Dramatising death and dying in British, Northern Irish and Irish drama and theatre

full name / name of organization: 
dr Katarzyna Bronk
contact email: 

Medieval drama taught its audiences not only about virtuous living but, more importantly, a good death and a joyful afterlife. Miracle plays re-played the most significant and most spectacular deaths known from the Gospels, while morality plays, such as Everyman, imagined the act of dying and the prospects for posthumous happiness of their main characters.

With the secularisation of drama, and, much later, the advent of revenge tragedies, the subjects of death and dying constituted the climactic moments of the plot. The sixteenth and seventeenth century plays imagined and represented a plethora of ways and means of dying, and the final words of dying characters gained in dramatic splendor ... and length. Generically, tragedies specialised in the theatricality of dying, but comedies pondered upon death as well, either in terms of the memory of the ancestors, threats to blocking characters or faked demises for the sake of a rogue trick.

In their many forms, staged or off-stage deaths not only sensationalised the dramatic plots but also reflected contemporary ideologies and cultural/religious perceptions of the idea of human finality. Thus, while celebrating and criticising life as it is or should be (depending on the period's dramatic theory), theatre creatively staged a multitude of versions and performances of ars moriendi, resultantly commenting on something more than the theatrical potential of the process of dying.

This prospective book takes up the subjects of staging and performing death and the act of dying in all periods/movements of/in British, Norther Irish and Irish theatre. The collected essays will offer a diachronic inquiry into the phenomenon and its representations in this visual medium.

We invite abstracts on the following topics but other notions related death and dying in drama across centuries are likewise encouraged:

•theatricality of death
•the ways and means of dying in British/Norther Irish/Irish drama across centuries (religious and secular drama)
•staging death; the spectacle of dying
•death and dying in 'closet drama'
•aesthetics of death and dying
•visualising death rites
•death as performance
•the influence of philosophical, religious and medical lessons and narratives pertaining to death on drama
•representations and meaning of death in tragedies
•comedy and death; 'comic' deaths
•gender and death/dying
•deserved/undeserved death
•peaceful deaths, violent deaths
•dramatic visions of afterlife
•the (gendered?) process of mourning
•dance macabre, non omnis moriar, etc. and British drama
•location of death/dying: on stage/off stage
•agency in death and dying; assisted deaths; murders; suicides, etc
•staging the final words; (gendered?) dramatic farewells
•performing deathbed repentance
•dramatic lessons on death
•faking death: happy and tragic instances
•comparative research on dramatising death and dying (vs French, German, Italian, American, etc)

Interested authors are kindly asked to send min. 500-word abstracts by 10th of February 2016 to dr Katarzyna Bronk (kbronk@wa.amu.edu.pl and bbronkk@gmail.com).

If accepted by the editors, selected abstracts will be collated into a thematic collection and proposed to an international publisher. Upon acceptance by the publisher, the authors will be asked to write full versions of their papers.