Isaac Chong – PhD Shakespeare Studies
PhD Shakespeare Studies student, Isaac Chong, is researching the intercultural representations of Macbeth and its characters . He tells us more about what it’s like as a researcher at the Shakespeare Institute.
Why did you choose to study at the Shakespeare Institute?
The Shakespeare Institute offers a very large range of expertise from theoretical to practical, as well as a vast library of resources to rely on for my research. Being immersed in a Shakespeare-focused environment not just at the Institute but also in Stratford-upon-Avon helps in discovering and understanding the historical contexts of Shakespeare’s works.
Why did you choose to undertake research at the University of Birmingham?
I chose to go into research mainly because it is a form of expression for me. Research encapsulates my interests, my curiosities, and freedom to delve into specific topics that perhaps do not appear in a school syllabus. My proposed research idea was focused specifically at intercultural representations of Macbeth and its characters and I thought that there would not be a better place to delve into it than at the Shakespeare Institute and University of Birmingham which place strong emphasis on international sharing and academic scholarship.
What are the best things about your course?
The best thing about coming to the Shakespeare Institute is the people in it. It is such a great feeling to be able to talk about your ideas and interpretations of Shakespeare and hear others enthusiastically respond to them while concurrently sharing their own thoughts. The discussions are always enlightening and it has also been exhilarating to hear people passionately talk about their own ideas and being able to respond in kind.
What is life like as a researcher at the University of Birmingham?
The short and frank answer to the question is that a lot of time is definitely spent either at the library or online reading through old books, online journals, and criticisms. The longer answer is that it is mostly questioning why does something work in that particular way, or what influences are there in certain interpretations, or is a theory true when placed in a slightly different context and so forth. It is looking for limitations and finding ways to expand them, like looking at a seemingly finished jigsaw puzzle and adding more pieces on the other side of the borders to make a new picture. It is exciting to read something and find ideas or words that have been overlooked through the decades and connecting them to your own ideas. Part of the excitement is also occasionally creating new words and definitions to communicate your ideas across to the readers of your research with better clarity.
What support have you received during your PhD?
I am very grateful for the social support from the Institute’s community, especially during such a difficult year like 2020. There were frequent check-ins by my supervisors and other professors at the Institute, opportunities for feedback and attempts to create a social environment either online, or in a safe manner once we were able to come out of lockdown. It was definitely a great help to be able to meet with people and have some instances of social interact, even in a limited fashion.
Outside of your research, what experience have you gained and how will it help you in the future?
Apart from research, I have gained confidence in my ideas and I am learning how to express these ideas confidently. I conducted my first conference presentation this year at the annual BritGrad conference and it helped immensely with practicing my presentation skills which is definitely a skill set that consists of valuable and transferable assets like public speaking and teaching.
I also did my first long video editing project this year with the Shakespeare Players, which exercised my knowledge and familiarity of video editing. I do think this will continue to grow and become an important skill set in the future, especially if I were to consider a path in academic education. As we have seen over the past year, being able to create resources that can be accessed online is becoming a crucial tool in the field, and having a related skill set would definitely be an important factor.