CMSI Lecture: Emilie Pine

CMSI Lecture: Emilie Pine

Event date: Thursday 16 November 2017, 5.30 – 7 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Auditorium 4 Jaap Kruithof (formerly known as Auditorium B)

“Marketing Pain: Memory, Empathy and the Witness”; given by Dr. Emilie Pine (University College Dublin)


Empathy plays a major role in the witnessing of painful pasts. This talk considers how empathy is generated by the primary act of witnessing one’s own pain, and how secondary witnesses can respond with empathy to others’ pain. In discussing depictions of rape in recent theatre, this talk will consider also how empathy has become a major marketing tool in the cultural memory marketplace. And what is it that we, the memory consumers, are consuming?

Dr. Emilie Pine will consider the intertwining of pain, memory and empathy in the plays Nirbhaya (Farber, 2013) and I Once Knew a Girl (Sepinuck, 2010). In both of these works, female survivors testify to their experience of rape. To put women centre stage, describing rape and sexual assault, is a powerful political gesture. The role of autoperformance (where the performer is not an actor) is central to the production of audience empathy – and so the discussion will consider why empathy is so important, and what are the political repercussions of prioritising such strong empathic responses in the audience. These plays are typical of the genre of testimonial theatre in foregrounding the experience and emotions of the performers. That they are examples of ‘theatre of the real’ however should not prevent us from asking, as we do of other forms of documentary, questions relating to aestheticisation and narrativisation. These are the stories we tell about ourselves, but how are those stories told, and how can they best be witnessed?


Emilie Pine is Associate Professor of Modern Drama at University College Dublin. Emilie is Editor of the Irish University Review and Director of the Irish Memory Studies Network. She is PI of the Irish Research Council New Horizons major project Industrial Memories. Emilie has published widely in the field of Irish studies and memory studies, including The Politics of Irish Memory: Performing Remembrance in Contemporary Irish Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), and her next book is Performing Witnessing in Contemporary Theatre (forthcoming Indiana University Press, 2018/19).

All are welcome. Admission is free, and registration is not required. For more information, please contact Stef Craps.