Theatres of Conversion: Early Modern Cities, Courts, and Playhouses



In partnership with the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies
Workshop location:

Private Dinning Room (upstairs from the Senior Common Room)
Burwash Hall
89 Charles Street West
Toronto, ON M5S 1K6
From Queen’s Park walk east on Charles Street. Take the second driveway on the right, heading south, between Isabel Bader Theatre and Burwash Hall, then turn left and enter the door at the south-west end of Burwash Hall.
click here to view the campus map


Friday October 24


Welcome (Paul Yachnin and Matt Kavaler) and Introductions

Roundtable: Place, Movement, Performance, Conversion
Presenters take 10 minutes each to present a single image, object, passage illustrative of the interrelationships among most if not all of the four key terms.

Chair: Paul Yachnin

Bronwen Wilson

Patricia Badir

Stephen Wittek

José J. López-Portillo

Case Studies
Presenters take 10 minutes each to present case studies.

Chair: Matt Kavaler

José Jouve-Martín – Early Modern Cities as Theatres of Conversion: A Conceptual Approach in Trans-Atlantic Perspective”.

Steven Mullaney – The Conversion of the Jews: Embodied Memory on Chancery Lane, 1232-2011

Respondent: Merridee Bailey

Brys Stafford – The activations and possibilities of the In-Between in La Celestina

Rebecca Coughlin – City house / country house: Camaldolese monasteries as sites of conversion in 15th-century Florence

Respondent: Jacqueline Van Gent

Workshop Seminars
Two seminar groups–discussion of three 10-page papers (papers circulated in advance); discussion of how the papers inform our understanding of movement toward charismatic, active places, places that enable and whose charisma is to a degree constituted by performances of conversion as well as performative conversion; also how the papers might be reconsidered in light of the dynamic interaction of movement, place, performance, and conversion

Group 1

Group leader: Patricia Badir


Mark Kaethler – 1620 – Ironic Conversion, The World Tossed at Tennis and Meeting Somewhere in the Middle

Respondent: Stephen Wittek

Amy Scott – “Base uses”: Converting Remains in the Early Modern Theatre

Respondent: Deanne Williams

Jamie Paris “Hell is murky”: On Visual Culture and Obscene Prayer in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Respondent: Steven Mullaney

Group 2

Group leader: Benjamin Schmidt

Tiffany Hoffmann – Shyness and Affective Conversion in The Merchant of Venice

Respondent: Jacqueline Wylde

Makoto Harris Takao – The Jesuit Stage as a Site of Intercultural Exchange, Moral Didacticism, and Historical Re-imagination: An Analysis of Johann Baptist Adolph and Johann Bernhard Staudt’s Mulier Fortis (1698)

Respondent: Jane Hatter

Lauren Eriks – Circulation and Conversion in the Forest of Arden

Respondent: Paul Yachnin

Reports from the two seminar groups; discussion of how the papers speak to the central questions of the meeting

Moderator/Facilitator: José-Juan Lopez-Portillo

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Saturday Oct 25


Moving Art
15-minute papers; 8 pages double-spaced

Chair: Natalie Oeltjen

Jacqueline Wylde – Duke, Friar, Jesuit, Spy: Private Conference and Public Persuasion in Measure for Measure

Jane Hatter – Converting the Virgin: Music for the Churching of Women in Early Reformation Nuremberg

Jeremy López – Converting Shirley

Respondent: Tiffany Hoffman

Court and City
15-minute papers; 8 pages double-spaced

Chair: Steven Mullaney

Deanne Williams – Girls and Conversion in the Stuart Court Masque

Eoin Devlin — Converting James II’s England: spectacle and persuasion in Baroque Rome

Merridee Bailey – Emotional, economic and social identities: How urban spaces and institutions shaped London’s merchants

