Plenary Panel Announcement: Postgraduate Welfare

Happy Shakespeare’s Birthday Weekend from a very sunny Stratford! The Morris dancers are out in force and the town is buzzing, which has the Britgrad committee in the mood to make a very special announcement.

We are a conference run by postgraduates for postgraduates and we have the academic experience in mind when we are planning every detail of the conference. This is why we wanted to put a spotlight on postgraduate welfare with a panel of academics and support officers speaking on issues which effect academics at every career level. Without much further ado, here’s the speakers who will make up this year’s welfare panel:

Dr Sonia Suman is the Welfare Tutor for the University of Birmingham’s School of English, Drama and American and Canadian Studies. Sonia completed her PhD thesis in the early modern history play and early modern theories of the senses.

Dr Charlotte Mathieson is a Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature in the School of English and Languages at the University of Surrey. She is also Chair of the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association UK & Ireland, and co-covenes the Transport and Mobility History Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, London. Charlotte has also worked on early career researcher support for several years and much of her work is available on her website.

Dr José A. Pérez Díez is a Research Fellow at the School of English of the University of Leeds. José undertook his PhD at the Shakespeare Institute, where he completed the first modern-spelling critical edition of Love’s Cure, or The Martial Maid by John Fletcher and Philip Massinger. José will also be attending the conference as a solo plenary speaker, and we are delighted to also have him join the welfare panel.

Dr Erin Sullivan is a Senior Lecturer at The Shakespeare Institute, cultural historian and literary scholar. Erin’s research interests are in two distinct but related strands: the cultural history of emotions, especially sadness, and the performance of Shakespeare today. Here at the Institute, Erin is also the our Tutor for Distance Learning.

The Britgrad committee are particularly excited to be initiating a welfare panel for the first time this year. More information on how to register for Britgrad can be found here on our blog.

New Plenary Speaker: Julian Harrison

As our list of plenary speakers for this years conference keeps growing, the BritGrad committee are excited to share with you our next plenary speaker. While we are busy compiling the schedule we are delighted to introduce Julian Harrison, curator of pre-1600 manuscripts at the British Library.


Julian’s research area covers medieval and early modern manuscripts from the British Isles, spanning the Anglo-Saxon period to the 17th century. He is also an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow.

Julian has recently curated the British Library’s exhibition on the Magna Carta (2015) and an exhibition on Shakespeare at the University of Birmingham’s library (2016).  He is the lead curator of the forthcoming Harry Potter exhibition at the British Library.   Julian has previously delivered a paper here at the Institute and we very much look forward to welcoming him back this year.

New Plenary Speaker: Dr. Abigail Rokison-Woodall

This week we have a familiar face to add to our list of plenary speakers! It gives us great pleasure to announce Dr Abigail Rokison-Woodall will be speaking at this year’s BritGrad conference. After lecturing at Cambridge University for seven years, Abigail is now a senior lecturer in Shakespeare and Theatre and the Shakespeare and Creativity.


Abigail began her career as a professional actor before moving into academia to pursue research interests in Shakespeare in performance. Her particular research areas include verse speaking, adaptation and theatre history. Her most recent publication documents the career of Nicholas Hytner for Arden Bloomsbury.

Abigail is also working with Arden Bloomsbury as a General Editor of the new Arden Shakespeare in Performance Editions, for which series she is editing A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet. We are very excited for Abigail to join the conference as a plenary speaker.

New Plenary Speaker: Angus Jackson

Today is our Call for Papers deadline, so the BritGrad committee would like to celebrate the abstracts we have received so far by introducing a very exciting plenary speaker: acclaimed director Angus Jackson. The Shakespeare Institute is particularly excited to welcome Angus, whose work has been a fixture at the Royal Shakespeare Company (and so naturally a source of conversation for our Stratford students!) for the past few years.


