Plenary Profile: Eoin Price

It’s time for the final Plenary Profile of the 2016 conference! Meet Eoin Price: an academic (and former BritGrad committee member) who works on the politics of Renaissance performance and publication.

Eoin Price

Dr Eoin Price is a Lecturer in English Literature at Swansea University. Before joining Swansea, he was a PhD student at The Shakespeare Institute where he co-organized BritGrad. His interest in the politics of performance and playbook publication led him to write ‘Public’ and ‘Private’ Playhouses in Renaissance England: The Politics of Publication (Palgrave: 2015) and has also written about Renaissance drama for Literature Compass, The Map of Early Modern London and The Year’s Work in English Studies. In addition to his historical research he is increasingly interested in the twenty-first century reception and afterlife of Renaissance plays. He writes about modern productions on his personal blog and also reviews for Shakespeare, Shakespeare Bulletin, and Reviewing Shakespeare. He is part of the Executive Committee of the Marlowe Society of America and serves as the Performance Editor for The Marlowe Society of America Newsletter.

Plenary Profiles: Harry Newman

Here’s the seventh in our series of Plenary Profiles. Meet Harry Newman: an academic specialising in early modern material culture and a former BritGrad Committee member.

Harry Newman

Dr Harry Newman is a Lecturer in Shakespeare and Early Modern Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London. He publishes primarily on material culture, book history and rhetoric in early modern literature, and his first book, Impressive Shakespeare: Identity, Authority and the Imprint in Shakespearean Drama, will be out with Routledge in 2017. He also runs The Paper Stage, a public Renaissance play-reading series with branches in Surrey, Kent and Mantua (Italy).

Check back soon to find out more about our plenary speakers for BritGrad 2016!

Plenary Profiles: Emma Whipday

Plenary Profile #6! Introducing Emma Whipday: academic and playwright specialising in early modern drama and practice as research.

Emma Whipday Photo
Picture by David Tett

Dr Emma Whipday is a Teaching Fellow in Shakespeare and Early Modern English Literature at King’s College London, and a Globe Education Lecturer at Shakespeare’s Globe. She has published on early modern street literature, staging the home in domestic tragedy, the RSC ‘Roaring Girls’ season, and theatrical practice as research; her practice as research productions of early modern plays include The Tragedy of Merry from Robert Yarington’s Two Lamentable Tragedies and Samuel Daniel’s The Tragedie of Cleopatra. Emma is also an Associate Writer for Oxford-based theatre company Reverend Productions, and her play Shakespeare’s Sister has recently been published by Samuel French.

Check back soon to find out more about our plenary speakers for BritGrad 2016!

Plenary Profiles: Patrick Gray

Here’s the fifth in our series of Plenary Profiles. Meet Patrick Gray, who’s tackled many subjects in his work, including psychology, philosophy, and vampires.

research papers out of high school students
Picture by Gretchen Ertl

Patrick Gray is Lecturer in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature in the Department of English Studies at Durham University. He is the co-editor with John D. Cox of Shakespeare and Renaissance Ethics (Cambridge UP, 2014) and currently co-editing a further collection of essays on Shakespeare and Montaigne with Lars Engle and Will Hamlin, as well as a special issue of Critical Survey on Shakespeare and war. His essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Shakespeare Survey, Shakespeare-Jahrbuch, Critical Survey, Comparative Drama, and Cahiers Shakespeare en devenir.

In the spring of 2016 he will be Early Career International Research Fellow at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, 1100-1800, where he will be working on his monograph, Shame and Guilt in Shakespeare, and organizing a symposium on the early modern reception of Hellenistic ethics, together with Peter Holbrook and Ada Palmer.

Before taking up his appointment at Durham, he taught Shakespeare and comparative literature at Providence College, Deep Springs College, and the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Check back soon to find out more about our plenary speakers for BritGrad 2016!

Plenary Profiles: Sarah Dustagheer

Introducing the fourth in our series of Plenary Profiles… Sarah Dustagheer: expert on historical theatrical spaces (and BritGrad alumna!).


