Early Modern Drama

February 5, 2010

Specialists in Spanish, French and English early modern drama presented their work and surveyed the state of the art in a Works in Progress session on Monday 1 February. The audience’s disciplines ranged from classics to Oriental Studies.

Jonathan Thacker’s publications include Role-Play and the World as Stage in the Comedia (Liverpool University Press, 2002) and A Companion to Golden Age Theatre (2007). Spanish scholarship on the drama of the Golden Age, he argued, had lagged behind Anglo-Saxon scholarship in a number of respects, from editorial theory to performance studies. There was a relative lack of a performance tradition in Spain, the Spanish equivalent of the RSC having been established only in the 1980s. On the other hand, there was an abundance of relatively uncharted documentary material. Dr Thacker contributed to the ArteLope project at the University of Valencia, which works on attributions of Golden Age plays mentioned in contemporary theatre documentation, and the Spanish government had just supported research in the field with a major award. In England, Dr Thacker was a director of the ‘Out of the Wings’ project which will make the riches of Spanish-language theatre available to non-Spanish audiences. (It is staging a conference on ‘Spanish Golden Age Drama in Translation and Performance’ at Merton College, 18-19 March 2010: http://blog.outofthewings.org/2010/01/2010-out-of-the-wings-symposium/)

Tiffany Stern has written extensively on theatre history from the Elizabethan period to the eighteenth century, her publications including Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan (2000), Making Shakespeare (2004), Shakespeare in Parts (2007), and most recently Documents of Performance in Early Modern England (2009). Though English theatrical documents may seem to have been sifted through more thoroughly than their Spanish counterparts, Professor Stern argued that they still had more to tell us about the theory and practice of playwriting. She chose the example of ‘plots’ or outlines of plays, which an author might sell to a dramatic company for someone else to turn into a play: one might be a good plotter without necessarily being a good writer, and the potential split between action and language placed Elizabethan drama, and dramatic collaboration, in a new perspective.

Edward Nye’s publications include Literary and Linguistic Theories in Eighteenth-Century France: From Nuances to Impertinence (2000), which shows how eighteenth-century linguistic theories are aesthetic theories in disguise, and has edited anthologies on the bicycle (À bicyclette, 2000) and on dance (Sur quel pied danser? Danse, 2005). His work in progress concerns the ballet-pantomime, mime dance, in eighteenth-century France. Its foremost protagonist, Jean-Georges Noverre, was an inspiration to Etienne Decroux, the ‘father of modern mine’. Dr Nye argued that the genre had yet to be fully understood on its own terms, as an exploration of non-verbal communication that took a different path from theatre, opera or ballet.

All three papers in different ways opened up approaches to drama other than the study of historical themes and ideas, with a focus on the specificities of the medium, and a lively discussion followed these leads.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: