Friday, March 31, 2023

Romantic Dramas at NASSR

Today, I presented my paper on Olympe de Gouges and Ira Aldridge online as a part of the annual conference of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism, better known as NASSR.

I was a part of a panel on Theaters of Violence and Justice moderated by Sophie Thomas. The panel was led off by Marjean D. Purinton of Texas Tech University who spoke on "Justice on Trial in Romantic Period Drama and Novels."

Purinton is incredibly knowledgable about British Romantic drama, which is also the subject of a recent book of mine. She began by discussing one of my favorite playwrights of the period, Joanna Baillie, but instead of talking about one of her more well-known dramas, she delved into The Stripling, a prose tragedy based on a real-life case in Scotland.

In most of the plays Purinton discussed, legal trials are suggested but not directly portrayed on stage. In The Iron Chest, for instance, George Colman the Younger's adaptation of the novel Caleb Williams by William Godwin, a trial is central to the plot, but occurs offstage, as the accused title character comes to have less and less faith in a legal system that seems to just protect the rich and powerful.

Next, Purinton discussed The Cenci, a drama by Percy Shelley which I have written about frequently. She argued that the play really criticizes the justice system in Britain during the Regency, not the courts of Renaissance Rome that are nominally depicted in the tragedy. In addition she discussed James Boaden's The Secret Tribunal and a play by Elizabeth Inchbald, though I didn't catch the title of that one.

Young-ok An from the University of St. Thomas rounded out the panel, discussing Percy Shelley's The Cenci and Mary Shelley's novel Valperga. Thanks to everyone who showed up to listen to us!