There’s a lovely & generous review of Searching for Juliet by Sophie Elmhirst in The Sunday Times today, specifically the Culture magazine. I love Culture magazine so reading such kind words about my book is a dream. I was especially glad that the reviewer talked about the work I did with older people at the Oxford Playhouse – for me, this was one of the book’s great joys. Run, do not walk to buy The Sunday Times! There is also an excellent pic of Ms Danes and Mr DiCaprio at their absolute 90s peak!
Pre-Order Searching for Juliet
I’m thrilled to say that my next book, Searching for Juliet (UK) or just Juliet (USA title) is now available for pre-order!
This book has been a delight to write, and I am – say it quietly – proud of it. I said a little bit about why, and about the benefits of writing for a wider audience, here.
Here is some blurb for Juliet:
Romeo and Juliet may be the greatest love story ever told, but who is Juliet? Demure ingénue? Or dangerous Mediterranean madwoman? From tearstained copies of the First Folio to Civil War–era fanfiction, Shakespeare’s star-crossed heroine has long captured our collective imagination.
Juliet is her story, traced across continents through centuries of history, theatre, and film. As scholar Sophie Duncan reveals, Juliet’s legacy stretches beyond her literary lifespan into a cultural afterlife ranging from enslaved African girls in the British Caribbean to the real-life Juliets of sectarian violence in Bosnia and Belfast. She argues that our dangerous aestheticization of the beautiful dead teenager and Juliet’s meteoric rise as a defiant sexual icon have come to define the Western ideal of romance.
Wry and inventive, Juliet is a tribute to fiction’s most famous teenage girl who died young, but who lives forever.[from the USA publisher’s page]
The lovely UK edition, from Sceptre (an imprint of Hachette) will be released in hardback, ebook, and audio download on 6 April 2023. So far, you can pre-order it at all of the following!
The equally gorgeous USA edition will be released in hardcover and ebook by Seal Press (part of Basic Books). You can pre-order it thus far at…
Independent booksellers: If you’re an independent and it’s possible to pre-order from you, that would be very lovely to know! Please leave a comment and I’ll add your link to this post.
Race and the history of theatre criticism
I’m quoted in playwright Naomi Obeng’s lengthy article for The Stage‘s special issue on theatre and race this week, guest edited by Naomi with actor Emmanuel Kojo.
You can read the article here – although The Stage is usually subscription-only, a free registration will let you read all the new articles on race. It was great to talk to Naomi about Ira Aldridge, nineteenth-century women theatregoers, and the astonishing contradictions of some people’s make-believe: Oberon has just made himself invisible yes, King Duncan has a black son no. You can find Naomi on Twitter here.
I’d love to hear what you think about the article, and the special issue in general – do let me know!
Searching for Juliet
I should have posted this sooner, but I’m so pleased to share that my book, Searching for Juliet, will be published by Sceptre in April 2023. They have worldwide rights and there will be an announcement about the US publication very soon! Here’s the Bookseller blurb for those who don’t subscribe (I do now subscribe – you can probably guess when I narcissistically started! – and really recommend it. I’m gradually building a list of 2021 reads):
Sceptre has acquired a cultural, historical and literary exploration of the birth, death and legacy of Shakespeare’s Juliet Capulet.
Searching for Juliet is authored by Dr Sophie Duncan, a fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford, and expert on Shakespeare in performance and in the broader fields of theatre history.
In the book, according to Sceptre, she takes readers from the Renaissance origin story behind Shakespeare’s 13-year-old child bride, to the sexual revolutionary of ’60s film and theatre, fromthe African slave girls named after a fictional teenager to the legacy of the beautiful dead girl trope in everything from Shakespeare to contemporary TV series such as “13 Reasons Why”.
