Dr Erin Sullivan

Dr Erin Sullivan

Shakespeare Institute
Reader in Shakespeare

Contact details

The Shakespeare Institute
Mason Croft
Church Street
CV37 6HP

I am a cultural historian and literary scholar interested in the nature of emotional experience and its relation to art - in particular Shakespeare’s. My research splits into two distinct but nonetheless related strands: the cultural history of the emotions, especially sadness, and the performance of Shakespeare today.


  • PhD (UCL)
  • PGCert in Academic Practice (Open University)
  • MA (Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham)
  • BA (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)


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 an 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. I took up my post at Birmingham in 2010.


I convene postgraduate modules on Shakespeare’s Legacy and Research Skills and contribute sessions to Shakespeare in Society. I also lecture on the undergraduate Shakespeare modules that are taught at the University of Birmingham’s main campus in Edgbaston.

 As Tutor for Distance Learning at the Shakespeare Institute I oversee the distance learning pathways  and I also help develop digital teaching opportunities at our university. In 2016 I received a University of Birmingham Teaching Academy Award for my work in this area, in 2018 I became a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Association for my contributions to online education, and in 2019 I became a Scholar of the Higher Education Futures Institute at the University of Birmingham. I believe strongly in the fundamental connection between teaching and research and I have published articles on the pedagogy of distance and blended learning.

Since 2018 I have been involved in educational leadership at the University of Birmingham, first as Academic Lead for Postgraduate Taught Courses in the School of English, Drama, and Creative Studies and later as Academic Lead for Postgraduate Taught Courses in the College of Arts and Law.

Postgraduate supervision

I would be happy to hear from prospective research students interested in Shakespeare and emotion, Shakespeare and the body and/or soul, Shakespeare and twenty-first-century performance, and Shakespeare and digital culture. In 2018 I was very fortunate to receive University of Birmingham's Award for Excellence in Doctoral Researcher Supervision for the College of Arts and Law.

Further information about the PhD application and funding is available on the University of Birmingham website. Strong candidates for a PhD place will typically have an MA with distinction in a relevant subject area and a well-developed sense of their proposed research project.

Find out more - our PhD Shakespeare Studies  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


I am fascinated by the intersection of culture, community, identity, and the arts, both in Shakespeare's time and today. This wide-reaching interest has resulted in a number of different research areas, including the history of emotion, contemporary performance studies, digital culture, and the philosophy of teaching. 

My first book, Beyond Melancholy: Sadness and Selfhood in Renaissance England, explores the medical, religious, and philosophical 'scripts' that helped shape the understanding of emotion in Shakespeare's time. At the same time, it considers how literary and dramatic writing, including Shakespeare's plays, playfully reimagine those scripts in creative and improvisatory ways. I have published articles and chapters in the field of the history of emotion and am a general editor of Palgrave Studies in the History of Emotions

My second book, Shakespeare and Digital Performance in Practice, responds to the growing impact of digital technology on theatrical culture and Shakespeare's plays. It looks at the live broadcasting, the use of live film on the stage, and experiments in born-digital theatre-making. This work is part of a wider interest in Shakespeare and adaptation, which also informs my work as a general editor for Palgrave's Reproducing Shakespeare series.

Although these research interests often take me in very different directions, I am hoping to bring them together in my next major research project, the Arden Shakespeare fourth edition of All's Well That Ends WellAll's Well is a play full of difficult characters and uncomfortable feelings, and artists have found partial resolutions to some of the problems it poses through adaptation. 

Other activities

I enjoy sharing my research with audiences beyond the university. I’ve been a panellist on ‘In Our Time’ and ‘Women’s Hour’ and have appeared in radio and television documentaries presented by Michael Wood, Mark Ravenhill, A. L. Kennedy, and Dean Norris. I’ve written on several occasions for The Lancet and the Royal Shakespeare Company and have spoken at the Cheltenham and Hay Literary Festivals. I also enjoy collaborating with artists and have worked as a consultant for Stan’s Cafe and Elastic Theatre and as a trustee for The Other Way Works.

