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Monday, April 23, 2007

BtR Reading Group: university drama, anyone?

I've been thinking that this would be a good time for the second in our long-running series of book club selections, with the academic year finally winding down. And, apropos of nothing (part of the idea of the reading group, to my mind at least, is that it gives us an opportunity--or forces us, depending on how you look at it--to read things not exactly in our areas of study), I've been wanting to learn more about university drama. It strikes me that this is an entire area of dramatic writing and performance that lies largely outside my ken; while I've read a few university plays, the whole process of their production, their integration into the educational regime and the culture of the universities, well, let's just say that all of that eagerly looks forward to being understood by me.

I wonder: does this interest anyone other than me?

As for Truewit's desire for the death of the (reading group) author, you can't get more dead than F.S. Boas, whose University Drama in the Tudor Age (1914) seems still to be a basic reference in the field. But surely there are more up-to-date books we might read on university drama, even if their authors are living. One possibility is Alan Nelson's Early Cambridge Theatres: College, University, and Town Stages, 1464-1720 (oddly published by Cambridge, 1994).

Any thoughts? Suggestions?

  • At 4/24/2007 05:01:00 AM, Blogger Adam wrote…

    i'd be up for this, definitely. i know almost zero about the field, though: apart from a few bits about william strode, whose 'floating island' was performed in Oxford in 1633 for charles' visit -- and was judged by several obsevers to be the worst play they had ever seen.


  • At 4/24/2007 07:07:00 AM, Blogger Crispinella wrote…

    Me too, with similar confessions of almost complete ignorance... I've read at least one Parnassus, and Daniel's Queen's Arcadia (if that counts), but otherwise zilch...


  • At 4/24/2007 08:04:00 AM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    Personally, I like it. Been meaning to learn more about UD for years now.


  • At 4/24/2007 08:23:00 AM, Blogger Flogging the Renaissance wrote…

    My recent posting, concerning the date of All's Lost By Lust, might be of some interest, and perhaps even a useful corrective to you and yourreaders. I am very grateful for this opportunity of collegial and ongoing conversation, and for the continued interest provided by your web-log. FMT (Dr.)


  • At 4/24/2007 11:44:00 AM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    I can't say I care about this particularly, but I'm willing to go along. It's clearly time for us to resuscitate the reading group.


  • At 4/24/2007 12:07:00 PM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    I'm in (even though I'm supposed to be just a poetry person and all). I'm all for bad plays- let's learn more about Strode's 'Floating Island'. It'll be like searching for bad 80s videos on early modern Youtube!


  • At 4/24/2007 12:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    i'm in for either primary texts or Boas.

    p.s. muse, for some reason, duran duran's rio is now ringing in my head.


  • At 4/24/2007 01:24:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    You know how some early 20th century scholars say things like "Elizabethan" when they mean "through 1616" (I'm looking at you, EK Chambers), or say "Tudor" when they mean "Tudor/Stuart"? Well, not so of FS Boas. I've got his book from the library now, and he really means Tudor England. So there's extremely little post-1603 in it.

    Chapters include "Biblical plays at Oxford," "Biblical plays at Cambridge," "Early Academic Comedy," "Queen Elizabeth at Cambridge (1564) and Oxford (1566)," "The Senecan Chronicle Play at Cambridge," "Cambridge Comedies of Italian Origin," "The Oxford Stage 1566-1582," "William Gager's Later Christ Church Plays," "Friends and Foes of the Univ Stage," "The Queen's Second Visit to Oxford (1592) and After," "More Italianate Plays at Cambridge," "English Topical Comedies at Cambridge."

    Still interested?


  • At 4/24/2007 03:37:00 PM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    Sweet Jesus. The only thing I love more than William Gager's Later Christ Church Plays -- those early ones were crap -- is the thought of reading about "More Italianate Plays at Cambridge." Do you think that means more plays, or more Italianate plays? As in, "man, these plays are just so much more Italianate than those other plays."


  • At 4/24/2007 03:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    reading these chapter titles, i thought: i'm out. but, google books has a preview. I did some scanning and this is some crazy-fun stuff.

    consider, for example, the following (from the titular snore 'The Queen's Second Visit to Oxford'):

    “It is noticeable, however, that the theatrical programme arranged for the Queen’s amusement was shorter and less varied than in 1566. Even Elizabeth at fifty-nine could not go through so much at thirty-three," (253).

    so true.


  • At 4/24/2007 04:23:00 PM, Blogger Pedantius wrote…

    Hi. First off, I think I saw someone else using the name Pedantius on this site, but unless you're Virginia F. Stern, I think I had first dibs.

