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CfP. Engaging with Twentieth-Century Pageants

Engaging with Twentieth-Century Pageants: Performance and Study

17 June 2019, Hosted by the School of English, University of St Andrews, Scotland

This conference seeks to foster scholarly dialogue on the methodologies of twentieth-century pageant research as well as generate discussion on the aesthetic, historical, and political significance of pageants. The conference will consider pageants’ preparation, staging, and performance; relationships to British Imperialism, gender, war, and social class; and understudied status within criticism and disciplinary study. A few topics are proposed below; additional areas of pageant scholarship are warmly encouraged.

  • Pageant-specific (e.g., The Pageant of Great Women, The Pageant of Empire)
  • Discipline-related (e.g., costumes, set and artistic design, book history, music)
  • Writer/composer/artist-specific (e.g., Louis N. Parker, Gustav Holst, Edith Craig)
  • Pageant eras or periods (e.g., Edwardian, inter-war, wartime, post-war)
  • Methodological practices (e.g., location and space, archive research)
  • Pageant themes (e.g., pastoral, historical, religious, suffrage, civic)
  • Genre (e.g., pageant plays, pageant novels, pageant films, radio pageants)

The study of pageants (primarily outdoor amateur historical drama but also other forms such as pageant plays, pageant novels, and pageant films) is steadily increasing as researchers explore the richness of this intermedial art form. There is much potential for interdisciplinary research, largely due to pageants’ combinations of literature, music, history, art, religion, and politics. Despite the pageant genre’s relative critical obscurity, many prominent British writers, composers, directors, and actors were involved in pageants and pageant-making: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Charles Williams, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Edward Elgar, Martin Shaw, Frank R. Benson, E. Martin Browne, Gwen Lally, Edith Craig, Ellen Terry, and Sybil Thorndike.

The conference will feature a unique musical and spoken-word performance of selections from pageants including T. S. Eliot and Martin Shaw’s The Rock (1934). The University of St Andrews Special Collections Library will also give a presentation on some of their pageant materials, including related texts published by the Hogarth Press.

The conference organisers are pleased to welcome Professor Paul Readman (King’s College London) and Dr Angela Bartie (University of Edinburgh) as panellists and speakers for the conference. Both are researchers for the pageant database The Redress of the Past.

The conference will combine round table panel discussions and scholarly papers. In the first instance, indications of a proposed topic/area of interest should be emailed to the conference organiser Parker T. Gordon ( by 25 March 2019. Formal abstracts will be due on 22 April.