Thalia (without text)

Directors: Prof. Dr. Katharina Pewny (Ghent University), Prof. Dr. Inge Arteel (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Prof. Dr. Kornee van der Haven (Ghent University)

What is THALIA?

In myth, the ancient muse Thalia appears as a worshipper of Dionysos and is therefore closely related to theatrical festivities. Her name resembles the etymological origin of both “theatre” and “theory” (“theoreia”).

The joint research group THALIA aims at collective, intellectual exchange in regard to intermedial constellations of theatre, text and performance. Focusing on both contemporary performance and history, the projects are following these four essential research lines:

  • Theatre Text/Theatricality 
    In the past decade, both theater and literary studies have focused on the aesthetics of theatre texts in postdramatic contexts. Recent performances have been dubbed as "new text" or "narrative theater," and some even have been labeled as "neo(n)realist", “post-postdramatic” (Bayerdörfer 2007, Virant 2003, Pavis 2010). Theatre has been discussed as a stage for literature and consequently, "work on language" takes place within it (Birkenhauer 2005). In a joint FWO-research project on Texttheatralität (Martens, Pewny, Callens, Biebuyck, Arteel) we trace the theatricality of contemporary theatre texts (Jelinek, Pollesch) back to canonic works from the start of the 20th century (Kraus, Musil). In THALIA, we will discuss different aspects of text theatricality by tracing them back to various theatrical and performative traditions such as the messenger in Greek tragedy and the meddah (i.e. singer) in Arab narrative traditions.
  • Performativity
    In many cultural studies fields as well as in sociology, the terms “performance” and “performativity” denote the conscious showing of a (cultural) practice and/or social role (profession, gender, etc). The THALIA research will concentrate on performative elements within aesthetic frames. We will discuss questions such as: In which ways is aesthetically framed performativity related to the “overall” performativity noted by so many scholars? Can performativity within aesthetic frames or aesthetic orientation (Goffman, Seel, Kattenbelt) be traced back to former periods within the history of literature and theatre, or is it a 20th century phenomenon (Fischer-Lichte 2004, Kattenbelt 2011)? Is the term “performativity” suitable for playful ways of presentation and circulation of literature, or are other terms more suitable?
  • Dramaturgy
    The concept of “dramaturgy” has recently gained prominence in Theatre Studies (Luckhurst 2008, Turner and Behrndt 2007, special issues of Contemporary Theatre Review and Performance Research published in 2009/10). Expanding on Eugenio Barba’s definition of dramaturgy as actions (Barba 1991), and drawing on Nicolas Bourriaud’s concept of ‘relational aesthetics’ (2002), we propose dramaturgy as a term that denotes multiple relational processes of transmission and negotiation in performance events: between text and performance, words, bodies and spaces, stage and audience, creation and reflection, institution and public, aesthetics and politics, art and academy, practice and research, past, present, and future. “Relational aspects of dramaturgy” have been discussed in a joint UGent and VUB congress in March 2012. Within THALIA, we will search for (new) ways of text related dramaturgies that take into account the changed landscapes, conditions and aesthetics of performance.
  • (Inter)Mediality
    The concept of inter/mediality is closely related to “performativity”. In the 1990s, Peggy Phelan's argumentation of a dichotomy of liveness and mediatisation in artistic performance brought forth fruitful controversies. The mediatisation of performance has since then become a worldwide research topic. The integration of “new” media and the development of media dramaturgy is a central characteristic of postdramatic theatre. Drawing on an understanding of intermediality as aesthetic phenomenon and performative process in which different media are related to each other and possibly alter perception (Kattenbelt 208, 2011), we consider (inter)mediality mainly, though not exclusively, between theatre and literature. Pewny/Martens have, for example, been investigating intermediality in Elfriede Jelinek's oeuvre, ranging from performances based on her texts to her radio plays (Pewny/Martens 2013). (Inter)mediality is closely linked with “dramaturgy” in the IUAP research project on “Mediaturgy”supervised for the VUB by J. Callens.

Tackling the "interconnectedness" of dramatic and other theatre-texts and various ways of media/mediality in performance we approach these research lines from the Literary, Theatre, Performance and Media Studies perspectives.


