This page reflects a scholar's association with the Folger Institute.
"Scottish Drama in Eighteenth-Century America" (Folger, 2012–2013)
Between 1757 and 1800 Scottish and Scottish-themed drama played a prominent role on the eighteenth-century American stage. This study documents the performances of Scottish works in the American theatre of the period and examines the ways in which they were being adapted to engage with social and political debates current in North America at that time. Scottish drama played a distinctive part in the social and political discussions concerning the formation of American national identity that animated the eighteenth-century American stage. Scottish plays regularly addressed issued of national identity that engaged with Scotland’s “provincial” status in relation to the cultural dominance of metropolitan London. These issues dovetailed with American concerns over their own relationship with Britain in the late eighteenth century, and Scottish dramatic productions in America very often appropriated themes arising from a Scottish context and adapted them to address specifically American social and cultural concerns. Scottish plays were staged by different interest groups, often for opposing ends, in a range of different contexts, from the French-Indian War, through the War of Independence, to the founding of the new Republic. Reconstructing and analyzing performance contexts and responses to Scottish and Scottish-themed plays in eighteenth-century America enables a closer understanding of the way in which Scottish drama was being appropriated to intervene in contemporary American social and political debates in ways that served diverse social and political ends, and will help illuminate the role that Scottish thought and writings of the Enlightenment period played in the formation of American identities.