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Current Research

Sixteenth-century English iconoclasm extended beyond the church to include the visual, literary, and performing arts as consistent subjects of theological controversy.  My current research considers the relationship of Reformation iconoclasm to London’s early modern theatre culture.  I focus on the relationship between the era’s professional preachers and players from 1590 to 1620—three of the most dynamic decades for the era’s prominent stage companies.


Specifically, my research demonstrates how antitheatrical polemics are intrinsically related to English iconoclasm; reveals the clergy’s implicit and explicit consideration of theatre as a threat to the church; determines how performers understood theatre as an edifying alternative to church; and accounts for how preachers and players differentiated between their respective professions.  


My research and approach are decisively interdisciplinary and are concerned with the history of both church and theatre in early modern England, acknowledging the important interdependence between the two.  Because theatre is tied to dramatic literature, visual representation, and performance, I engage the disciplines of literary criticism, art history, and performance studies. 



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Patricia McKee

Using historical and intertextual analyses of literary, visual, and other primary sources, my research demonstrates that church and theatre were competing kinds of performance in early modern England.  Accounting for the ways in which preachers and players embodied their ideologies—while in the pulpit or on stage—further illuminates the historical relationship between church and theatre in the Reformation era.

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