CFP: Performing Problem Plays

Call for Papers: Performing Problem Plays
CAMP Panel, 2018 SCS Meetings in Boston

Organizers: James F. Patterson ( and Michael Mignanelli (

From comic elements and happy endings in Euripides to potential mass murder in Aristophanes’ Clouds (Kopff) and rape in Terence, problematic scenes in plays challenge generic categorization. In turn, prescribed dramatic conventions and generic constraints lead to the belief that, for instance, Seneca’s Oedipus simply could not have been performed (Hutchinson, Fitch). Meanwhile, logical inconsistencies in dialogue and narrative discontinuities encourage textual emendation: Willink, for instance, excises Orestes 554 on the grounds that the line “contributes nothing to, indeed gratuitously weakens, Or[estes]’ argument” (175), and Rutenberg removes the choruses from his adaptation of Seneca’s Oedipus because they “tend to hold up the action” (14). But perhaps these and other problems are not inherent in plays. Perhaps, instead, they derive from preconceived notions about how drama should and should not work. Perhaps, then, these problems may be resolved if performance, rather than theory, guides interpretation.

This panel seeks papers that explore ways in which performance helps us resolve textual, dramaturgical, and generic problems in plays. If, for instance, the convoluted argument of Orestes’ speech is successful qua bad rhetoric when performed, then perhaps we need not emend the text after all. If the extispicy scene in Seneca’s Oedipus works on stage with a dancer dressed as a bull (Dodson-Robinson), then perhaps conceptions about genre should be deduced from, rather than dictate, its performance. Thus we invite abstracts that use performance to resolve issues concerning such things as (though not limited to):

• textual emendation (e.g. the excision and/or reordering of lines; the identification of lacunae and interpolations)
• jumping, transitions, and breaks in narrative continuity
• entrances and exits; openings and conclusions
• the composition and/or relevance to plot of choruses
• characterization
• actors playing multiple roles
• logic and rhetoric (e.g. disappointing and/or unexpected turns in speeches and argumentation)
• staging, costuming, sets, props
• generic incongruities (e.g. instances in which performance and genre are at odds)

We invite proposals on any play, Greek or Latin, tragedy, comedy, or other, whether traditionally identified as a problem play or not.   

Please send abstracts that follow the guidelines for individual abstracts (see the SCS website) by email to Timothy Wutrich (, not to the panel organizers. Review of abstracts will begin 1 March 2017. The deadline for submission is 15 March 2017. Please do not identify yourself anywhere in the abstract, as submissions will be blind refereed.


Dodson-Robinson, E. 2011. “Performing the ‘Unperformable’ Extispicy Scene in Seneca’s Oedipus Rex.” Didaskalia 8.27
Fitch, J. G. 2000. “Playing Seneca?” In G. W. M. Harrison (ed.), Seneca in Performance: 1-12, Duckworth
Hutchinson, G. O. 1993. Latin Literature from Seneca to Juvenal: a Critical Study. Oxford
Kopff, E. C. 1977. “Nubes 1493ff.: Was Socrates Murdered?” GRBS 18: 113-122
Rutenberg, M. E. 1998. Oedipus of Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Bolchazy-Carducci
Willink, C. W. 1986. Euripides: “Orestes.” Oxford