Teaching Medieval Drama and Performance (colloquium)

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In 2016-2017, the Folger Institute sponsored a year-long colloquium on Teaching Medieval Drama and Performance, welcoming advanced scholars whose research and pedagogical practice explore historical, literary, and theoretical dimensions of medieval drama from the perspective of performance. Colloquium participants represented a range of academic specialties and experiences: senior scholars of medieval and early modern drama; a seasoned professor of acting; younger scholars experimenting with digital research and pedagogies; graduate students committed to incorporating medieval drama in broadly-themed literature courses. Our group also included individuals actively engaged in producing medieval drama within and beyond college and university classroom settings.

Introductory Videos

What is medieval drama?

Why is it important to study medieval drama?

How is medieval drama connected to our world today?

The Project's Focus

Binding us together was a passionate belief that medieval drama:

  • constitutes an essential chapter in the history of theater and literature;
  • speaks directly to modern and contemporary issues and concerns; and
  • through its immense variety of dramatic modes and techniques, translates to classroom study and performance. 

Rather than bringing to the table individual research or pedagogical projects, colloquium participants decided to collaborate on creating materials that provide informational background and contexts as well as practical suggestions for classroom teaching and for performances. To that end, we developed this multipart Folgerpedia archive on Teaching Medieval Drama and Performance. We envision our target audiences as secondary school and college and university teachers, but the materials collected here are adaptable to other contexts. The materials address both those who have never taught medieval drama but who would like to do so and those who have and will and would like to add to their classroom toolkits. In keeping with the research mission of the Folger Institute, these materials also bring to bear on various contexts of teaching medieval drama and performance significant advances in medieval drama scholarship made in recent decades. 

These pedagogical materials comprise six major areas, each of which focuses on an aspect of teaching medieval drama that colloquium participants identified as essential to and/or challenging for that endeavor. We have succinctly articulated what we think aspiring teachers of medieval drama might want to and/or should know about the field and how that knowledge can inform pedagogical approaches as well as classroom activities. Individual articles address the following topics:

Expanded Contexts

Given the orientation of Folger constituencies and the emphases of Folger collections, our materials focus primarily on England and English texts. But recognizing that drama was performed by premodern cultures around the world, we include an article on Medieval Drama in Global Contexts. Recognizing too that medieval drama and performance have continually been appropriated and reinvented since the so-called Middle Ages came to an end, we provide an article on Medieval Drama and Its Afterlives.

Each Folgerpedia article includes a select bibliography of relevant materials to encourage further exploration. We also plan to provide an annotated bibliography of print and electronic editions of medieval English plays.

Two resources cited frequently in these pages merit brief description here. The Records of Early English Drama (REED) is an ongoing, international scholarly project dedicated to locating, transcribing, and editing all historical documents containing evidence of drama, musical performance, and communal entertainment and ceremony from the Middle Ages to 1642. These records are newly available in electronic form at REED Online. New editions of many medieval English dramatic texts are now available or forthcoming from the TEAMS Middle English Text Series. Published in affordable, student-friendly print format, these editions can be accessed on the TEAMS website.

Members of our colloquium also collaborated on a series of three short videos, seen above, in which we speak about what medieval drama is, why we study this fascinating body of work, and why it continues to resonate today. We are grateful for the technological knowledge and expertise of colloquium participants Matthew Evan Davis and Heather Mitchell-Buck in the filming and the editing of these videos.

Colloquium Participants

Andrew Albin, Fordham University

Barbara J. Bono, University at Buffalo, SUNY

Anston Bosman, Amherst College

Michelle Butler, University of Maryland

Theresa Coletti (director), University of Maryland

Sheila Coursey, University of Michigan

Matthew Evan Davis, McMaster University

Katharine Goodland, City University of New York

Maria S. Horne, University at Buffalo, SUNY

Mariah Min, University of Pennsylvania

Heather Mitchell-Buck, Hood College

Jesse Njus, University of Richmond

William Robert, Syracuse University

Jay Zysk, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth