University of Sydney Handbooks - 2013 Archive

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Performance Studies

The Department of Performance Studies is part of the School of Letters, Art and Media.

Performance Studies looks at a broad range of aesthetic, social and everyday performances: from practices that we might readily recognise as theatre, dance or ‘live art’ through to the performative dimensions of law, politics, sport and other kinds of activity. Through performance, we get things done, we make sense of events around us and we explore different ways of being in the world.

Students will learn how to describe and analyse the skills, sensibility and embodied knowledge that are involved in particular kinds of aesthetic performance. They will also use performance as a conceptual lens through which to interpret other kinds of social behaviour. This makes Performance Studies a highly interdisciplinary program, drawing not only on theatre, dance and movement studies but also on anthropology, history and philosophy among other influences.

Performance practice comes into the program in two ways: first, since all of the academic staff have significant professional experience, most units of study involve practical workshop activities as an adjunct to text-based teaching methods and a way of grounding the major theoretical concerns of the course. (Note, however, that there are no practical performance skills as a pre-requisite for Performance Studies: this is not a vocational training program for actors, dancers, designers etc.)

The second way in which the department engages with performance practice is through our extensive contacts with professional artists and companies, of whom many are involved in a regular artists-in-residence scheme. Particularly for students taking PRFM3961, PRFM3962 and Fourth Year Honours, there is an emphasis on participant-observation fieldwork and ethnographic research methods. These senior students have the opportunity to observe and analyse training, creative development, rehearsals and other kinds of performance preparation across a wide range of genres.

Requirements for a major
For a major in Performance Studies students must complete the following:

  • 18 credit points of junior units of study from Table A of this Handbook.
  • 36 credit points (6 units) from senior units of study listed in the subject area, of which 12 credit points must be from the Core senior units of study (PRFM2601 Being There: Theories of Performance and PRFM2602 Performance: Production and Interpretation).

Refer to Table A of this Handbook for units of study available in the current year.

Up to 12 credit points of senior units from approved cross-listed units of study may be counted towards the major.

Refer to Table A in this Handbook for cross-listed units of study available in the current year.


Our honours year brings theory and practice closely together. It involves specialised seminars, a research thesis on an individual topic and a detailed case study based on first-hand fieldwork. Honours students become a valued part of a research culture that is world renowned and regularly attracts senior international visiting scholars to the department.

The prerequisites for entry into the Performance Studies Fourth Year Honours course are as follows: credit or above results in PRFM3961 and PRFM3962, and a minimum of a credit average in a further 36 senior credit points in PRFM units (or equivalent). For details of course components, see the Honours section of this handbook.

Refer to the degree resolutions in this Handbook and to the Faculty Admissions Policy for Honours:

Contact/Further Information

Department website:

Chair of Department: Dr Amanda Card
Phone: +61 2 9351 6849

Honours Coordinator: Dr Amanda Card
Phone: +61 2 9351 8253