Historically, studies of performance have often been tied to star images, focusing on issues of celebrity in professional, public, and private spaces. As a result, a large body of research has explored how the star is constructed through extratextual discourses and how this off-screen persona may shape perceptions of on-screen performance. However, scholarly attention to performers has been shifting from star image and celebrity to acting and performance. Several collections on film acting and performance – most recently Cynthia Baron and Sharon Marie Carnicke’s Reframing Screen Performance (2008) and Aaron Taylor’s Theorizing Film Acting (2012) – have extended our knowledge of the historical evolution of acting practices. The editors of The Velvet Light Trap: A Critical Journal of Film & Television would like to further the ongoing conversation surrounding performance studies by focusing attention on the relationship between performance and the body and the ways in which the body is being performed across the mediums of film, television, and new media.
Such unavoidably embodied performances as Buster Keaton’s physical comedy and Misty Copeland’s athletic Under Armour ad serve to foreground a fundamental, yet often taken for granted, premise: the body is the central locus of performance. Through movement, gesture, facial expressions, and vocalizations, the body provides the basic physical language of performance. Yet this language is neither fixed nor ideologically neutral but is instead continuously shaped and reshaped by historical and cultural pressures brought to bear on the body as contested site of identity. Much scholarly work has been attentive to identity construction and the body: Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (1990), Kathleen Rowe’s The Unruly Woman (1995), and Deborah Harris Moore’s Media and the Rhetoric of Body Perfection (2014), for example, have explored identity issues pertaining to body shaming, body disorders, bodily violence, expressions of sexuality, and gender and sexuality performativity. Moreover, as Baron, Diane Carson, and Frank Tomasulo argue in More than a Method (2004), performative mediations of the body “lie at the intersection of art, technology, and culture” (p. 1). Thus, the representational practices through which bodies are enacted offer particularly fertile ground for interrogating the production and reception of performance from both interpretive and historical perspectives. Recent developments in new media (such as video games, social media, YouTube) and digital technologies (such as motion capture, 3D, and Photoshop) may have shifted how the body is viewed, visualized, and altered. The body can now appear in otherwise impossible situations or be changed into otherwise impossible shapes.
Issue #77 of TVLT, “Performance and the Body,” seeks both to advance discussions of the centrality of the body to performance studies and to encourage greater scholarly attention to performative bodies across mediums. The editors are particularly interested in work focusing on the performance of the body through movement and voice; the aesthetic and ideological construction of performative bodies through fashion, makeup, body modification, and digital manipulations; and digital performance of virtual bodies. For this issue, the editors seek to bring together original scholarship that engages new theoretical frameworks, archival sources, and historical perspectives that encourage re-evaluations of this crucial aspect of media studies.
Suggested topics include, but are by no means limited to:
- Performative bodies and the construction of identity (gender; sexuality; queerness; transgenderism; race; ethnicity; nationality; age; ability; political beliefs; nationalism)
- Body modification as a performative practice (body augmentation and plastic surgery; extreme weight changes; the use of makeup and prosthetics)
- Training the performing body (athletic training; military training; dance training; musical training; vocal training)
- Performing bodily excess (representations of the drugged or drunken body; the grotesque body; death; illness; bodily violence; sex acts)
- Performing the Other (blackface performance; racial masquerade; performing queerness; cross-gender performance; stereotyping bodies; voices; and accents)
- The performance of the body through costume and dress
- Laboring bodies (body doubles; stunt doubles; stand-ins; Steadicam operators)
- Digital technologies and performance (performance in video and role-playing games; virtual reality user performance; digital resurrection; Photoshopping or airbrushing the body; robotic and non-human performers)
- Performing animated bodies (vocal performance; motion-capture; rotoscoping; anatomical studies in producing animated bodies)
- Supporting bodies (background performers; stand-ins; stunt performers)
- Social media and YouTube (selfies; Instagram; YouTube makeup/fashion tutorials)
- Non-traditional body performance studies (animal performance)
- Genre and performance (action film performance and “hard bodies”; performing bodily humor; “body genres”)
- The body and performance style (early cinema; silent/transitional; classical; Method acting; pastiching performance styles; performance styles in an actor’s “body of work”)
- Performing “real” bodies (biopics; performers playing themselves; cameo performances)
- Multiple bodies performing a single character and single performers representing multiple bodies (double casting; body/voice doubles; replacing performers in long-running texts)
- Fans as performers/producers (reenacting and reproducing performances through cosplay; adjusting celebrity bodies in photo manipulations; fan art; and fan vids)
Submissions should be between 8,000 and 10,000 words, formatted in Chicago style. Please submit an electronic copy of the paper, along with a separate one-page abstract, both saved as a Microsoft Word file. Remove any identifying information so that the submission is suitable for anonymous review. The entire essay, including block quotations and notes, should be double spaced. Photocopies of illustrations are sufficient for initial review, but authors should be prepared to supply camera-ready photographs on request. Illustrations will be sized by the publisher. Permissions are the responsibility of the author. Send electronic manuscripts and/or any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Journal
TVLT is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal of film, television, and new media. It publishes articles and interviews written with the highest scholarly standards yet accessible to a broad range of readers. The journal draws on a variety of theoretical and historiographic approaches from the humanities and social sciences and welcomes any effort that will help foster the ongoing processes of evaluation and negotiation in media history and criticism.
Graduate students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the University of Texas at Austin coordinate issues in alternation. TVLT’s Editorial Advisory Board includes such notable scholars as Charles Acland, Richard Allen, Mark Betz, Michael Curtin, Kay Dickinson, Scott Higgins, Jon Kraszewski, Nicholas Sammond, Jacob Smith, Jonathan Sterne, and Cristina Venegas. TVLT’s local advisors include: Mary Beltrán, Ben Brewster, Jonathan Gray, Michele Hilmes, Lea Jacobs, Derek Johnson, Vance Kepley, Shanti Kumar, Charles Ramírez Berg, Thomas Schatz, and Janet Staiger.