Book Proposal

08 February, 2015


are invited from potential contributors

to an edited volume entitled

War and Theatrical Innovation


The military strategist and theoretician von Clausewitz seems to have coined the term “theatre of war” and in so doing created a nexus that suggests some interesting commonalities: war as theatrical spectacle that takes place in designated areas of engagement, and when he defines the essential characteristic of war as a confluence of violent emotion, chance and rational calculation, he might well have been describing the essential nature of a theatrical performance.


This volume proposes to explore the connexion further with a particular focus on the impact of war on theatrical practices and indeed to suggest that some of these practices may have penetrated the conduct of war itself. Theatre has responded to the climacteric periods of war as they affected both states and individuals—particularly as social structures and personal relationships are destabilized and inevitably changed as the result of geopolitical conflicts. In such circumstances, we would therefore expect that the organization of theatre itself might be changed, that new forms of communication might find their ways onto a stage forced to accommodate and reflect the tensions which conflict has made evident, and that performers might themselves be required to assume new identities resulting possibly in alterations to the nature of their labour or compelling them “to dance to a different tune.”


 This of course forms an aspect of the search for identity, a preoccupation that has intensified since the 19th century as modernist pressures and technological advances have contributed to violent oscillations between established certainties and new, often perilous explorations on the part of individuals and nation-states. Yet versions of this violence may well have characterised tendencies and tensions evident in many other geopolitical conflicts prior to the 19th century and well into the 21st as both nation-states and individuals have been forced into taking specific roles in conflicts driven by empire building or post-colonial imperatives.


The proposal is intended to cast a wide net both geographically and temporally and to have the contributions reflect this spread through their cultural diversity and inclusiveness. Contributions from performing arts scholars, archivists, military and cultural historians and social psychologists would be welcome.


Though in no way intended to be prescriptive, consideration might be given to such topic areas as:


  • Representations of war: new forms of communication and display
  • Wartime and the performance of propaganda
  • The effects of war on the nature of entertainment itself
  • The demands of war upon cultural institutions like the theatre
  • The appropriation of old theatre forms to foster new directions
  • The theatricalization of war itself: illusionism, make believe and misdirection
  • The interplay of new technologies
  • The position and status of performers in times of war
  • Case studies of individual performers caught up in wartime conflict and its effect upon them and their craft
  • Masks and faces: new roles and role-playing required in times of war
  • A new entertainment industry: its response to the needs of combatants during the two World Wars and continuing to this day through, for example, the British Combined Services Organization and the American United Service Organizations

In the first instance, expressions of interest should be forwarded to:

Victor Emeljanow is Emeritus Professor, School of Creative Arts, University of Newcastle, Australia. He is an experienced volume editor and is currently the general editor of the online journal Popular Entertainment Studies. He has two chapters relating to prisoners-of-war in World War 1 and 2 appearing in volumes to be published by Palgrave in early 2015.

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