Previously an Associate Directer at Chichester Festival Theatre, in 2014 Jackson transferred his production of King Lear with the company to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He has also earned a BAFTA nomination for the screen version of Elmina’s Kitchen, which enjoyed success as a stage production under his direction at the National Theatre. More recently, Jackson’s work with the RSC includes the sell-out run of Oppenhiemer, which transferred to London after premiering in the Swan Theatre, and directing David Threlfall and Rufus Hound in Don Quixote.

He is currently the season director of the RSC’s Rome season and directed Julius Caesar in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. We are especially delighted to welcome Angus as a speaker, as tickets for this production of Caesar are available for conference attendees to purchase as part for the Thursday evening of the conference.

Call For Papers Deadline Extended to 27th of March

The BritGrad team have been delighted by the abstract submissions so far, so much so that we are extending our Call For Papers deadline! You now have until midnight on the 27th of March to propose an abstract for this year’s conference. Just to sharpen your memory, here’s all the information about BritGrad’s Call For Papers:

We invite graduate students with interests in Shakespeare, Renaissance, and Early Modern Studies to submit paper proposals for the Nineteenth Annual British Graduate Shakespeare Conference on the 1st-3rd June 2017.

This interdisciplinary conference provides a friendly and stimulating academic forum in which graduate students from all over the world can present their research and meet together in an active centre of Shakespeare research: Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. Attendees will also have the opportunity to attend the RSC production of Julius Caesar, directed by Angus Jackson, at a group-booking price. Lunch will be provided each day, and there will be a party and reception for attendees. Please check our blog for upcoming announcements of plenary speakers as they are confirmed.

We welcome abstracts of up to 200 words proposing papers twenty minutes in length on subjects relating to Shakespeare, Early Modern, and/or Renaissance Studies. More creative forms of criticism, such as original writing or performance, may also be submitted, also requiring a 200-word abstract. The committee also welcomes papers from a wide variety of disciplines, from literature to art and cultural history and beyond. Undergraduate students in their final two years of study are invited to attend the conference as auditors (non-speakers).

Extended Deadline for Paper Proposals: 23:59 GMT on 27 March 2017.

Presenters will be notified of acceptance in time to register by 21 April and secure any necessary visas. Auditors are encouraged to register by 19 May for early-bird pricing. Due to the growing success of this annual conference, we strongly encourage early registration to ensure a place on the conference programme.

For more information you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and at Our email address is; please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.


We look forward to reading your submissions.

Plenary Speaker Announcement: Dr. Jem Bloomfield

Another week closer to BritGrad means we have another plenary speaker to introduce! We’re excited to add to the list Dr Jem Bloomfield of the University of Nottingham.


Jem Bloomfield studied at the universities of Oxford and Exeter, writing his doctorate on the reception of The Duchess of Malfi from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.  During this work he became particularly interested in the ways in which cultural authority is exerted and contested through the performance of particular texts. He is Assistant Professor of Literature at the University of Nottingham, and recent publications include a chapter on the critical history of The White Devil in the Arden Critical Reader, and an article on the Eucharist in The Hunger Games for the journal Theology.

Last year he published Words of Power: Reading Shakespeare and the Bible, which explores the ways in which these two collections are read as “sacred texts”.  The book examines the canonisation, interpretation, performance and institutionalisation of the cultural icons we refer to as “Shakespeare and the Bible”, emphasizing how they are read into existence via these processes. His blog, Quite Irregular, covers religion, gender and the arts, and has been cited by a range of academic and media outlets, from the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association and the Church Times, to Times Higher Education and Glamour magazine.

Jem has also previously delivered a paper at the Institute’s Thursday Seminar and the BritGrad committee are delighted to be welcoming him back.

Tips for Writing an Effective Abstract

The British Graduate Shakespeare Conference offers many postgraduate students their first opportunity to present an academic paper. This can be simultaneously exciting and daunting, so we’d like to offer up some tools and resources that might help you to prepare for your first conference presentation.

As is standard with most conferences, the first step to presenting at BritGrad is submitting an abstract. Writing an abstract for the first time can be a challenging task, as it requires you to clearly and concisely present your research with a certain degree of specificity whilst adhering to a limited word count. (In this case, it’s 200 words.)

