Ella Hawkins – PhD Shakespeare Studies

PhD Shakespeare Studies student, Ella Hawkins, is researching the significance of Jacobethanism in 21st-century stage and costume design for Shakespeare and his contemporaries. She tells us more about what it’s like as a researcher at the University of Birmingham.

Ella Hawkins, doctoral researcher in Shakespeare Studies at the University of BirminghamWhy did you choose to study a PhD in Shakespeare Studies? 

“I found while completing my undergraduate degree (BA Theatre and Performance Studies) that I had a passion for research. By the time I came to research and write my undergraduate dissertation I knew I wanted to pursue a career in academia. Completing a PhD seemed a natural step to take after my Masters course (MA Shakespeare and Theatre), and choosing a Shakespeare-focused programme allowed me to follow the research interests I had developed over my previous studies.”

Why did you choose to undertake research at the University of Birmingham?

“I completed my Masters degree at the University of Birmingham and had quickly come to feel part of the Shakespeare Institute’s vibrant and welcoming research community. I knew my research and I would be well supported if I chose to complete a PhD in the department. I was also excited by the possibility of having regular access to the Institute’s excellent library, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Collections, and the Royal Shakespeare Company.”

What are the best things about your course? 

“I have felt supported and valued as a researcher throughout my PhD experience. My supervisors, fellow research students, and the Shakespeare Institute’s library and administrative staff have proven unfailingly caring, generous, and encouraging over the past three years. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to complete my PhD in this kind of environment and to have had access to such an enviable range of resources and opportunities.” 

What is life like as a researcher at the University of Birmingham? 

“Life as a researcher at the University of Birmingham is an ideal balance of independent study and cohort activities. I am able to work on my project at my own pace while having access to an exciting programme of seminars, lectures, workshops, and performances. I have had opportunities to study palaeography, hear and meet visiting world-class scholars, teach, and also to share my own research within and beyond the Shakespeare Institute research community.” 

What support have you received during your PhD?

“My research has been expertly supported by my two PhD supervisors, and I have had additional support from the University of Birmingham’s College of Arts and Law Welfare Tutors and Mental Health and Wellbeing Service. The University’s annual Mid-Year Review system has given me regular access to academic staff outside of my own department, ensuring that I have a support system extending beyond my supervisory team and local research community.”

Outside of your research, what experience have you gained and how will it help you in the future?

“I have had the privilege of working with multiple internationally-renowned organisations over the course of my PhD studies. With the support of my PhD funding body, Midlands4Cities, I have completed extended placements with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Theatre and Performance Department. I have also worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, advising directors on how specific plays were represented in past productions. These collaborative activities have contributed significantly to my research abilities, employability, and understanding of the cultural sector. I intend to use this experience to develop future collaborative research projects and/or as a pathway to employment.” 

Find out more studying for a Shakespeare Studies PhD over on our course pages.