Practices and projections: on Siglo de Oro theatre

Projektleiterin: Dr. Anke Charton, M.A.
Laufzeit: 01.04.2020-30.09.2023
Fördergeber: FWF (Elise Richter)

In a contemporary climate where categories such as affect, nostalgia and »alternative facts« are called upon when considering history as a cultural practice, the imagination of a past ›Golden Age‹ and its subsequent retellings gain importance as a pattern of localizing identities in and as (historical) performance.

This project takes its trajectory from a double observation of Siglo de Oro theatre as, on the one hand, a performance practice, and as a cultural mainstay on the other hand: ›the‹ Siglo de Oro, coined as term only in retrospect, is omnipresent as cornerstone of Spanish cultural heritage in politics, academia and education, yet its canon theatre repertory figures less in performance than as a reference and a high-profile area of research, which invites inquiry into practices of history as much as into practices of theatre.

Investigating the divide of practice past and projection present, the aim of the study is two-fold: it examines the Siglo de Oro narrative as a site of staging national and cultural identity, addressing its own position, and contrasts it with a look at performance practices of the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly in regard to their moving in and out of a realm of newly forming professional secular theatre against the larger backdrop of Iberian festival culture.

The Madrid de los Austrias – Hapsburg Madrid - serves as a focal point to examine the intricate negotiations, through performance, between urban and rural representation, appropriated and othered identities, centralized and mobile cultures, and literate and illiterate practices. Censorship and institutionalized structures left a mark on what was considered professional theatre, and what was not; yet even from within the canon of Siglo de Oro theatre – from its plays, treatises and legal frameworks –, the ostracized practices at the margins still shine through and give testimony to their continued influence on an official theatre culture and on the way it understands itself.

Siglo de Oro theatre, while a central field of studies within Spanish Philology with a rich scholarly tradition, has received far less attention from a perspective of Performance Studies – a field not institutionalized in the Spanish university system –, which is in turn the aim of this project. In addition to amplifying research on Early Modern dynamics of festival and theatre, it also looks at the performance of history as a place of identity, and asks whether strategies applied during the Siglo de Oro might, again, apply today.