Call for Papers

In the early modern period, the household was commonly perceived as analogical to the state, the head of the household, a king, the servants, his subjects: “An houshold,” John Dod and Robert Cleaver wrote in 1598, “is as it were a little Commonwealth.” Towards the end of the sixteenth-century, the domestic received particular attention from political theorists, moralists and writers of household guides alike. Running alongside this extensive public interest in the household, writers for the theatre produced a series of plays that took the domestic, the private and non-elite household as its subject matter. Given the commonplace household/state analogy, the political could be read into many situations and scenarios depicted in many of these plays. Invited to see a play that apparently deals with households like their own, early modern audiences were offered more than a domestic situation to look at, examine, criticize and think about—they were offered scenarios that invited them to think beyond the micropolitics of daily existence to the macropolitics of kingly governance. Domestic plays deal with a range of vital political questions: gender relations, resistance theory, active citizenry, and good governance. Calling for papers to be edited into a collection provisionally titled Domestic Drama and Political Culture, we invite contributions that will investigate the place of domestic drama in the political culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. What, we want to know, can drama tell us about domestic politics? What can domestic politics tell us about drama?

We are inviting contributions that will look at a wide body of dramatic material. While critics have marked out a handful of plays such as Arden of Faversham and A Woman Killed with Kindness as, generically, ‘domestic tragedies’, we understand that domestic politics, widely conceived, is the ‘matter’ handled in a number of plays not conventionally thought of as ‘domestic’ comedies or tragedies, written by a range of different authors, across a number of dramatic genres. In this call for papers, we invite original scholarly work from researchers in the field of early modern culture and literature. Initially, we ask for abstracts of around 500 words, together with a CV, to be sent to Eoin Price (e.p.price@bham.ac.uk) and Iman Sheeha (iman.sheeha@warwick.ac.uk) by 1 November 2014. Questions explored may include (but are not limited to):

  • How did the household/state analogy work, or fail to work, in the drama and culture of early modern England?
  • How did the analogy between citizen and household servant work in drama?
  • How do domestic plays deal with gender relations? How did an Elizabethan England, headed by a female monarch, readjust commonplace parallels between household and state?
  • In what ways do these plays relate politics to their audiences? Do they allow for new ways of thinking about political issues?
  • What cultural work did domestic plays perform in their time? Can they be said to have unanimously encouraged or deterred resistance, or questioned contemporary political theorization?
  • Do different genres, e.g. comedy, history, tragedy, tragicomedy, tell us different things about drama and domestic politics?
  • What constitutes ‘the domestic’? What can be said about different kinds of domestic settings, e.g. court, city, and country?
  • What can be said about the politics of domestic performance?
  • What insights into domestic politics can be gained by thinking about these plays in performance?
  • What role do domestic plays have in the modern repertory? What might plays such as Arden of Faversham and The Witch of Edmonton, performed at the RSC in 2014, suggest about domesticity and politics?
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