CALL FOR PAPERS: European Women in Early Modern Drama

Convenors: Dr Edel Semple, University College Cork,
Dr Ema Vyroubalova, Trinity College Dublin,

While England’s early modern drama presents us with a plethora of foreign female characters – women such as Franceschina, the eponymous villain in The Dutch Courtesan, Queen Katherine in Henry VIII, the displaced Bella-Franca in Four Prentices of London, and Tamora in Titus Andronicus – no single study has taken these pervasive and significant figures as its focus. This seminar seeks to redress this gap in existing scholarship by exploring representations of European women in the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

Building on work by critics including Ton Hoenselaars, Jean E. Howard, Lloyd Edward Kermode, Michele Marrapodi, Jean-Christophe Mayer, Marianne Montgomery, and Jane Pettegree, and drawing on recent developments in studies of gender, race, culture, and politics, this seminar aims to explore why and how early modern dramatists repeatedly fashioned female characters of distinct nationalities. How notions of gender and foreignness intersect and/or diverge in early modern English play-texts will be the central concern of the seminar.

In a range of Elizabethan and Jacobean plays, foreign women are depicted as valuable links to European nations, and as threatening apertures within the English nation. In Sharpham’s The Fleer, for instance, the Italian courtesans bring strange customs to London, while in The Patient Man and the Honest Whore, the Italian courtesan is accused of spreading disease across national borders. Conversely, in Henry V, the ‘wooing’ of Katherine is a moment for linguistic exchange and she is seen as the desirable conduit to unite England and France. Thus, the seminar will consider how the staging of foreign women may enable English dramatists and their audiences to engage in debates about international relations, to deliberate on racial anxieties, to play out strategies of integration or exclusion, and to imagine England’s future vis-à-vis the rest of Europe.

Furthermore, in considering such a diverse range of characters, the seminar seeks to uncover points of commonality and difference in representations of European women, and will consider whether these women – from different nations, with varied social, religious, economic, and political identities – constitute a distinct phenomenon in the drama of the period. We are particularly interested in papers discussing theatrical depictions of European women as agents of and conduits for social, sexual, political, economic, linguistic and cultural interchange.

The papers may examine, among other aspects, representations of European women in early modern English drama in relation to:
  • social, sexual, or cultural encounters and interactions
  • notions and theories of race, ethnicity, hybridity, and miscegenation
  • misogyny and/or xenophobia
  • political and/or economic power
  • crime and transgression
  • linguistic exchange (e.g. accents or multilingualism)
  • religious and/or social identities and groups (e.g. refugees, economic migrants)
  • early modern geography and cartography
  • locations and their theatrical renderings
  • travel, travellers, and mobility
  • early modern staging (e.g. playhouses, costumes, or stage props)
  • printing and circulation of play-texts
  • source texts and/or dramatic genres

Please submit an abstract (200-300 words) and a brief biography (150 words) by 1 December 2014 to all seminar conveners. All participants will be notified about the acceptance of their proposals by 1 March 2015. The deadline for submitting the completed seminar papers (3,000 words) is 1 May 2015.

Dr. Edel Semple (School of English, University College Cork)
Dr. Ema Vyroubalová (School of English, Trinity College Dublin)