Volumes 37 and 38 of Medieval English Theatre offer a collection of essays to honour John McGavin. Written by his friends and colleagues, students and admirers, these all testify to the deep affection as well as the academic esteem in which John himself and his work across the discipline of early theatre are held. Many reflect his own particular interests in the early drama of England and, especially, of Scotland: its records and narratives, its spectators, its intellectual and affective strategies, and its cultural work. There are papers on many aspects of Scottish theatrical culture, from ceremonial (Williamson) to Sir David Lyndsay (Hadley Williams, Happé, and Walker); from foolery (Carpenter) to Dunbar's dramatic voice (Jack). John's abiding interest in spectatorship and audience reception is approached from different angles, in morality drama (Steenbrugge), dialogue (Bose), in the York Play (King), academic drama (Dutton), and theory (van Pelt). His authoritative work in the creative interpretation of records and narratives, of both dramatic and para-dramatic performance, is reflected in essays on coronation ceremony (Hunt), libel (Egan), and monastic crucifixion games (Klausner). His steering role in the project on Early Modern London Theatres is commemorated in the online Bear Hunt (MacLean and Hagen). Three essays engage with one of the central current concerns of early theatre study, the Towneley manuscript and its plays (Epp, Johnston, and Twycross), while two more address uniquely revealing single plays: the Digby Mary Magdalen (Godfrey), and the Welsh Troelus a Chresyd (Niebrzydowski).
John's work has indeed come to epitomise ‘the best pairt of our play’. The number of essays contributed to the collection, by scholars young and old across the whole field of early drama studies, shows the range of his influence on the discipline itself and on generations of those working within it. This collection is offered as a tribute both to his creative scholarship and his collegiality. There is no space here for all the many friends and colleagues who would like to salute him on this occasion; but we hope that the recollections of three voices, offering memories and appreciation from John's student days to the present, may speak for us all.
Medieval English Theatre Meeting 2015 Change of publication details
The 2015 METh meeting was held at the University of Southampton, hosted by John McGavin. His carefully timetabled proceedings were interrupted by the unscheduled (by him) presentation of a Festschrift in his honour. He holds the unique composite volume, but the articles it contains will be divided between this volume of METh (Part One), and Volume 38 (Part Two).
The rest of the day lived up to its festive beginning. A range of papers on the topic of ‘Paradigms Lost’ highlighted those once entrenched scholarly positions about which we have changed our minds. Pamela M. King, in ‘Medieval Drama Criticism before METh’, introduced the late nineteenth-century work of Adolphus William Ward; Garrett Epp, on ‘Things we can no longer say about the Towneley Plays’, gave an impressive PowerPoint show of deletions of accepted ‘facts’; while Meg Twycross summarised new evidence on the provenance of the manuscript (see this volume). Other speakers introduced new material which extends or changes our approach to well-worn topics: Lindsey Cox showed us the visual evidence for the portrait miniature in Wit and Science, and how the different parts of the audience might have perceived it, and Jason Burg sketched the changing patterns of performance in Lincoln Cathedral between 1309 and 1642. Nadia van Pelt reminded us of the necessity of looking at original manuscript sources rather than their calendared summaries by discussing the enigmatic detail of a letter from Chapuys which reports Henry VIII's visit to a St John's Day pageant showing him ‘cutting off the heads of the clergy’; while Greg Walker rounded off the day with a masterly summation of recent critical approaches to spectatorship, and where they fell short.
Elisabeth Dutton gave us our own spectatorly experience. Before lunch, James McBain and Stephanie Allen of the EDOX (Early Drama at Oxford University) project spoke about ‘Rehabilitating Academic Drama’, and just after lunch this was put to the test by an enthusiastic reading of the play of Narcissus originally mounted by the undergraduates of St John's College, Oxford, as a Christmas entertainment in 1602.
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