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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Event Archive

IMEMS/CCS/USHAW Lecture:‘Staging Magic in English Catholic College Drama’

21st May 2019, 17:30 to 19:15, Exhibition Hall, Ushaw College, Alison Shell

Professor Alison Shell (UCL)

Tuesday 21st May 2019

Wine reception: 5.30pm

Lecture: 6pm

Venue: USHAW

To book:

About the Speaker:

Professor Alison Shell, UCL

Alison Shell was educated at the North London Collegiate School and Oxford University (B.A./M.A. and D.Phil.).

After a period as Rare Books Curator at the Royal Institute of British Architects, Alison became a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow at UCL between 1994 and 1997. Her first permanent academic post was at the University of Durham, where she worked between 1997 and 2010.

Alison is an editor for the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies’ series ‘Catholic and Recusant Texts in Early Modern England’. She reviews for the Times Literary Supplement, the Church Times and a number of academic journals.

About the Lecture

Dramatised magic was popular in early modern theatre, and never more so than within the dramatic corpus of the English Catholic colleges set up in continental Europe after the Reformation. Many of these colleges were controlled by the Jesuit order, who played a major role in developing stage technology in this era. Written for performance by the young scholars at these colleges, these plays constitute a kind of children’s literature, and frequently draw on magical themes. They have a didactic message, pitting devil-worshippers against followers of Christ, and the fantastic element must also have appealed to the schoolboy imagination. Audiences of these popular civic events, whether or not they could understand the Latin in which the plays were performed, would have enjoyed the opportunity for spectacle provided by maguses and conjuring tricks.

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