Sexual Violence on the Early Modern English Stage

full name / name of organization: 
RSA Boston 2016
contact email: 

This session seeks to explore the representation of sexual violence on the English stage as both a trope and as an articulation of early modern patriarchal systems of authority and governance. From the threatened rape of Mariana in Pericles to Heywood's Rape of Lucrece and Fletcher's Bonduca, sexual violence permeated the London stage. By considering the role of sexual violence within early modern theatrical culture, this session will investigate how anxieties regarding gender norms were literally performed, how individual playwrights resisted, complied with, or complicated prevailing notions of gendered behaviour, and how the threat of sexual violence functioned as a strategy of gendered governance in the period.

Paper proposals are invited on the following topics, though need not be limited to them:
representations of Biblical or Classical narratives of rape and violence (e.g. Helen, Lucretia)
the performance of gendered sexual violence by male bodies
the bed-trick as a form of sexual violence
representations of trauma and sexual violence
rape culture and early modern English masculinity
the signification of etiological rape myths (such as Procne, the rape of the Sabine women) in early modern drama

If interested, please send 150 word paper proposals and a 300 word (maximum) curriculum vitae to Andrew Bretz ( by June 7. All submissions should be in English. Graduate student work is welcome.