The Next Act: Approaches to the Problem of the Theatre Canon in Undergraduate Education

deadline for submissions: 
August 31, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Lindsey Mantoan / Linfield College
contact email: 


for a new anthology


The Next Act: Approaches to the Problem of the Theatre Canon in Undergraduate Education

Co-Editors: Lindsey Mantoan, Matthew Moore, and Angela Farr Schiller


Canonicity is not only a list of texts, but a way of thinking about what the texts signify.

- Randy Laist

“The Self-Deconstructing Canon:

Teaching the Survey Course Without Perpetuating Hegemony.”

Currents in Teaching and Learning Vol. 1 No. 2 (2009): 51


The purpose of the book is to interrogate the function and consequence of a dramatic canon as the foundational spine of a Western undergraduate education in theatre. This project takes up the primary objective of deeply questioning the politics and complex entanglements of our Western pedagogical investment in canonizing within the field, practice, and formation of undergraduate theatre education. While canon formation occupies a fair amount of informal attention in our field--scholars and teachers often wax philosophical about it, crowd-source syllabi ideas, and participate in sessions at conferences—our field, unlike English, lacks a full-length study of the theatrical canon. Thus far, there have only been niche books about the dramatic literature canon and it’s profoundly important that we as a field undertake a broader conversation about the problem of the canon in undergraduate education. This volume takes up a 21st century, field-specific, formal conversation between scholars, educators, and artists from varying generational, geographical, and identity positions that speak to the wide array of debates around dramatic canons, undergraduate education in theatre, and practical strategies towards answering the question: where do we go from here?


It is undeniable that “the White, Eurocentric, Heteronormative, Male dominated canon,” often called simply “the canon,” remains central to undergraduate theater education and that it upholds investments in white supremacy and heternormativity. And yet every year, faculty members teaching classes and survey courses with titles such as “Theatre History,” “Introduction to Theatre,” “Theatre for Non-Majors”, or “The Great Works” (to name a few) often reach back to the canons of their undergraduate/graduate training or rely heavily on anthologies to lay out “the basics.” Most scholars in our field acknowledge the problems of the canon; nevertheless, “the canon” and anthologies that maintain “the canon” have occupied center stage in curricula and production seasons in ways that are exclusionary. It is perhaps an understandable human impulse to want to embrace the familiar, and to want a group of texts we all might have “in common.” Additionally, the idea of dispensing with the canon entirely might leave people feeling unmoored.


So, how do we--and should we--navigate these waters? Placing special emphasis on the academy, its role in reasserting the value of canons, the finitude of educational frameworks, the limitations of production seasons, and the economic imperatives facing undergraduate theatre departments, we ask: what kinds of formations can occupy the spotlight for this next act of theater and performance? And what kinds of dialogues are happening across our discipline about the canon and its uses?


Topics might address:

●      What politics guide canonical formations in undergraduate education?

●      What practices manifest this abstract body of works called “the canon”?

●      What power structures and philosophies do we appeal to when we use the term canon?

●      How might we engage canons in socially just and historically meaningful ways?  How might we best intervene upon the reproduction of exclusionary cultural forces like canonization?

●      Is it productive to replace the canon with a multiplicity of canons?

●      Given that the canon is so well-known, and educators and artists have so little time, how do we create resources for people to learn new texts?

●      How might teaching practices engage, reject, and revise the tradition of texts and practices that constitute “the canon”?

●      How do we address the challenges of the production season vis-a-vis the canon?

●      How do we account for the fundamental texts for understanding theatre in our time?

●      What space do we owe to our heavily policed, idiosyncratic, and scripted inheritance?

●      What other models of education might be employed and to what effect?

●      Must we, in our efforts to assert equity and inclusion in the 21st century, become neo-futurists, rejecting everything that came before, or is there a middle way, a decolonization, a revisionist practice that can reform, reopen and resuscitate canonicity?

●      What do we do about anthologies, which are so practical but also reassert the canon?

●      What will be lost in some of the moves toward canonical reform? How might these shifts positively and negatively affect ‘traditions’, cultural memory, and historical perspective?


Details/Logistics for Submission

Given our interest in expanding the conversation about texts in classrooms and on stages, we encourage those interested in contributing to the anthology to do so in pairs, with their contribution appearing in the form of a dialogue. For dialogues, please submit a 500-word abstract written in dialogic form, along with 50-word biographies for both authors, all in a single document. We will also consider single-authored chapters--for these, please submit a 350-word abstract along with a 50-word bio, both in the same document. Submissions should be sent to by AUGUST 31, 2019.