Staging self in the plays of cosmopolitanism. Language, authorship, migration



This project studies the logic of constructing cosmopolitan subjectivity in a selection of plays written by immigrant artists and plays written about migration since 2000. Specifically, it focuses on plays written in two or more languages, which reveal how the immigrant writers re-assess their position as the cosmopolitan citizens of their home and adopted countries, actively engaged in re-thinking the role of cosmopolitan people in making history today. This new project will contextualize the chosen bi-/multilingual plays within the context of migration crisis as it unfolds in Europe today, suggesting that revisiting history is not only one of the methods to learn the lessons in personal ethics and responsibility. When it comes to the issues of migration and travelling, it is also a necessary mechanism of reflection that can help us developing a new discourse and a better understanding of the most pressing contemporary events.

First, we will study the dramaturgical methodologies of challenging the author/character dramatic tension in the bi-/multilingual selected plays written by (im)migrant authors and about (im)migration. Using interdisciplinary methodologies of performance theory, dramaturgy, literary text analysis and studies in cognition, linguistics and second language acquisition – including Mikhail Bakhtin (1927), Marvin Carlson (2009), Josephine Machon (2013), Auer (1995), Corte´s-Conde (2002), Carla Jonsson (2010), and Nicole Nolette (2015) – we will discuss how the experience of inherited and invented bi-/multi-/lingualism informs the authorial discourse of the cosmopolitan playtexts, examine the problems of code-switching in bi-/multilingual communication and analyze the making of the “implied reader” (Jauss, Iser, Wolf) in the chosen plays.

Epistemologically, we will rely on the concept of encounter as theorized by Lévinas. In this, we follow Katharina Pewny’s recent study of the “performances of the precarious” (2011), in which she has applied Emmanuel Lévinas’ philosophical discourse of ethics of the encounter with the vulnerable “Other” in performing arts today. Meerzon builds on the concept of the theatrical performance as encounter and asks the question of how the “Other” is present in the “self” in bi- and multilingual plays by immigrant authors and on migration. Meerzon’s new work focuses on the issues of constructing subjectivity in the theatres of migration and cosmopolitanism, aiming at adapting the philosophical inquires of Benjamin, Ricoeur and Lévinas to her own work on theatres of cosmopolitanism and encounter. Gunther Martens’s narratological findings (2014) and his analysis of methodologies of textual adaptation, relational dramaturgy and constructing postdramatic plays will be applied in this research project as well.

The work that will begin at Ghent University will lead for further collaborations between Dr. Meerzon, Prof. dr. Pewny and Prof. dr. Martens; it will result in a special issue of the journal Modern Drama, scheduled for publication in the Fall 2018, and an edited anthology with Routledge (2020).



Externe medewerkers

Yana Meerzon

University of Ottawa