Hello! I’m Dr Sophie Duncan, a theatre historian and literary critic based at Christ Church, in the University of Oxford.
My books include Shakespeare’s Props: Memory and Cognition, the first full-length study of props in Shakespeare’s plays to explore them through Renaissance and twenty-first-century understandings of the brain. It’s a book about memory, grief, pies that go splat and glass that breaks – with all the usual skulls, handkerchiefs, and letters along the way. It is possibly the only book on Shakespeare to also discuss Call The Midwife, Derren Brown, and Daniel Radcliffe. Blog readers can get 20% off from Routledge with the code HUM19.
I am currently working on Searching for Juliet, a study of the life, death and many afterlives of Shakespeare’s Juliet, to be published by Sceptre in April 2023. Find out more here.
My first book, Shakespeare’s Women and the Fin de Siècle, was published by Oxford University Press in 2016, and illuminates how late nineteenth-century actresses’ iconoclastic performances of Shakespeare’s heroines shifted British culture.
If you’d like to hear me talking about my research, why not listen to my episode of BBC Radio 3’s The Essay, on ‘Shakespeare and the suffragettes’? On an entirely different note, you can also hear me talking about why tragedy is good for you (spoiler: endorphins) on the BBC World Service.
I was also the academic lead on the National Trust’s 2018 National Public Programme, Women and Power.
My research specialisms include Early Modern theatrical memory, cognitive approaches to theatre, ageing in theatre, Oscar Wilde, women’s performance, and the life of Ira Aldridge, the first African American actor to succeed in Europe. I have a longstanding relationship with Lolita Chakrabarti’s award-winning play Red Velvet, acting as historical advisor for both the original Tricycle run and its recent West End transfer. I continue to work regularly as an historical advisor and dramaturg for radio, theatre, and television.