BritGrad is the Shakespeare Institute‘s annual 3-day academic conference, focusing on all aspects of Renaissance Drama and the culture of the early modern period. This year’s conference runs from 17-19 June, and includes a trip to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of King Lear, now in repertory at the Courtyard Theatre.
BritGrad will be my first academic conference. When I was a Masters student, our saintly co-convenors Professors Fiona Stafford and Stephen Gill (both amazing: mention their names to academics from any nation state and you realise they’re bywords for both scholarship and kindness) gave their twelve MSt 1780-1900 students a one-day practice in confusing each other with papers. Subjects of academic obsession included Penny Dreadfuls; Victorian Women Doing Travel Writing in Scotland; How To Die Of A Migraine in Literature (okay, this wasn’t what Lisa’s paper was actually about. Lisa’s idea of a gap year, pre-medical school and post-Harvard, was an Oxford Masters. She was from Manhattan and we loved her); Fin de Siecle Things (I’m still vague); Trilby; and, Cab Drivers Who Probably Didn’t Seduce Oscar Wilde.
Guess which one I wrote. All in all, it was the embodied awesome that you would expect from people who bonded in their first week over the ability to turn Dickens novels into titles for a certain genre of film.*
I am so excited about Britgrad. Not only is everybody from the Institute awesome, but apparently they’re all also terrifyingly well-organised. There are committees beneath committees. People will be chairing, co-chairing, chair-fetching and chair-stacking with military precision. I have before me/in tabbed browsing the schedule. Between cocktails and catered meals, there will be PANELS and PLENARY SESSIONS. Some of these clash, so you have to choose; I haven’t planned an itinerary with such interest since Disneyland. Currently, my must-sees are —
1. The Female Body in Early Modern Drama. There’s a paper on boy players, so obviously I’m there. I’m also interested in the paper on Titus Andronicus (wish John-Mark were in attendance) and one on Shakespeare’s older women, entitled “Shakespeare’s Aging Women in Today’s Britain: New Perspectives On Old Faces”. I’m hoping for some discussion of the Countess in All’s Well, and perhaps Hermione – but then maybe she ‘ages’ too briefly?
2. Shakespeare and Religion. Religious angst? Yes please. There’s a paper on The Massacre at Paris, so exciting; my favourite Marlowe play, and underappreciated generally.
3. Shakespeare and Eastern Europe. Performances of Shakespeare in Poland and Cold War Germany. I know nothing about this, but a) it’s performance history, and b) peer pressure – go where your friends are!
4. Narratives of Theatre History. In a shock twist of fate. Although it breaks my heart that this panel clashes with Shakespeare and Education, which has panels on teaching Shakespeare in ESL (I’ve seen ESL performances of Macbeth and The Tempest, and would love to direct one, some day) and via Contextual Approaches. But the Theatre History panel includes a paper on Irving, Poel and the 1891 Duchess of Malfi.
5. Naissance and Renaissance. Starring my lovely colleague Elizabeth Sharrett. Basically, three papers on elements of obstetrics/child-bearing/childbed rituals in Renaissance and post-Reformation drama. Beyond crying over Elizabeth Grymeston’s The Mother’s Legacy to her Unborn Child (emotional distress otherwise reserved for Wilde, Truly Madly Deeply, and any instance of people being cruel to Beethoven), I know nothing save what I tell tourists in the Birthroom. So good.
Speakers in the plenaries include Professor Jonathan Bate, Greg Doran and Dr. Emma Smith. As an undergrad, I only knew Emma by report, as my friends’ tutor. I got to know her better as a postgrad, and very much look forward to her paper.
If you’re reading this & coming to Britgrad, do get in touch – what are you most excited about?
Expect another post on conferences very shortly – if you like women, Shakespeare and performance (or even women performing Shakespeare, who can say), watch this space.
*God, I miss my degree… they’re all much too vulgar to be reblogged here, but ask me when I’ve had a Bellini…
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.