Worldview Critical Edition of William Congreve’s The Way of the World
Although the ascendancy of Charles II on the English throne in 1660 was a restoration of Stuart hegemony, thereby giving the latter half of the seventeenth century its name, in reality the age heralded a new mode of living quite different from the one that existed in the pre-Civil War era. The culture and social mores that Charles II had imbibed during his exile at France were incorporated into English lifestyle with his coronation. The sudden release from Puritan stringency that had characterised life under Cromwell resulted in a general relaxation of morality that affected the dynamics of love, marriage, and human conduct. Theatre, following the long hiatus since 1642, re-emerged but did not pick up from where Jacobean or Caroline theatre had left off. Starting off with just two royally patented new playhouses that catered to changing audience tastes and composition, Restoration drama became a representation of a sophisticated urban sociability on stage.
William Congreve’s The Way of the World premiered at the Lincolns-Inn-Fields Theatre in the year 1700. Enacted by His Majesty’s Servants, the play has traditionally been regarded as one of the best yet last specimens of high Restoration comedy of manners. Thus, on one hand, it is a faithful representation of the modes and manners of the aristocratic beau-monde with its affected decorum, sexual intrigues, masquerades, and wit-battles; yet, on the other, it is irremediably inflected by the new socio-political, legal and aesthetic transformations affecting life at the turn of the seventeenth century. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 marked an economic shift from land-based wealth to business-generated capital; from Hobbesian absolutism to Lockeanpolitical liberalism; and an ideological movement away from satire and sceptical libertinism towards rational utilitarianism and moral optimism.
The poor reception of Congreve’s last yet finest play can partly be related to this changing worldview, and its unduly harsh critique by contemporary moralists such as Jeremy Collier and later dismissal by commentators such as Charles Lamb for being escapist in nature was to influence the critical afterlife of Restoration drama as culturally snobbish, ethically trivial, thematically boring, and theatrically stale for the next two hundred years. It was only in 1924 that BonamyDobrée’s influential reassessment of these comedies led to a fresh understanding of them and their gradual assimilation into the canon. The inclusion of and prominence given to The Way of the World in the English syllabi of literature departments globally has followed from this reappraisal. Despite this, there still exists a considerable lack of critical resources that offer fresh perspectives on the play and point out its import for a temporally, culturally and ideologically displaced twenty-first century readership.
The present volume, a part of the Worldview Critical Edition Series, is an attempt to create a comprehensive critical compendium on the text that would bring together a detailed “General Introduction”, "The Text" of the play with annotations, selective “Early Criticisms” of the play from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth century, followed by “Critical Essays” on various thematic concerns that will offer new insights on the play as well as account for its relevance in the academia for more than three hundred years after its first performance. For this third part, previously unpublished analytical papers are invited on areas which may include, but are not limited to:
The Way of the World and:
1. Restoration and/or post-Revolution politics
2. Urban sociability
3. Capital and commerce
4. Social class
6. Wit, rhetoric, and language
The volume will be edited by Dr. Sonia Sahoo (Professor, Department of English, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India) and Ms. Deblina Hazra (Assistant Professor, Department of English, Mahishadal Raj College, Vidyasagar University, West Bengal, India), and will be published by Worldview Publications.
- Abstracts should be within 300 words and clearly state the research question that is being addressed in the paper.
- Final papers will have to be within 6000-8000 words (inclusive of bibliography and endnotes).
- All in-text citations and bibliographic entries should follow the MLA style-sheet (8th edition).
- Papers should be written in MS Word, in Times New Roman font, size 12, with double spacing, and margin of one inch on all four sides.
Abstracts and contributors’ bio-notes are to be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 5th October, 2020.
Selected abstracts will be notified via e-mail.
Deadline for submission of complete papers is 5th November, 2020.
Final acceptance and publication of paper is subject to the discretion of the editors and publisher.