Embodying Words: The Ethics of Voice in Performing Poetry

Wednesday, 03 November 2021, 16:00-18:00

Senate House, Room G35


Performing poetry and reading aloud has long been thought to have an important civic function. From the poetry performances of the ancient world to the Slam poetry events today, poetry performance has been used to bring communities together, share knowledge, experience an expression of shared values and concerns. In this paper, I will explore the ethics of performing poetry, in particular to what extent performing (and thereby appropriating) the words of another is morally problematic and to what extent it might make a positive ethical contribution to society. In investigating these issues, I will develop the concept of appropriation of expression to chart a difference between empowering cases of re-voicing poetry and those which are harmful in the silencing of marginalised voices (due to sexism, ableism, racism and other forms of oppression): when is it appropriate (or inappropriate) to perform the words of another? What role does the body of the performer play in the meaning-making and interpretation of the audience in the performance space? What consequences does this have for the staging and performing of works of poetry?


Please note that upcoming LAF sessions will be held in person, and will become available on our LAF Podcast. We request that attendees observe safety guidelines, unless exempt; please see the Covid-19 advice by Senate House and Senate House Library.