Acting Out - A Symposium on Screen Performance, Inference and Interpretation

Friday 20 March 2009, Department of Film, Theatre & Television, University of Reading

"Clearly films depend on a form of communication whereby meanings are acted out." (Naremore, Acting in the Cinema, p. 2)

"I would like to say that what I am doing in reading a film is performing it (if you wish, performing it inside myself)." (Cavell, Pursuits of Happiness, 1981, pp. 37-38.)

Keynote Speaker – Andrew Klevan (St. Anne's College, University of Oxford) – Film Performance: From Achievement to Appreciation (Wallflower Press)

Deadline for Registrations – Friday 27 February 2009

Extended Deadline for Earlybird Registrations – Friday 6 February 2009

Please direct any enquiries to the organisers Ceri Hovland and Lucy Fife Donaldson at


This one-day symposium seeks to provide a forum for scholars of screen acting to meet and progress the spate of recent work on performance on film. We would like to explore how we draw out performance through an interrogation of the relationship between performance, inference and interpretation.

As viewers we frequently respond instinctively to the material and kinetic details of the performer within their fictional world. In consequence, the role of inference could be said to be indivisible from interpretation. But how important is that moment between engaging with a performance and analysing it? How do you find it and observe it? What is the role of inference in the process and production of performance? What is left unsaid and/or assumed in performance?

Arguably, many performances communicate in non-verbal ways and leave a certain amount to the imagination but how does this vary between performance styles? More histrionic, melodramatic or ostensive performances are frequently thought of as offering more privileged access to thoughts and feelings or even a transparently clear communication of meaning. What kinds of assumptions underpin this way of thinking about performance? And where does this leave more contained or repressive performances?

The perceived problem of subjectivity is the ghost of film studies, haunting many analyses but rarely addressed directly. How do discourses around spectatorship effect discussion of performance? Could it be that the study of performance is uniquely disposed to alerting us to the complexity of engagement?

Contact Information

Ceri Hovland & Lucy Fife Donaldson

University of Reading

Department of Film, Theatre & Television

Bulmershe Court, Woodlands Avenue

Reading, RG6 1HY, England


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Ceri Hovland and Lucy Fife Donaldson

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