Women, Domesticity and Closet Drama - RSA Dublin, 2021

deadline for submissions: 
July 25, 2020
full name / name of organization: 

Women, Domesticity and Closet Drama in Early Modern England


A proposal for an Epistémè-sponsered panel at RSA Dublin, 2021


We are seeking proposals for an Epistémè-sponsored panel at RSA Dublin, 2021, entitled ‘Women, Domesticity and Closet Drama in Early Modern England’. This panel seeks to examine women’s agency in closet drama by questioning its definition as a ‘domestic’ genre. Closet drama is traditionally defined in opposition to commercial theatre, by pitting professional companies performing in front of a wide, mostly anonymous audience against amateur writers and actors performing for a restricted audience of families and friends within the home. This domestic context enabled women to perform at least some of the parts in plays that portray and usually focus on complex female characters, allowing them to break to a certain extent from the social constraints of the early modern stage, from which women were barred. Yet closet drama often engages with political, societal and historical issues, using the protected space of the home to reflect upon the wider cultural environment in which it takes place. Although these plays were first devised for a restricted circle, then circulated in manuscript form, they were also usually published – most notably those written by women: Mary Sidney Herbert’s Antonius (1592) and Elizabeth Cary’s The Tragedy of Mariam (1613). Those are usually considered as respectively the first and last of the corpus, which also comprises Fulke Greville’s Mustapha (1596) and Alaham (1601), Thomas Kyd’s Cornelia (1594) or Samuel Daniel’s Philotas (1604), among others. To what extent, therefore, can such plays be called ‘domestic’? How do they make use of the specificities of a private, enclosed space for their own production? What role(s) did the materiality of the home play in the creation of these plays, and did it influence the materiality of the texts themselves? How does closet drama challenge our understanding of what is private and what is public, and how did women in particular make use of such ambiguities to explore certain issues, affirm their own voices and legitimise their authorship? Despite the generalising phrase, ‘closet drama’, the corpus brings together plays whose similarities should not eclipse their differences, so that the responses to these questions will not necessarily be the same for all of the plays in the corpus. We are inviting proposals for examinations of individual plays, comparative and cross-cultural approaches, as well as gender and material-oriented perspectives.


150-word abstracts, together with a one-page CV (indicating current affiliation and a valid email address) can be sent by July 25, 2020 to Aurélie Griffin : aurelie.griffin@sorbonne-nouvelle.fr