As an afterword to the special issue of JMEMS “Performance beyond Drama,” this essay reflects on the complex ways that premodern performances and their embodied actors are captured in, mediated by, or dependent on the texts that we use to study them, and on the special importance of examining this process across a temporal framework—the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries—that challenges the periodizing schema of modernity. In particular, three major systemic changes impacted European performance practices and their documentation during this era: the more widespread availability and manufacture of paper, which made writing easier and reading cheaper, coupled with the introduction of print technology after 1455; the upheaval of the Protestant Reformation and its Catholic counterpart, and the bloody aftermath of religious wars, persecutions, and witch hunts that (re)shaped performance traditions; and the commodification and policing of entertainment through enclosure and regulation. Taken together, this special issue's contributions reveal fascinating convergences and continuities in performance across the medieval/modern frontier, while also showing how some medieval practices were made to conform with postmedieval political and religious projects, thereby obscuring or blurring the evidence for those earlier practices.
- medieval and early modern English theater and spectacle
- historical periodization
- archival documents
- performance analysis