Tara L. Lyons and I are excited to finally share the news that the trustees of the Shakespeare Association of America have accepted our panel Shared Archives, New Methods: Book History and Theater History Across Media for the organization's next annual meeting in Atlanta. The panel brings together book historians and theater historians to explore new approaches of attending to an overlapping archive of materials related to the performance and publication of early modern plays. We're especially pleased that SAA is willing to let us experiment with format by mounting a panel of short talks (±8 minutes each) followed by a prepared response. We hope that our series of lightning papers will yield a lively and provocative conversation about materiality, method, and media.
If you're interested in knowing more, you can read a version of the proposal we submitted to SAA below. Also, if you have comments and/or questions about the panel topic or its investments, we'd love to hear them as we prepare—or in the Q&A after the panel itself. Finally, if you'd like to browse the full list of panels, roundtables, workshops, and seminars at #shakeass17 (the official hashtag, yes!), the June bulletin has just been published.
Until recently, the fields of early modern book history and theater history often operated independently of each other. For the study of early modern plays, which necessarily exist in memory and the archive at the intersection of text and performance, this critical habit risks compromising scholarly inquiry. Whereas book historians have often sought to situate printed and manuscript playtexts in terms of early modern publishing and reading, theater historians have used the same texts as keys to historical performance practices. Yet even as these fields define themselves (in name and purpose) by the medium at the core of study, both rely heavily on methods of research, reading, and analysis that operate across media. The purpose of this panel, then, is to examine what we can learn about early modern plays by challenging the default mode of hierarchizing page over stage or print over manuscript, and vice versa. What is gained and lost by treating plays as crossmedial or transmedial works? How does the evidence we encounter in archives necessitate or frustrate ways of reading dramatic material in its varied instantiations? What are we misreading by not taking processes of remediation into account?
Each panelist will study the material of early modern plays at the intersection of at least two media: page and stage, manuscript and print, print and digital text. In focused, eight-minute position papers, panelists will introduce new methodological approaches to the remediation of dramatic material and demonstrate how these methods illuminate our understanding of early modern drama, either in its own time or since. The panel will culminate in a five-minute response by Helen Ostovich (Department of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University) designed to identify common threads in the panelists’ methods and the new directions of study they offer.
REMEDIATING SIXTEENTH-CENTURY DRAMA: GISMOND OF SALERNE IN SCRIPT AND PRINT
TAMARA ATKIN • Senior Lecturer • School of English and Drama • Queen Mary, University of London
Drama is a genre that sits between the practical and the literary. Playtexts have at least one obvious function—to facilitate and/or record performance—but they also can be enjoyed as part of a programme of educational or leisure-time reading. This paper examines the textual traces of Gismond of Salerne, a little-studied early modern play first performed in the late 1560s for Queen Elizabeth I, to show how its receptive horizons are shaped by its remediation from manuscript to print. While it is possible to isolate the precise time and space of the play’s first performance, its textual history is far more diffuse. The relationship between the various textual expressions of this play are complex and raise telling questions about the remediation of dramatic material. Why was the play initially transmitted in manuscript form? What principles of mise-en-page were adopted by its copyists and to what intent or purpose? Why was the revised version committed to print? And how does its typographic expression differ from earlier, scribal versions of the text? In answering these questions, this paper illustrates some of the ways that mediation and remediation can shape modes of reception and engagement, programming unique forms of reading experience.
