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English Department


DramaSCAPEs: The spatial, cognitive, affective and perceptual ecologies of early modern drama

DramaSCAPEs is a project in literary studies and theatre history that aims at developing an innovative conceptual framework for understanding early modern drama and its spatial, cognitive, affective and perceptual ecologies. The acronym not only indicates the dimensions of embodied experience in and of drama that the project will combine for the first time. As a term, ‘scape’ also provides a key concept through which the category of space (as a topographical location) will be rethought as an environment with specific affordances. We define ‘scape’ as a spatial organization that enables certain uses and modes of engagement. This concept allows us to redescribe the early modern theatre and the plays it staged as ‘dramascapes’ that related activities, actors and audiences in a dense web of material practices best understood as ‘ecologies’. We aim to rethink the settings in plays as well as the theatre itself as natural or built environments that afford certain uses, most importantly the forging and negotiating of inter-personal relationships in imagined, affective communities. Setting thereby becomes an ecology that highlights the co-presence and inter-action between humans, but also between humans and the non-human environment. Such ecologies exist not only in the play-world but also in the playhouse: characters, actors and audience are all emplaced as embodied subjects in the ‘taskscape’ of the playhouse that demands and affords a range of cognitive, affective and perceptual activities.

DramaSCAPEs will test this framework in three case studies that combine several of the dimensions through which the theatre culture between the 1580s and 1660s is to be studied. Each of the case studies is organised around a spatial paradigm: the mobility of people, goods and ideas as represented in early modern theatre, and the intersection of this mobility with the formation of communities; the motion of bodies (kinaesthetics) and orientation through sense perception (proprioception) in the playworld and the playhouse; and the site-responsivity of performances that draw on audiences’ affectively charged memories of the performance site’s prior uses. Each spatial paradigm will be explored as an ecology by looking at the ways in which embodied subjects enter into relations of mutual exchange and dependency with their material environments. These relations are forged through the co-presence of human beings and objects, as well as through the cognitive, affective and perceptual processes that are afforded by and take place in response to that environment.

DramaSCAPEs will develop a new method for studying early modern drama, the material, embodied conditions of its performance and reception, as well as its potential for organizing collective responses to socio-politics issues. Outputs will consist of two monographs by doctoral students, a volume of conference proceedings and two research articles by the PI, and an online glossary that makes the vocabulary and methodology developed in this intersectional project available to the scientific community. Thereby, it will contribute to restructuring the conceptual frameworks and critical vocabulary in related fields like cultural geography, distributed cognition studies, affect studies and historical phenomenology. Moreover, its recovery of the theatre’s central role in shaping cognitive, affective and perceptual behaviours in the early modern playhouse and outside of it will provide important impulses for understanding such processes in the performance-scapes of today.

Team members involved: Isabel Karremann, Ann-Sophie Bosshard, Timothy Holden, Lukas Arnold, Jifeng Huang


The Feminist Enlightenment Across Europe

How enlightened was the Enlightenment if it was not feminist? This is the polemical formulation of a question that can also be articulated in the following way: how enlightened was the European Enlightenment with regard to legal, political, social, religious and cultural postulates of equality for both sexes, the realisation of which could transform an ‘Age of Enlightenment’ into an ‘enlightened age’ in the first place? The concept of a feminist Enlightenment aims to position the gender question at the centre of the Enlightenment instead of separating it into a sub-category of Enlightenment research. The aim is not to establish a female variant of the Enlightenment or to conduct research on a specific topic to which women have made particular contributions, such as the question of education. Rather, the research programme consists in bringing feminism and the Enlightenment closer together and exploring their systematic interconnection. This also includes a historicisation of what ‘feminist’ could mean in the Enlightenment and how these ideas spread via transnational networks across Europe.

Team members involved: Isabel Karremann, Anne-Claire Michoux, Isabelle Koch