English Theatre Culture 1660-1737

Understudied Forms and Genres of the Restoration and Early 18th-Century English Drama

15 October 2020 (online)

seminar convener: Anna Mikyšková (Masaryk University, CZ)

keynote speaker: Assoc. Prof. Claudine van Hensbergen (Northumbria University Newcastle, UK)

“The literature we criticise is never the whole”, writes Alastair Fowler in Kinds of Literature. This maxim was for a long time very true for the scholarship of the Restoration drama, which had been traditionally studied from the literary perspective. As a result, it was chiefly the most “literary” genres, such as the heroic play, the comedy of manners and the political tragedy, which has traditionally found their way to Restoration anthologies and shaped the academic discourse about the period (one of the few exceptions is Straub, Anderson and O’Quinn’s recent The Routledge Anthology of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Drama which also incorporates pantomime). One of the pitfalls of this approach, however, is the fact that certain genres tended to be in the centre of scholarly focus at the expense of other, lesser dramatic forms. Although this has changed (see for instance, John O’Brien’s Harlequin Britain on English pantomime or Madeline Smith Atkins’s The Beggar’s Children’ on ballad opera), there are still a number of forms and genres of Restoration theatre that have not yet received much of scholarly attention (for instance, the popular “drolls” and “jigs”, lesser-known ballad operas, early 18th-century afterpieces, puppet theatre, and Harlequinades). This seminar opens a debate about the neglected genres of the Restoration theatre and the shift in the scholarly practice from dramatic literariness to performance reality.

We welcome papers which address (but are not limited to) the following topics:

  • internal shift and development in the traditionally studied Restoration plays
  • pre-Restoration drolls and their afterlives
  • entra’cte entertainments and farces
  • from the text to the body: dance and pantomime
  • ballad operas not only as a burlesque offspring of Italian opera
  • Restoration puppet theatre
  • repertoire connections between fairs and playhouses and vice versa
  • Restoration afterpiece: commercialization of theatres and its influence on theatre repertoire
  • audiences’ participation in the growth of popular theatrical entertainment
  • the period’s critical response to the phenomena described above

We welcome a variety of paper formats, from short interventions and notes, to full conference papers. We expect that accepted papers or paper theses should be pre-circulated to seminar participants in advance. The format of the seminar will be a moderated discussion based on the pre-circulated contributions and short (up to 10 minute) presentations of their main thesis on the day.

Please send your abstract (of no more than 250 words) to Anna Mikyšková (anna.mikyskova@phil.muni.cz) by September 15, 2020.

Registered, non-presenting auditors are welcome.


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