ASIDES: PERFORMANCE AND PRINT
CLAIRE M. L. BOURNE • Assistant Professor • Department of English • Penn State University
D.F. McKenzie once suggested that early modern printers, publishers, and playwrights involved in printing plays before the 18th century lacked “typographic respect” for dramatic material. More recently, Tiffany Stern has shown that many of the textual oddities, lacunae, and inconsistencies informing McKenzie’s assessment are vestiges of the processes by which theatrical texts were transmitted from stage to page. My paper proposes that the awkward typographic features not resulting from the processes Stern illuminates evince hyper-localized solutions to problems of remediating extra-lexical dynamics of performance into textual form. I focus on the ways in which typographic strategies involving typeface, brackets, and dashes were mobilized to account for the dramaturgical efficacy of asides. In performance, asides served to clarify, confuse, extend, and delimit theatrical action, dialogue, and space in plays of all genres. But in print, early efforts to account for these effects constellated in comic scenes, suggesting that for comic material to succeed as reading matter, these effects somehow had to be made legible to readers. Far from being inferior surrogates of performance or evidence of drama-made-literary through its material distance from the stage, then, early modern playbooks exhibit theatrically sensitive—and purposeful—designs for reading.
DRAMA COLLECTIONS: ARCHIVES OF PERFORMANCE TO PRINT
TARA L. LYONS • Assistant Professor • Department of English • Illinois State University
My paper examines how the printed play collection emerged as a medium for capturing the interconnectivity among plays performed on early modern London stages. When theater companies like the Lord Admiral’s Men performed serials and spinoffs with cross-textual characters and plots, agents of the book trade adapted these relational systems and marketed them as principles of collection to playbook buyers. Readers and stationers also assembled plays to construct dialectical relationships among dramatic texts that mirrored those fashioned by theater companies among works in repertory. While neither elegantly designed folios nor stitched sets of serial playbooks can provide us with unmediated access to the conceptual threads that linked plays in London’s theaters, I show that play collections are inscribed by the processes that materialized them—including the mediations of interstitial relationships on stage into organizational frameworks on page. Play collections, I propose, can function as archives of the remediated principles that “bound” plays across performance and print.
PLAYS, BALLADS, AND THE CYCLE OF REMEDIATION
LORI HUMPHREY NEWCOMB • Associate Professor • English Department • University of Illinois
Early modern plays remediated ballads, and ballads remediated plays. Where plays and ballads intersected, remediation’s affordances and frustrations are intensified. Each genre captured only some of a given fiction’s complex multimodality, its transmission and recombination by voice and body, speech, song, gesture, manuscript texts, printed text and printed woodcut. Furthermore, while ballads and plays embed their mutual remediations, ballad survivals are a fraction of our dramatic evidence. We piece plays’ snippets of ballads to tunes known only with alternate lyrics. What the ballad-drama cycle of remediation tells us, however, is that stitching together what Tiffany Stern calls ‘patchy’ texts was not just the works of poets, performers, and, now, critics. Audience members also played nimbly with multimodality and intermediality, and the pervasiveness of ballads made them a major resource to early modern playgoers. Today, to use the fragmentary evidence to re-estimate audiences’ cultural literacies, we need to be similarly nimble, combining traditional performance media with new digital tools such as UCSB’s English Broadside Ballad Archive. I briefly discuss my graduate students’ work-in-progress with ballad-drama cycles of remediation, to be published in the volume "Ballads and Performance: The Multi-Modal Stage in Early Modern England” in UCSB’s new multimodal EMC imprint.
W. B. WORTHEN • Alice Brady Pels Professor in the Arts • Department of Theatre • Barnard College, Columbia University
I take as my starting point a question asked by Alan Galey in The Shakespearean Archive: “How should we understand the interpenetration of texts and machines, given that most if not all of the Shakespeare text we have received is the product of a mechanical process” (205). Much of the discourse animating the discussion of Shakespeare performance takes a separation between technologies—those of the book and those of the stage—as axiomatic; it's only through their separation that a “proper” relation can be established after all, whether we see that relation in terms of “fidelity” to the meanings (or, in the case of Original Practices Folio acting, to the punctuation) of Shakespearean writing or as a function of the theatrical "remediation," which implies that the written text has a medial identity outside its theatrical use. In this position paper, I would like to consider the notion of “remediation” as a way of characterizing the technicity of contemporary Shakespeare performance. If “remediation makes the medium as such visible” (John Guillory), then what does considering stage production as remediation say about “the medium”?