2020 Session: "New Frontiers of Theater and Performance Research"

UPDATE (as of March 25, 2020): Despite all our hopes to the contrary, the 2020 Mellon School of Theater and Performance Research is canceled. It is possible that the session will be held as planned it for this year one year later, but it is also possible that the focus will shift or format will change. The world is changing rapidly and we will try to adjust. Please check back in late Fall 2020 for updated session information. Thank you for understanding.

About the Mellon School of Theater and Performance Research

In an intense two-week course of study, faculty members and graduate students from around the world will convene at Harvard University to explore drama, theater, and performance from various historical and theoretical perspectives. Participants will work with an international faculty of distinguished scholars in one of two daily seminars on overarching theoretical and methodological topics related to the theme. In addition to the daily seminars, the program will include discussions, research workshops, performances, and evening lectures taught by visiting faculty members. Graduate student participants will take part in a writing workshop devoted to their dissertation research, while junior faculty will participate in a workshop focused on turning their dissertations into books. We will also introduce you to the Harvard Theater Collection, the oldest theater collection in the country, and the librarians here are eager to help you research your dissertation or book project while you are at Harvard.

With generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the English Department's Spencer Fund, and Theater, Dance & Media, this summer school and all of its offerings are entirely free to participants. Economical on-campus housing is available for participants. You will also get to explore Boston’s lively theater scene, from the American Repertory Theater to the revived downtown Theater District.

2020 Session: "New Frontiers of Theater and Performance Research"


The 2020 Mellon Summer Session will examine new movements in theater and performance research in the context of changes that are emerging in the humanities more broadly. 1. A quantitative turn. Just as the social sciences underwent a quantitative turn in the late nineteenth century, so too there is talk of a quantitative turn in the humanities, based on the existence of databases and datasets that can, for the first time, be studied quantitatively. How do these approaches add to existing methods in performance research? 2. Activism. There has always existed an activist dimension in humanities scholarship, but in the last few years, this dimension has come to the fore again, especially around climate change, inequality, gender, and race. What forms does performance-based activism take today, and how are they related to research and teaching in our fields? 3. Post-Critique. A third group seeks to orient our analytic habits away from “critique,” understood primarily as a mode of scholarship that seeks to identify moments of oppression and subversion in works of art and performance. What are the proposed alternatives to critique? Or should we revive critique and adapt it to new purposes? 4. Public Humanities. A fourth movement responds to the sense that we have lost our public. If we want to win back public backing for what we do, we need a strand of scholarship that is oriented outwards. What are the approaches that are most promising? And how would they inform specialized research?

While these four movements--and others that might emerge as important during the session--concern all the humanities, we will focus on how they impact the study of theater, dance, and performance and related disciplines. This intensive two-week session is meant to be an incubator for new ideas.


Applications for the 2020 session of the Mellon School are closed.

Please see our Applications page for more information for details about the application process.