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Click here to view Caryl Clark's article from the inaugural issue of the Munk Centre Monitor.





About Us

A message from Caryl Clark and Linda Hutcheon
Co-chairs of the Humanities Initiative at the Munk School

The Humanities Initiative at the Munk School of Global Affairs started in 2001 as an outgrowth of a joint graduate course on interdisciplinary approaches to opera. The seminar brought together students from English, Comparative Literature, Drama, German, Italian and Music to probe different ways of studying this complex performative medium. Building on the successes of this course, we began to explore ways in which works of art might open up further collaborative learning opportunities. To that end, we selected three operas being performed at various venues in Toronto in Winter-Spring 2002 and organized a multidisciplinary symposium around each at the Campbell Conference Facility. Each event brought together scholars from different disciplines whose expertise was brought to bear on the themes presented in the opera. We then opened the doors to members of the general public, creating a collaborative audience of students, faculty and citizens who were all eager to learn and share knowledge in this vibrant university setting.

Why opera? Well, aside from being a subject we were teaching at the time (and continue to teach—our last joint seminar on Orientalism and Opera was offered in Fall 2008), opera is an interdisciplinary art-form whose interpretive potential extends beyond the musical, artistic and cultural to embrace larger historical and political perspectives. The complexities of interpreting an art form that consists of a verbal text, a musical score, and dramatic action, which is intended for actual dramatization on stage by costumed singing actors, opens up a wide range of explorative possibilities ranging from feminist/queer, materialist/socio-economic and music-analytic to performance and postcolonial theorizing. It was this potential we planned to probe.

And probe we have!  To date we have held 26 symposia, and another three are planned for 2009-10.  In 2003 we began a partnership with the Canadian Opera Company, bringing together the interconnectivity of teaching, research and educational outreach.  The newly named Opera Exchange moved to larger premises—first to the Bader Theatre at Victoria University, and finally to Walter Hall at the Faculty of Music, our current home—to accommodate our large and loyal audience.  We have co-edited three special issues of the University of Quarterly: “Opera and Interdisciplinarity” UTQ 72/4 (2003); “Opera and Interdisciplinarity II” UTQ 74/2 (2005); and “Songs and Subversion” UTQ 75/3 (2006)—the  latter on Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale addressing the adaptation of novel to opera, the author’s formative musical and educational experiences, the politics of reproduction, and the place of women in dystopian states.  Nine papers presented at the enormously successful Wagner Ring Cycle seminars in September 2006 were printed in a special issue of The Opera Quarterly 23/4 (2007), published by Oxford University Press.

The Humanities Initiative/Opera Exchange truly is a joint partnership.  In 2007-08 we welcomed two other co-organizers to our fold:  Sherry Lee, a musicologist at the Faculty of Music, and Katherine Larson from the Department of English and Women’s Studies.  Together we do all the programming and fundraising, and oversee all arrangements at the university. The COC handles the advertising and ticket sales, arranges for members from the creative teams to participate as panelists, and assists with accommodation, transportation and hospitality costs.  We have benefited from the generosity of many.  We’re very grateful for the on-going support that the Humanities Initiative/Opera Exchange has received from the Munk School, and for special assistance from the Asian Institute, the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, the Joint Initiative for German and European Studies, the Centre for Comparative Literature, the Centre for the Study of Drama, the School of Graduate Studies, the Office of the Provost, the Faculty of Arts and Science, the Jackman Humanities Institute, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Toronto Wagner Society, the Faculty of Music, the Department of English, the Department of Italian Studies, the Department of Germanic Languages, the Department of History, the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature and many others in the University of Toronto community.
We look forward to our continuing collaboration!



Click here to view Caryl Clarks's article from the inaugural issue of the Munk Centre Monitor. -- - ------ ------ -

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