Dr Sarah Dustagheer researches playwriting, performance and theatre space in early modern London, as well as contemporary Shakespearean performance. She completed her postgraduate work at King’s College London and Shakespeare’s Globe. She is the co-author of Shakespeare in London (Arden Shakespeare, 2015) and has published in Moving Shakespeare Indoors (Cambridge University Press, 2014), Shakespeare Jahrbuch, Literature Compass, Cahiers Élisabéthains and The Shakespeare Encyclopaedia: The Complete Guide to the Man and His Works (London: Apple Press, 2009).

She is currently preparing her first book, Shakespeare’s Playhouses: Repertory and Theatre Space at the Globe and the Blackfriars, 1599-1613 for publication. Before joining the University of Kent, Sarah has been a Globe Education Lecturer, Lecturer in Early Modern English at King’s and associate lecturer at the Central School of Speech and Drama; she has taught short courses on Shakespeare and performance in India and Germany.

Sarah has written for London’s City Hall blog, the Shakespearean London Theatres Project blog (, Exeunt Online Theatre Magazine and the RSC myshakespeare blog. She has delivered public talks at Shakespeare’s Globe, the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House, the City of London Guildhall Library and The Marlowe Theatre. Sarah is a member of Shakespeare’s Globe Architecture Research Group, an association tasked with advising on the maintenance of the Globe and the construction of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Check back soon to find out more about our plenary speakers for BritGrad 2016!

Plenary Announcement

It’s been difficult keeping this quiet, but today we finally get to share the big news with you! Below is the official list of plenary speakers for BritGrad 2016. We’re thrilled to be able to offer nine amazing plenaries (including some BritGrad alums!) at this year’s conference, providing a broad range of interests and perspectives.

This year’s speakers include:

Martin Killeen (University of Birmingham)

John Jowett (The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham)

Sarah Dustagheer (University of Kent)

Patrick Gray (Durham University)

Emma Whipday (Kings College London)

Stephen Purcell (University of Warwick)

Eoin Price (Swansea University)

Harry Newman (Royal Holloway)

Erica Whyman (Royal Shakespeare Company)

You can download a PDF version of our 2016 Plenary Announcement here.

We will also continue to post Plenary Profiles each Friday over the next few weeks so that you can learn more about each speaker. We hope that you’re just as excited about them as we are!

~ The BritGrad Committee

Plenary Profiles: John Jowett

Here’s the next in our series of Plenary Profiles. Meet John Jowett, a leading scholar in the field of textual studies and familiar face at the Shakespeare Institute!


John Jowett is Professor of Shakespeare Studies and Deputy Director of the Shakespeare Institute. He is an Associate Editor of the Oxford Shakespeare (1986; rev. 2005) and has edited Richard III (2000) and Timon of Athens (2008) for the Oxford Shakespeare series; and Sir Thomas More (2011) for Arden. He is an Associate General Editor of the Oxford Thomas Middleton (2007) and its companion, Early Modern Textual Culture (2007), and is the author of Shakespeare and Text (2007), and [with Gary Taylor] Shakespeare Reshaped: 1606-1623 (1993). He is a General Editor of the Arden Early Modern Drama series, and of the New Oxford Shakespeare (2016).

Check out this interview with Prof. Jowett on textual editing, ‘Sir Thomas More,’ and Shakespeare as a writer.

Check back soon to find out more about our plenary speakers for BritGrad 2016!

Plenary Profiles: Martin Killeen

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be introducing our fabulous lineup of plenary speakers for BritGrad 2016 in a series of short profiles. Here is the first: meet Martin Killeen, Rare Books Librarian at the Cadbury Research Library!


Martin Killeen
Picture by All rights reserved University of Birmingham Academic Services.

Martin Killeen is a qualified librarian with a Degree in Philosophy and English Literature and an MA in Shakespeare Studies. Martin’s professional career started in the Main Library of the University of Birmingham, where he managed public service departments including the Language, Literature and History Reading Room; in 1996 he joined Special Collections where he is now Rare Books Librarian at the Cadbury Research Library. A major part of Martin’s role involves exploiting the rich resources of the repository (printed books, archives and manuscripts) to support teaching, learning and research across all the disciplines within the University and beyond; this includes delivering talks and presentations, leading seminars with original materials and publishing papers based on the Library’s holdings (eg, Charles Dickens, A W Pugin, John Baskerville, John Drinkwater and Birmingham in WW1).

