Theatre and the Reformation of Space (symposium)

For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a fall 2009 symposium that opened with a lecture by Edward W. Soja (UCLA). Invited discussants included William Egginton (the Johns Hopkins University), Margaret Greer (Duke University), Jean E. Howard (Columbia University), Edward Muir (Northwestern University), Steven Mullaney (University of Michigan), Shankar Raman (MIT), Rose Marie San Juan (University College London), Guy Spielmann (Georgetown University), Deborah Steinberger (University of Delaware), and Paul Yachnin (McGill University). Pre-circulated materials were the basis for their short presentations and extended discussions.

How did theatre (plays, playing, playgoing, and playing spaces); forms of performance (dance, masque, and civic pageantry); and theatricality, more broadly considered, condition the experience of spatiality in Early Modern Europe? How did theatre reassemble social and material relations so as to create public space where public space had not existed previously? How did the forms of performance create or reshape the spaces of privacy? The interests of the symposium were both historical and theoretical. It featured historical research on theatre and spatiality in different national traditions; it ranged across the kinds of performance, including masque, commedia, tragedy, the jig, and so on; and it attended to theatricality in non-theatrical domains such as law, politics, and religion. It was interested in the shift from religious forms of theatre, such as Corpus Christi cycles or moralities, to sixteenth- and seventeenth-century forms, such as the commercial drama of Reformation London or the corrales drama of Golden Age Spain. It accounted for the various agents and means of influence and change from one culture to another. It payed particular attention to the questions about space itself—how it is created, who can occupy it, how to account for the relationship between virtual and physical space, and how to explain the interactions between privacy and publicity. The “reformation of space” has to do with how playhouses and playing practices affected the actual environment of early modern Europe as well as with how theatre and theatricality was able to reconfigure the lived experience of space. Three dozen applications were accepted from scholars whose current research engaged these issues. The symposium was offered in partnership with the interdisciplinary MaPs (Making Publics) Project, which is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.