CFP: Textualities of American Drama (ALA Boston, May 23-26)

deadline for submissions: 
January 10, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Michael D'Alessandro

Textualities of American Drama: What are the textual forms of American drama? Dramatic works produced during the nineteenth century (an age largely dominated by spectacular melodrama) and the early twentieth century (an era that turned imperfectly to dramatic realism) are often studied according to their production histories rather than their circulation as printed play texts. But the publication of dramatic texts was a significant subplot of the expanding publishing industry throughout the United States. How did the making and consumption of plays in print shape the literary status of American drama? How did publishers, booksellers, and other literary agents create contexts for understanding works remembered primarily as stage entertainments? To what extent did authors imagine their audience as readers rather than theatergoers, and how did that imagination shape conventions of dramatic form? What kinds of readers—including and beyond actors and stage managers—interacted with play texts, and what was the nature of those interactions? If, as several cultural historians have argued, the end of the nineteenth century marks a widening chasm between popular culture and serious art, in what ways did play texts serve to uphold or interrogate such categories?

For the 2019 ALA conference in Boston (May 23-26), we seek papers examining the drama as a circulating text—and specifically as printed literature—during the long nineteenth century. Topics might include the history of American play text publishing (by Samuel French, De Witt’s, and other houses) during the era, archival studies of prompt books and play scripts, primary accounts of reading drama as literature, records of public and/or private engagement with drama texts, genre studies (melodrama, realism, naturalism, etc.) of printed play texts, histories of transatlantic printing and reprinting of drama texts, or other related topics.


Please email an abstract of 300 words and a CV to Michael D’Alessandro 

( and Blevin Shelnutt ( by January 10.