T. L. Cowan | Part-Time Lecturer | The New School for Public Engagement
  • Faculty

    T. L. Cowan

    Part-Time Lecturer

    PhD, English Literature (specialization in performance studies), University of Alberta 2009

    My current research is preoccupied with the staged and social life of grass-roots feminist, trans* and queer scenes, especially live and video performance, as well as literary and anti-literary cultures, new media and popular cultures. I study the ways that public and private cultures merge in the scenes created and inhabited by feminists, trans* people and queers, and how desire and economics intersect with and inform radical artists and activists and vice versa. I am interested in the aesthetics, epistemologies, orientations and ethics of activist cultural production, especially cabaret (the variety show). This work is importantly influenced by my participation in these scenes as a writer, performer, critic, curator and activist. 

    My first book, Poetry's Bastard: The Illegitimate Genealogies, Cultures and Politics of Spoken Word Performance, is under contract with Wilfrid Laurier UP (expected 2013). I am currently working towards a second monograph, provisionally entitled Sliding Scale: Translocal Feminist and Queer Cabaret Cultures, as well as an adjacent project, The Cabaret Commons: a collaborative, user-generated digital archive and anecdotal encyclopedia for feminist and queer artists, activists and audiences, with Jasmine Rault and Dayna McLeod.

    My artistic practice includes performance, video, cabaret, alter-ego performance, spoken word and installation-based work and has a focus on multidisciplinary collaboration. My earlier work includes The Twisted She Project (a collaborative intermedial collage in performance, video and sound art) and the GLITTERfesto: An Open Call in Trinity Formation For A Revolutionary Movement Of Activist Performance Based On The Premise That Social Justice is Fabulous. I am currently developing Queer Coping, a collaborative video project on queer, feminist and trans* experiences of familial religious violence, which is part of an ongoing performance cycle called Forgiving Medjugorje

    Overall, I am deeply committed to the knowledges, practices and aesthetics of transformational and decolonizing media, performance, subjects, agential objects and scenes. My art-research-activism moves through the politics, spaces and places of genre, memory, agitation, consolation, and perverse identities and identifications.

    Courses Taught

    Trans* Cultural Studies: Theory, Activism and Cultural Production
    Creative Resistance & Everyday Life
    Performativity & Powerlessness: Embodiments of Social Action from Below
    Discourse Analysis (School of Media Studies, MA program) 
    Feminist & Queer Cultural Texts
    Small Genres: Shorts, Tweets, Skits and Zines

    Recent Publications

    Journal Articles:
    “‘I remember . . . I was wearing leather pants’: Archiving the Repertoire of Feminist and Queer Cabaret in Canada.” Basements and Attics, Closets and Cyberspace: Explorations in Canadian Women's Archives.” Eds. Linda Morra & Jessica Schagerl. Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2012. 65-86. 

    “Dayna McLeod's Post-Nationalist Beaver and the Cabaret Phenomenology of Putting Out.” Feminist Mediations. Eds. T.L. Cowan, Kate Eichhorn & Jasmine Rault. Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. 25 (Spring 2011): 230-239. 

    “‘a one-shot deal’: Contemporary Cabaret as Improvised Curation.” Canadian Theatre Review.(CTR) 143  Summer 2010): 47-54. 

    “Punk Rock Clit Lit: Reading Toward a Punk Poetics in Bent on Writing: Contemporary Queer Tales.” Canadian Poetry. Ed. Andrew Lesk. 57 (Fall/Winter 2005): 103-121"

    Edited Journals

    Feminist Mediations. Co-Editor with Kate Eichhorn & Jasmine Rault. Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. 25 (Spring 2011).


    Short Publications & Reviews:

    “Seeing & Being Seen at Meow Mix Cabaret.” Catalogue essay. Meow Mix Retrospective. Jan 10-Feb 2, 2013. RATS 9 Gallery. Montreal, Quebec. (Jan 2013). 

    “Reading Through Difference.” Review of Cherríe Moraga’s A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings 2000-2010. Women & Performance. [Forthcoming] 

    “Follow-up notes on the GLITTERfesto: TL Cowan in conversation with Tammy Pamalovovich, Aging Supermodel Lesbian Feminist Experimental Poet and Revolutionary.” Belladonna. “Transfeminism and Literature.” Vol. II. 147 (2012): 5-12. 

    “GLITTERfesto: An Open Call in Trinity Formation For A Revolutionary Movement Of Activist Performance Based On The Premise That Social Justice is Fabulous.” Canadian Theatre Review (CTR). Ed. Natalie Alvarez. 150 (Spring 2012): 11-17. 

