Italian Theatre and its Publics: 1500-Present

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Lauren Surovi / NeMLA
contact email: 

Panel Session in Italian / Cultural Studies and Media Studies at the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) Convention Chairs

Lauren Surovi (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Corie Marshall (University of Wisconsin-Madison)


This panel seeks to explore the literary traditions of Italian theatre and its intersections with the political, social, cultural, and aesthetic concerns of its playwrights, taking into consideration their engagement with the variety of publics their works addressed. A theatrical piece requires an audience, which makes it distinct from other types of literature, raising important questions related to the significance and value of theatre’s performative nature. Furthermore, the publics who engage and are engaged by theatrical works change over time, leading to the attribution of new sociopolitical and cultural meanings to the works in question. As the scope of this inquiry is broad, papers may address any theatrical genre, from tragedy and comedy to pastoral, historical, absurdist, avantgarde, and more, beginning with the earliest years of Italian theatre in the late 15th and early 16th centuries to the modern era.

Some questions raised by this panel might include: How did these plays represent the historical, political, social, and cultural realities of their time? How are authorial intentions expressed through choice of genre? What message, explicit or implicit, did the playwright seek to transmit through the collective witnessing of a given audience? How does the changing reception of a particular theatrical work reflect historical or cultural shifts? Who are the publics that theatrical works address, and how do they impact on the works’ potential for meaning making over time?

Description This session will explore Italian theatre and its intersections with the political, social, cultural, and aesthetic concerns of its playwrights and audiences from 1500 to the present. Of particular interest are papers that examine the relationship between theatrical audiences and meaning making and the shifts in this relationship over time. Overall, this panel seeks to explore the wider implications of this performative medium and its impact on the publics engaged with it.