The Burney Performances: Life, Works, World

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Burney Society of North America
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The Burney Society of North America will hold its 20th annual general meeting and conference in Montreal on October 9-10, 2014, at McGill University's McCord Museum of History, in coordination with the 2014 Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America. The Burney Society is a group of scholars and serious lay readers interested in Burney's works and dedicated to furthering knowledge about Frances Burney and her family.


To treat any object, work or product 'as' performance—a painting, a novel, a shoe, or anything at all—means to investigate what the object does, how it interacts with other objects or beings, and how it relates to other objects or beings. Performances exist only as actions, interactions and relationships.
—Richard Schechner

Performance studies is an interdisciplinary field of inquiry that posits that every human action or event can be examined in light of the elements that create it and the effect it has on participants and witnesses.  In addition to the usual things we consider "performance" (theatrical works, dance, musical recitals, etc.), acts and events as various as the Warren Hastings Trial, attendance at Ranalegh, and even the operating table can be understood as containing performative elements worthy of examination.

In the eighteenth century, few authors' surviving bodies of life and work provide a richer field of possible sites for the study of performance than that of Frances Burney and her family.  Growing up in a family of ambitious musicians, dramatists, well-traveled memoirists, and a schoolmaster/priest, Burney herself grew up keenly aware of her every act and how it might be viewed.

With this in mind, the Burney Society invites submissions on any aspect of France Burney or her family's life or work in the context of performance, including papers that focus on Burney in conjunction with her contemporaries.  

Possible papers could assess:
- the performative nature of the journals and life-writing
- prefatory and other material as performances of authorship
- rituals and various mannered performances of the Court years
- elements of performance in the novels
- Charles Burney's career as organist or as producer of theatrical adaptations
- Charles Burney Jr.'s careers as schoolmaster and priest
- Susan Burney's notes on the performance careers of many friends of the Burney family

Please send one-page proposals for papers and panels to Emily Friedman at by May 30, 2014. Please mention any audio/visual requirements in the proposal, explaining why they are necessary. (Note that it may not be possible to provide such services.) Submissions from graduate students are especially welcome. Participants will be notified by August 1, 2014.
It is not necessary to be a member of the Burney Society to submit a proposal, but presenters at the Conference must be members. For more information about the Burney Society and membership, please visit the Burney Centre website at