Check back soon to find out more about our plenary speakers for BritGrad 2016!

Saturday, what a day! (Grooving all week with you.)

Dumbledore: more sinister than you think.

The final day of BritGrad began with a panel on tyranny. Nicole Mennell (University of Sussex) gave her paper “‘So barbarous and so beastly’: Animal Imagery, Tyranny and Dehumanisation in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Titus Andronicus“. She spoke about characters transforming into literal and metaphorical animals. Tyrants are bestial in their cruelty, but because they possess rationality, they are even worse than beasts. Hunters also become predatory creatures in pursuit of prey. Human victims, as well, can metamorphose, such as Titus‘s Lavinia, who is compared to a doe and suffers several mutilations.

Polly Jeanetta Brown (The Shakespeare Institute) questioned whether Prospero of The Tempest and Dumbledore in Harry Potter were trusted tyrants. The answer was a resounding yes. The “benevolent” Dumbledore fits Plato’s “philosopher king” ideal, a tyrant for the greater good. He also uses cunning to keep the peace in a way that would make Machiavelli proud. Prospero can be seen as a Nietzschean figure, a “good man” who alters others to become more like him.

What happens when you marry Othello and Much Ado About Nothing?

After that discussion of disturbing violence and sinister old men, Marie Ryan, Molly Lambert, and Octavia Finch (all from The Shakespeare Institute) talked about adapting Shakespeare for their Creative Practice course. They discussed their process of selecting plays and conflating characters. The group delegated writing but edited the piece as an ensemble for consistency. Lambert mentioned the struggles with creating effective but washable fake blood. Then the three performed ten minutes of their hour-length play, about a theatre company performing Much Ado About Nothing but living Othello behind the scenes.

Ronan Hatfull (University of Warwick) also presented “‘This Blasted Heath’: A Critical-Creative Exploration of William Shakespeare, Samuel Beckett and Cormac McCarthy Through Dystopia”. He showed a video and shared poetry as well as sections from his and his fellow students’ post-apocalyptic play, which drew from Shakespeare, Samuel Beckett, and Cormac McCarthy.

Spooky, no?

Our final plenary talk featured both Laurie Maguire and Felix Budelman with Oxford University: “Audience Responses to Ambiguity in Othello, The Winter’s Tale, and Two Greek Tragedies”. They used questionnaires to determine the alertness of audiences to ambiguities in theatre. The two found several kinds of audience reactions. For example, Aeschylus’s Libation Bearers revealed what they called The Oleanna Effect, named after David Mamet’s play. Audiences were split on whether one character in a masked production was faking grief. The scene was  ambiguous in a way that provoked disagreements, but audience members generally didn’t perceive that ambiguity, as they were convinced they were right.

Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale revealed The Janus Effect, in which the audience appeared to perceive ambiguity regarding whether Leontes had reason to be jealous based on his wife’s behavior. Half of the audience was convinced one way or the other, while the other half genuinely didn’t know or selected multiple answers. Othello involved The Octopus Effect. Rather than focusing on one motive for Iago’s manipulations, members selected multiple compatible statements.

I’m just a natural fool…

The last panel I attended on the last day was a blessedly lighthearted session on clowns. Rebecca Agar (University of Ulster) started by examining “The Use of ‘Low Comedy’ in The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth“. This play, written around 1587, contained popular characters which were not featured in its historical sources. Agar wanted to look beyond the comic relief of the lower class characters to see the potential social commentary in the play’s humor.

Kim Gilchrist’s (Roehampton University) “‘How mad a sight it was to see Dametas’: The Arcadia, Tarlton, and Sidney’s escaping clown” analysed Philip Sidney’s views of clowning as found in the Arcadia. Gilchrist also looked at physical irregularity in clowns as well as Arcadia‘s influence on the play Mucedorus, noting the similarities between the latter’s clown Mouse and the character Dametas. Gilchrist determined that Sidney’s anti-clown views and the interaction between popular and more elitist texts were far more complex than has been accepted.