Respondent: Amy Scott

Transforming Matter
15-minute papers; 8 pages double-spaced

Chair: Eoin Devlin

Yelda Nasifoglu – Robert Hooke’s Bedlam: air and lunacy in 17th-century London

David Goldstein – Soiling Satan: Biological Conversions in Paradise Lost

Respondent: Paul Yachnin

Workshop: How Early Modern Plays Changed Their Audiences, led by Penelope Woods, featuring Jennifer Roberts-Smith and Paul Hopkins

Closing roundtable

Moderator/Facilitator: Paul Yachnin

Benjamin Schmidt

Jacqueline Van Gent

José Jouve-Martín

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Participant Biographies:

Patricia Badir (University of British Columbia) has published on community identity and public space in Medieval and Reformation dramatic entertainments and on religious iconography and post-Medieval devotional writing.  She is the author of The Maudlin Impression: English Literary Images of Mary Magdalene (Notre Dame UP, 2009).  She is currently working on playmaking and the perils of mimesis on Shakespeare’s stage. She also studies modernism and Shakespeare in Canadian theatre and has recently published on this topic in Shakespeare Quarterly.

Merridee Bailey is a Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director of the Adelaide node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. Merridee specialises in the history of England and Europe in the later medieval and early modern periods. She holds a BA, an MA, and earned her PhD at the Australian National University. To date, her work has been on the history of book culture and issues of socialisation and morality in late medieval and early modern Europe. She has recently published Socialising the Child in Late Medieval England, c. 1400-1600 (York Medieval Press, 2012). More recently she has begun working on morality and emotions in merchant practices in London, c. 1400-1650. She is currently co-editor of a major multi-volume series on the Cultural History of Emotions (v.4) for Bloomsbury.

Rebecca Coughlin is a Ph.D. student at McGill University under the supervision of Prof. Torrance Kirby. Her research has developed from a focus on Dionysian Neoplatonism and theurgy to an interest in the role of pagan and Christian Neoplatonic sources in the early Renaissance, especially as seen in the work of Ambrogio Traversari and within the Camaldolese order at Sta. Maria degli Angeli in Florence. Recent publications include: “Action, Contemplation, and Prayer: Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises mediating the Pseudo-Areopagite” in Mediating Religious Cultures in Early Modern Europe (2013), and “Space and Ritual Action: Divinization and the Construction of Sacred Place According to Dionysios Areopagites” in The Levant—Crossroads of Late Antiquity: History, Religion, and Archaeology (2013).

Eoin Devlin is a Visiting Research Fellow on the Early Modern Conversions project at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities at Cambridge. He is beginning a project on British responses to baroque culture, and his first book will be a study of James II’s relations with Papal Rome. He is also a Teaching Associate at Downing College, a bye-fellow at Selwyn College, and a member of the Faculty of History, where he teaches early modern British, Irish and European history.

Lauren Eriks is a doctoral candidate in English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan. Her work explores early modern drama and performance, with particular interest in gender and sexuality, race, modern adaptation, post-structural theory, and performance historiography. Her most recent project investigates what insights novels and narratives can provide about studying performance in the archives.

David B. Goldstein’s first monograph, Eating and Ethics in Shakespeare’s England (Cambridge University Press: 2013), won the biennial Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award in 2014. His essays on Shakespeare, Levinas, food studies, and contemporary poetry have appeared in Shakespeare Studies, Gastronomica, and many other journals and collections. He is currently co-editing two volumes of essays, Culinary Shakespeare and Shakespeare and Hospitality. He has also published a book of poetry, Laws of Rest (BookThug: 2013), and has been the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, including research leaves at the Huntington Library and the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin. He lives in Toronto with his family, where he is Associate Professor of English at York University.

