Panel 5.1: Symbols in Performance

This panel was chaired by Leonardo Costantini and included papers from Sarah Little, Emma Gee, and Maria Haley, the abstracts, powerpoints, handouts, and audio for which are shown below.

Sarah Little, The University of Leeds

Title: Metaphoric Emphasis: Resonance and Variation in the Hiphop Multi-Ryhme Matrix. 

‘There is a reason why hiphop communities resist others’ attempts to control their language varieties…Heads know that policing language is a form of social control that amounts to nothing less than policing people’ (Samy Alim, 2006)

This paper uses Max Black’s theories of ‘Emphasis’ and ‘Resonance’ in metaphor (1955), and Zoltan Kovecses’ ‘Variation’ theory (2005) to show how the use of metaphor in lyrical UK hiphop functions as a resistance vernacular. It maps these insights in the context of the hiphop ‘multi-rhyme matrix’ (conventional poetic construction coupled with an extensive multi-layered range of innovative lyrical techniques, Samy Alim 2006) arguing that intentionally low resonance metaphors and language manipulation operate as a means of hegemonic resistance and an attempt to maintain a ‘de-territorialised’ language. There is evidence of multiple functions and manipulations of metaphor within hiphop lyrics that deserve further analysis, however this paper argues that the use of emphasis, variation and resonance is critical to the ontological nature of the practice itself. This paper explores what the study of the use of metaphor in hiphop can tell us about the politics of hiphop as both culture and art-form. The evolution and current trends within the practice are discussed as well as how such an analysis can be usefully applied in the context of key broader current debates about cultural value.


Sadly, due to technical difficulties, the audio for Sarah’s paper was lost.

Emma Gee, The University of Leeds

Title: ‘Read’ This?: Nada, Niet, Nothing!

In the 1980s semiotics took over theatre studies as the system for decoding performance and still retains some of its dominance now.  As Bennett and Balme point out: semiotics concerned itself with unpacking authored meaning spending little time addressing itself to audience reception.  Yet the rise of phenomenology, emerging in the mid twentieth century, and the following resurgence of interest in performance by the neo avant-garde, (with its refusal of narrative, object and fixed authorship), challenges the position of ‘work of art aesthetics’ predicated on pre-determined and coded meaning that semiotics appears to require.

Surely symbolism and metaphor must be deliberate artistic acts of authorship for meaning to be conveyed?  Yet phenomenology makes the claim for meaning/understanding that moves us beyond interpretation and calls for a pre-hermeneutical state of engagement to enable ‘meaning’ to expand reception horizons beyond the limitations of extant cultural patterning and context, when Gumbrecht calls upon us ‘to be quiet for a moment’.  Fischer-Lichte would seek to exploit that ‘quietness’ to develop event aesthetics: an approach of emergent meaning making/co-authorship or dialogue that is self-feeding and ceaseless, in which no single set of ‘frames’, meanings or expectations can dominate, that seeks to re-enchant via exposure to ‘norms’ anew.

I propose to present ‘Read’ This?:  Nada, Niet, Nothing!, a participative, performance presentation utilizing the principles of event aesthetics.  I seek to explore the shift of the site of meaning making from ‘artist’/creator to audience/spectator/participant and question who is reading what at any given moment.  I wish to generate a dialogue around the reality of suspending hermeneutical processing and social frames of reference when we encounter material.  I would also be seeking to test the practice of performative ‘immersion’ as a tool to disrupt meaning making at the moment of reception.


Due to the nature of the performance, the audio is unnecessary.

Maria Haley, The University of Leeds

Title: Bad Blood? Kindred Curses and Contamination in Sophocles’ Theban Tragedies.

Oedipus’ patricide, incest, mutilation and exile are the cornerstones of the House of Thebes in Sophocles’ presentations of this myth. But, Sophocles’ Theban tragedies: Antigone, Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus, were each staged decades apart. So whilst many scholars have conflated the plays into a continuous narrative, in performance they were presented as separate interpretations of various stages in the Theban myth.

What ties the plays is blood: the shared ancestral blood of the characters in myth and the blood imagery that courses through each of these tragedies, but is manipulated to focus on different issues within the narrative of each play. Accross these tragedies blood symbolises family ties which perpetuate guilt, enable curses and pollute the family home. Therefore the focus will be on  how the plight of the Theban bloodline, performance of curses and the imagery of pollution in each play may have been presented on stage. These scenes will then be evaluated in the context of their respective tragic narratives to consider the symbolic nature of blood ties in Sophocles’ tragedies and how it underpins the separate concerns of each play.

Ultimately, the discussion will outline the plays; consider what blood symbolised to Sophocles’ audience and evaluate how he manipulates this effect in each of his Theban tragedies. For although Sophocles does not saturate his drama with such blood imagery, its significance in the Theban plays does, indeed, run deep.



Audio –


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