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Queen's University
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Julie Salverson


phone: 613-533-6000 ext. 77485

Website:  Personal Page

Carruthers Hall, Room 306
Queen's University
Kingston, ON K7L 3N6

Research Interests

Salverson's current research, writing and performance interests include: Canada's involvement in the development of the atomic bomb (continuing work from a SSHRC funded project with Peter Van Wyck, Concordia University); the comedic and absurd as approaches to witnessing violence beyond an aesthetic of injury and spectacle; the relationship between aesthetics and ethics in translating stories of violence; Creative non-fiction and its place in scholarship; the role of the imagination in learning and development.

Cultural Studies Courses

DRAMA 476*: Ethics and Performance: Facing History in a Tragic Culture

Department: Drama Term Available: Fall 2013 Instructors: Julie Salverson

(Wednesdays 8:30-11:30)

“It is difficult
to get the news from poems 
yet men die miserably every day 
for lack 
of what is found there” 
William Carlos Williams, “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower”.


Director Peter Brook writes that the audience is a third eye whose presence must always be felt as a positive challenge, an accomplice to the action, “a constant participant through it’s awakened presence” (1993:18). The challenge Brook poses to those of us who create and perform stories is to consider all of our actions public, communal and witnessed.To become a witness is to be exposed, vulnerable, to have something at stake. This course will explore how to think about what is at stake for artists and those who work with them – educators, community members, archivists and curators - as translators of stories of public violence. We will examine how issues of performance relate to discussions in the fields of history, architecture, critical theory and psychoanalysis. We will study models of memorials, performance installations and theatre. No formal experience in theatre is necessary for the course.

 Students will be expected to think and write critically, and to create and perform performance memorials. The central questions for the class are:

  1. Do we live in a "tragic" culture? What does this mean?
  2. What forms of theatre and representation do we consider "ok" when it comes to performing testimony or remembering violent histories? What is the role of the comedic or the absurd in intervening in a melancholic tragic telling of events?
  3. How is performing history an ethical practice? How is the aesthetic and content of a performance an ethical issue?
  4. What is involved in designing and executing performance memorials?
  5. What is the theatre’s role in making memory?
  6. What does it mean to explore and perform the stories of violent events with a focus on the perpetrator?
Note: Please contact the instructor for permission to take this course.


Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000