Hana Worthen is Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies at Barnard College, a member of the Ph.D. in Theatre Program, and an affiliate of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, both at Columbia University; she serves as an Associate Director of Barnard’s Center for Translation Studies as well. Her publications include Playing Nordic: The Women of Niskavuori, Agri/Culture, and Imagining Finland on the Third Reich Stage (University of Helsinki, 2007), a co-edited anthology Finland’s Holocaust: Silences of History (Palgrave, 2013), and scholarly articles appearing in Contemporary Theatre Review, TDR: The Drama Review, Modern Drama, Theatre Journal. Her current research takes up the intersection between theatrical and philosophical post/humanism.
“Sounding the Posthuman”
Moving beyond the naturalizing processes of Anglo-European “white aurality” legitimating humanist theatricality, this paper centers on the ethical implications of the posthuman theatrical soundscape. I take up a stage production, Mental Finland (directed by Kristian Smeds, Royal Flemish Theatre, Brussels, 2009), exploring how its use of sound affectively animates and dissipates the spectatorial body, making it present to itself as a sensory catalogue of acquired belonging and as a locus for the recalibration of trans-subjective relationalities. The soundscape of Mental Finland enhances a corporeal event, I argue, resounding “the human” only to exceed it, affectively transforming the body, in Deleuze and Guattari’s sense, from a territorialized to a relational performance. While humanist theatrical aurality solidifies the body as corporeal coordinates, as serviceable cultural memory, rendering tangible the auricular consolidation of the spectator as dramatic consciousness, Mental Finland deploys an alternative sonic materiality, resounding that mise-en-corps, like the mise-en-scène, as a site of contestation. In/voluntarily responsive to the dis/junctions hinging between materially irreconcilable sound registers, the spectators’ bodies move from being subject to technological unification, becoming refashioned as fields of self- and trans-relation. Considering how this sonic mediation politicizes the body as an aural extension of “history” and prompts it to disarticulate itself from that ontological condition in the here and now of performance, this paper asks how sound transforms the body from a humanist position in perspective to a posthuman alterity having perspective.