CFP: Early Modern Performance Working Session

Early Modern Performance

After, Beyond, and Through Repetition

Conference: ASTR 2020

Deadline: 1 June 2020


  • Danielle Rosvally (University of Buffalo)
  • Donovan Sherman (Seton Hall University)

Early modern performance thrives on repetition—uncanny returns, compulsions, religious ritual, and political ceremonies—yet scholarship on this period often repeats itself in less generative ways by rehearsing and reinscribing the same theoretically conservative ideas. We hope to explore understandings beyond this deadening repetition by inviting work that reinvigorates our understanding of early modern performance as a place of dynamic possibility. As we reconsider early modern texts, how might we redefine early modern theatre as a set of practices alongside and outside of canonical works? Conversely, how can we study canonical figures such as Shakespeare in new, vital, even provocative ways so as to displace their overdetermined status as supposed pinnacles of humanistic achievement?

Paper topics may include: the recovery of historically marginalized voices (queer, differently abled, nonwhite, trans) from dominant narratives; critiques of disciplinary orientations (for instance, a long-overdue reckoning following the call to action by Kim F. Hall, Kimberly Ann Coles, and Ayanna Thompson of early modern studies as an attractive field to far-right extremism); analyses of digital and virtual adaptations (CGI effects at the Globe, games such as Play the Knave); engagements with non-European early modern forms (Islamic, indigenous American, Asian); and the reimagination of what constitutes early modern “theatre” by focusing on other modes of performance (religious, social, political). We also invite papers that examine traditional drama in conversation with performance studies and other contemporary theoretical innovations.

Participants will first send abstracts and brief bibliographies to the conveners, who will then divide the session into small groups based loosely on shared interests (with attention to diversity of rank and identity). Each group will exchange full papers and each participant will offer, via email, generative, constructive feedback to the others in their group. The full set of abstracts and bibliographies will be made available to the entire session (and will be printed as handouts for auditors at the meeting). At the conference session, we will begin by breaking into the pre-assigned groups, who will converse about commonalities, themes, challenges, and other productive elements of their papers. Each group will come up with one or two trends, culled from their discussion, they find exciting for the field of early modern performance. After half the assigned time for the session, we will meet as a whole. The conveners will moderate discussion (with an emphasis on hearing from all participants), first asking each group to report on their trends, then broadening our focus to future directions for our work and possible future projects as a group (a listserv? social media group? publication? podcast?). We will open up to auditors in the final ten minutes.

For any specific questions, please contact the working group convenors at drosvall[at] or donovan.sherman[at] Please note that all submissions must be received formally through the ASTR website. The form will allow you to indicate second and third choice working groups if you wish; if you do so, note that there is a space for you to indicate how your work will fit into those groups. The deadline for receipt of working group participant submissions is 1 June 2020 and we anticipate that participants will be notified of their acceptance no later than 30 June. Please contact the conference organizers at if you have any questions about the process.