    “cabaret at grunt: up your community.” Activating the Archives. Grunt Gallery, Vancouver. Spring 2012.

    “Harmonious Cacophony: 2boys.tv’s Tightrope.” Canadian Review of Literature in Performance. 3 (Fall 2011). http://www.litlive.ca/story/364

    “Making it Better: Dayna McLeod’s Celluloid Fantasies, Feminist Queer Revisionary.” No More Potlucks. (Summer 2011). http://nomorepotlucks.org/editorial/motive-no-16

    “The Queer Element & The Poison Cookie: Literature in Performance on the Cabaret Stage.” Canadian Review of Literature in Performance. 1.1 (February 2011). http://www.litlive.ca/story/230 

    Research Interests

    Trans* feminist & queer visual culture, performance, literary & cultural studies; activist studies, new media & creative resistance; feminist & queer theory, especially aesthetics, epistemologies & theories of the transnational/translocal; speculative digital humanities; 20th & 21st-Century cabaret in Canada, Mexico, USA, France & Germany; 20th- & 21st-Century literary & anti-literary cultures; popular culture; genre theory; theories & practices of the avant-garde; performance writing, Performer Created Theatre.

    Professional Affiliations

    Hemispheric Institute of Performance & Politics in the Americas (Hemispheric Fellow 2012-14 http://hemisphericinstitute.org/hemi/en/fellows/hemi-fellows)
    Performance Studies International
    Canadian Association of Cultural Studies
    Sexuality Studies Association

    Recent Presentations/Exhibits

    “A Hybrid Present Embodified: ‘Social Disorganization’ as Cabaret Methodology.” Panel Title: Then, Now, Then: Doing Hybrid Temporalities in Contemporary? Feminist and Queer Performance (Mexico City, New York City, Montreal). Co-organized with Dayna McLeod & Jasmine Rault. Performance Studies International/PSi 19. Stanford University, San Francisco CA. June 26-30 2013.

    “The More Things Change: Dialectical Dreams of Im-Perfect Collective Identities in Contemporary Feminist and Queer Political Cabaret.” Work Group Presentation. Encuentro of the Hemispheric Institute of Politics and Performance. São Paulo, Brazil. Jan 12-19 2013. 

    “From Le Chat Noir to Meow Mix: Considering a Translocal Cabaret Consciousness.” Crossroads in Cultural Studies. Sorbonne Nouvelle. Paris, July 2-6 2012. 

    “Speculative Frames, Digital Feelings, Transnational Spaces: Keywords for Late Adopters/Conscientious Objectors” (with Jasmine Rault). Gender and Technology Conference. University of Virginia. April 27-29 2012.


    The Twisted She Project. CD. (2009).

    Coastal Tongue: An Anthology of Women in Spoken Word in Vancouver. Eds. Laurie Bricker & T.L. Cowan (2004).


    • Performance Mix Festival. New York City, NY. Curator: Karen Bernard. April 8-14. 
    • Dirty Plötz Cabaret. Rhubarb Festival. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto, ON. Curator: Alex Tigchelaar. Feb. 21 2013. 
    • Cachín Cachán Cachunga! Queer & Trans Cabaret. Glasgow, Scotland. Curator: Zorras. Feb. 21 2013.
    • Open Toe Peepshow Salon Series #2. Brooklyn, NY. Curators: Damien Luxe and Heather Ács. Nov. 4, 2012. 
    • DYKE CHECK!Queer Takes on the Revolution. Dixon Place, New York City. Dec 7, 2011. 
    • Edgy Women Festival. Curator: Miriam Ginestier. Mainline Theatre, Montreal QC. March 20, 2010.

    Awards and Honors

    2012 – Eugene Lang College Civic Engagement & Social Justice Grant to host Theatre of the Oppressed workshops for Lang students. 
    2011 - Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant. 
              Title: “Feeling Speculative in Digital Space”
    2011 - Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Standard Research Grant.
              Title: “Sliding Scale: Translocal Feminist and Queer Cabaret Cultures”
    2009 – Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Calgary 
    2009 - Canada Council for the Arts Individual Artist Project Grant for The Twisted She Project
    2009 – Alberta Foundation for the Arts – Multidisciplinary Project Grant for The Twisted She Project
    2009 - Governor General’s Gold Medal, University of Alberta. Recognizes the doctoral graduate of all faculties who achieves the highest academic standing.