Uferpromenade in Konstanz am Bodensee.

The purpose of the summer seminar is to promote the interdisciplinary study of historical, political, social and cultural aspects of modern and contemporary German affairs and to advance their understanding among scholars in the United States and Canada. The program is open to faculty members and recent PhDs in germane social science and cultural studies fields.

Rethinking Performance in Theory and Practice
DAAD Summer Seminar for Faculty and Recent PhDs
June 19th - July 15th, 2017, University of Chicago

Seminar Director:
David J. Levin, Addie Clark Harding Professor of Germanic Studies, Cinema & Media Studies, and Chair, Committee on Theater and Performance Studies

Eligibility and Deadline

  • Faculty members of accredited US and Canadian institutions of higher education are invited to apply.
  • Preference will be given to candidates who have not previously attended one of the summer seminars or received a DAAD grant within the past three years.
  • Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or Canada. Permanent residents must have been affiliated with a United States or Canadian institution in full-time employment for at least five consecutive years, German nationals for at least six years.
  • Participants are expected to have an active interest in German intellectual and cultural history.
  • A reading knowledge of German is advisable.

Please apply by March 1st, 2017 to be considered for this grant.

Terms of Award

  • DAAD awards grants of up to USD 3,200 to cover tuition, travel, and room and board during the seminar.
  • The seminar takes place between June 19 and July 15, 2017. Participants are required to attend all seminar sessions and to participate actively in the work of the seminar. Work-in-progress of participants and guests will be discussed.
  • A written report is expected within four weeks of the end of the seminar.

Course Description

Recent performance work emanating from Germany – be it in theater, dance, or opera – has had an enormous impact on performance practices in North America.  At the same time, academic work in performance studies emanating from Germany has had an enormous impact in the English speaking world.  In this seminar, we will engage some of the most important contributions in both spheres  – conceptual work by Erika Fischer-Lichte (on the theorization of performance), Hans-Thies Lehmann (on post-dramatic theater and tragedy), and Gabriele Brandstetter (on contemporary dance) as well as a host of recent productions from German stages (e.g., theater work from the Volksbühne Berlin, dance work by the Forsythe Company, performance work from the Hebbel Theater am Ufer, and opera productions from the Stuttgart Opera and the Bayerische Staatsoper).  At the heart of the seminar will be a set of interrelated questions, regarding the place(s) of theory in performance practice, the status of the text in performance, and the role(s) of the spectator.

In addition to our discussions in the seminar room, a substantial component of the seminar’s work will take place in the rehearsal room.  We will attend the rehearsals of a number of ensembles preparing original work in theater, performance, and dance as part of the 2017 Chicago Performance Lab (CPL) which runs concurrently to our seminar at the Logan Center for the Arts on the campus of the University of Chicago.  Over the past few years, the CPL has emerged as an important incubator for new work in Chicago theaters and beyond.  Work developed at CPL has gone on to appear on the stages of Steppenwolf Theatre, the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art Performance Series, Lookingglass Theatre, and House Theatre; ensembles in residence have included Manual Cinema, Lucky Plush Productions, The Hypocrites, and Blair Thomas and Company.  Our seminar will attend rehearsals of CPL resident ensembles and then convene to discuss the implications of the creative and interpretive work we have witnessed.  But beyond this process of critical reflection – familiar enough to academics – will be an important and presumably less familiar dialogical component to our work: we will engage in a sustained critical exchange with the production teams (including directors, designers, dramaturgs, and performers) whose work we have observed, probing the intersection of critical and creative engagement.  In the process, seminar participants will gain fluency in the exchange between academics and artists while gaining experience in fostering a meaningful collaboration between theory and practice.

The seminar is conceived on the one hand as providing participants with a platform for present and future scholarly projects, but it is also intended to enhance participants’ pedagogical resources (e.g., integration of performance into the classroom). This stems from a sense that the “performative turn” could be better integrated into German Studies programs in North America. In this sense, our time together will provide participants with a variegated toolkit both for research projects and for curricular innovation.

The seminar is ideally suited to professors and post-doctoral scholars in a range of fields (including Germanic Studies as well as Theater & Performance Studies, Musicology, Film Studies, and Comparative Literature) with an interest in theater & performance studies.  Fluency in German is not required although an interest in academic and creative work emerging from Germany is essential.

The seminar will be visited by a series of guest lecturers, including:

  • Seth Bockley (Playwright in Residence, Goodman Theatre) on Post-Dramatic Theater
  • Leslie Buxbaum Danzig (Director, and Assistant Professor of the Practice, Theater & Performance Studies, University of Chicago) on Theory in the Rehearsal Room
  • Susan Manning (Professor of Theater & Performance Studies, Northwestern University) on Contemporary Dance in Germany
  • Amy Stebbins (Director, Librettist, and Ph.D. Student, University of Chicago) on the Agonistic Theater of the Volksbühne Berlin
  • David Wellbery (LeRoy T. and Margaret Deffenbaugh Carlson University Professor, Dept of Germanic Studies and Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago) on “How to Stage Nathan der Weise Today”

David J. Levin is the Addie Clark Harding Professor in Germanic Studies, Cinema & Media Studies and Chair of the Committee on Theater & Performance Studies at the University of Chicago.  From 2011-2016 he served as the founding Director of the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, which fosters experimental collaborations between artists and scholars. Before joining the faculty at Chicago in 1998, he taught German Studies and Theater Studies at Columbia University. He has been a guest professor of Theater and Performance Studies at the Free University of Berlin, the University of Mainz, and the University of Konstanz. From 2005-2015, he served as executive editor of the Opera Quarterly, published by Oxford University Press. Professor Levin's work focuses on the aesthetics and politics of performance in opera, theater, and cinema. He is the editor of Opera Through Other Eyes (Stanford University Press, 1994) and the author of Richard Wagner, Fritz Lang, and the Nibelungen: The Dramaturgy of Disavowal (Princeton University Press, 1998). His book Unsettling Opera: Staging Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, and Zemlinsky was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2007; a paperback edition appeared in 2010. In addition to his academic work, Levin has also worked extensively as a dramaturg and collaborator for various opera houses in Germany and the United States as well for the choreographers William Forsythe and Saar Magal. In the autumn of 2014, Levin and Magal team-taught a laboratory course at the University of Chicago in preparation for their collaboration on Jephta’s Daughter, which premiered at the summer festival of the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich in July 2015. 


The application form is available for download in the box on the right.

Please send your application to:

David Levin
Addie Clark Harding Professor of Germanic Studies, Cinema & Media Studies, and Chair, Committee on Theater and Performance Studies
Department of Germanic Studies
1050 East 59th St
Chicago, IL 60637