Thursday 9th July 2015 to Friday 10th July 2015

Venue: Chawton House

A Conference at Chawton House Library organised by Dr Elaine McGirr (Royal Holloway) and Dr Laura Engel (Duquesne University)

Painting of Mary Robinson by Hoppner

This painting of 18th-Century actress and author, Mary Robinson, hangs in the Great Hall at Chawton House Library. Robinson is one of the early female writers whose work features in the Library collection.

The stage offered women an unprecedented freedom to speak out. It was a place where women were listened to, where they were respected, and where they had the potential to out-earn their male colleagues. This two-day interdisciplinary conference will explore all the ways in which actresses were invested with authority, either as authors of texts, of characters, or of their own personae.

Keynote speakers:
Maggie Gale: ‘Believe me or not’: the actress/female performer autobiographical histories of professional practice
Jacky Bratton: Sans Pareil

The two days of talks and discussions are complemented by special evening events:

On Thursday 9th July, there will be a performance of “memories, screens, and reflections: After Fanny Kelly’s Dramatic Recollections” by Professor of women’s performance history, Gilli Bush-Bailey (University of London). This performance paper challenges the ways in which we access women’s performance history, asking what can – or cannot – be recovered (and revised) by the actress as author of her own performance history. The performance juxtaposes Fanny Kelly’s 1835 Dramatic Recollections with extracts from Professor Bush-Bailey’s early professional life on screen.

On Friday 10th July, there will be a preview talk of the exhibition entitled ‘Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen and the Cult of Celebrity’. The exhibition is co-curated by Austen scholar Janine Barchas (University of Texas at Austin) and theatre historian Kristina Straub (Carnegie Mellon University), both of whom will join us to give this talk. The exhibition, to be held at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC in late 2016, will explore the parallel afterlives of arguably the two most popular writers in the English language.

These two evening events are included in the conference ticket price. Admission to the preview talk by Barchas and Straub is also available separately for £11 or £8.50 for students and Friends of Chawton House Library.

We are grateful for the support of Royal Holloway University of London and Duquesne University.

Conference Timetable:

Thursday 9th July
Registration from 9.00 am
Lunch: 12.00 pm
Conference finishes: 6.00 pm
Drinks reception: 6.30 pm
Performance: 7.00 pm

Friday 10th July
Talks begin at 10.00 am
Lunch: 1.00 pm
Conference finishes: 6.30 pm
Drinks Reception: 6.30 pm
Exhibition Talk: 7.00 pm

There will be a coach service for delegates arriving at Alton Railway Station on both days at 9.00 am and a coach returning delegates to Alton Station both evenings at 8.15 pm.

Download programme


Two-Day Delegate: £120 (includes lunch, wine reception and admission to the evening events on both days)

One-Day Delegate: £70 (includes lunch, wine reception and admission to the evening event on the day you attend the conference)

Two-Day Unwaged and Graduate Student Delegate: £85 (includes lunch, wine reception and admission to the evening events on both days)

One-Day Unwaged and Graduate Student Delegate: £45 (includes lunch, wine reception and admission to the evening events on the day you attend the conference)

Will & Jane only: £11; students/Friends/Unwaged: £8.50 (includes wine reception)

Register here