My aim in this essay is to draw together two areas of study from cinema and theatre. The first is the theory of popular genres, their evolutionary cycle, and their role in the industrial development of Hollywood in the first half of the twentieth century, as explored by theorists and historians of cinema. The second is the early modern genre of revenge tragedy and its generic self-consciousness and metatheatricality. Insights from the film industry can build our understanding of the so-called Wars of the Theatres at the very end of the sixteenth century as a distinctly commercial phenomenon haunted by one genre in particular: revenge tragedy. Following Roslyn Knutson, I see the phenomenon of theatre rivalry in the period from around 1598 to 1601 as mutually beneficial industrial partnership rather than bitter ideological and interpersonal competition. Using the industrial organization of the studio system in Hollywood as an analogue for the developing business of theatre, I argue that revenge tragedy is an under-recognized generic engine of this serial commercial theatre experience developed by a mature entertainment industry operating as a kind of professional cartel. Just as revenge tragedy implicates its characters in a web of action and reaction, so the genre enacts and codifies early modern theatre’s commercial bonds.
Overview of the field soft peddling my own take on the area of study.
A group dedicated to supporting scholarship and teaching on the period from c. 1400 – c. 1650. All regions of the world and disciplines welcome!
For all things early modern theater related.
Review of Women in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe edited by Christine Meek (Four Courts Press, 2000)
Review of Historicism, Psychoanalysis, and Early Modern Culture by Carla Mazzio and Douglas Trevor
Review of the book “The Vesuvian Eruption of 1631: an Early Modern History” (by Alfonso Tortora)
Brett D. Hirsch, “Lycanthropy in Early Modern England: The Case of John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi.” Diseases of the Imagination and Imaginary Disease in the Early Modern Period. Ed. Yasmin Haskell. Turnhout: Brepols, 2011. 297-337.
Cognitive Approaches to Early Modern Spanish Literature is the first anthology exploring human cognition and literature in the context of early modern Spanish culture. It includes the leading voices in the field, along with the main themes and directions that this important area of study has been producing. The book begins with an overview of the cognitive literary studies research that has been taking place within early modern Spanish studies over the last fifteen years. Next, it traces the creation of self in the context of the novel, focusing on Cervantes’s Don Quixote in relation to the notions of embodiment and autopoiesis as well as the faculties of memory and imagination as understood in early modernity. It continues to explore the concept of embodiment, showing its relevance to delve into the mechanics of the interaction between actors and audience both in the jongleuresque and the comedia traditions. It then centers on cognitive theories of perception, the psychology of immersion in fictional worlds, and early modern and modern-day notions of intentionality to discuss the role of perceiving and understanding others in performance, Don Quixote, and courtly conduct manuals. The last section focuses on the affective dimension of audience-performer interactions in the theatrical space of the Spanish corrales and how emotion and empathy can inform new approaches to presenting Las Casas’s work in the literature classroom. The volume closes with an afterword offering strategies to design a course on mind and literature in early modernity.
Ch. 13 of Widowhood and Visual Culture in Early Modern Europe