Early modern drama, archives and performing memory

deadline for submissions: 
August 31, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Sally Barnden / King's College London

This collection will consider relationships between performances and archives, and the impact of race, gender, sexuality, and class on how performance is documented. It will ask what is remembered and forgotten by theatre archives, how archives supplement and occasionally supplant memories of performances, and how those memories and omissions carry into later performances. 


It also invites responses to digitisation of performances and archives, and reflections on how our relationship to past performance might look in the future. It welcomes contributions from scholars working on performance archives, cultural memory, digital cultures and media history, and especially from those seeking ways to forge connections between these sub-fields.


The collection will ask: 

  • What use do productions of early modern plays make of pre-existing archives?
  • How do personal and cultural memory intersect with archival material in writing about performances of early modern drama? 
  • How are race, gender, sexuality and class performed in the archive?
  • How are ‘liveness’ and ‘ephemerality’ conditioned by digital cultures?


These questions are informed by scholars who have sought to complicate relationships between archives and memory. Diana Taylor suggests that ‘performance makes visible (for an instant, live, now) that which is always already there’ (143), offering an alternative to the chronological arrangement of ephemeral performance and lasting archive, suggesting that archives may become the raw material for subsequent performances. Barbara Hodgdon encouraged an imaginative approach to performance archives; she wrote ‘the leftovers that fascinate me are not indexical signs of a theatrical past; rather, the work they do is neither strictly archival nor documentary but performative’ (6). M.J. Kidnie reflects on how citations of performance can ‘come to replace, rather than aid, memory’ (123) when they are repeated in archives, reviews, and criticism. 


This collection takes up their invitation to consider a relationship between archives and memory which may be atemporal, competitive, or performative. It will explore performances and archives in the contexts of feminism, critical race theory and digital cultures.


Please send abstracts to Sally Barnden at sally.l.barnden@gmail.com before 31 August 2021.  


Contributions may address (but are not limited to): 

  • Archived and unarchived theatrical labour
  • Administrative vs. creative archiving
  • Tangible vs. digital archiving 
  • Performance traces located in spaces and objects
  • Archival omissions and archival violence 
  • Inequalities in the archive (for example, of gender, race, sexuality, ability, and age)
  • Memories working with or against the archival grain 
  • Performance as archive; archive as performance 
  • Hierarchies of archival objects (video, audio and text; print and manuscript; photographs and paintings; live and mediated witnessing)
  • Temporalities of performance, archive, and memory


Works Cited

Hodgdon, Barbara. Shakespeare, Performance and the Archive (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016)

Kidnie, Margaret Jane. ‘Citing Shakespeare’ in Shakespeare, Memory, and Performance ed. by Peter Holland (Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 117-32

Taylor, Diana. The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003)