Between practices and projections: new perspectives on Siglo de Oro theatre

Anke Charton  

In a contemporary climate where categories such as affect, nostalgia and contested facticity do gain popularity in considering history as a cultural practice, the imagination of a past 'Golden Age' and its subsequent evocations gain importance as a pattern of localizing identities in and as (historical) performance.

The project takes its trajectory from a double observation of Siglo de Oro theatre as, on the one hand, a performance practice both past and present, and as a cultural topos 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.

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

Siglo de Oro theatre, while a central field of studies within Spanish Philology, has received far less attention from a perspective of Performance Studies, which is the aim of this project. In addition to amplifying research on Early Modern dynamics of festival and theatre, it serves as a case study applicable to current paradigms of localizing the cultural self.