Imagine that you’re sitting in a tiny room, above a pub in Notting Hill. Moments ago you witnessed a heated debate about the existence of god between a priest and a nihilistic Hippolytus culminate in the priest fellating Hippolytus. The wooden bench you have been perched upon for the past hour becomes increasingly uncomfortable. Momentarily distracted, you attempt to make eye contact with the person who accompanied you to the theatre, who you were forcibly separated from due to the large number of audience members already present when you entered. In that second your bench creaks. Your neighbour rises. Other audience members stand, but do not exit the theatre. Is this part of the show? They begin swearing, bandying together in their hatred for Hippolytus. Rocks are produced and hurled at Hippolytus as he is dragged through the audience. A knife is produced and the scene becomes bloody. Meat cooking on a barbeque—where did that come from?—sizzles and its smell mixes with that of the blood. Your stomach lurches. You blink, trying to focus, and see Hippolytus being sliced from groin to chest. A thick and shiny stream of blood trickles across the floor towards your feet. Will it stain your shoes? Should you move? Can you move? While you sit, frozen with indecision, Hippolytus’ entrails soar above your head and land upon the barbeque with a violent hiss. Followed by his genitals. Then suddenly, the crowd disperses. Hippolytus, bloody and beaten, lies gasping for air at your feet. “Vultures” he whispers, staring at the ceiling. While the mutilated body parts blacken on the barbeque you tally three lynched bodies strewn across the space. There is silence. It is over.
This description reflects the final moments of the 1996 première production of Sarah Kane’s Phaedra’s Love, a rare contemporary reworking of Seneca’s Phaedra and one of the case studies from my PhD thesis, submitted in June 2015 through the Department of Greek and Latin at University College London. My thesis explored radical reworkings of ancient tragedy from 1995-2015, with particular reference to the concept of postdramatic theatre. Postdramatic theatre can be defined as a style of performance in which the traditional components of drama, such as character and narrative, are subordinate to the immediate, affective power of the more abstract elements of performance, such as image and sound. The project was interdisciplinary, combining classics, reception studies, and performance studies, and as such my curation of @wethehumanities will have a multidisciplinary focus. But first, a little about me.
I began my academic journey at the University of Sydney, where I studied ancient history and performance studies. After a short break from academia, which I spent as a youth advisor for Sydney Theatre Company and working as a dramaturg on the RE-GEN project at Playwriting Australia, I moved to London to study an MA in Reception of the Classical World at University College London, with a dissertation on Katie Mitchell’s productions of ancient Greek tragedy. A revised version of my thesis will appear in the next issue of the Classical Receptions Journal; an advanced access copy is available here. In love academia and London, I then stayed on to complete my PhD, again at UCL. I’ve been interested in public engagement throughout my doctorate, and in my final year I began vlogging my PhD journey, the videos from which are archived here. I’ll be creating a vlog or two detailing my @wethehumanities curatorship, so watch this space. Today, I’m inhabiting the limbo between submission and viva, and am preparing for my first academic appointment: a 24-month teaching fellowship at Bristol University, beginning in September.
During my time at @wethehumanities, I want to share my research and discuss four main topics:
- Interdisciplinarity and the humanities: more than just lip service.
- Public engagement, with specific reference to the potential of videos, podcasts, and social media. Is there a way that these formats can be used for knowledge exchange, or are they inevitably one-way?
- Viva and other examination preparations. Dr Nathan Ryder from @VivaSurvivors will be joining me for one day of my curatorship to discuss this in-depth.
- Academia and internationalism. Tier 4 (general student) visas are a hot topic in the UK media right now, with various changes proposed. I’ve been an international student in the UK, and want to discuss the proposed changes with reference to your experiences studying in other countries, and being taught by international academics in your home country.
I hope you’re looking forward to these conversations as much as I am. If you can’t wait to get started, feel free to get in touch now by tweeting me @Emma_Cole1.