Panel proposal at RSA 2018 (New Orleans, March 2018): Spectrality and Early Modern Spectacle

deadline for submissions: 
June 1, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Carlo Lanfossi, Daniel Villegas Vélez
contact email: 

Call for Papers

Renaissance Society of America 2018 (New Orleans, 22-24 March 2018)


We invite scholars to submit a paper proposal for the following panel:

Spectrality and Early Modern Spectacle

Spectacles and specters summon each other. Opera, for example, was born from a deadly premise: to resuscitate an invented idea of classical tragedy. In so doing, it invoked ghosts, both onstage and as a discursive trope, that have haunted early modern opera since its inception. More generally, the phantasmatic quality of baroque performance is made evident in the tension between the visual and the aural that animates spectacle. Staged personae seek to bring back deceased figures from the past through the mediums of voice, props, and machinery. Ghosts onstage—like the specter of Hamlet’s father—mediate issues of sovereignty and secularization, life and non-life that haunt modernity’s drive to overcome its past. Both present and absent, the figure of the specter puts into question the oppositions that underlie both historicist approaches and performance studies. Spectacle also summons the specter of colonialism: although white apparitions frequented the theater during the early modern period, countless of Europe’s others haunted its courts without ever appearing on its stage.

While Hamlet has long attracted the attention of critics interested in spectrality, this interdisciplinary panel seeks to examine a wide cross-section of early modern spectacle and their afterlives as spectral events, from opera to feste, masques, prose theater etc. Topics might include the relation between historicism, performance studies, and haunting; ghosting and performance theory; issues of political theology, sovereignty, and secularization; transatlantic spectrality and decolonial hauntologies; spectacle, spectrality, and materiality on the stage.

Please submit a paper title, abstract (150-word max.), and a short CV (300-word max.) by June 1st to Daniel Villegas Vélez (daniel.villegas -at- and Carlo Lanfossi (lanfossi -at-