Jane Hatter is a doctoral candidate at the Schulich School of Music, McGill University. In August she submitted her dissertation on music about music and associations between musicians in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Conversions co-investigator Julie Cumming is her main advisor and she also works closely with Peter Schubert. Jane was a graduate student associate of the Making Publics: Media, Markets, and Association in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700 from 2005 until the end of the project in 2010, and she is currently acting as a co-leader on the recently renamed ” Practices of Conversion: Music, Theatre, and Performance” research group, formerly known as “The Sense of Hearing.” In February 2011, her article “Col tempo: Musical Time, Aging, and Sexuality in Sixteenth-Century Venetian Paintings” was published in Early Music. In an article based on her MA thesis, published in The Motet around 1500 (Brepols, 2012), she investigates musical evidence for intersections between popular devotions and ecclesiastical liturgy in motets that include or quote the Ave Maria prayer.

Tiffany Hoffman completed her PhD in Shakespeare studies at McGill University. Her dissertation, Virtuous Passions: Shakespeare and the Culture of Shyness, explored the historical, cultural and literary implications of shyness in the early modern period. She has published articles in Embodied Cognition in Shakespeare’s Theatre, as well as in the forthcoming collection Shakespeare and Consciousness. She is an instructor at Trent University.

Paul Hopkins is a Canadian actor and director who has worked at various theatres across the country including the Stratford Festival, Theatre Calgary and The Atlantic Theatre Festival. Most recently Hopkins appeared at Centaur Theatre in Good People and Morris Panich’s premier of In Absentia. Other performing credits include numerous roles in feature films and on television. Since 2007, he has been the Artistic Director of Montreal’s Shakespeare-in-the-Park company, Repercussion Theatre, where he has directed several of the Bard’s works including: Harry the King: the Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, an adaptation of Henry IV part 1 and 2 and Henry V.

José Jouve-Martin (Ph.D. Georgetown University, 2003) is Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies and Chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at McGill University. He is the author of the books “Slaves of the Lettered City” (2005) and “The Black Doctors of Colonial Lima: Science, Race, and Writing in Colonial and Early Republican Peru” (2014). He has co-edited the volumes “The Constitution of the Hispanic Baroque” (2008), “From the Baroque to the Neo-Baroque: Cultural Realities and Cultural Transfers” (2011), “Contemporary Debates in Ecology, Culture, and Society in Latin America” (2011), and “Culture Policy and Cultural Markets in Latin America” (2013). Jouve-Martín is a co-investigator in the Forms of Conversion project, in which he leads the sub-group Cities as Theatres of Conversion together with Stephen Wittek. He is currently chair of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Interdisciplinary Program at McGill University and a member of the SSHRC MCRI group The Hispanic Baroque.

Mark Kaethler is a PhD candidate at the School of English and Theatre Studies at The University of Guelph; his dissertation, “Against Absolutism,” examines the political ramifications of irony in the dramatic works of Thomas Middleton. Mark reviews books for The Sixteenth Century Journal and has a forthcoming article for Upstart, formerly Upstart Crow, on Middleton’s The Phoenix and Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in a special issue on protest in the early modern period. His work today, “Ironic Conversion, The World Tossed at Tennis and Meeting Somewhere in the Middle,” represents ideas from chapter three of his dissertation.

Ethan Matt Kavaler is Professor of Art History and Interim Director of the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies at Victoria University in the University of Toronto. He is the author, most recently, of Renaissance Gothic: Architecture and the Arts in Northern Europe 1470-1540 (Yale University Press, 2012) and of several essays on issues of ornament, artistic mode, periodization and Late Gothic architecture. Professor Kavaler has also written on early modern secular painting in the Low Countries (Pieter Bruegel: Parables of Order and Enterprise, Cambridge University Press, 1999).  His current work is on Netherlandish sculpture of the sixteenth century. He is a member of the Royal Academy of Archeology of Belgium and a former member of the managing committee of the Historians of Netherlandish Art.

Jeremy Lopez is Associate Professor and Associate Chair of English at the University of Toronto. He is the author of numerous books and essays on the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, including, most recently, Constructing the Canon of Early Modern Drama (Cambridge, 2014), which provides a history of the “non-Shakespearean” dramatic canon. His current project, “After Shakespeare,” endeavors to find new ways of reading the derivative, imitative, and belated drama of the late Jacobean and Caroline periods.