  • 12 & 13 September 2019, Workshop Performance Historiography: Examining Past Performances from a Present-day Perspective, organized by the interdisciplinary research groups Thalia and Gems.
    Call for participation: 
    We encourage PhD candidates, postdoctoral researchers and advanced master students from various disciplines such as theatre and literary studies, musicology, media studies, cultural history, (early) modern history, political science, and anthropology to subscribe to the workshop by sending us a short note on how the theme of this workshop relates to their own research interests by March 15th
    You can find more information about the speakers and the preliminary set-up and program here.
  • 12-14 December 2018, Vrije Universiteit Brussels: interdisciplinary workshop for young scientists, organized by the Research Platform Elfriede Jelinek and THALIA. For more information, see here
  • OUT NOW: A special issue of Modern Drama has been published on the theme of Migration and Multilingualism. 
    The special issue (vol 61, No 3) is edited by Dr. Yana Meerzon, Prof. dr. Katharina Pewny and Prof. dr. Gunther Martens. 
    More information on the website of Modern Drama
  • 17-18 May 2018, Doctoral School Seminar with Prof. Dr. Philip Auslander - Studying past and present Performances with Philip Auslander

    In various disciplines scholars encounter the concepts of performance, mediatisation, liveness and framing. As these concepts are central to the work of Philip Auslander, research centre GEMS and THALIA invited Prof. Dr. Philip Auslander in the context of a specialist course, which may also serve as an interdisciplinary discussion forum.
    More information here.

  • 16 May 2018, 19h, Ghent University: S:PAM Lecture #21: Prof. Dr. Philip Auslander - The Fame: Performance Art and Celebrity Culture.

    THALIA and the Doctoral School of Arts offer a lecture by Prof. Dr. Philip Auslander, renowned scholar in the field of media and performance studies. He will discuss performance art and its interconnection with the current surge of celebrity culture.

  • 13 October 2017, Ghent University: workshop theatre historiography in cooperation with GEMS. More information on the website of GEMS.
  • 6 October 2017: Lecture on Dramaturgies of the Self: Language, Authorship, Migration by Yana Meerzon, University of Ottawa and Katharina Pewny at the Workshop Working Group Dramaturgy 2017 at Theatre Studies Department of the University of Amsterdam, entitled "Dramaturgies of Cultural Translation." 

  • 18-19 March 2017, Ghent University: Conference & PhD Forum "Dance Now. Work With(out) Boundaries. More information on the website of the conference.
  • 27 May 2016, Ghent University: Research Day on Cosmopolitan Research: Theatre, Literature, Multilinguality andMigration, with Prof. dr. Yana Meerzon (University of Ottawa). This research day took place within the framework of the research projects Text Theatricality and Choreographies of Precariousness, and within the framework of joint research group THALIA. It was organised by dra. Sun Wei Wei (SPAM, Ghent University). The research day was funded by FWO (Research Foundation - Flanders).
  • 14-15 December 2015, KASK (Ghent): Theater als [H]Ort des Wissens. Ästhetik – Institution – Effekt, an international conference organised by the
    Department of German Literature (Ghent University), together with the research group CLIC and the joint research group THALIA (Vrije Universiteit
    Brussel/Ghent University), with the support of FWO (Research Foundation - Flanders). This conference is held as part of the research project Text Theatricality. An integrated approach through narratology and performance studies. More information on the program on the website of the conference.
  • 1-3 October 2015, Vooruit (Ghent): Doctoral School Art and Capitalism: Art as Work, a transdisciplinary specialist course on the modes of working as a contemporary artist. More information here.
  • Mini-conference on Der Tod des Empedokles (27/02/2015, Vooruit Arts Centre, Ghent)On the occasion of the performance Empedokles of Theater Zuidpool (26/02, Vooruit), the alliance of research groups of Ghent University and of the VUB, THALIA, CLIV en SEL organised a mini-conference. Different lecturers talked about Friedrich Hölderlin's Der Tod des Empedokles and the adaptation of Theater Zuidpool:
    • Hölderlin experts Stefan Hertmans and Bart Philipsen (KULeuven) on the unfinished tragedy Der Tod des Empedokles
    • The directors duo Jorgen Cassier and Koen van Kaam in dialogue with Claire Swyzen (VUB) about the production
    • Translation scholar Henri Bloemen (KU Leuven) in dialogue with Gys-Walt Van Egdom (VUB/Hogeschool Zuyd) on multilinguality in theatre
  • Dramaturgies in the New Millennium. Relationality, Performativity, and Potentiality is published. This volume, edited by Thalia associated scholars Katharina Pewny, Johan Callens and Jeroen Coppens, brings together original contributions on the topic of dramaturgy in contemporary theatre and performance, both from renowned international scholars as well as from emerging academics. The book appears in the series Schriftenreihe Forum Modernes Theater of the Narr Francke Attempto Verlag (available for online sale here).
  • Master class with David Roesner (25/04/2014, Vrije Universiteit Brussel): David Roesner (then Senior Lecturer in drama and theatre studies at the University of Kent, now Professor in theatre and music-theatre studies at University of Munich) gave two lectures about considerations and methods in the transition form the use of music and sound in theatre to a more metaphorical reference to musicality in theatre-making processes. His lectures were accompanied by presentations by upcoming UGent and VUB scholars on their ongoing research in literary and theatre studies. These talks were part of a doctoral school organised by Thalia scholars Inge Arteel and Katharina Pewny and PhD student Mathias Meert.
  • A lecture by Miriam Dreysse (21/10/2013, Ghent University) celebrated the official launch of joint research group Thalia: in her lecture The western nuclear family and the idea of Representation – some thoughts on the relationship of kinship, gender and theatre, Prof. dr. Myriam Dreysse (Universität der Künste, Berlin) inquired into the representation of the family in contemporary theatre and performance. Drawing on examples such as Vegard Vinge/Ida Müller, René Pollesch, Gob Squad and She She Pop, she tackled questions about the connection between the denaturalisation of theatre aesthetics and the denaturalisation of the family and the ways in which non-biological concepts of kinship are performed on stage.


