Clopper, Lawrence M., Jr. 1941-
CLOPPER, Lawrence M., Jr. 1941-
Born 1941. Education: Johns Hopkins University, B.A., 1963; Ohio State University, M.A., 1965, Ph.D., 1969.
Office—Department of English, 442 Ballantine Hall, 1020 E. Kirkwood Ave., Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405-7103. E-mail—[email protected].
Educator. College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, professor of English. Editorial board member of Early Drama.
Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society (vice president, 1990-94, president, 1994-98).
Grants from American Council of Learned Societies, 1974, 1978; National Endowment for the Humanities, 1972, 1976-77, 1986; American Philosophical Society, 1975, 1978; and Indiana University, 1985, 1989; Guggenheim fellowship, 1994-95.
(Editor) Chester (Volume 3, "Records of Early English Drama" series), University of Toronto (Buffalo, NY), 1979.
(Editor, with James J. Paxson and Sylvia Tomasch) The Performance of Middle-English Culture: Essays on Chaucer and the Drama in Honor of Martin Stevens, D. S. Brewer (Rochester, NY), 1998.
Drama, Play, and Game: English Festive Culture in the Medieval and Early Modern Period, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2001.
Contributor to books, including The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, edited by David Wallace, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1998; contributor to academic journals, including Modern Philology.
Lawrence M. Clopper, Jr., whose research interests include medieval literature, culture, and intellectual history, and Middle English and early modern drama, is the author or editor of a number of volumes, including Chester, which contains documentation of the dramatic activities of that English town from approximately 1268 to 1642, including records of craft guilds, cathedral records, and antiquarian records. The volume is the third in the "Records of Early English Drama" series and focuses on the town noted for its Whitsun play cycle, which was performed until 1575. The records are valuable not only in the study of theater and drama, but also with regard to music, the performing arts, and popular culture and contain references to minstrel-performed musicals, secular drama, and bear and bull baiting. Alan H. Nelson noted in Modern Language Review that "the Chester antiquarians were interested not only in drama per se, but in various civic entertainments such as the Midsummer procession and the horse race on St. George's day. This volume, as a consequence, will prove of particular interest to historians, folklorists, and cultural anthropologists, as well as to historians of the drama in the strict sense." Comparative Drama's Peter W. Travis felt that "the glory of the volume is of course the 465 pages of the records themselves, printed chronologically from beginning to end without a single editorial gloss. Up to the year 1590 or so, they make for fascinating reading, a 'history-mystery-drama' in their own right."
Richard K. Emmerson wrote in the Catholic Historical Review that Clopper's "provocative, challenging, and fascinating" Songes of Rechelesnesse: Langland and the Franciscans, "is one of the most important studies of William Langland's 'Piers Plowman' published in the past twenty years. It confronts directly the commonplace view that this fourteenth-century poem—along with Chaucer's 'Summoner's Tale'—is the artistic culmination of the antifraternal tradition in England." The first three chapters of the eight-chapter volume connect Langland with Franciscan ideology, and the last five study the theme of the poem and its relevance to Franciscan issues and Clopper's view of Langland's politics. In the afterword Clopper contends that, at some point in his life, Langland most likely belonged to the Franciscan order.
The Performance of Middle-English Culture: Essays on Chaucer and the Drama in Honor of Martin Stevens is dedicated to Stevens on his retirement as Distinguished Professor of English at City University of New York and dean of Baruch College. The eleven essays address literal performances as seen on stage and in religious and civic ceremonies and discuss their place in the culture in which they occurred. E. A. Jones commented in Notes and Queries that "it is striking that the collocation of Chaucer and the drama can still seem to carry an almost interdisciplinary force."
W. B. Worthen wrote in Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 that Clopper's Drama, Play, and Game: English Festive Culture in the Medieval and Early Modern Period "presents a sweeping and original thesis about the rise and transmission of theater and drama in the middle ages" and called it an "assured study [that] is certain to join in the list of required reading for specialists in the field, and for anyone who teaches medieval drama." In the England of this period, carols were danced as well as sung, not just at Christmas but year round, and rituals and festivals included stories that could be sacred or secular. Clopper writes that the summer months alone saw "somer-games, lords of misrule, king games, Hocktides, Robin Hood, the transgressive Maid Marian, plough plays with the quetes," along with civic and royal pageants and festivals.
Stephen Medcalf noted in the Times Literary Supplement that these medieval practices have survived and even been revived at the London Lord Mayor's Show, in the Horn Dance at Abbot's Bromley in Staffordshire, and in the November 5 bonfire festivities and processions at Lewes in Sussex. Medcalf said that "the great merit" of Clopper's volume "is the learning with which he sets the mystery and morality plays against this background, even though much of the evidence for it comes from attempts to suppress games that seemed, at least to the austerer clergy, worldly and vulgar. He suggests indeed that biblical plays arose, or were at any rate accepted by the Church, as an alternative to uncontrolled carnivalesque festivity." Medcalf found the best chapter to be "Mary Magdalene, The Castle of Perseverance and Wisdom," in which Clopper argues that "what we moderns understand as abstractions—Mind, Flesh, Anger, Will, World—should be taken as realities with substantial quality."
English Historical Review contributor David Mills wrote that the "absence of antitheatricalism is central to Clopper's thesis that a gap opened up between liturgy and popular games that could be colonized by church processions and by civic drama. Urbanization and the growing independence of civic authority in the fifteenth century in response to changing social conditions prompted civic authorities to undertake responsibility for lay spiritual edification by presenting biblical drama." Mills noted that the drama took several forms, "and the extant evidence enables a broad division between the civic play-cycles of the towns of northern England and the varied dramatic forms attributed to the towns and villages of East Anglia and the southeast."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Clopper, Lawrence M., Jr., Drama, Play, and Game: English Festive Culture in the Medieval and Early Modern Period, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2001.
American Reference Books Annual, 1981, Dorothy E. Litt, review of Chester, p. 472.
Catholic Historical Review, April, 1999, Richard K. Emmerson, review of Songes of Rechelesnesse: Langland and the Franciscans, pp. 301-302.
Choice, April, 1980, review of Chester, p. 218; June, 1998, D. N. Baker, review of Songes of Rechelesnesse, p. 1705; December, 2001, L. L. Bronson, review of Drama, Play, and Game: English Festive Culture in the Medieval and Early Modern Period, p. 681.
Comparative Drama, fall, 1980, Peter W. Travis, review of Chester, pp. 284-286.
English Historical Review, June, 2003, David Mills, review of Drama, Play, and Game, p. 705.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, April, 1999, John Scahill, review of Songes of Rechelesnesse, p. 362.
Medium Aevum, spring, 1999, Anne Hudson, review of Songes of Rechelesnesse, p. 129.
Modern Language Review, January, 1983, Alan H. Nelson, review of Chester, pp. 131-133; July, 2001, W. A. Davenport, review of The Performance of Middle English Culture: Essays on Chaucer and the Drama in Honor of Martin Stevens, pp. 779-780.
Notes and Queries, June, 2000, E. A. Jones, review of The Performance of Middle English Culture, pp. 227-228.
Renaissance Quarterly, winter, 1999, review of The Performance of Middle English Culture, p. 1218.
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, spring, 2002, W. B. Worthen, review of Drama, Play, and Game, p. 399.
Times Literary Supplement, April 12, 2002, Stephen Medcalf, review of Drama, Play, and Game, p. 21.
Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 2002, review of Drama, Play, and Game, p. 48.*