Linking Humanities and Performing Arts

A Yale professor will discuss the intersections and relationship between performance and the humanities Thursday at Duke

Throughout his career, Yale professor Joseph Roach has challenged the notion that the performing arts and the humanities are distinct and separate disciplines.

Roach, a professor of English and theater, believes the arts and humanities are intertwined -- two disciplines that can be used to illuminate the other.

Roach will discuss this intersection at 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6 in a talk at the Smith Warehouse Garage. The talk, "Ambient Poetics: The Performing Arts in the Humanities," is free and open to the public.

A theater historian and stage director who has written several books on interdisciplinary theater, Roach is now leading a Yale project to "re-imagine interdisciplinary research and develop new methodologies within performance studies and related fields." Roach's most recent project, called Interdisciplinary Performance Studies at Yale and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, inspired his talk, which is co-sponsored by the Franklin Humanities Institute and the Theater Studies department.

Theater Studies professor Claire Conceison considers Roach one of her mentors. In addition, she believes Roach's focus on interdisciplinarity aligns perfectly with Duke's campus-wide culture of breaking barriers between disparate fields of study.

"Trained as a theater historian, he is also a theater practitioner and thus he sees the performing human body as central to any understanding of the historical and cultural contexts through which that body moves in space and time," Conceison said.

Conceison said Roach combines the two fields seamlessly and hopes his teaching and research methods can be a model for mixing the fields of theater history and performance studies within the Duke Theater Studies department.

Conceison said Roach's talk will highlight his distinct approach to studying the performing arts and continue to inspire students and faculty in the theater studies discipline.

"Professor Roach continues to strike this balance of illuminating where the field has been and shaping where it is headed," Conceison said. "He has a wonderful ability to simultaneously look back with clarity and look forward with vision, and that is why he is both a scholarly and professional beacon to so many."

For more information about the event, visit the Franklin Humanities Institute website.