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Call for Essay Submissions: Reconceptualizing Renaissance Performance: Beyond the Public Stage

Friday, May 15, 2020  
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The early modern period witnessed a wide range of performances that took place outside of the public theatres. Some of these heterogeneous performances were connected to seasonal rhythms, or to cycles of death and disease, or even to courtly and civic power. At the same time, individuals like William Kempe who danced from London to Norwich, and Thomas Coryate who walked across Europe and much of the Indian subcontinent, recorded their performativity in print.

This volume seeks to explore the ways in which theatricality and performance manifested themselves beyond the realm of professional theatrical performance in public venues like the Globe, Rose, Bell, Swan, Cockpit, and Red Bull Theatres. Expanding the ambit of “performance” wider than public stage plays and conventional stage practices, this collection aims to broaden our understanding of performance and performativity during the late medieval and early modern periods. Attending to performances that exceed the bounds of the public theatres encourages a larger discussion regarding the social and cultural significance of drama. These public and private performances—many of which were available to all echelons of society—were integral to shaping Renaissance urban and rural life. Much like the public theatres, these performance genres also played a pivotal role in articulating individual, communal, and even national aspirations and identities.

This collection seeks to explore the political, social, economic, cultural, and literary aspects of these performances. How might these heterogeneous performances intersect with current questions regarding the global Renaissance? How might they be connected with mercantile systems, gendered identity, or individual agency? How did they feature in debates concerning material culture, sites of power/colonialism, and reactions against these structures? Another goal of Renaissance performance in all its various forms was the generation of pleasure—both through the performers’ deployment of their talents and in the audience members’ enjoyment of the sounds, spectacles, and diversions that different types of performance offered. How does a focus on theatrical pleasure deepen our understanding of a broader spectrum of Renaissance performance?

We invite proposals for original essays for the collection Reconceptualizing Renaissance Performance: Beyond the Public Stage, edited by Amrita Sen (University of Calcutta) and Jennifer Linhart Wood (the Folger Shakespeare Library). Topics that this collection might address (but are not limited to):

  • Mumming plays
  • Morris Dances
  • Guising
  • Jigs
  • Court masques
  • Lord Mayor’s Shows
  • Music (amateur and professional)
  • Dance
  • Tumblers, Jugglers, Interludes
  • Commedia dell’arte
  • Clowning
  • Mountebanks
  • Amateur performances
  • Travelling performances (such as ambulatory and shipboard performances)
  • Mystery cycle plays and other modes of religious or sacred performance
  • Morality/Mankind plays
  • Student performances, from grammar schools to the Inns of Court and other academic venues
  • Revels

Submit a 500-word abstract and c.v. by October 31, 2020 to both Amrita Sen (Associate Professor, University of Calcutta) at dr.amritasen.earlymodern@gmail.com and Jennifer Linhart Wood (Associate Editor, Shakespeare Quarterly, the Folger Shakespeare Library) at jlinhartwood@gmail.com.


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