The long-standing conception of dramatic authorship, which privileges the creative output of a single authorial mind, results from an oversimplification of the manifold practices of cultural production from which plays emerged in early modern England. “Practices of Collaboration in Early Modern Theatre: Authors, Actors, Printers, Playhouses, and Their Texts” aims to analyse early modern plays as the products of a complex culture of collaboration which was pervasive in English theatre in its formative years (the late sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century). Current research on collaborative practices tends to be compartmentalised, alternatively privileging authorial ‘teamwork’; the interplay between playwrights and playing companies; or the printing of plays. As a result, a comprehensive theory of collaboration does not (yet) exist.
With this project, we propose to begin writing this theory by exploring a spectrum of collaborative practices between various agents in the early modern dramatic arena: authors, actors, printers, and playhouses. In short, the proposed project will crucially recalibrate the concept of authorship which, in both academia and the general public, has been modelled on Shakespeare. We argue for a paradigm shift in early modern studies which opens up a new perspective on the practices of collaboration that shaped English theatre. “Practices of Collaboration” is located at the intersection of literary studies, cultural studies, and early modern history, and invites academics working in the humanities, especially in theatre and performance studies, history, repertory studies, book studies, and literary studies as well as cultural studies more generally to take part in the discussion.
We are currently in the process of organising a conference on early modern collaboration and would love to explore the topic in more detail before and after the conference. If you are working on collaboration in early modern theatre in the wider sense of the word and are interested in writing a guest post for our blog, for instance, do let us know – we would be keen to hear from you!