Working Session CFP “Reading Paratext: the Economies of 19th-Century Play Publishing"
American Society of Theatre Research (ASTR) conference 2011
Montreal, Quebec Canada
November 17 – 20, 2011
Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Hotel
What does a play’s title page tell us about the business of theatre? How do publisher catalogues reveal economic and cultural change? What can we make of a playbook’s preliminary pages, the Dramatis Personae, production history and the like? This session explores how paratext, the “extra” printed matter around the dramatic text, can open new angles on cultural, material, and social contexts. It borrows the model of historical-structural scrutiny in Gerard Genette’s influential study, Paratexts, for the case of playscripts.
In this Working Session, participants will collaboratively analyze four types of paratext—title page, publisher catalogue, an advertisement for a non-textual product, and a list of characters. The mode we envision is collective methodological experiment, offering preliminary contemplation from new samples rather than conclusions drawn from long-term projects. We seek participants who have incorporated paratext in their research, and who are prepared to offer comments, both prepared and off-the-cuff, about industrial-era intersections of publishing and theatre worlds. Specialization or expertise is not required, though ideally, participants would be familiar to some degree with both subjects—paratext (from print culture, book history, publishing history, or material text angles) and English theatre/performance/media history of the long nineteenth century.
The format is non-traditional, structured as a collective, analytic “show-and-tell” centered on four genres of paratext (a title-page, an ad, a catalogue page, and a dramatis personae list). Months before the conference, having agreed on four specimens, panelists will examine and prepare remarks about them. At the seminar, as the images are projected, participants will present initial “readings” of the samples—a “thick description,” observations, and questions—as the springboard for conversation among panelists and finally with the larger group (attendees).
Please send (1) a c.200-word description of your relevant work—uses of and questions about paratext, expertise/familiarity/interests in nineteenth-century theatre and play publishing; (2) if possible, a file-copy of some paratext used in your research; (3) a brief biography paragraph (affiliation, projects, and publications).
Deadline Monday 5/30.
Contact (enquiries welcome): Kate Wilson (PhD Candidate, Theatre, CUNY) Wilson.email@example.com and Mary Isbell (PhD Candidate, English, University of Connecticut) firstname.lastname@example.org