    I love the Parnassus Plays -- it would be great to hear a discussion of them by non-cobwebbed people. The funny thing for me is that the Return from Parnassus, rather than having only antiquarian interest, uncannily describes my experience as a PhD student right now.


  • At 4/24/2007 04:29:00 PM, Blogger Crispinella wrote…

    Does Felix Schelling win the vague chronology award? Exhibit A: Elizabethan Drama 1558-1642: A History of the Drama in England from the Accession of Queen Elizabeth to the Closing of the Theaters, to which is Prefixed a Résumé of the Earlier Drama from its Beginnings (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1908). (I'm going to prefix my next book with a résumé...)


  • At 4/24/2007 05:01:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    FWIW, the Nelson book is much shorter than the Boas one.

    Also, there was apparently a diss. on university drama completed in 2002--maybe the book we'd really like to read will be published in the next couple of years.


  • At 4/24/2007 06:15:00 PM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    I noticed a panel at RSA on University Drama featuring one "Christopher Marlow" as a presenter. Alas, I was trapped in the elevator (or was it the taxi from the airport hotel?) and so never managed to see what he had to say on the subject. Did anyone go? Did he wear tights and an earring?

    I'm up for either, though I'd rather just read selectively from Boas. I'm already curious about "Friends and Foes of the University Stage"- who, or what, could they be? Did they hide out in the back and pelt the actors with bread rolls?


  • At 4/24/2007 06:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    I think the Boas book sounds fascinating.


  • At 4/24/2007 07:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    aka Pasquil: I have missed out on a lot around here (way behind on grading until today). I would be interested in either Boas, Nelson, or the Parnassus plays. As one aside, Boas can be hilariously dated and biased, such as in his suggestion that the "superstitious" and "coarse tongued, cheery yokel" Hodge in Cambridge play Gammer Gurton's Needle is a "drawn from life" representation of Catholics because he believes in sprites and the like ... But perhaps his being dated could be oddly useful. Or, if current is better, maybe Nelson is the way to go. Anyway, I'm in.


  • At 4/24/2007 07:17:00 PM, Blogger Flavia wrote…

    This is rather far afield for me, but I'd certainly be interested in following the posts and comments on the subject even if I didn't do the reading myself.

    (And for whatever it's worth: I've been told by someone who DOES work on university drama--albeit of a different time period--that the dissertation Simplicius refers to is excellent. Haven't read it and don't know its author. . . but that's the word on the street.)


  • At 4/24/2007 11:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Apologies for the pseudonymous identity theft, Pedantius. I had a nagging sense that someone else had taken the name, but was too lazy to check.


  • At 4/24/2007 11:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    We have a grad student working on uni-drama. . . I'm partial to the Parnassus plays myself, but am generally game for anything pedagogy-related (pedagogy -- it's hot!). . . hell, that hilarious Gammer Gurton's Needle -- lo, it's a needle: lost, then found, stuck in a *bum! wha ha ha (thus English comedy is born) -- was written and performed for Cambridge. . .


  • At 4/25/2007 06:42:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Simplicius: I think the Boas book only looks longer than Nelson--it's got really big type, and it reads fast, because the prose is the very opposite of dense.

    I get the sense that Boas has more discussion of the plays themselves (Holzknecht-style), but Nelson far more detailed information about playing spaces, production practices, etc. They'd probably work well together, but that's way too much university drama for one blog. I guess I'd say go with Boas, because:

    a) he's got quick summaries of a lot of plays that might strike someone as worth further investigation;

    b) it'll be a very easy read;

    c) it's a standard reference and a foundational text, so a good starting point for people who might want to go on to read further in the area (and so move on to Nelson, e.g.)

    d) there will be funny, old-fashioned bits.


  • At 4/26/2007 07:03:00 AM, Blogger Adam wrote…

    i'd definitely be up for a bit of Boas, as my grandmother used to say.

    abe books has it at 22 dollars (the 1914 hardback). uk amazon comes up with a tidy 135 pounds which is -- what? -- 3,000 dollars, or something. we could put on an university drama for the same sum.


  • At 4/26/2007 10:57:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Boas is the best.


  • At 4/29/2007 11:57:00 AM, Blogger James wrote…

    I like the emergence of a Pseudo-Pedantius. Will there be an anti-Pedantius? Perhaps a schism of some kind where we can all declare allegiance to one Pedantius and be excommunicated by the other?

    I'm all for reading Boas, but I'd much rather do some plays. More or less Italianate; it matters not.


  • At 5/08/2007 12:52:00 AM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    I think on this site, we're all Pedantius.


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