Early Modern Exchanges


EME ONLINE: English Saints in European Jesuit Drama

17 March 2021, 4:00 pm–6:00 pm

martyrdom of Thomas More and John Fisher from Giovanni Battista Cavalieri, Ecclesiae Anglicanae Trophaea

With Prof Alison Shell (UCL English) and Dr Jolanta Rzegocka (Akademia Ignatianum in Kraków),. Chaired by Prof Gesine Manuwald (UCL Greek & Latin).

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Early Modern Exchanges

St Alban at St Omers

The English Jesuit College at St Omer, usually referred to as ‘St Omers’, was founded in Elizabeth I’s reign to educate England’s Catholic youth according to Counter-Reformation ideals. Drama was an important part of this training, and playwrights from St Omers are responsible for the bulk of college drama mounted by the English Catholic institutions on the Continent. As with Jesuit drama across Europe, saints and martyrs figured prominently as heroes – and, inevitably, the early days of Christianity in England had particular exemplary value for a Catholic foundation which was also intensely patriotic. This talk will discuss a 17th-century sacred tragedy from St Omers which dramatises the life and death of England’s first martyr, St Alban, setting it in the context of English church history from both Catholic and Protestant sources, and looking more generally at how St Omers drama represents nationhood. 

Thomas More in European Jesuit Drama

A recent discovery of a Latin Jesuit play Morus Angliae Cancellarius (Lwów, 1765) has sparked new interest in English and Scottish-themed school drama in a former Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania. Like plays on Byzantine history, they constitute a small, yet fascinating group of plays and playbills dealing with Eucharistic themes, penitence, civic virtues and reform of life. They are fine examples of both cultural transfer and Jesuit accommodation to contemporary Polish-Lithuanian realities that raise questions of fact and fiction in drama, and shared cultural codes. The Thomas More play from Lwów (Lviv, Ukraine) attests to the English Catholic martyr’s European reputation and to the tradition among Jesuit writers of bringing in foreign examples of virtue and vice to underline essential human equality. The play also strikes a civic note, familiar to the Polish-Lithuanian audiences, as Thomas More is represented both as a martyr and a citizen deeply concerned with the idea of the commonwealth. Besides the playtext, this talk will also consider the playbills (synopses) which are invaluable theatre documents for Polish-Lithuanian school drama.

The papers are pre-recorded and available to watch below.

MediaCentral Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Player/eGGJHe0f



All are welcome. The event will run on Zoom. You will receive the link to join the event in your confirmation email, when you register. Please register at https://eme-englishsaints.eventbrite.co.uk

This event is organised by Early Modern Exchanges, which is part of the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies.

About the Speakers

Alison Shell

Professor at UCL English

She has special interests within the following fields: Shakespeare and Renaissance drama; Tudor and Stuart poetry, especially the work of John Donne and Robert Southwell; the English and neo-Latin writing of post-Reformation British Catholics; early modern religious prose, especially the work of Thomas Traherne; early modern polemic and anti-Catholicism; the literature and imaginative representation of Anglicanism from the 16th century to the present day, especially Anglican women’s writing and the work of Anglican novelists; folklore and superstition in early modern Britain; early modern book history and manuscript studies; the literature of antiquarianism; intersections of literature and architecture. 

More about Alison Shell

Jolanta Rzegocka

Associate Professor of Anglo-American Literature at Jesuit University Ignatianum in Kraków, Poland

Jolanta Rzegocka, PhD is Honorary Lecturer at the Department of English Language and Drama (UCL). She is currently working on a book about the school theatre of the Jesuit Province of Poland-Lithuania in the context of civic virtues. Her research is funded by the National Science Centre of Poland. With Teresa Bela and Clarinda Calma she coedited Publishing Subversive Texts in Elizabeth England and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (2016), and with Paweł Kaźmierczak Moral Upbringing Through the Arts and Literature (2018).

More about Jolanta Rzegocka

Gesine Manuwald

Professor of Latin at UCL Greek & Latin

Her research interests cover Roman drama, Roman epic, Cicero's speeches and reception studies, especially Neo-Latin literature.

More about Gesine Manuwald