Article Title

Canon, Pedagogy, Prospectus: Redesigning "Restoration and Eighteenth-Century English Drama"


Richard Bevis


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Let me begin by stating my assumptions-those, that is, of which I am aware-so that they, as well as the choices based on them, can be debated:

1. Whenever a subject matter is studied, there is a canon. We can investigate how the canon was formed, debate what should be at its center and at its margins, and make changes. While scholars study both center and margins, students in their earlier careers are concerned with the former.

2. In the case of theater, there are two partially overlapping canons: the plays that are read, and the plays that are performed. While this essay deals with the former, it assumes that students of dramatic literature take some interest in the theater, past and present.

3. For all practical purposes, the undergraduate student's reading canon is defined by what is printed in the currently available anthologies.1

4. Pedagogy is an important part of what academic scholars do, and the question of what students are to read requires a critical consideration of what the standard anthologies make available.

5. Anthologies date because taste, values, and scholarship change. To be useful, an anthology should present texts that will interest students, give a fair representation of authors and styles that were important in the period, and reflect the current state of scholarship in its selections and commentary. To the extent that it serves any narrower ideology and moves towards the "thesis anthology," it becomes less useful.

My reflections on the Restoration and eighteenth-century English dramatic canon as defined by anthologists are grounded on these assumptions.2

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.