FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Estudos Artísticos

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Estudos de Teatro [ART-LVT-Lisboa-279] visitada em 28/05/2008

Classificação: Excellent

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
‘Theatre Studies’ is a new discipline that has emerged within the last fifty years and is now a feature of the academy in almost all countries. It was originally an outgrowth of literary studies, when the prevailing conception was that literary study should be supplemented by the study of theatre architecture, mise en scène, biography, etc. However, Theatre Studies is now recognised as an autonomous rather than a composite discipline, with its own methods and aesthetic concerns. Theatre Studies has taken different routes in the UK/Commonwealth world, where the prevailing assumption is that one needs to work from within the practice in order to understand theatre processes, and on the Continent, where a more ‘scientific’ model (Theaterwissenschaft) demands a more detached observer. The USA is different again; there, a new discipline of Performance Studies has changed the parameters of the subject in response to cultural pluralism.

The panel has been charged with using international standards as its criterion, and CET has not yet engaged seriously with defining the nature of its discipline, or mapping out a path for itself within this international context. This is entirely understandable given that only one member of the team appears to have trained abroad (and then in the field of literature), and given the lack of research infrastructure in Portugal at the archival level. It was entirely appropriate that the Centre should have started by constructing an archival base.

The team have worked with energy and passion, despite very limited support (notably having no secretary or administrator). They have created a library, both real and electronic, and a database to serve as a foundation for future research – and in doing so they followed the advice of the 2002/3 evaluation. They have built up a corps of Masters and PhD students. Alongside these research activities, they have contributed to public education (eg through creating a touring exhibition) and have created effective links with the theatrical profession (notably through the publication of a high quality journal). Members of CET have been active in contributing to conferences and encyclopaedias, and minor publications have proliferated. The most substantive publications have been doctoral theses, indicative of the pressure that academic staff have been under. Given the constrained resources, the productivity of the group can only be described as excellent. The relevance of the research is ‘very good’; although the collection of materials has created an invaluable resource, the panel did not always see, in terms of the FCT parameters, attention to ‘current trends at the international scene’.

In respect of research training, the panel identified a methodological eclecticism that seemed incompatible with the development of a sustained conceptual argument. One student used the metaphor of a ‘patchwork’. On a personal level, the students seemed very committed, and well integrated into the Centre. Though the postgraduate students are well supported, their training should be graded merely as ‘good’ in respect of their ability to participate in the international arena.

The team should be congratulated on what they have achieved, and for their courage in building something out of nothing. Theatre Studies has an important academic profile in all European countries, and clearly the work of the Centre needs to be nurtured and resourced. The provision of a secretary or administrator is an urgent need, and it is extraordinary that an organization of this size should lack one. At the same time, as I have indicated, the team need at this point to step back and assess how they can place their work in an international context.

The group needs to re-evaluate its aims and strategy as a matter of urgency if it is to claim a place in the international arena, rather than remain in parochial isolation. The task of gathering data has left insufficient time for methodological reflection, and there is a risk therefore that data gathered may not answer to the research needs of a future generation that comes with a different set of questions. The stated aim of the Centre ‘to reconstruct fragments of the theatre history in Portugal focusing on historical and sociological approaches by collecting and studying sources’ needs to be reconsidered and amplified. The parameters of the work are defined by the theatre of the Portuguese nation state. In the context of the international academy, the definition of ‘theatre’ cannot be seen as secure, and the project of articulating theatre around the nation-state raises historiographic issues that many scholars are currently debating. The Centre needs to be part of that debate. It the project is to articulate that which is distinctive within the Portuguese tradition, then the research needs to place Portuguese theatre in a wider context.

In the first instance the aspiration to comprehensiveness needs to be abandoned. The present aim to garner all information about current theatre activity is unsustainable, and would be so in any European country. The task of editing all C16th plays has left no space for the detailed analysis of case studies. The new Opsis project will certainly create a valuable resource, but the aim to collect all theatre-related images may impose an equally intolerable burden (supplemented in this case by copyright issues).

Local dialogue with other subject areas (classics, historical linguistics) has certainly been useful, but does not help the development of the discipline. In translation studies, for example, there are discipline-specific issues regarding the performativity of language that require engagement with the international Theatre Studies community. Within Portugal, it would be helpful if the Centre could engage with areas of cultural debate (eg in relation to the emancipation of women, the ideologies of colonialism, democratic freedom of speech, the emergence of a modernist aesthetic, the division of high and popular art) in order to start locating the importance of theatre within the development of Portuguese life. This is a necessary intellectual engagement. The collection of data will never be complete, so must proceed in parallel.

The group is clearly reluctant to take on the methodological and theoretical agenda which is the lingua franca of the international academic community in the sphere of the arts. Methodological clarity is essential in view of the knowledge explosion, to which the internet has contributed exponentially, if theatre research is to yield outcomes which bear upon creative practice, and upon theatre’s socio-political functions. Since current staff are operating in an under-theorized manner, there is a likelihood that these limitations will be reproduced in the next generation of scholars, unless the problem is faced and addressed. At present the feasibility of the research undertaking can only be regarded as ‘good’.

The recommendations to improve this situation are as follows
1. time management: the time spent on databases needs to be ring-fenced and contained, so that time is freed up for more speculative debate
2. dialogue: the present informal networking needs to be supplemented by a formal seminar structure which would allow theoretical issues to be debated amongst the whole team
3. the development of collaborative European MA schemes within the domain of theatre would give the next generation of students an experience of working methods in other countries
4. the strategic development of conferences and invited lectures, used to further debate about the direction of the discipline
The decision to host IFTR in July 2009 will raise the profile of the Centre and provide useful contacts, but will also bring much ongoing work to a temporary halt. This could be an ideal opportunity for re-evaluation.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
CET [RG-ART-LVT-Lisboa-279-2076]

Comentários da unidade

We recognize how accurate and serious the assessment is. We also perceive in some comments the policy assigned by the FCT to extend to Artistic Studies modes of research and assessment innate to the hard sciences. However, we confirm how difficult it is for a panel with many – indeed all, in the present case - foreign members to evaluate the singular situation of this unit in Portugal. One example of its singularity: the necessity to produce, in the 21st century, critical editions of 16th century Portuguese plays may seem extravagant in any country in Europe… except in Portugal.
About not contemplating recent theories: as if it would be possible to engage in theatre history, handle documentation, study images, publish critical editions, and promote drama analyses or contemporary performance criticism without the support of theories…
As for the pledge for internationalisation: we do want Portuguese theatre to be known abroad. But as we still need to construct it as an object for study, we have invested primarily in the construction of databases as a central and basic previous research.
In fact, how can we jump to international forums discussing something that is unknown to most of our peers? How much real (not patronising) interest can our papers in international forums arouse when we speak about texts and performances that will never be known by our audiences because they only exist in Portuguese? How many Portuguese theatre companies are allowed an international circuit? How many accurate translations of Portuguese plays are available abroad? So, how can we immediately enter in thematic “agendas” without falling prey of a superficial approach that only responds to a casual commission instead of being moved by the real need of knowing?
A certain discomfort felt in the process: the sense of incommunicability and the suspicion that the relevance of the activity under evaluation seemed less important than a ghostly future research that seems to be the target and wait for us instead of having to be built by us.