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Acting Out – A symposium on Screen Performance, Inference and Interpretation

This one-day symposium seeks to provide a forum for scholars of screen acting to meet and progress the spate of recent work on performance on film. We would like to explore how we draw out performance through an interrogation of the relationship between performance, inference and interpretation, but will consider proposals on other screen performance related issues.

As viewers we frequently respond instinctively to the material and kinetic details of the performer within their fictional world. In consequence, the role of inference could be said to be indivisible from interpretation. But how important is that moment between engaging with a performance and analysing it? How do you find it and observe it?

The perceived problem of subjectivity is the ghost of film studies, haunting many analyses but rarely addressed directly. How do discourses around spectatorship effect discussion of performance? Could it be that the study of performance is uniquely disposed to alerting us to the complexity of engagement?

The broader implication of these thoughts is, how do YOU ‘frame’ performance? And how are different analytical frameworks (e.g. phenomenological, social role-play, practice-based approaches, close analysis) specifically equipped to conceptualise these processes?

Equally, what is the role of inference in the process and production of performance? What is left unsaid and/or assumed in performance? Arguably, many performances communicate in non-verbal ways and leave a certain amount to the imagination but how does this vary between performance styles? More histrionic, melodramatic or ostensive performances are frequently thought of as offering more privileged access to thoughts and feelings or even a transparently clear communication of meaning. What kinds of assumptions underpin this way of thinking about performance? And where does this leave more contained or repressive performances?

Deadline for Proposals – Monday 22 December 2008

Please contact Ceri Hovland and Lucy Fife Donaldson at actingout@reading.ac.uk with any questions or if you would like to discuss any initial proposal ideas.

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