Call for Papers
IFTR ANNUAL CONFERENCE
24 - 28 JULY 2023
The Stories We Tell: Myths, Myth Making and Performance
The existence of myths as part of culture points not only to the elemental human urge to find a basis for existence, but also to our ability to fashion new ways of seeing and interpreting the world around us – in narrative and dramatic terms. Various theories exist which undergird the existence of myths in human life: myth as a form of explanation; myth as a standalone form of expression; myth as a vehicle of the unconscious; myth as a tool for creating and maintaining social cohesion; myth as justification for social institutions and practices, etc. From established understandings, myth serves multiple functions in our lives. Of primary importance to theatre and performance is the narrative nature of myths; the structuring or ordering of specific (real or imagined) events.
The links between myth, theatre and performance are ancient. In almost all cultures, the beginnings of theatre can be traced to the myths that accompanied rituals and ceremonies, in which our ancestors stepped across a threshold (sacred and/or imaginative) to tell and imitate the divine acts of deities and hallowed deeds of heroes. Equally, storytelling in many cultures is rooted in myths and legends. Kweku Ananse, the trickster/mythic man/spider character and custodian of stories in Akan folklore in Ghana, for example, is said to have been given his stories by Odomakoma, the creator God. He thus sacrilegiously straddles the worlds of fable and sacred myth. Early Egyptian, Greek and Roman theatre drew on myths, and this phenomenon persists in contemporary times where artists reach out for their sources and inspiration to myths. For instance, the Moremi myth of Yoruba culture finds new life in Femi Osofisan’s play Morountodun, while Timberlake Wertenbaker’s The Love of a Nightingale offers a reworking of Greek myth and history. As William G. Doty points out in Mythography, myths are ‘imaginal,’ ‘foundational’ accounts of aspects of our experienced world ‘and of humankind’s roles and relative statuses within it’. Referring to Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman as ‘the most nearly mature myth about human suffering in the industrial age’ Esther Merle Jackson highlights the necessity of new myths in the ‘absence of conventional patterns of mythic interpretation’ to offer ‘new ways of seeing, interpreting and re-creating reality’. The weakening of traditional structures and relationships, and the advent of global/local crises may occasion the need to anchor belief in old myths, or the creation of new myths that embody our aspirations for (and fears of) the future.
Whatever way we define myth we cannot elide the fact of its varied, shifting contexts and contours of meaning, especially in its ‘close but vexed relationship,’ not just with ‘belief, identity, the nature of being and the sacred,’ as Gentile puts it, but also ‘with truth and falsehood’. Esi Sutherland Addy, in discussing definitions of myth, concludes instructively that, ‘recognizing the ethereal quality of myth as metaphor’ and ‘form would be much more useful to the scholarly enterprise than narrow definitions’, which in any case are inadequate when applied to varying social and historical contexts. Perceptions and definitions of myth may differ because of national, cultural and institutional politics, and many other influential contexts. Is it possible to find areas of synthesis on a global level that speak to our collective humanity, or must we keep the idea of myth to a wholly contested concept? What is it about myths that seek to exclude or differentiate between races and people? If, as Percy Cohen suggests, myth anchors the present in the past, how might prophesy – as ‘a sort of myth in reverse’ – aid in creating new myths for a desired future?
The struggle for independence in Ghana (the first in sub-Saharan Africa) began with shifts away from established, apparently non-negotiable positions towards alternatives that were future oriented. Awakening the ‘communally diffused and colonially repressed’ desire for emancipation required new myths rooted in the shared ‘fate of colonial degradation’ and a shared desire to make ‘history their own’. The University of Ghana stands today as the oldest institution of higher education in Ghana charged to manifest the future desired; a future (now present) that embraces the fulfilment of a transformed global African outlook.
The University of Ghana and the School of Preforming Arts welcome your participation in what promises to be a fascinating engagement with myth, myth making, and performance. This conference provides a platform for investigating the influences of myth on theatre, performance art, (popular) culture, and politics. It seeks to encourage discussions around the re-creation and reinterpretation of old myths or the creation of new myths and how theatre and performance may be seen as sites of myth making. All in all, it seeks to bring together for productive discussion and interaction, those who see the meaning and content of myth as so universal that all myths are essentially the same “story”; those who insist that myths societies/times are so spatially or temporally specific that no two can possibly speak with the same voice, and those who steer a course somewhere between or beyond these positions. We anticipate your participation as we all converge in Accra to deliberate on myth, myth making and performance, in the spirit of ‘mediating contradictions’ and ‘oppositions’ in our experiences, while perhaps creating new myths to ground our shared experience.
Sub-themes include but are not limited to the following:
Myths in the oral tradition
Myths and popular culture
Myth, legend and history in theatre making
Religion, myth and performance
Performative explorations of old cultural values/new mythologies
Form and structure of myths in theatre and performance
Performance and myths as metaphors
Transforming myths through theatre and performance
Staging contemporary myths, contemporary stories
Mythmaking and theory
Creation myths in contemporary theatre and performance
Folktales and myths as source material
Re-presentations of mythical figures across space and time
Myths- lies? Falsehood? Myths- reality? Truth?
The mythic and the supernatural in performance
Technology and myth in 21st century performance
Myths of the COVID 19 pandemic and performance
Myths and changing spaces of performance in a global pandemic
New/social media and the democratisation of myth making and performance
Audiences and unsettling myths in performance
Myths of the future on the stages of today
Politics, myths and performance
Decoloniality in myth making and performance
Myth, memory and the theatre making process
Myth and traditional music and dance
Myth, gender, and performance
Deconstructing/constructing myth in contemporary discourse/performance
Abstracts of between 200-250 words are invited for this conference from all interested scholars and students of the Performing Arts and related disciplines.
Deadline for Submission of Abstracts: January 31st 2023
All abstracts should be submitted to Cambridge Core. Please do not send abstracts to the organisers.
Conference Dates: 24th -28th July 2023
Conference Venue: The University of Ghana
There is a call for New Scholars and Helsinki Prizes and for Bursary applications with December deadlines on the various sub-pages of IFTR Conference page. Kindly take note!!
Contact Email for Conference enquiries: IFTRAccra2023@ug.edu.gh