Associate publisher Juliet Brooke bought world rights from Georgina Capel, commenting: “I obviously have a certain bias with this subject that proves to me quite how much Juliet’s legacy reaches beyond literature into our social mores. What makes Sophie’s proposal so exceptional is the incredible range and depth of her exploration: the legacy of a heroine such as Juliet encompasses everything from feminism to scholarly insight on Shakespeare’s text, from a portrait of the Shakespeare industry in Stratford to questioning gender norms. It’s also fantastically sharp and witty and a total joy to read.”
Duncan said she was bowled over by the enthusiasm and vision of the team at Sceptre and remarked her new editor’s name was “a great omen”read the full article here
Coronavirus and help for A Level/GCSE English students
Are you a GCSE or A Level English Literature student, teacher, or homeschooling parent? If so, please feel free to get in touch with me, either via this website or on my email (sophie dot duncan at chch dot ox dot ac dot uk). I’m very happy to help with resources/discussion for either Shakespeare, 19th century literature, or 20th century drama.
- I have online filmed lecture series on Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice and Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House available via Massolit – any teacher (and thus any student) can now get a free login to this resource during the Coronavirus crisis.
- My new student edition of A Doll’s House for the Methuen Drama series is now available to pre-order from Bloomsbury (or get your local independent to pre-order!).
- I have radio programmes on Shakespeare and the Suffragettes and on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (the latter presented by the lovely Laura Wade!).
- I have recently done a lot for A Level students on Hamlet, King Lear and Othello: get in touch for details.
If you’re in need of help with other texts, don’t hesitate – if it’s not my area, I’ll find you someone who can. Similarly, if you’re preparing an Oxbridge English application, I’d be glad to talk about that! I should have been lecturing at the UNIQ Easter school – if you were meant to be coming to UNIQ for English, let me know! We can chat!
Meanwhile, I’m (as per) trying to write a book, work with a Mutual Aid group, and grow a lot of vegetables from scratch in our living room. At the last count, our flower pots included repurposed Pringles tubes (halved), a Lurpak pot, an apple juice carton, and a bottle. Our watering can is a former oil drizzler. I hope you’re all keeping well, and please, stay at home.
[CFP] Infinite Variety: The Older Actress On Stage 1660–Present
Infinite Variety: The Older Actress on Stage 1660–present
A two-day symposium on 18–19 October 2019, taking place at Christ Church, University of Oxford, UK.
Symposium Directors are Dr Sophie Duncan and Professor Mary Luckhurst
The event is jointly convened by the School of Arts, University of Bristol and Christ Church, University of Oxford, with support from The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH).
Confirmed keynote speakers include Professor Gilli Bush-Bailey (Central School of Speech and Drama), Professor Jacky Bratton (Royal Holloway) and Dr Fiona Gregory (Monash University).
We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers from scholars and practitioners in theatre and related disciplines. Suggestions for topics include, but are not limited to:
- older actresses on and off stage: as performers, managers, stage-managers, playwrights, producers, directors, and teachers, 1660–present.
- older actresses – their approaches to acting and their creative and career strategies
- older actresses and the one woman show
- older actresses – stage v. film and television
- older actresses on ageism and the politics of transgression
- writing by older actresses, e.g. memoirs
- genealogies of female performance and concepts of female ‘succession’
- retirement and its alternatives
- ‘canonical’ roles for older women; repertoire and ageing
- older actresses and non-traditional casting
- the depiction of older actresses and/or fictional older actresses in criticism, journalism, literature, the visual arts, and film
- ageism, ageing, and the body in casting, rehearsal, performance, and reception
- older actresses with additional marginalised identities, including LBT older actresses, BAME actresses, and actresses with disabilities (including age-related disabilities); the intersection of age with other kinds of marginalisation
- the older actress in theatre historiography and as theatre historian
- retrospectives, gala performances, honours lists and becoming a ’national treasure’.
Proposals, which should be 300 words long and accompanied by a brief biography, should be sent to the symposium’s directors, Dr Sophie Duncan (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Professor Mary Luckhurst (email@example.com) by May 31 2019.
