Dramatizing the text and making the performance literary: Unifying the binary

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Lloyd Edward Kermode / Renaissance Society of America
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How do we appreciate affect and sympathy in the dramatic text without resorting to naïve, essentialist, old-fashioned liberal-humanist, and theoretically bankrupt readings? How do we read a “playscript” with a literary intelligence and rigor that informs rather than puts itself in opposition to performance. In spite of work by Peter Holland, Martin White, and Christie Carson and Farah Karim-Cooper, and performance organizations such as Poculi Ludique, there remains a distinct separation between literary studies of early modern drama that pays lip service to “performance” and actors and theater studies practitioners who dismiss the “obstacle” of scholarly glossarial notes and work with a very different set of theoretical parameters from literary scholars. Which dramatic texts from the period can act as litmus tests for the usefulness of performance study to literature and literary study to performance? In what ways might specific readings and specific literary questions (be they about syntax, context, genre, or any other topic) help a performance’s interrogation of a dramatic moment? In what ways might the somatic, sympathetic, and cognitive activity of playing specific scenes, lines, characters, genres, etc. force us to read for different interpretive results? Where is the richness in each of the modes in this (false) binary, and how can we share the wealth such that we find a new world of singular dramatic investigation?

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