I am a cultural historian and literary scholar interested in the relationship between identity, culture, and artistic expression. My primary focus is on Shakespeare and other renaissance literature and the ways in which this writing engages with contemporary religious, scientific, and philosophical ideas about what it means to be a living, feeling, and thinking human being.
BA (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA)
PGCert in Academic Practice (The Open University)
I studied for a BA in English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, after which I moved to England on a Fulbright postgraduate scholarship to study for a MA in Shakespeare Studies at the Shakespeare Institute. I completed my PhD at University College London, where I held the Roy Porter Memorial Studentship and was jointly affiliated with the English department and the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine.
Both my teaching and my research interests are broadly interdisciplinary, weaving together historical, cultural, and aesthetic concerns. In the 2011/12 academic year I will be teaching modules on ‘Shakespeare’s Legacy’, ‘Shakespeare’s Craftsmanship’, and ‘Research Skills’ for the MA in Shakespeare and Theatre and MA in Shakespeare and Education, and I will also teach seminars on historical ideas about mind-body-soul relations for ‘Shakespeare, the Playwright, and his Drama’, which is a core module on the MA in Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon, and the Cultural History of Renaissance England.
I am also interested in new approaches to teaching and learning, including elearning, which plays a large part in my teaching responsibilities at the Shakespeare Institute. As the Distance Learning Coordinator at the Shakespeare Institute I oversee the organization of our distance learning (DL) programmes and I am always seeking to enhance the experience of DL and part-time students through initiatives such as the acquisition of new elibrary resources, the podcasting of Thursday seminars, and the use of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom including blogs, wikis, and videocasting.
I am currently co-supervising a PhD project on poisoning in Jacobean drama and would be interested in hearing from prospective research students interested in any of the research areas outlined below.
I am interested in the intersection of culture, belief, and identity, chiefly in renaissance and early modern England, but also in other times and places. My research to date has dealt with this broad field of interest largely through the lens of the history of emotion and psychology.
I am currently completing a monograph on the understanding and representation of sadness in early modern England, a project that has taken me deep into the history of medicine and religion in Shakespeare’s time. I am especially interested in the ways in which medical and religious knowledge offered competing models for understanding the origins, meanings, and uses of sadness, and in the ways in which different kinds of literary writings (including plays, poetry, diaries, and other life writings) participated in this debate. My research on early modern emotions history has also led to several shorter publications, as well as an edited collection currently underway with Dr Richard Meek (Hull).
Additional research interests in Shakespeare's cultural legacy and Shakespeare and digital culture have led to two AHRC-funded projects in these areas. I am Principal Investigator for 'Shakespeare's global communities', a collaborative research review that will study the performances and public events that are put on as part of the World Shakespeare Festival (http://www.worldshakespearefestival.org.uk/), itself a major part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Additionally I am Co-Investigator for a project involving the digitization of Shakespeare performance artifacts and the subsequent study of their use by different communities of practice (researchers, students, cultural organizations, and media organizations). Both projects involve the participation of key partner institutions, including the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Other research interests include the study of illness narratives (that is, how people write about their physical and mental suffering) and the history of ‘human nature’, especially as it is defined in relation to the animal world.
I regularly attend and present at international conferences in the fields of Shakespeare and renaissance studies, the history of emotion, and the history of psychology and psychiatry. In 2011 I participated in a seminar at the Shakespeare Association of America conference entitled 'Shakespeare and Renaissance Ideas of a Life’, where I presented a paper on 'Being Human in King Lear', and I also presented a paper at a conference on ‘Shakespeare and Early Modern Emotion’, hosted by the University of Hull, entitled ‘“No deeper wrinkles yet?”: Rethinking the Physiology of the Early Modern Passions’. In 2012 I will be giving a paper at the British Shakespeare Association's conference in Lancaster on 'Shakespeare and the History of Human Experience', which will form part of a panel I have organized on 'Shakespeare's Human Surfaces and Depths'.
Outreach and Public Engagement
I am very interested in encouraging greater public engagement with the work that goes on in academia. I am a trustee and the membership secretary for the British Shakespeare Association, which seeks to establish connections across academia, the performing arts, and education, and I am involved in a variety of projects relating to public engagement with the history of medicine and medical humanities. To that end I have spoken at the Cheltenham Literary Festival on madness in literature, have been featured on Melvyn Bragg’s ‘In Our Time’ talking about Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, and have discussed humoural theory with Tony Robinson for his Channel 4 documentary about ‘Superstitions’ in history.
I also act as a historical advisor for Wellcome Trust-funded arts groups dealing with the medical culture of renaissance Europe and I write regularly for the medical journal The Lancet, contributing pieces on the history of madness, the mind, and literature’s engagement with medicine. I am happy to hear from media organizations and arts groups interested in pursuing projects related to my research interests. Links to some of the events and projects I’ve worked on are listed below:
‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’, In Our Time, Radio 4 (2011)
‘Baroque Box’, a physical theatre piece exploring the mind-body relationship in seventeenth-century Europe, Vocal Motions Elastic Theatre (2011)
‘The Glass Piano’, documentary on music and female melancholy, ‘Between the Ears’, Radio 3 (2010)
‘Writing about Medicine’, panel discussion about medicine, literature, and the Wellcome Trust Book Prize, Wellcome Collection (2010)
‘Mind and Heart: Body and Soul’, public lecture on the history of the mind-body relationship, Wellcome Collection (2010); blogged about on the Wellcome Collection blog (2010)
‘Brought to Life: Exploring the History of Medicine’, history of medicine resource for students and educators, Science Museum (2009)
Historical Keyword entries for ‘Grief’, ‘Mind’, ‘Nostalgia’, ‘Insomnia’, The Lancet (2008- )
'Internal and External Shakespeare: Constructing the Twenty-first Century Classroom', in Digital Shakespeares, ed. by Christie Carson and Peter Kirwan (forthcoming 2013/14)
'Doctrinal Doubleness and the Meaning of Despair in William Perkins's "Table" and Nathaniel Woodes's The Conflict of Conscience', Studies in Philology 110:3 (forthcoming summer 2013)
'Emotions in History: A Review Essay', Cultural History (forthcoming spring 2013)
'"The Watchful Spirit": Religious Anxieties toward Sleep in the Notebooks of Nehemiah Wallington', Cultural History (forthcoming spring 2012) - winner of the 2011 International Society for Cultural History Essay Prize
‘A Disease unto Death: Sadness in Early Modern Medicine and Culture’, in Emotions and Health, 1200-1700, ed. by Elena Carrera, Brill (forthcoming 2012)
‘Culture, Literature, and the History of Medicine: A Review Essay’, Medical History 55:4 (2011): 541-8.
‘Physical and Spiritual Illness: Narrative Appropriations of the Bills of Mortality’, in Representing the Plague in Early Modern England, ed. by Rebecca Totaro and Ernest B. Gilman (Routledge, 2010), 76-94
‘Melancholy, Medicine and the Arts’, The Art of Medicine series, The Lancet 372 (13 September 2008), 884-5
‘Anti-Bardolatry through the Ages – or, why Voltaire, Tolstoy, Shaw and Wittgenstein Didn’t Like Shakespeare’, Opticon 1826, 2 (2007)