[REVIEW] This Is Shakespeare & What Blest Genius
I am very over-excited to have my first Literary Review byline this month, reviewing two brilliant books: Emma Smith’s This Is Shakespeare (calmly revolutionary take on 20 of the plays) and Andrew McConnell Stott’s What Blest Genius? The Jubilee That Made Shakespeare (Blackadder Goes Stratford; blissful).
You can read my review here, or – even better – pick it up in hard copy from W.H. Smith etc, while issues still remain unpurchased by my delighted extended family. Best of all, buy the books: This Is Shakespeare (Pelican, £14.79) and What Blest Genius? (W.W. Norton & Company, £14.43).
PODCAST: Women and Power
Whether or not you’re joining us in Oxford for the Women & Power conference next week, I hope you’ll check out the National Trust’s Women & Power podcast series. The five-episode series is presented by Kirsty Wark, and features a whole host of great stories from across the Trust, and contributions from lots of different historians. I pop up in all five episodes, talking about Victorian Manchester and the Contagious Diseases Acts (Episode 1), force-feeding (Episode 2), Octavia Hill, violence in Oxford, and the NUWSS pilgrimage (Episode 3, with genuine piano underscoring), the suffragettes as terrorists and the myth of why women really got the vote (Episode 4), and the Six Point Group (Episode 5).
The series is ace, with brilliant on-location sequences at beautiful Wightwick, Killerton, and Osterley (plus some very energetic Incidental Radio Acting), and I haven’t given it the blog love it deserves. It’s been a lovely soundtrack to writing my keynote for next week’s conference at St Hugh’s, here in Oxford. I look forward to seeing some of you soon.
P.S. the book of the Women & Power project, with all the info from the series and more, plus pictures, is still available online. You can also check out my episode of Radio 3’s The Essay on Shakespeare and suffrage, and my 2018 podcast episode on suffragette Emily Wilding Davidson and Oxford’s suffrage histories for Women In Oxford’s History. There’s yet more about Shakespeare and the suffragettes in my first book, Shakespeare’s Women and the Fin de Siecle. A trove.
Shakespeare’s Props – out now!
My new book – Shakespeare’s Props: Memory and Cognition – is out now in Routledge’s Studies in Shakespeare series! You can buy Shakespeare’s Props here (via Routledge), and in all the usual places (at the time of writing, Blackwell’s seems to have the best price).
I hope you’ll see a lot of this book on this blog (and elsewhere) over the coming months – in some ways it feels as though it’s been a long road to publication, and in others as if it’s been a whirlwind.
Many thanks to everyone who’s contributed to Shakespeare’s Props in whatever form – obviously there are acknowledgments within, but I’m mindful of the extraordinary amount of luck and support I’ve had, at both Magdalen College, where I researched and wrote this book, and Christ Church, where I finished it (why am I always proofreading during admissions season?!).
I don’t know if I’ll ever again have the chance to write a book combining Shakespeare with Call The Midwife, or caption a chapter on Early Modern corpses with a still from The Graham Norton Show, but I can heartily recommend the experience. Obviously, in a book about Shakespeare and props, all the big hitters appear – handkerchiefs, skulls, and an accumulating obsession with torn letters – but there’s also the joy of wittily-inscribed chewing gum wrappers, Dido’s oars, and a coda re: the iniquities of HS2 and its impact on London’s props quarter.
Clearly, Shakespeare’s Props is the perfect Valentine’s gift for the Shakespearean in your life. And/or your favourite hoarder-in-training. And/or your beloved institutional library.
I don’t yet have a physical copy in my hands, but when I do, expect picturespam (note: I also welcome spam from readers. This picture of TV’s Own Matt Lacey reading Women and Power made my week).
Of course, if you’d like to review the book for a journal or other publication, please email me, or comment below – thank you!
Shakespeare’s Props: Memory and Cognition
My new book, Shakespeare’s Props: Memory and Cognition, will be published on 14th February 2019 by Routledge. How very romantic.