Monday, March 18, 2013

Music/Performativity/Politics: Writing at the Intersections

with recent alumni Katherine Steele Brokaw and Jennifer Solheim

Tuesday, March 26, 5:00 pm
3222 Angell Hall

"Tudor Musical Theater: Nicholas Udall's Respublica"
Katherine Steele Brokaw
Assistant Professor  - School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts
University of California-Merced

In 1553, the Catholic Queen Mary had just taken the throne in England, and no one know to what extent she would restore the old musical church rites that had been expunged under her Protestant brother (King Edward VI). This same year, Nicholas Udall's political morality play Respublica was performed at court by a group of choirboys. While most critics have seen this play as deliberately avoiding religious controversy, I argue that the play's music obliquely addresses matters of church politics and doctrine. Udall's strategy is one of dissimulation: characters, actors, and playwright are all cloaked in various disguises, making the play's religious messages multivocal and thus able to appeal variously to audience members of mixed religious sympathies. The play thus uses the tools of music and theater to urge the Queen towards compromise on such ecclesiastical matters. While she ultimately ignored this suggestion (thus earning her nickname "Bloody Mary" for her prosecution of Protestants) Respublica reveals the extent to which the first year of her reign offered the possibility of social concord, thereby complicating received notions of this period.

“Beirut Calling: Lebanese Avant Jazz in Global and French Mediterranean Contexts”
Jennifer Solheim
Visiting Scholar, Department of French and Francophone Studies
University of Illinois—Chicago

On the night of July 15-16, 2006, avant jazz trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj set up his recording equipment on the balcony of his apartment in Ras Beirut, Lebanon, and began to record an improvised piece, using the sights and sounds of Israeli bombs as accompaniment. The resulting composition, which can be found on Kerbaj’s blog (, is a recording called “Starry Night.”

In this presentation, I analyze “Starry Night” through two contexts. First, I read the piece itself as an urgent call to the global community to take action against the Israeli bombings of Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Second, I look at the translation of Kerbaj’s blog into French for a print edition published by the Paris-based graphic novel publishers L’Association in 2007. With this second reading, I address the ways that “Starry Night” serves to oppose social assumptions of Arab masculinity as inherently violent.

Sponsored by the Drama Interest Group
a Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop
based in the Department of English Language and Literature
For information contact EJ Westlake -

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