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Performance as Scholarship




Admission Requirements

This is a methodology course for the LUC major of Political Arts and thus must be taken by students wishing to graduate with that major. It can also function as an elective under the Global Citizenship component of the LUC curriculum. There are no prerequisites for this course, and prior formal experience or training in the performing arts is not required.


If we take human expression seriously as a topic of fundamental inquiry, as we do in the study of Political Arts at LUC, we need a new methodological paradigm to analyse and appreciate the academic value in artistic practice. While the social and political content of performances has enjoyed increasing scholarly attention in the past decades, much of this engagement remains lodged in the primacy of socio-political meanings and messages, thus instrumentalising individual genres of performance as one of many vehicles towards expressing these primary ends; the schism between academic and performing art conventions, priorities, and institutions remains deeply entrenched. This course thus urges us to re-examine the definitions and standards of academic research and output on the one hand, and those of artistic practices, especially the affective and expressive criteria of performance, on the other hand. Suspending the distinctions between theory and practice, between analysis and performance, and between contemplation and action, we can find common ground where thinking, making, doing, and acting are equally foundational to the core human activity of expression. The study of performance already has its academic niche, but this course encourages us to explore performance itself as scholarship, requiring intellectual rigour and mental discipline, resulting in active and interactive products, and contributing to understanding and knowledge. Equipped with the political aesthetic tools of semiotics and phenomenology, we shall dive into the uncharted scholarly territories of performance.

Course Objectives

By the end of our exploration, we should expect to achieve:

  • a clear understanding of the analytical, conceptual, and substantive distinctions among performance, performing arts, and performance art;

  • a keen awareness of the diverse genres of the performing arts;

  • a deep appreciation of the range and diversity of scholarship, with its disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary potential and constraints;

  • a critical capacity for reading and analysing performances, with the appropriate conceptual and methodological tools; and

  • a dynamic approach towards the articulation of such readings and analyses.

Mode of Instruction

There will be two 2-hour sessions per week. With the exception of Week 1 (introduction) and Week 7 (student presentations), the main body of the course will be organised as follows:

  • First seminar per week: Theory Practicum
    Discussion of assigned texts, widely construed, surrounding a genre of performance and its scholarly potential.

  • Second seminar per week: Analysis Workshop
    In-class experience of live or recorded instances of the genre of performance discussed earlier in the week, followed by interactive analysis of its scholarly output.

A blackboard site will support our in-class discussion. Do check our course site regularly for up-to-date reading assignments, multi-media material, and announcements. For further details of how the course will proceed, see sections below on “Assessment” and “Weekly overview”.


In-class participation: 20%
Ongoing assessment of your individual engagement with the course material and with the thoughts of your peers throughout the course.

Five reflection papers: 40%
Continuous assessment of the progress of your understanding of the connection between performance and scholarship, through short reflections of 500 – 600 words on each mode of expression explored over Weeks 2 – 6. You will be graded on this cumulative portfolio of 2500 – 3000 words over this five-week period.

Presentation: 20%
Assessment of your articulation and analysis of performance as scholarship, through (dependent on class size) an individual or group presentation of 20 minutes in Week 7 on a pre-approved case study of your own devising.

Take-home exercise: 20%
Final assessment of your grasp of the role of semiotics and phenomenology in performance, through an essay of 1250 – 1500 words on your choice of one performance from a set of clips to be announced at the start of Week 8, with the essay due at the end of Week 8.


There is no set textbook for the course. Assigned readings will be made available on BlackBoard.

Contact Information

Dr. Cissie Fu at [c.fu@luc.leidenuniv.nl].

Weekly Overview

Week 1 – Introduction: Semiotics and Phenomenology
Week 2 – Music: Voice and Resonance
Week 3 – Dance: Body and Rhythm
Week 4 – Cinema: Image and Movement
Week 5 – Theatre: Atmosphere and Action
Week 6 – Installation: Participation and Audience
Week 7 – Syntheses: Student presentations
Week 8 – [no classes]

Preparation for first session

To be announced on the course BlackBoard site during Autumn Break.