José-Juan López-Portillo is currently one of two Post-Doctoral Research Fellows at the IPLAI’s ‘Early Modern Conversions’ project. His work at the Institute concentrates on the role of ‘cultural mediators’ as agents of socio-political, religious and spatial types of conversion in the early modern period. 2012 he was awarded a PhD from Queen Mary, University of London with a dissertation entitled: ‘Another Jerusalem’: Political Legitimacy and Courtly Government in the Kingdom of New Spain 1535-1568.’ He is trying to ‘convert’ this thesis into a published book. Most recently he edited and wrote an introduction for a volume in the VARIORUM/ASHGATE series The Expansion of Latin Europe, 1000-1500, which was published last month. It allowed him to combine his interests in European and Atlantic history. He has also been commissioned to write a general History of the Spanish Empire for I.B. Tauris due before 2017. Last year José-Juan taught a course on ‘Conquest and Colonization’ at Pembroke College, Oxford. Last year he was a member of the steering committee for the Global History Seminar Series hosted by the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London.

Steven Mullaney teaches early modern drama and cultural theory at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  He is the author of The Reformation of Emotions in the Age of Shakespeare (Chicago, 2015) and The Place of the Stage:  License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England (1988 & 1994). He has also published essays about theater and reformation history, John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, the impact of the “discovery” of the Americas on French, Italian, Spanish, and English cultures, the ideology of the object in the rationalization of empire, publics and counter-publics in reformation Europe, the social production of space, and the history of social emotions. From 2005 to 2010, he was a founding member and co-participant in “Making Publics:  Media, Markets, and Associations in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700,” an international, multi-disciplinary, collaborative research project funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Yelda Nasifoglu has a Professional Bachelors in Architecture (Pratt, 1997) and a Masters in the History and Theory of Architecture (McGill, 2002). After spending over 7 years in architectural practice, she returned to academia with first a Masters in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology from the University of Oxford (2010), and since 2011 as a PhD student in the History and Theory of Architecture at McGill. Her doctoral research is about the mathematical and architectural works of the English virtuoso Robert Hooke (1635-1703). She is also collaborating on a digital project about Hooke’s library, which is expected to be online by the end of this year. She has been a research assistant in the Early Modern Conversions project since 2012, is co-administrator of the website, and a Graduate Student Associate in the ‘Early Modern Cities as Theatres of Conversion’ research cluster.

Natalie Oeltjen is the Assistant to the Director at the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies at Victoria College in the University of Toronto. She completed her dissertation, “Crisis and Regeneration: The Conversos of Majorca, 1391-1416,” and received her Ph.D. in 2012 from the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto. In 2012-2013 she was a Lady Davis Postdoctoral Fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has published articles on the Conversos of Majorca in Jewish History (2010) and Sefarad (2013) and will be presenting new research on Jewish women and conversas at the AHA in January 2015.

Jamie Paris is a Doctoral Candidate at the University of British Columbia. His research project, currently entitled The Pleasures Proper to Tragedy, looks at the way that the tragedies of Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare stage failed, aborted, and frustrated model devotional acts like prayer and confession as a means of gaining and maintaining dramatic attention.

Jennifer Roberts-Smith is Associate Professor of Drama in the Department of Drama and Speech Communication at the University of Waterloo, where she directs plays and teaches acting and theatre history. She has written about Elizabethan performance practices and experimented with them in SSHRC-funded projects including Shakespeare and the Queen’s Men and Chester 2010. Most recently, her adaptation (with Toby Malone) of Shakespeare’s Richard the Third interpreted direct audience address in a hyper-mediated, contemporary context. In June 2014, Jennifer will direct Shakespeare’s Henry the Sixth, Part One for a Performance-as-Research conference co-convened with collaborators at McMaster University. She also leads two federally- and provincially-funded, multi-institutional research projects exploring theatrical interface design. In 2014, Jennifer won an Ontario Early Researcher Award (rarely given to Humanities researchers) for her ongoing collaboration with the Stratford Festival and IT industry partners in Kitchener-Waterloo.

