James Barrowman

‘Counterfooting a Conjuring’: Mobility in James Wedderburn’s Lost Plays

James Wedderburn was a merchant-venturer in 1540s Dundee who wrote two known plays before ‘counterfooting the conjuring of a ghaist’ and living the rest of his life in exile in France. His work consisted of a tragedy on the beheading of John the Baptist and a comedy on the reign of Dionysius the Tyrant. My PhD project is an attempt to rewrite and produce these plays. By utilising collaborative methods and public consultation, the plays are intended as a celebration of neglected Dundonian heritage and cross-cultural exchange. There are three areas where an approach based on ‘mobility studies’ is useful.

Recreating historical work with the absence of an authoritative text allows for mobility within the creative process, the use of ‘paratactic reading’ or ‘collage’ in the adaptation or appropriation of comparable and contemporaneous texts. Wedderburn’s time in France and the travels of his brothers in Germany, Scandinavia and the Baltic countries reveal the extent to which sixteenth-century Dundee was shaped by cultural mobility and transnational influences. The pan-European kinship network that the Wedderburns established also provides avenues for testing the cultural mobility of the Wedderburn project by workshopping the play in the cities with which Dundee traded at the time.

James Barrowman, University of Dundee, Scotland