I am happy to hear from media organizations and arts groups interested in pursuing projects related to my research areas.


Recent publications


Allred, GK, Broadribb, B (ed.) & Sullivan, E (ed.) 2022, Lockdown Shakespeare: New Evolutions in Performance and Adaptation. Shakespeare and Adaptation, 1st edn, Bloomsbury Publishing, London. https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350247833

Sullivan, E 2022, Shakespeare and Digital Performance in Practice. Shakespeare in Practice, 1 edn, Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-05763-2


Sullivan, E 2023, 'Introduction: Remixing the Classics', Adaptation, vol. 16, no. 2, apad020. https://doi.org/10.1093/adaptation/apad020

Sullivan, E 2020, 'Live to your living room: streamed theatre, audience experience, and the Globe’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream', Participations: journal of audience & reception studies, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 92-119. <https://www.participations.org/Volume%2017/Issue%201/7.pdf>

Sullivan, E & Kirwan, P 2020, 'Shakespeare in Lockdown', Shakespeare Bulletin, vol. 38, no. 3, pp. 483-93. <https://muse.jhu.edu/pub/1/article/806315>

Sullivan, E & Herzfeld-Schild, ML 2018, 'Introduction: emotion, history and the arts', Cultural History, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 117-128. https://doi.org/10.3366/cult.2018.0169

Sullivan, E 2018, 'Shakespeare, Social Media, and the Digital Public Sphere: Such Tweet Sorrow and A Midsummer Night’s Dreaming', Shakespeare, vol. 14, no. 1. https://doi.org/10.1080/17450918.2018.1439092

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Sullivan, E 2023, Staging Digital Co-Presence: Punchdrunk’s Hybrid Sleep No More (2012) and Pandemic-Informed Pedagogies. in E Smith (ed.), Shakespeare Survey 76: Digital and Virtual Shakespeare. Shakespeare Survey, vol. 76, Cambridge University Press, pp. 24-36. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009392761.004

Sullivan, E 2022, Conclusion: Shakespeare after Lockdown. in M Thornton Burnett, GK Allred, B Broadribb & E Sullivan (eds), Lockdown Shakespeare: New Evolutions in Performance and Adaptation. Shakespeare and Adaptation, Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 259-65. <https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/lockdown-shakespeare-9781350247826/>

Sullivan, E 2022, Immersion in a Time of Distraction: “The Under Presents: Tempest”. in M Thornton Burnett, GK Allred, B Broadribb & E Sullivan (eds), Lockdown Shakespeare; New Evolutions in Performance and Adaptation. Shakespeare and Adaptation, Bloomsbury Academic, London, pp. 107-25. <https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/lockdown-shakespeare-9781350247826/>

Sullivan, E 2022, Real Presence in the Virtual Classroom. in S Wittek & D McInnis (eds), Shakespeare and Virtual Reality. Elements in Shakespeare and Pedagogy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 43-51. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009003995

Sullivan, E 2020, Grief and Hamlet. in KA Craik (ed.), Shakespeare and Emotion. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 211-23.

Sullivan, E 2020, Shakespeare and the seven senses: Scenes from the twenty-first-century stage. in S Smith (ed.), Shakespeare/Sense: Contemporary Readings in Sensory Culture. Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 293-318.

Sullivan, E 2018, The audience is present: aliveness, social media and the theatre broadcast experience. in P Aebischer, S Greenhalgh & L Osbourne (eds), Shakespeare and the ‘Live’ Theatre Broadcast Experience. Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 59-75.

Special issue

Sullivan, E & Herzfeld-Schild, ML (eds) 2018, 'Emotion, History and the Arts', Cultural History, vol. 7, no. 2. <https://www.euppublishing.com/toc/cult/7/2>

View all publications in research portal


  • The intersection of culture, identity, and the arts
  • Shakespeare's performance and celebration today, especially in relation to the experience of identity and community
  • How technological innovations such as live theatre broadcasting, the staging of digital media, and audience participation through social media are reshaping how we encounter and experience theatre/Shakespeare