NEW DATE: The Past is Back on Stage – Medieval and Early Modern England on the Contemporary Stage

deadline for submissions: 
January 31, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
EMMA at University Paul-Valéry, Montpellier, France

The Past is Back on Stage – Medieval and Early Modern England on the Contemporary Stage

EMMA, University Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, France

19-20 May 2017


Keynote speaker: David Edgar, playwright.


From the 1960s when Robert Bolt wrote A Man for All Seasons first for BBC radio, then for television and finally for the stage, to the 2010s when Hilary Mantel’s successful novel Wolf Hall was adapted to the stage and then for television, the past several decades have witnessed a renewed interest in medieval and early modern England among contemporary writers and audiences.

The extended period from the Protestant Reformation to the Glorious Revolution provides novelists, playwrights, and screenwriters with material through which to engage pressing current issues, and the success of their works among diverse socio-economic, ethnic, and generational groups indicates a popular phenomenon that reaches beyond academic and artistic communities.

This international conference, organized by EMMA at University Paul-Valéry in Montpellier, France, aims to understand why contemporary playwrights find this particular past appealing. More precisely, it aims to shed light on the political and cultural significance of medieval and early modern England for twentieth- and twenty-first century writers and audiences.

Centring on contemporary theatre in the English-speaking world, it invites scholars of medieval, early modern, and contemporary drama, performance, and culture to submit papers on any of the following topics:

-       History Plays: what do playwrights deem useful about the past in the creation of politically-committed theatre? Could such a distant period be considered as a valid mirror image of our contemporary world? How are the uses of the past today comparable to the way it was used by medieval and early modern dramatic writers?

-       Medieval Exceptionality: why is this particular period of English history seen as a cultural reference which is understood and appropriated world-wide?

-       The Place of Diversity: how do women, racial and ethnic minorities, writers from nations and national traditions outside England, respond to and use the medieval English past?

-       Rewriting History: what is the cultural, historical and political bias of contemporary writers and audiences?

-       Recreation and Entertainment: the choice of certain historical figures as new heroes may be discussed, as well as the way those historical figures may be depicted as endearing champions of the Good, or loathsome villains, for the entertainment of audiences today.

-       Canonicity and Beyond: to what extent and in what ways do contemporary playwrights allude to, adapt, endorse, expand on and/or critique the canon?

-       Adapting Elizabethan Theatre: how do contemporary playwrights, stage-directors or theatre companies rewrite and renew Elizabethan plays for contemporary audiences? How can they use the assets of site-specific performance?

Our plenary speaker will be British playwright and writer David Edgar, who has had more than sixty of his plays published and performed on stage, radio and television around the world. Edgar has repeatedly looked to other periods and other writers to engage the stage and screen as media for political activism. Most recently, in Written on the Heart, which was produced in 2011 by the Royal Shakespeare Company on the occasion of the four-hundredth anniversary of the King James Bible, Edgar exposed the historical situatedness and composite composition of this “authoritative” text of scripture.

Please send proposals of no more than 300 words in English and a brief CV indicating your institutional affiliation to Marianne Drugeon ( by January 31, 2017. Notification of acceptance will be sent by March 15, 2017.