4:30 pm - 5:30 pm
285 Sponsored by: English, Department of, Willson Center for Humanities and Arts
Contact: Chloe Wigston Smith Faculty
"The Scottish Play: Centlivre and The Wonder of Britishness," Misty G. Anderson, University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
In 1714, Susannah Centlivre dedicated her twelfth professional production, The Wonder: A Woman Keeps a Secret , to Prince George, the soon-to-be Prince of Wales. Centlivre, like many others supporting the Hanoverian succession, found herself with the delicate task not just of imagining but of defending the wonder about to unfold, a German king on the British throne. She frames the play's performance of modern Britishness with her titular joke on stereotypes—in particular, the assumption that women cannot keeps secrets. Centlivre coaches her audience through an act of cultural mastery over the implied others who don't get her joke—of course modern people know that women can and do keep secrets. Similar operations translate the Hanovarian royals, not yet sure of their spoken English, into an expression of the new construct of Britishness as a fungible property, something Prince George expresses transnationally, beyond birthright, ethnicity, or race. Within her play, Scottish characters mediate this transubstantiation of what Britishness "is," a mediation that becomes more significant in the many revivals in London, Edinburgh, and provincial theaters after 1745. As a roving soldier in Portugal, her Scottish "Colonel Briton" exemplifies the new nation, which does not require that the crown rest on an "English" head to guarantee the future of a Protestant, solvent, and internationally present Great Britain; this is the modern wonder in which both characters and audience must choose to believe to make it come true.
Anderson is the author of Imagining Methodism in Eighteenth-Century Britain: Belief, Enthusiasm, and the Borders of the Self (Johns Hopkins, 2012). The study extends her interest in the evolution of modern sexuality and the stage in eighteenth-century England to religious studies by turning to the ways that Methodism functioned in the eighteenth-century British imagination. She has published numerous articles on the Restoration and eighteenth-century stage, women writers, and the history of sexuality, as well as the book, Female Playwrights and Eighteenth-Century Comedy: Marriage on the London Stage (Palgrave, 2002). She also edits the journal Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700 .
A reception will follow the talk. This event is sponsored by the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, the Rodney Baine Lecture Fund, and the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library. It is free and open to the public.
Georgia Colloquium in 18th and 19th C. British Literature