The Centre for Critical Studies was incorporated in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in August 2015.

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The Fiery Pacific: Volcanic Eruptions and Settler-State Theatricality in Oceania, 1780-1900

Tuesday 27 May 2014, 2:30 - 3:30pm
CCCS Seminar Room, Level 4,  Forgan Smith Tower (Building 1)
St Lucia Campus [see map]


From small-scale animated models to gigantic pyroscenic spectaculars, artistic representations of volcanic eruptions have long fascinated audiences with their compelling depictions of nature in extremis. Since the body of scholarship that attends to the mechanical strategies and symbolic purchase of volcanic representations has tended to focus mainly on Europe, this paper contributes to an expanded social and scenographic history by considering the portrayal of the Pacific volcano on the nineteenth-century stage, demonstrating how these representations emerged as revelatory sites for new concerns and struggles in the Pacific Islands region. Through an analysis of La Mort du Capitaine Cook (1788), The Cyclorama of Kilauea (1893-94) and The Land of the Moa (1895-96) this paper argues that, just as depictions of European volcanoes channeled some of Europe’s most pressing social preoccupations through popular media, Western portrayals of Pacific volcanoes also functioned as signifiers of, and agents in, debates regarding Euro-American expansion into the Pacific, especially the competing claims and aspirations of indigenous and settler populations.


Diana Looser received her PhD in Theatre Arts from Cornell University, USA, and is currently a Lecturer in Drama in the School of EMSAH. Her research interests include postcolonial, intercultural, and transnational theatre and performance, with a particular focus on the Pacific Islands region. She is the author of Remaking Pacific Pasts: History, Memory, and Identity in Contemporary Theater from Oceania (University of Hawai‘i Press, forthcoming 2014). Her essays have appeared in several edited collections and in periodicals such as Theatre Journal, Theatre Research International, Contemporary Theatre Review, Performance Research, and The Contemporary Pacific.

This seminar will be chaired by Professor Gay Hawkins.
Members of the public are invited to attend this free seminar, after which light refreshments will be served.
Enquiries: Fergus Grealy, Events Co-ordinator
P: (07) 3346 9764 | F: (07) 3365 7184 | E:
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