The following points can help guide you in figuring out the most important areas of your chosen topic to discuss in your abstract:

  • Subject – What are you writing about?
  • Purpose/Aim/Objective – Why write about it?
  • Nature of Field and Contribution – What else is written on this subject? Is your paper related to a larger field of study? How are in interacting with existing scholarship and discourse?
  • Evidence – What sources/textual references do you use to support your argument? Is there anything unique about the nature of this evidence?
  • Approach – What is the angle? What might be unique about the research you’ve done or the evidence you provide?
  • Argument – What is your overall claim or main argument?
  • Conclusions – What conclusions do you make? Are there areas still open for exploration on this subject?

Remember that these points are guidelines and are not intended to be followed in a particular order. They can be rearranged and combined as you see fit.

Need some examples? Curious to see what other students have presented at BritGrad? Click here to see programmes from past years which contain a variety of abstracts written by past presenters.

Don’t forget that the deadline for abstracts is 23:59 GMT on 21 March 2017. We look forward to reading your abstract. Good luck, and happy writing!

BritGrad 2017: Call For Papers


1-3 June 2017

The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham

Now that we are speeding towards the end of January, we are very excited to announce our own CFP! We have updated our Call for Papers page with all the information you will need for 2017 and you can also find the link right here.

As with last year, due to to the limited amount of space and time slots in which to include all those who desire to submit abstracts, we have separated the registration and abstract submission processes. This means all of you who wish to submit a 200-word abstract should do so first before registering once we have replied to you. Once we have responded to your submission, registration opens for delegates and auditors on April 1st. More information regarding dates and deadlines can be found here .

Please get in touch if you have any further questions or queries – we’re here to help.

~ The BritGrad Committee


Meet our new committee!

As we storm through January, it’s time to look forward to BritGrad 2017. This year’s committee have been working away behind the scenes to set everything in motion, so we thought it’s time for a round of introductions. At the Shakespeare Institute, we appreciate that you can tell a lot about a person from what they like about Shakespeare. So we tasked our wonderful committee to tell us their favourite Shakespeare play and why they are looking forward to BritGrad…

Co-chairs: Elizabeth Jeffery and Karen Harker 


This is our co-chair Elizabeth’s second time serving on the committee, so what’s her favourite thing about BritGrad?

One of the great things I love about BritGrad is that the conference brings a lot of academics together from very different backgrounds. It’s a great opportunity to have some very stimulating conversations and the energy brought by all the participants is electric. I can’t wait share that experience again.

And the tough question: what is her favourite Shakespeare play?

Much Ado About Nothing is my favourite. It cracks me up every time, no matter how many times I see it.


Karen is currently a PhD student here at the Institute, after completing her MA in 2015. She told us about her favourite Shakespeare play:

My favorite play is King Lear, although Twelfth Night comes as a close second. King Lear is complex, both textually and in regards to its performativity. The questions of which text to use, how to stage particular scenes, and the characterization of the Fool mean that performances across history are varied, and even in modern contexts, generate interesting and often heated debate. A myriad of adaptations have reinterpreted and appropriated the text and characters in extremely interesting and thought-provoking ways. On a personal level, I have always loved the character of Kent, who gives my favorite quote from all of Shakespeare in the first act: “See better.”

Secretary: Corinne Furness


Corinne is a PhD student at the Institute and the Royal Shakespeare Company. She told us why As You Like It is her favourite Shakespeare play:

I’m a nightmare list maker when it comes to favourite plays (I want to choose one from each category!) but if forced to choose on pain of death I would say As You Like It, because the ability to write joy is massively underrated. As You is a world where the characters revel in joy (with the notable exception of Jacques who, of course, revels in sadness) and maybe in 2017 a dose of a world of joy and possibility is exactly what we need!