Benjamin Schmidt teaches at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he is the Joff Hanauer Faculty Fellow and Professor of History, and specializes in early modern cultural history.  His forthcoming book, Inventing Exoticism:  Geography, Globalism, and Europe’s Early Modern World, looks at the development of European ‘exoticism’ across several media from ca. 1670 to 1730.  Previous books include Innocence Abroad: The Dutch Imagination and the New World (2001), which won the RSA’s Gordan Prize and Holland Society’s Hendricks Prize; The Discovery of Guiana by Sir Walter Ralegh (2007); Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe: Practices, Objects, and Texts, 1400–1800 (2008; with P. Smith); and Going Dutch: The Dutch Presence in America, 1609–2009 (2008; with A. Stott).

Amy Scott completed her PhD (2010) at McGill University under the supervision of Paul Yachnin. Her dissertation, “Finding Faith Between Infidelities: Historiography as Mourning in Shakespeare,” was awarded the McGill Arts Insights Dissertation award. Thinking about the ethics of history in her dissertation has led her to work on early modern funeral practices. She is working on preparing a monograph of her dissertation in addition to researching infertility in the early modern period.

Brys Stafford is a PhD candidate in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Toronto. He is a Junior Fellow at Massey College and a Graduate  Fellow at the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies. His research focuses on literary delineations of urban space in late medieval and early modern Castilian literature. He has published a translation in Confraternitas and a review in La corónica.

Makoto Harris Takao is a doctoral candidate at the University of Western Australia, based within the schools of Humanities and Music. He is also a collaborating researcher for the Jesuit Emotions Project conducted through the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. His research encompasses baroque gesture through to performative practices of Jesuit conversion in early modern Japan, looking to records of public weeping as emotional response in audience contexts. Makoto is deputy editor for Cerae: An Australasian Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, as well as vice president of the Musicological Society of Australia (WA).

Jacqueline Van Gent is an early modern historian at The University of Western Australia and Chief Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (1100-1800). She has published on Swedish magic, the body and emotions, gender and colonial mission encounters in Australia and the Atlantic, and gender and emotions in the Nassau-Orange family. Her publications include Magic, Body and the Self in Eighteenth-Century Sweden, Brill Academic Publishers, Leiden and Boston, 2009 and Governing Masculinities in the Early Modern Period: Regulating Selves and Others, Ashgate Publishers, 2011 (edited with S. Broomhall). In 2015 her following publications are due to appear: S. Broomhall and J. Van Gent, Gender, Power and Identity in the Early Modern Nassau Family, 1580-1814, Ashgate Publishers (forthcoming 2015); J. Van Gent, A. Schaser, K. Ruether, Conversion narratives and gender in global perspective (Ashgate Publishers, forthcoming May 2015); J. Van Gent and S. Young, “Emotions and Conversion”, Special issue of Journal of Religious History (accepted, forthcoming in December 2015) and J. Van Gent and R. Toivo, “Gender, objects and emotions in Scandinavian history”, Special issue of Journal of Scandinavian History (forthcoming 2015).

Deanne Williams is Associate Professor of English at York University in Toronto. She received her B.A. in English and Religious Studies from the University of Toronto, M.Phil in Medieval English Studies from Oxford University, and Ph.D. in English from Stanford University. Her research focuses on Medieval and Renaissance literature, especially Shakespeare. She is the author of The French Fetish from Chaucer to Shakespeare (Cambridge, 2004), which won the Roland H. Bainton Prize for best book in literature from the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference. She is co-editor, with Ananya Jahanara Kabir, of Postcolonial Approaches to the European Middle Ages: Translating Cultures (Cambridge, 2005), and co-editor, with Kaara Peterson, of The Afterlife of Ophelia (Palgrave, 2012). She has also published articles on a wide range of topics, including Shakespeare adaptations, the history of feminist scholarship, and the reception of classical and medieval literature in the Renaissance. In 2003, she won the John Charles Polanyi Prize for Literature, and she has received research fellowships from Trinity College, Cambridge, Clare Hall, Cambridge, the Huntington Library, and the Folger Shakespeare Library. Her new book, entitled Shakespeare and the Performance of Girlhood, has just been published by Palgrave in its Shakespeare Studies series.

