CFP: Theatricality and Madness (May 2009)

by Jessica C. Murphy

Les Cahiers Shakespeare en devenir / The Journal of Shakespearean Afterlives
Cahiers n°3 (December 2009): Theatricality and Madness

Completed contributions, either in French or in English, with note on contributors (200 words) and abstract (200 words), should be sent by attached file (.doc or .rtf) to before late May 2009.

How did madness and theatricality interact in Shakespeare’s England? Subsidiary questions might include how madness was represented and performed on stage, whether it was propitious to meta-dramatic strategies, whether, as a cover, it favoured the emergence of satirical viewpoints, and to what extent it was appropriated to fit into economies of entertainment or chastisement—as is the case in The Duchess of Malfi or The Changeling for instance. Another perspective would be to consider how London’s Bedlam
asylum was partly turned into a theatrical space and welcomed visitors-spectators to whose gazes authentic madmen were offered, before seeing how this became dramatic material for Jacobean plays such as The
Changeling or The Honest Whore.

Medical theories, treatises and practices could be taken into account and related to cultural representations, including drama but also the roguery pamphlets that unveiled the fake bedlamites’—or “abram men”’s—tricks; this in turn might lead to the analysis of what Elaine Showalter has called “the
two-way transaction between psychatric theory and cultural representation ”. In this regard, the case of Susan Mountfort would be relevant and could be looked into—in the early days of Restoration, that madwoman had disrupted a performance of Hamlet and appropriated Ophelia’s part .

In either a synchronic or a diachronic perspective, semiotic and dramaturgical approaches, together with linguistic ones, might be developed to address such questions as the following. How was madness immediately made visible and recognizable on stage? What colours and what kind of music were symbolically associated with it? How have the codes of representation evolved over the ages, and what do they reveal about the way our society understands psychological disorders? Is the representation of madness nowadays as strictly codified as in Jacobean England? For example, is the close association between madness and women—according to which Ophelia was regarded as “a document in madness”, or as a case of love melancholy—still pertinent? Why are XXIst-century stage directors still interested in plays

dealing with madness, whether in the foreground or in the background?

Analyses of pictorial representations with madmen or madwomen for subjects— Delacroix’s lithographs (The Death of Ophelia, 1843), John Everett Millais’ paintings (Ophelia, 1852) or other Pre-Raphaelites’ ones—would also be welcome.