The Irish contribution to the writing, performance, and staging of theatre in London over the eighteenth century was significant. Playwrights such as Farquhar, Goldsmith, and Sheridan have elicited much discussion although it is fair to observe that their nationality has often been elided, their work subsumed into critical accounts of English comedy. More recently, less well known playwrights have begun to receive critical attention: as eighteenth-century theatre studies engages more with ‘Four Nations’ approaches, celebrity studies, censorship, and political theatre, playwrights such as John O’Keeffe, Charles Macklin, Dennis O’Bryen, and Richard Lalor Shiel have come more into focus. Important female dramatists such as Mary Davys and Frances Sheridan are waiting in the wings for similar treatment.
Yet the Irish contribution to the London theatres was much broader than simply the writing of plays. Managers, actors, editors, theatre journalists and commentators: generation after generation of Irish migrants contributed to the burgeoning world of the British capital’s stages in a variety of ways but we currently have only a partial view of their activities. Sheridan may well be the first Irish theatre manager to come to mind, but what of Owen Swiney and Thomas Doggett’s earlier tenures in charge of London theatres? What of the career of Robert Carver, long-time theatre scene-painter and Royal Academy exhibitioner, who worked alongside de Loutherbourg at Drury Lane? How might we think about the political journalism of Charles Molloy and Arthur Murphy and its relationship to their theatrical writings? James Quin, Catherine Clive and Margaret Woffington were undoubtedly superstars but actors such as Spranger Barry, John Henry Johnstone, and Alexander Pope (no relation) all made sustained and important contributions to their craft.
This conference will consider how recent approaches to eighteenth-century literary studies, as well as theoretical approaches to diaspora studies, might be applied to the case of the London Irish migrant. It will interrogate the constitutive and instrumentalist function of Irish identity for individuals as well as for social and professional networks. Many of the people listed above considered themselves British as well as Irish (and perhaps for many, more the former than the latter). How did Irish identity inform, advance or impede their professional ambition and direction, politics, and social standing? How well did Irish identity in London withstand political stress points such as the 1720 Declaratory Act, the ’45, the Seven Years’ War, the French Revolution, the 1798 Rebellion, Union, and Catholic Emancipation?
Papers are invited on, but not limited to, the following topics:
- Irish actors and acting styles
- Irish theatrical celebrities
- Irish dramatists and the canon
- Theatre, Irish identity and gender/empire/Britishness
- Irish theatre managers
- Irish theatre and political journalism
- Theatre and the Irish Enlightenment
- Irish dramatists and censorship
- Irish song and music on stage
- Irish Romantic theatre
- Irish dramatists and reform/revolution
- The Stage Irishman/woman
- Cultural transmission and exchange between Dublin and London
- Genre and Irish drama
- Diaspora and networks of aspiration/improvement
- Stagecraft and the Irish
Abstracts of 300-500 words should be submitted to the conference organizer David O’Shaughnessy (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 30 September 2016. Decisions will be communicated by the end of October.
This conference is generously supported by the EU Marie-Curie programme and there will be some funding available to support speakers’ travel and accommodation costs. A collection of essays based on a selection of papers is planned for publication.