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JEFFREY N. COX “Illegitimate” Pantomime in the “Legitimate” Theater: Context as Text R omantic era drama has received increasing attention, with . sessions at conferences devoted to plays and theater, with per­ formances of plays by, for example, Baillie, Byron, and Beddoes, and with fine monographs and scholarly editions.1 Still, as I have argued elsei . Among theatrical productions that run from Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound to Fawcett’s Obi, note these productions of Baillie, Beddoes, and Byron. At the 2003 meeting of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism, Juggernaut Theatre staged Count Basil, which is the subject ofa special section, ed. Catherine Burroughs, of European Romantic Review 15, no. 2 (June 2004): 351—85. Frederick Burwick also directed a version ofBeddoes’s Death Jest Book. Murray Biggs staged Byron’s Sardanapalus at a conference at Yale in 1990. The theatrical and scholarly work surrounding productions of Obi in both Boston and Tem­ ple, can be found in a volume of Romantic Praxis, ed. Charles Rzekpa, http://www.rc.umd .edu/praxis/obi/index.html, accessed 15 May 2015. Editions ofRomantic era drama include: Joanna Baillie: A Selection ofPlays and Poems, eds. Amanda Gilroy and Keith Hanley (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2002); and Plays on the Passions (1798 edition), ed. P. Duthie (Peter­ borough: Broadview Press, 2001); Hemans’s The Siege of Valencia: A Parallel Text Edition, eds. Susan J. Wolfson and Elizabeth Fay (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2002); The Plays of Elizabeth Inchbald, ed. Paula R. Backscheider (New York: Garland, 1980); The Plays of Hannah Cowley, ed. F. M. Link (New York: Garland, 1979); and Plays by George Colman the Younger and Thomas Morton, ed. Barry Sutcliffe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983). For anthologies, see The Broadview Anthology of Romantic Drama, eds. Jeffrey N. Cox and Michael Gamer (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2003); Five Romantic Plays, 1768—1821, eds. P. Baines and E. Bums (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Seven Gothic Dramas, 1789-1825, ed. Jeffrey N. Cox (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1992); Sisters of Gore: Seven Gothic Melodramas by British Women, 1790—1845, ed. J. Franceschina (New York: Garland, 1997). For scholarship up to 2002, see the bibliography to the Broadview Anthology ofRomantic Drama. More recent work includes: Daniel J. O’Quinn, Staging Governance: Theatrical Imperi­ alism in London, 1770—1800 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), and Enter­ taining Crisis in the Atlantic Imperiutn, 1770—1790 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011); David Worrall, Theatric Revolution: Drama, Censorship, and Romantic Era Subcultures, 1775-1852 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); Reeve Parker, Romantic Tragedies: The Dark Employments of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Frederick Burwick, Romantic Drama: Acting and Reacting (Cambridge: Cam­ bridge University Press, 2009), and Playing to the Crowd: London Popular Theatre, 1780—1850 SiR, 54 (Summer 2015) 159 160 JEFFREY N. COX where,2 editorial efforts on nineteenth-century drama face considerable difficulties arising from such factors as the volume of dramas—with more than 25,000 nineteenth-century play texts to consider—and the perceived value of these works, as many continue to see the period between Sheridan and Shaw as a vast dramatic wasteland. In the end, however, I think the heart of the problem was diagnosed by Jane Moody in our best account of the theater ofthe period: Moody reminds us that, whatever we think ofthe literary drama of the time, the Romantic era was a period of enormous theatrical innovation, where what happened on stage is a key to under­ standing plays that for us remain only as texts. As Moody demonstrates in outlining what she calls the “physical, visceral” and thus “illegitimate aes­ thetic” of Romantic era theater, the written text on stage is hedged round by eloquent ifmute bodies as well as dazzling visuals and stirring music. My question is: how should a textual editor, usually focused on the word, ap­ proach what Moody calls “mute performance”?3 In a sense, the editor’s task is to take up the traces ofwhat was once a live performance in order to create a self-consciously textual representation of what we call theatrical experience. In most periods, dramatic texts are considered simply as texts, a set of written...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2330-118X
Print ISSN
0039-3762
Pages
pp. 159-186
Launched on MUSE
2020-03-13
Open Access
No
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