  • Staging Self in the Plays of Cosmopolitanism: Language, Authorship, Migration (2016-2018), by Dr. Yana Meerzon (University of Ottawa, Canada): This project studies the logic of constructing cosmopolitan subjectivity in a selection of plays written by immigrant artists and plays written about migration since 2000. THALIA-members Katharina Pewny and Gunther Martens collaborate on this THALIA-project, which will result in a special issue of the journal Modern Drama and will serve as a springboard to further collaboration with Dr. Meerzon.


In the frame of THALIA we mainly join forces between two universities who already have strong profiles in research on theatre(texts), literature, performance and dramaturgy. The VUB research center CLIC and Ghent University's research center S:PAM are – in different ways – specialised in related topics, and they already connect researchers and research projects with a strong international reputation. THALIA however is open to welcome scholars with different affiliations.

  • Ghent University / S:PAM 
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel / CLIC
  • Other

Ghent University affiliated scholars

Annelies Van Assche is PhD student at the Art, Music and Theatre Studies Department at Ghent University and member of research centre Studies in Performing Arts & Media (S:PAM). She works on the interdisciplinary, FWO funded research project Choreographies of Precariousness, which deals with contemporary dancers’ socio-economical position and its influence on their production processes.

Benjamin Biebuyck has been a Professor of German Literature at Ghent University since 2000. He published extensively on Nietzsche, on the relationship between literature, law and ethics, on literary theory – particularly on theoretical issues concerning figurativeness – as well as on 19th and 20th century German literature in “Philologus”, “Germano-Slavica”, “Nietzsche-Studien”. He is also supervisor of several research projects on 19th and 20th century German literature and intellectual history.

Charlotte Gruber is PhD student at the Art, Music and Theatre Studies Department at Ghent University and member of research centre S:PAM (Studies in Performing Arts & Media). She is finishing the BOF-funded PhD research Antigone in/as Transition. A Study on the Performing Arts Status Quo in Europe (in its Transcontinental Contexts), which critically discusses the legacy of Antigone in contemporary performance art and academia.

Christel Stalpaert is Professor of Theatre, Performance and Media Studies at Ghent University where she is co-director of the research unit S:PAM (Studies in Performing Arts and Media). Her main areas of research are the performing arts, dance and the new media (from the historical avant-garde onward) at the meeting-point of philosophy. She is currently doing research on performing cultural trauma and conflict in contemporary performing arts (e.g. post-migrant theatre, the notion of embodied cognition and the poetics of failure in mechanisms of remembering)

Christine Kanz is Professor of German Literature at Ghent University. She is specialised in Fantasies and Techniques of Reproduction in Literature, Theatre, Science, and the Arts (19th to 21st century), in the Interrelations between Affects and Knowledge in Literature, Theatre, Science, and the Arts around 1800 and in Theories of Inter/Mediality.

Frederik Le Roy holds degrees in Philosophy (Catholic University of Leuven, 2003) and Performance Studies and Film (Ghent University, 2005) and was visiting research student at the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at UC Berkeley in 2006. In 2012 he obtained his doctoral degree at Ghent University with a dissertation entitled "Verknoopte tijd, verfrommelde geschiedenis" ("Entangled Time, Crumpled History").

