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Thinking Through Tragedy and Comedy A Symposium on Performance Philosophy and the Future of Genre

Erika Fischer-Lichte


Erika Fischer-Lichte is one of the most prolific performance scholars in the German academic landscape. Her wide-ranging work has significantly shaped the discipline of Theaterwissenschaft (or Theatre and Performance Studies) in the past decades. Her foregrounding of the performance event and the interactions between performers and spectators has been instrumental in revising aesthetic conceptions about the scope and functions of the theatrical performance. With her emphasis on the conditions of performance rather than fictive stage worlds, Fischer-Lichte reintegrates the concept of performativity into the theatrical realm. Her publication record is expansive and spans from the theorization of performance – e.g. The Transformative Power of Performance (Routledge 2008) and Performing the Future (Fink 2012) – to an in depth engagement with the pervasive role of the historical avant-gardes in shaping contemporary theatre practices. One of her key research interest lies in tracing tragedy in performance across a changing field of cultural and historical contexts, as exemplified in Antike Tragödie Heute (Classical Tragedy Today, 2007) most recently in Dionysus Resurrected: Performances of Euripides ‘The Bacchae’ in a Globalizing World (Wiley-Blackwell 2013) or Global Ibsen. Performing Multiple Modernities (Routledge, 2010). Fischer-Lichte sees tragedy as fundamentally engaging with the experience of liminality as a physical process that supersedes its relevance as dramatic genre.

After receiving her PhD in 1972 in Slavic Studies in Berlin, Fischer-Lichte taught at Literature Departments in Frankfurt/Main and Bayreuth before coming to Mainz University where she founded the Institute of Theatre Studies in 1991. She moved to the Free University Berlin in 1996 and has been one of the most renowned German theatre scholars ever since. Since 2008, Erika Fischer-Lichte has also been Director of the International Research Centre for Interweaving Performance Cultures, which brings together performance scholars and artists from around the world in order to explore the complex interrelationships between globalization and performance practices. The Centre has offered new impulses and forms of collaboration to a wide variety of theatre scholars from around the world. Fischer-Lichte has been President of the International Federation for Theatre Research (1995-1999) and has held a variety of visiting professorships at Indiana University (1992), UCLA (2001/02), the National Academy of Drama New Delhi (2007), the Theatre Academy Beijing (2007), and at the Ibsen Center at the University of Oslo (2008-2012).