Julie Stone Peters
Department of English and Comparative Literature
401b Philosophy Hall
B.A., Yale (1981)
Ph.D., Princeton (1987)
J.D., Columbia (1997)
Prof. Peters has two primary areas of interest: comparative drama and performance from the Renaissance through the twentieth century; and the literary and cultural dimensions of the law. She has taught courses on drama, theatre, and visual culture generally (ranging between the Renaissance and the twentieth century, and across Europe, Africa, and the Americas), as well as on concepts of text and performance, theories of drama and theatre, the history of film and media, and law and culture.
She has served as Co-Chair of the Theatre Ph.D. Program, Associate Chair of the English Department, Founding Director of the Columbia College Human Rights Program, and on the Board of the Center for the Study of Human Rights. She has taught at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Siena, and been the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Fulbright Foundation, American Philosophical Society, American Council of Learned Societies, Humboldt Foundation, and the Harvard University and Folger Libraries. Her publications include Theatre of the Book: Print, Text, and Performance in Europe 1480-1880 (Oxford UP, 2000) (winner of the ACLA's Harry Levin Prize, English Association's Beatrice White Award, and honorable mention from ASTR for the best book in theatre history), Women's Rights, Human Rights: International Feminist Perspectives (co-edited, Routledge, 1995), Congreve, the Drama, and the Printed Word (Stanford UP, 1990), and numerous articles on the history of drama and performance and the cultural history of the law.
She is currently working on a three book projects: a study of turn-of-the-century "obscenity" and theatrical modernism; a study of theatre and anthropology between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries; and a historical study of legal performance and the law's fraught relationship to its own theatricality.
Recent Courses in Theatre:
- Modernist Primitives, Human Machines, Sex, and Other Tragicomedies: Modern Drama (c.1890-1960): Exploring the borderlines between sex and perversion, human and machine, savage and civilized, modern drama engaged the traumas of modernity in what often seemed a post-tragic age. We will move from the turn-of-the-century sex tragedy to the drama of decolonization c. 1960, focusing particularly on emergent ideas of sexuality, primitivism, the machine, and the politics of the avant-garde, looking along the way at the period's aesthetic -isms (Symbolism, Dada, Futurism, Expressionism, Constructivism) in the context of theatrical practice, exploring the role of drama in an age of mass media and the significance of theatrical modernism for the "modern" generally. Texts include films, visual images, theatrical documents, theoretical texts, and plays by Wedekind, Jarry, Chekhov, Shaw, Strindberg, Artaud, Brecht, Beckett, Genet, Césaire (among others).
- The Senses, Emotion, and the Politics of Reception: Theories of Drama, Theatre, Performance, and Media, Ancient to Contemporary: This course looks at theories of drama, theatre, performance, and media, ancient to contemporary, reading them against literary texts that both test their limits and reveal their richness. At the same time, in its focus on medium and reception, it offers an introduction to some of the central problems of aesthetics more generally: literary production; the control or "ownership" of the work of art; genre, medium, narrative structure (plot logic, or probability); verisimilitude; character; emotion; the epistemology of the senses; the distinction of the literary from the non-literary (and the "high" from the "low"); the interpretive work of reception; the ethical function of the aesthetic; the ritual function of art; the meaning of the avant-garde; the politics of the aesthetic; the efficacy of language; the performance of everyday life; the anthropology of the body; the constitution of identity (gender, sexuality, race...); the experience of the modern "society of the spectacle"; the global media "sensorium" in which we live....
- Sexuality: History, Literature, Popular Culture: Explores the history of sex and sexuality through its representation in literature, drama, performance, film, and popular culture.
- Performing the Law: Drama, Film, and the Legal Event: This course investigates both representations of law in drama and film, and legal events as cultural performances. Examining trial transcripts, legal decisions, political memos, journalistic writings, documentary video footage, philosophical texts, plays, films, and other narratives, we will explore law's historical connection to theatre (and other performance forms), and the ways in which law has been haunted by the problem of its own performance status. We will look at law's self-definition (is it inherently theatrical? is it legitimate only if it eschews theatricality?), and at legal events that reflect law's simultaneous embrace and rejection of its own theatricality. At the same time, we will look at the ways in which drama, theatre, and film have found in crime and law their richest subjects. These explorations (and the texts that ground them) will, at the same time, provide the opportunity for exploring a number of substantive legal issues: culpability for murder, capital punishment, war crimes, torture, sexual abuse, tasering, the sale of organs, surrogacy, Native American land rights, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (etc.)