Gunther Martens is a Professor of German Literature at Ghent University. He supervises research projects on text theatricality, music criticism, migrant literature and rhetorical narratology. His current research activities comprise: rhetorical narratology; research into new documentary strategies in literature and culture (e.g. Rimini Protokoll; Zeh, Röggla, …); the cultural history of the Encyclopaedia as hybrid genre.

Jeroen Coppens is currently a Post-Doctoral Assistant at the Department of Art History, Musicology and Theatre Studies at Ghent University. He is a member of research centre Studies in Performing Arts & Media (S:PAM, Ghent University) and of the Arbeitsgruppe Dramaturgie of the Gesellschaft für Theaterwissenschaft. He publishes on the themes of visual dramaturgy, intermediality, postdramatic theater and the performance of images.

Jürgen Pieters is Professor of literary theory at Ghent University and the director of research center GEMS. He teaches courses on the history of poetics and on theories of cultural history. He is currently finishing a book on the methodology of literary history and preparing a monograph on early modern consolatory writing.

Katharina Pewny is, after a Habilitation in Theatre Studies and Dramaturgy in 2009, Professor of Theatre, Performance and Media Studies and (with Ch. Stalpaert) director of the research centre S:PAM (Studies in Performing Arts and Media) at Ghent University. She specialises in antique and contemporary theatre, both in the analysis of theatre texts and performances, in dramaturgy and ethics in aesthetics. Her current research includes re-stagings of Greek tragedies, ritual aspects of theatre and other media and German theatre (texts). She is the chair of THALIA.

Korneel van der Haven is Professor of Early Modern Dutch and German Literature at Ghent University. He is currently working on the FWO-funded research project Enlightenment at War: Epic Poetry, the Citizen and Discursive Bridges to the Military (1740-1800), which investigates the role of literature in making the military an integral part of the civic public sphere during the Enlightenment, bridging the gap between studies on 18th-century epic poetry and military treatises.

Kristoffel Demoen is Professor of ancient Greek and Byzantine Literature at Ghent University and has a focus on Greek literature from the imperial period (Second Sophistic), Late Antiquity (Patristics) and early to middle-Byzantine period. He especially enjoys working on narrative prose and poetry (o.a. epigrams).

Mara Santi is Professor of Italian Literature at Ghent University. She is specialised in the study of the Italian writer Mauro Covacich who edited a multimodal pentalogy composed by four books and a video installation; study of the relation between literature and performance arts, between different media. Study of the relation between the concept of performance and narrative forms such as the short story collections.

Marcus Hahn conducts research from a media anthropology perspective as well as from a cultural studies and science studies point of view. His research is focused on the history of the media concept, especially its intersections and interferences with western psychiatric and ethnological knowledge around 1900 (hypnosis, trance, possession), and its development alongside the German speaking modern literature, expressionist cinema and media theory.

Sarah Adams has recently applied for a PhD at Ghent University. The proposed project will investigate abolitionist theatre in the Netherlands around 1800.

Sophie Wennerscheid is Professor for Scandinavian Literature and Culture at University Ghent.

Tom Laureys focuses on seventeenth-century revenge theatre in the Northern Netherlands (1638-1678) in his research project Radical Revenge?. The aim of the project is to examine how the subject in the revenge tragedy is conceptualized differently in its relation to the providential order compared to early modern Aristotelian and French-classicist tragedies. Moreover, Radical Revenge? investigates whether the changing vision on providential thinking in the early modern period interferes with specific philosophical and religious issues and debates that were topical at the time.

Yannice De Bruyn is PhD student at the Department of Literary Studies of Ghent University and the TALK Department of Vrije Universiteit Brussel. She conducts her research within the framework of Imagineering Violence: Techniques of Early Modern Performativity in the Northern and Southern Netherlands (1640-1690). This project is a collaboration between Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Ghent University, Leiden University and VU Amsterdam, funded by the Flemish and Dutch research foundations FWO and NWO.

Renée Vulto holds a BA and MA degree in Musicology from the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University. Currently she is a doctoral researcher at the Department of Literary Studies at Ghent University, working on her interdisciplinary research-project: "Singing Communities: Dutch Political Songs and the Performance of National Identity (1775-1825)”.


Vrije Universiteit Brussel affiliated scholars

Christophe Collard is a postdoctoral research fellow and works at the VUB within the IUAP project on Literature and Media Innovation on the American multi-media dramaturge and director John Jesurun, one of the ‘masters’ of René Pollesch. His project centers on the concepts of 'hypermediacy,' 'intermediality,' and 'digitalism'.