Co-registrars: Martin Higgins and Philippa Vandome


After a BA in English Literature and Philosophy, Martin is currently undertaking an  MA in Shakespeare Studies.  We asked him what he is looking forward to about this year’s BritGrad and, of course, his favourite Shakespeare play…

BritGrad will be my first academic conference as a postgraduate, so I’m really looking forward to participating. My favourite Shakespeare play is Coriolanus because I think it’s the most dramatically effective Roman play and a very provocative tragedy. 



Philippa is studying for an MA in Shakespeare and Theatre, but what’s her favourite Shakespeare play?

If had to choose I think I would go for Much Ado About Nothing, because I simply love Beatrice and wish I was her!

Treasurer: Kelsey Ridge 


Kelsey Ridge is currently working towards her Ph.D. at the Shakespeare Institute. We asked Kelsey for her favourite Shakespeare play:

While there’s nothing quite like Macbeth, my favourite Shakespeare play is Cymbeline, because for me it’s kind of like a ‘Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits’ album.

Publicity: Beth Sharrock



Beth is studying an MA in Shakespeare Studies. Her favourite Shakespeare play? And what is she looking forward to about this year’s BritGrad conference?

I can never quite decide but I keep coming back to write about Titus Andronicus. I’m really interested in the effect of spectacle and in embodiment, and I think Titus speaks for itself on those two counts. This is my first BritGrad conference and I’m very excited to talk with attendants and find out what is occupying everyone’s attention around Shakespeare at the moment. 

It/Tech: Jennifer Waghorn


This is Jennifer’s third time on the BritGrad committee, which she has managed to fit around a PhD at the Shakespeare Institute. Jen told us about her favourite Shakespeare play:

My favourite play, for this week at least, is The Tempest. I’ve gradually come to love it over the past few months: because the backstory and resolution are so rich, because the structure works so well, because the possibilities for setting and for relationships for the main four characters are endless, because Shakespeare does something thoroughly unprecedented and very exciting with theatre music, and because of Ariel. And the best thing about BritGrad is an overwhelming sense of being welcomed into an academic community, by your peers and by the plenaries who are willing to share their time and experience with you. It’s a great confidence boost if you’re an emerging academic

Party Planner and Catering: Andrea Moon


Andrea is currently studying an MA in Shakespeare and Education. We asked Andrea for her favourite Shakespeare play:

My favourite play is Hamlet. I love the intensity of the scenes, the hectic creativity of Hamlet, actions and words, and then the performative possibilities and how the play always carries humorous charm despite being a tragedy. Its a kaleidoscope of emotions when you watch it.

If you’d like to know about the research interests and academic track records of this year’s BritGrad committee, you can read more here.



Post-Conference Wrap Up

Thank you all for attending BritGrad 2016! What an amazing three days full of stimulating conversations, inspiring perspectives, and new connections (and, we hope, friendships). We heard papers on nicknames, philosophy, translation, adaptation, Star Wars, rhetoric and linguistics, Dekker, Jonson, gesture, queer theory, theatre practice, stage design, witches, and a great deal more. The caliber of both the papers presented and the questions asked in each panel were really excellent – we hope you enjoyed them as much as we did!

In case you weren’t able to join us, we’ve made a Storify story with a selection of the live-tweets from the conference. If that’s not enough for you (it wasn’t nearly enough for us) and you want a taste of the whole event, head over to our Twitter page, where you’ll be able to see more on student panels and plenary lectures. You can also find photo albums of each day of the conference (plus the party!) on our Facebook page.

Before you get too involved with tweets and photos, here’s a small sampling of #britgrad2016 by the numbers:

Innumerable tweets posted using the conference hashtag

33 Photos tweeted using the conference hashtag

24 Student panels

18 Photos taken by a BritGrad committee member of attendees enjoying our roving selfie booth

12 Carafes each of coffee and tea (which we think shows admirable restraint)

10 Boxes of macaroons for dessert on Day 1

8 Plenary speakers

4 Travel bursaries awarded by the Lizz Ketterer Trust

2 Video presentations

And your 10 committee members are pleased to announce that they’re almost 100% recovered.

Again, thanks for helping to make the Eighteenth BritGrad conference a smashing success – here’s to #britgrad2017!