Academic journal article The Modern Language Review

Documenting the History of Spanish Theatre: 'Fuentes Para la Historia del Teatro En Espana.'

Academic journal article The Modern Language Review

Documenting the History of Spanish Theatre: 'Fuentes Para la Historia del Teatro En Espana.'

Article excerpt

In September 1997 the first of a projected series of international conferences with the title 'Toward a New Humanism' was held in Cordoba, Spain. Organized by the University of Cordoba and underwritten by the Andalusian savings bank CajaSur, this first instalment sought to explore 'Anglo-American Hispanism: Contributions, Problems, and Perspectives on History, Art, and Literature (16th-18th Centuries)'. Queen Sofia opened the conference at a plenary session with addresses by Rolena Adorno, Jonathan Brown, and Sir John Elliott, Francisco Rico presiding. Three days of sessions followed, with presentations on international relations, economics, society, religion, the New World, art, politics, culture, and literature by some fifty Spanish, British, Canadian, and American scholars. Within this broad framework, sessions were organized to treat the poetry, prose, and drama of Golden-Age Spain. Of the three genre panels, only the drama session focused upon a single field of research activity: playhouses, staging, and the theatrical world of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, highlighted by the conference organizers as the most significant development in Spanish theatre history during the past half century.

The key figure in this remarkable flowering of historical scholarship is Emeritus Professor John E. Varey, former Principal of Westfield (now Queen Mary and Westfield) College, London, and the key texts are the volumes in the Tamesis Books series Fuentes para la historia del teatro en Espana that he edits. In 1989, the year of his retirement, the Department of Hispanic Studies formally constituted the History of the Spanish Theatre Research Project, with John Varey as Director, to provide a framework for the intensive research being carried out under his direction.

Varey was the principal speaker in the drama session in Cordoba, of course, but it must be said further that none of the papers in the drama session could have been written without the material unearthed in the archival research published in the series Fuentes para la historia del teatro en Espana. The importance of Varey's achievements and of the Fuentes series is universally acknowledged among Hispanists, but it is perhaps less known among his fellow countrymen in other fields than it should be, partly because the Fuentes volumes, though published in London, are in Spanish. It is my purpose here to review the volumes in this extraordinary series so as to bring them to the attention of a wider public. The material they contain is indispensable for any comparative study of early modern European drama.

In the early 1950s, John Varey and his student and earliest collaborator, Norman D. Shergold, author of the justly acclaimed A History of the Spanish Stage (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), began to search the archives of Madrid for material on the commercial theatres of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and in 1971 they published the first of several calendars of relevant material contained in the various archives in Madrid, extending techniques they had invented for the presentation of archival material that they had published in the 1950s on the municipally sponsored sacramental plays (autos sacramentales). Each of the projected volumes was to consist of a list of relevant documents in a particular archive, or section of an archive, including the publication in their entirety of those documents of special interest, and using throughout standardized norms of presentation.

Tamesis Books, founded in 1963 by Varey, in collaboration with Spanish scholar German Bleiberg, and intended initially as an outlet for the publication of short monographs, became the home of the Fuentes series. Tamesis publications, now numbering close to 300 volumes, comprise four series: scholarly monographs (Series A), editions of texts (Series B), Fuentes para la historia del teatro en Espana (Series C), and facsimile editions (Series D). Volumes have been produced by Tamesis in collaboration with bodies as disparate as the University of Wales Press, Brown University, the Institucion Alfonso el Magnanimo in Valencia, and the Instituto Portugues do Livro e da Leitura. …

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