The cluster HUMANITIES wishes to garner reflections around the use and interpretation of  humanities (in particular history, literature, anthropology and practical and phenomenological philosophy) as objects in the Performing Arts and Cinema, but also as agents of transmission of the artistic gesture. 

Performing Arts and Cinema have been long considered a potential medium for the use of humanities as an avenue for shaping public consciousness. After all, the representation of socio-human and historical phenomena (topography, atmosphere, ideas or emotions) could arguably bolster the audience’s understanding of the latter. However, this representation is largely driven by subjectivities. 

For one, such phenomena are represented through the point of view of a protagonist (in the latter’s both classical and more abstract, deconstructed incarnations) within a performative construction (theatrical and cinematic).  Secondly, subjectivity pervades the “behind-the-scenes” of the artistic act, as the contemporary context and the “creator’s” or “performer’s” background add yet another layer to the perception and transmission of the enacted event or phenomenon. It is for this reason that researchers have primarily used Performing Arts and Cinema as “illustrations” of a narrative, rather than what Hayden White called “discursive representation” through imagery and language.

In line with this dynamic of intersecting subjectivities, one could consider how fictional (or autofictional) literatures are grafted onto stages and screens, especially if we take into account, for example, the latest trends in adaptations of novels (a practice much more widespread in film). Similarly, one could think about the role that documentary theater and film could play in such a perspective.

Yet it is also important to think of socio-historical phenomena, literary narratives, and philosophical concepts as objects of an artistic act – assimilated as such within the Performing Arts and Cinema. Indeed, art can confer a reconstruction of events, situations and ideas through the exposure, albeit subjective and limited, of various historical and social actors, their relationships and ways of thinking. 

But playwrights, musicians, or filmmakers have used humanities for purposes other than “reconstruction” of the latter’s subject-matters. Rather, as means, as practical leeway to explore human emotions or organic relationships between protagonists. In this context, socio-historical narratives become distorted in time and space, and often fractured on behalf of an artistic scope; artistic licenses become central and accuracy of detail is oft-sidelined. 

We therefore seek to attract researchers who use Performing Arts and Cinema to shed light on the tensions stemming from the use, interpretation, and/or instrumentalization of humanities as both an object in artistic performance and as an agent of the artistic act, respectively. Thus, memoirs, political art, anachronism in its creative potential (Lowenthal), the use of archives and primary sources for aesthetic purposes, the anthropological and symbolic use of theatrical and cinematographic codes – are some of the avenues to be explored through contemporary artistic productions. Do the humanities shape the Performing Arts and Cinema? Or vice versa? Or is it a mutual influence? For which purpose(s)?