatre and performance scholars to respond to the concept of tragedy” in the “wake of September 11, 2001.” Consider this commission not only in light of the scholarly responses that Roman received but also in light of the kind of theatre that has emerged in the decade following 9/11. Discuss how the conceptual lens of tragedy sharpens (or distorts) our understanding of 9/11 and how 9/11 transforms our understanding of tragedy as a concept.
3) In the days immediately following the events of 9/11, the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen created an international controversy by calling the attack on the twin towers “the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos.” According to what criteria does the attack on the twin towers in New York qualify as “art”? Discuss the significance that this perspective on 9/11 has for our understanding of theatre and performance as effective socio-political forces in a post 9/11 world.
4) Shortly after September 11, 2001, the editors of Yale University’s journal Theatre grappled with the implications of publishing a collection interviews with artistic directors at theatres around the country about theater, terrorism and the events of 9/11. Though they ultimately decided to publish the collection in a special issue entitled “Up-Front: American Theaters Reflect on the Events of September 11,” the editors remained deeply divided about whether they were being opportunistic and “no better than the blood-starved media preying on a tragic event.” Consider the editors’ own uncertainties as well as those expressed by the theatre practitioners they interviewed. Looking at the material that we have covered over this term, distinguish between an opportunistic and an appropriate artistic response to events of the magnitude of 9/11.
5) In the opening of his Nobel Lecture, Harold Pinter argues that while as a writer and artist he cannot see any “hard distinctions between what is true and what is false,” as a citizen he must make these distinctions. His lecture thus draws a clear line between artistic inquiry and political inquiry, rhetorically laying the foundation for the blistering critique of American foreign policy that dominates the rest of his lecture. But what are the larger implications of what Pinter presents as an unproblematic dichotomy? Discuss the viability of the distinction that Pinter makes between art and politics in light of the dramatic work of post-9/11 artists who use their work to explore the moral and ethical ambiguities of history and politics.