Hans Vandevoorde is professor of Dutch Literature at VUB. He publishes extensively on the history of literature, culture and performance in the fin de siècle and the interwar period, on generational aspects of literary history, on urban space in literature, culture and performance since the 19th century, and on experimental poetry after 1945.

Inge Arteel is professor of German Literature at the VUB and, since July 2014, chair of the research group CLIC, Centre for Literary and Intermedial Crossings. She has published on Elfriede Jelinek (both text and performance analyses) and other ‘heirs’ of the Austrian neo-avantgarde (Friederike Mayröcker, Gerhard Roth, Lisa Spalt etc). Her current research concerns grotesque aesthetics. As a member of the scientific advisory board of the Elfriede Jelinek Forschungszentrum at Vienna University, she is related to intermedial research projects on the work of Jelinek and other German language playwrights. She is the Co-chair of THALIA.

Janine Hauthal works as an FWO Postdoctoral Fellow at VUB since October 2014. She earned her doctorate with a dissertation on “Metadrama and Theatricality”. Her research interests include metaization across media and genres, postdramatic theatre (texts), transgeneric/transcultural narratology, contemporary (black) British writing and postcolonial theory. Her current postdoctoral project focuses on how Europe is imagined in contemporary British novels, travelogues and plays.

Johan Callens is professor of English and American Literature and Theatre Studies at the VUB. He has published extensively on intermediality, metatheatre, American drama and performance, postdramatic mediaturgy, genre and media innovation, adaptations. He supervises a PhD project on Postdramatic Mediaturgy within the IUAP project Literature and Media Innovation: The Question of Genre Transformations (coordination KULeuven).

Karel Vanhaesebrouck works as a professor of Theatre Studies at ULB and RITS and as a research professor at VUB. His research interests concern the intermedial imagination of the tension between theatricality and reality, adopting an explicitly interdisciplinary approach to study historical and contemporary instances of theatricality in relation to cultural and social contexts.

Klaas Tindemans works as a professor of Theatre Studies and research coordinator at RITS and as a research professor at VUB. His research interests concern theatricality and politics, theatre and political violence, the documentary and performance, and the problematics of the legitimization of governmental policies on arts and culture.

Mathias Meert works as an FWO PhD scholar at the VUB since October 2012. He is preparing a dissertation on intertextuality and authorship in selected plays and pantomimes of RichardBeer-Hofmann, an author, playwright and director of the "Wiener Moderne".

Ronald Geerts is professor of Theatre and Film Studies at VUB, ULB and UA. His research interests include the screenplay as an intermedial text, style as a narrative strategy in screenplays, and the status of the text in contemporary theatre.


Associated members

Karen Jürs-Munby is a Lecturer in Theatre Studies at the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts at Lancaster University. She has published widely on contemporary European theatre, especially on the relation between text and performance in postdramatic theatre, the politics of postdramatic theatre and on Elfriede Jelinek’s theatre texts in performance. She is currently working on a monograph investigating the diverse directorial approaches to Jelinek’s theatre texts, “Jelinek in Practice: German Directors’ Theatre, Politics and Aesthetics” (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama). She is an international partner of the Jelinek Research Platform, Vienna and a member TAPRA’s Directing and Dramaturgy Working Group.

Yana Meerzon holds a PhD from The Graduate Centre for Study of Drama, University of Toronto (2003). Her research interests are in the areas of drama and performance theory, theatre semiotics and communication, theatre of exile and immigration, and Russian theatre. She has completed a study on Michael Chekhov's acting theory and pedagogy, published under the title “A Path of the Character: Michael Chekhov's Inspired Acting and Theatre Semiotics”, by Peter Lang Publishing House, 2005. Her research project “Theatricality and Exile” has been sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Her manuscript “Performing Exile – Performing Self: Drama, Theatre, Film” is published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Marissia Fragkou is senior lecturer in Performing Arts and joined Canterbury Christ Church University in 2013. Prior to this appointment she was a teaching fellow in Drama at the University of Birmingham (2011-2013) where she extensively taught on the undergraduate programme. She has previously lectured in a number of HE institutions (Royal Holloway, Winchester, DMU, Kingston). In the past she has widely taught on both theory and theatre practice specializing in: British theatre; feminist theatre; cultural/critical theory; contemporary theatre practices/devising; applied theatre; actor-training.


THALIA page on the research portal of the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy of Ghent University:


THALIA is supported by Bijzonder Onderzoeksfonds, Ghent University and Research & Development Vrije Universiteit Brussel