Finally, Charles Morton (The Shakespeare Institute) concluded the panel with “Your all-licensed fool”: Will Sommers, Robert Armin, and King Lear’s Fool”. He drew connections between Henry VIII’s beloved jester Will Sommers and the Fool in King Lear. Robert Armin, for whom the Fool’s role was likely written, wrote a book “Fool upon Fool”, which included a section on Sommers. Morton also regaled us with obscure and hilarious jokes told by Sommers, the most successful of which (then and now) was a fart joke.

The ever-lovely Institute garden.

The day was almost done. Richard O’Brien gave the closing remarks and presented two Liz Ketterer Memorial Awards for the best abstracts. First place went to Harry Ford (University of Exeter) for his “‘Set down your venerable burden’: piggybacking in Shakespeare’s As You Like It and the medieval outlaw tradition”, and 2nd went to Sam Meekings (Lancaster University) and his “Views from the Beargarden”. After a hearty round of applause for our hardworking BritGrad Chair, we relaxed and chatted in the Institute garden for the closing reception, which involved eating and drinking delicious refreshments.

BritGrad 2015 was filled with funny and fascinating talks from seasoned speakers and students alike. For some, this was their first conference. The papers were uniformly engaging but touched on a wide variety of early modern subjects: gender and sexuality, metre and poetry, playhouse culture–the list goes on.

A big thank you to the BritGrad 2015 committee for working so hard to put this together, to the stunning plenaries who shared with us their remarkable expertise, and to the students, the very reason for this conference’s existence. Until next year! May there be many more BritGrads.


Friday’s Peachy Plenaries

Dr Chris Laoutaris with Gyles Brandreth on The One Show

The second day of BritGrad again offered several fascinating plenary talks. Dr Chris Laoutaris with The Shakespeare Institute spoke on “Early Modern Robotics in Shakespeare and Spenser”. He discussed posthumanism or “cyborg theory” and wondered how familiar Renaissance audiences were with robots, noting that we now live at a time when the existence of humanlike robots is very possible. Numerous religious sermons at the time referenced automata when discussing false idols and hypocrites (those who go through the motions but are inwardly barren). Laoutaris showed a few clips of early modern robots which were both incredibly advanced and eerie. Renaissance England was a place of wonder and skepticism about the wonderful.

Dr Andy Kesson

Another former BritGrad chair, Dr Andy Kesson from the University of Roehampton, talked about the importance of studying playhouses directly before Shakespeare, a time when early modern theatre culture was forming. He lauded archival work by Martin Wiggins and Tiffany Stern which reimagined theatrical history and said that scholarship should “inconvenience perceived narratives”. Kesson discussed several quotes about early modern theatre, including the famous statement in Robert Greene’s ‘Groats-worth of Wit’ (1592). The reference to Shakespeare and his “tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide” quotes 3 Henry VI and was most likely written by Henry ChettleKesson argued that the quote suggests that early Shakespeare was associated with violent plays. From the bloody histories (Richard III, Edward III, and the Henry VI trilogy), to Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare featured a surprising number of war narratives. Even his comedies (The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona) were quite violent and sometimes misogynistic.

Dr Farah Karim-Cooper, at Shakespeare’s Globe, with actor Mark Rylance, Mayor Francois Decoster, and Dr Remy Cordonnier looking at a recently confirmed Folio which will be exhibited at the Globe in 2016.

Dr Farah Karim-Cooper, Head of Higher Education and Research at Shakespeare’s Globe, gave the final plenary talk of the day, “The Hand on the Shakespearean Stage”. She discussed her research and observations about theatrical gestures in the Renaissance. A wide variety of influences shaped gestures, including acting skill, costumes, and lighting conditions. How did large, outdoor spaces affect hand movements in comparison to intimate, candle-lit theatres? We assume outdoor performances at the Globe were grand and over-the-top, but Karim-Cooper noted that stillness on an outdoor stage can be both powerful and highly visible. She also gave insight into different kinds of “gestural annotations,” including iconic and instinctive movements, depending on what the passion, play, or performer needed to convey.

Day 2 of BritGrad 2015 was another success. Thanks again to the plenaries who shared their repositories of knowledge with us!