- Shakespeare: Text, Performance, Film: Shakespeare in performance, film, and other media from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first. Focusing on six plays, we'll develop tools for the close reading of scene, image, action, expression, and camera work. Premises: that textual interpretation (reading rhetoric, narrative structure, character, symbolic subtext) is inseparable from performance interpretation, and that both are deepened by an understanding of literary and performance history. Lecture and discussion supplemented by workshop-type exercises (theatre history, adaptation, staging scenes, etc.)
- Magic, Carnival, Sacrament, and Other Theatrical Illusions: European Renaissance and Baroque Drama and Spectacle: Drama, theatre, spectacle, make-believe, and other forms of alternative reality in Renaissance Europe. We look at the ways in which sixteenth- and seventeenth-century street performance, stage machinery, technologies of the human body, and dramatic sound-and-light shows coalesced into the spectacular illusionism (and counter-illusionism) of Renaissance and baroque performance. We investigate European drama's enactment of the tropes of altered reality ("life is a dream," "all the world's a stage," "acting is believing"). We explore theatre as magical and spiritual practice; carnival, charivari, and everyday cross-dressing; beggary, prostitution, mountebank performance, and other street improvisations; court masque, imperial pageant, and public torture as disciplinary technique; sacrament, conversion, and other forms of illusionism and self-transformation. This course will help students of Shakespeare situate his work in the wider European context, while also offering a deeper understanding of Renaissance and baroque performance generally, and of the origins of our own entertainment culture. Texts include films, visual images, theatrical documents, festival books, commedia dell'arte scenarios, and plays by Shakespeare's greatest near-contemporaries.
- Enlightenment, Revolution, Romanticism, and the Modern Self: European Drama and Visual Culture of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: The invention of the modern self, in relation to and in agonistic struggle with the political and social upheavals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. European theatre, performance, and visual culture (revolutionary street theatre, opera, commedia dell'arte, melodrama, romantic chiaroscuro, the social problem play, panorama and diorama, etc.) as the backdrop for thinking about acting and being, the body and disembodied imagination, passion and justice, from the Enlightenment, through the industrial revolution, to the brink of modernism.
- Drama, Film, Media, and Performance Studies Pro-Seminar: Scholarship at the intersection of drama, film, media, and performance studies (historical and contemporary). Theoretical foundations, scholarly and interpretive methods, and discussion of current work with scholars working to redefine the field.
- Text, Image, Film, Performance, Event: Seminar investigates how we interpret texts, images, films, performances, and events the identity of the objects we interpret, the cultural categories that frame interpretation, and the politics of such interpretation. Drama stands at the center of the course, as both normative and bastard literary genre, against which such categories as "literature," "performance," "ritual," "film" (etc.) may be measured. A series of dramatic and quasi-dramatic texts and films serve as the background for readings both in classical aesthetics (discussions of aesthetic medium, narrative genre, character, reception, and the ethical function of art) and in contemporary theory (the meaning of the avant-garde, the performance of sexuality, cultural globalism, etc).
- Comedy: Drama, Film, Theory: Theories of comedy and laughter, ancient to contemporary, and its practice in drama, film, and popular culture.
- Human Rights and Humanitarianism: Philosophy, Law, Literature, Theatre, Film, Culture: Abolitionism, humanitarian law of war, struggles for humane labor and prison conditions, anti-genocide campaigns, indigenous rights.... Popular humanitarian movements are founded not only on philosophic principles and legal doctrines, but also on ideas circulated in popular media: images, literary texts, plays, films, journalism, on the internet. This course offers a modern cultural history of popular human rights and humanitarian movements (from the eighteenth century onward), and an opportunity to grapple with their ongoing dilemmas.