CFP: Queering Childhood in Early Modern English Drama (essay collection)
Call for Papers Deadline:
We are seeking essays that queer our existing notions of what constitutes childhood in early modern English drama by examining intersections between gender, sexuality, class, and representations of children on stage. As recent scholarship has suggested, early modern children seem to have occupied liminal spaces between discrete categories (infancy / adulthood) and so could provoke considerable category crisis. This collection aims to interrogate the role that drama played in creating “the child” as a social category in early modern England and to investigate whether and how early modern childhood might be considered a queer category. We hope to find essays that interrogate the monolithic quality of terms like “child,” “boy,” and “girl” in ways that further our understanding of how gender inflected childhood (and vice versa) in early modern English drama.
Studying dramatic representations of gender and childhood poses a particular scholarly challenge given the complicated relationship between boys and female characters on the professional stage. Whereas critics tended to focus on the body of the boy actress in the 1990s, the past decade has seen a rising interest in representations of children as children, from Shakespeare’s little princes to the children who performed in the London mayor’s pageants to children who featured in masques and other entertainments. We would like to draw from these critical accounts and find ways to ask questions about representations of gender and childhood that advance beyond assertions that boys functioned as metonyms for women. What other kinds of social and dramatic functions did children serve? How does stage representation elucidate and complicate our understanding of how children were gendered in early modern England? What did it mean to be a boy or a girl, and what other gendered categories might children occupy? When do children reinforce early modern notions of sexual and gender differences, and when do they collapse them? How do constructions of class, race, sexuality, and gender complicate representations of childhood, and how does childhood, in turn, complicate those constructions?
Given that female children were excluded from performing in the professional playing companies, it can be difficult to discuss representations of childhood on the public stage without talking exclusively about boyhood. We are therefore interested in essays that confront the question of whether there are ways to locate constructions of girlhood within early modern drama, or whether all representations of childhood on the stage are ultimately reducible to representations of boyhood. Were children gendered differently in drama written for the adult professional stage versus those of the boys’ companies? Did children function in different ways depending on venue or genre, for example? And to what extent are we articulating our own contemporary concerns when we seek to stabilize the category of the child or to understand boyhood and girlhood as separate concepts?
Please send abstracts of approximately 500 words to Jennifer Higginbotham (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Mark Johnston (email@example.com) by May 1, 2010. Completed essays of 8,000-9,00 words of will be due at the end of summer 2010.
Jennifer Higginbotham and Mark Johnson
Ohio State University and University of Windsor
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