Dr Siân Adiseshiah, Spectatorship & the New (Critical) Sincerity

Wednesday 21st October, 4.15-5.30, MC0024. All welcome!

Dr Siân Adiseshiah, School of English and Journalism, ‘Spectatorship and the New (Critical) Sincerity: The Case of Forced Entertainment’s Tomorrow’s Parties’

This paper considers Forced Entertainment’s Tomorrow Parties (2011) as an example of the New Sincerity – an aesthetic mode that has emerged in the wake of postmodernism, particularly visible in contemporary American fiction. The particular contribution here is the trans-disciplinary shift from fiction to theatre studies as the New Sincerity – as theorised by American fiction scholars via Lionel Trilling’s Sincerity and Authenticity (1972) and David Foster Wallace’s essay ‘E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction’ (1993) – is assessed in terms of its applicability to the specificities of theatre performance.
A trusting and trusted spectator is central to the operational practice of sincerity in performance. In many ways Tomorrow’s Parties succeeds in interpellating such a spectator; however, it remains a piece performed by an experimental theatre company renowned for engaging in metatheatrical innovation, immersive practice and ironic game playing, all of which haunt this particular performance. To account for this troubling of sincerity – and all performance is on one level insincere – the term ‘critical sincerity’ is coined, a term that describes the knowingness that certain theatre pieces – like Tomorrow’s Parties – exhibit of the inherent insincerity of performance, while simultaneously striving for a sincere encounter.

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