Bronwen Wilson completed her PhD at Northwestern University in 1999, and currently teaches at the Sainsbury Institute for Art at the University of East Anglia. She held postdoctoral fellowships with the Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada, and  Villa i Tatti, the Harvard Centre for the Italian Renaissance studies. Research grants include the Liguria Center for the Arts and Humanities, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Newberry Library, and she has been a co-investigator in two international collaborative research projects, “Making Publics” and “Early Modern Conversions.” Recent volumes include the Erotics of Looking and Netherlandish Art (coedited with Angela Vanhaelen) and Making Publics in Early Modern Europe: things, people, and forms of knowledge (edited with Paul Yachnin). A new book, The Face of Uncertainty: portraiture, physiognomy, and naturalism, is forthcoming. Her presentation is part of a book nearing competition: Inscription and the Horizon in Early modern Mediterranean Travel Imagery.

Stephen Wittek is a scholar of early modern theatre and early modern news culture. He holds a PhD in literature from McGill and a Master’s degree in Shakespeare Studies from the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England. His work as a Postdoctoral Fellow for the Early Modern Conversions (EMC) project entails digital humanities research and more conventional research focusing on the relationship of conversion to cities, news, and the early modern stage. In addition to serving on the EMC Management Committee, he is co-leader, with José R. Jouve-Martin, of the ‘Early Modern Cities as Theatres of Conversion’ research sub-group, and co-editor of an upcoming volume of essays entitled Performing Conversion: Urbanism, Theatre, and the Transformation of the Early Modern World. He is also the author of The Media Players: Shakespeare, Middleton, Jonson, and the Idea of News, forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press. This past summer, his work on theatre and news was the subject of a full episode of the CBC Radio One program Ideas.

Penelope Woods is a Post Doctoral Research Fellow in the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions at the University of Western Australia where she specializes in the history of theatre audience affect. She is currently working on a book: Spectatorship Revived, about the audiences at Shakespeare’s Globe. Penelope has chapters on the operation of intimacy in seventeenth century indoor theatres (Moving Shakespeare Indoors, ed. by Andrew Gurr and Farah Karim-Cooper, Cambridge University Press, 2014), on Shakespeare and Adaptation (Theatre and Adaptation, ed. by Margherita Laera, Methuen, 2014), and on young audiences today (Shakespeare in Practice: The Audience by Stephen Purcell, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

Jacqueline Wylde is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto.
 Her areas of research include early modern drama and popular religious  
culture in post-reformation England. Her dissertation entitled “Moving Graces: Modes of Religious Persuasion on  
the Early Modern Stage” explores how persuasive strategies depicted on and deployed by the  
stage may be read as emerging from a religious, though  
multi-confessional, culture of persuasion.

Paul Yachnin is the Tomlinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies and Director of the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas at McGill University. He directed the Making Publics (MaPs) Project (2005-10) and now directs the project, Early Modern Conversions (2012-18). He is Past President of the Shakespeare Association of America. Among his publications are the books, Stage-Wrights and The Culture of Playgoing in Early Modern England (with Anthony Dawson); editions of Richard II and The Tempest; and five co-edited books, including Making Publics in Early Modern Europe. His book-in-progress is Making Theatrical Publics in Shakespeare’s England. His ideas about the social life of art, and those of his MaPs collaborators, were featured on the CBC Radio IDEAS series, “The Origins of the Modern Public.”

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