Medieval English Theatre Conference: Bodies, Embodiment and Early Theatre

Alan Walters Building G11
Saturday 1 April 2023 (08:00-20:00)
Detail from Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 264, f. 63v.  Copyright Bodleian Libraries.

‘In the theatre, the body bears the brunt of performance; it is the material… [the] text works on, works through.’  (Carol C. Rutter)

Bodies are central to the experience of live theatre, both those of audience members and those of the performers themselves.   Performing bodies, as Rutter suggests, ‘bear’ the performance, both in the sense of suffering it, and bodying it forth.  They submit to its effects and rigours. They display particular attire, they move in particular ways, they may represent particular aspects of a narrative or a state. They may inscribe and enforce boundaries between performance and spectators, or they may seek to efface those boundaries.  Likewise, they may establish and enforce binary structures and concepts (e.g. female/male, soul/body, life/death), or dissolve and complicate them. Without bodies as ‘material’ through and on which to work, theatre, in Rutter’s formulation, is simply ‘text’.  Performing bodies may, moreover, shape this text as they perform it, and they may also be shaped by it.

This year, the Medieval English Theatre conference invites delegates to consider bodies and embodiment in relation to any aspect of early theatre.   This might include (but is not limited to):

  • The body gendered
  • The body visualised
  • The body adorned
  • The sexual body
  • The suffering body
  • Spectating bodies / spectators as a body
  • Bodies and boundaries
  • The soul v. the body
  • The dead and dying body
  • The allegorical body
  • The corpus
  • Our bodies of knowledge and their construction

 Registration for this conference is now closed.

For over forty years the Medieval English Theatre society conferences have offered an opportunity for intellectual collaboration and the journal has presented some of the best scholarship that has resulted from the vibrant intellectual network that is METh.

Image from Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 264, f. 63v.  Copyright Bodleian Libraries

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