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The Shakespeare Programme was set up to promote the study of Shakespeare in Lancaster. Its current activities include research on Shakespearean texts as part of early modern surfaces project and the performance, ceremony and ritual project, and work on Shakespeare’s language via the Corpus Research in Early Modern English group. It also aims to foster links with Lancaster Castle, with theatres and schools (including a formal link with Solihull Sixth Form’s ‘Shakespeare Academy’) and with members of the public.
Early Modern Literature and Culture ranges from medieval theatre through to work on theory, performance, gender, and religion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.Early modern literature is a major dimension of trans-historical clusters within the Department (writing and religion; literature and location; critical creative and literature and gender) and in cross-faculty research groups Corpus Research in Early Modern English.
The Northern Renaissance Seminar was founded in1992 by colleagues at theUniversity ofLiverpool, the University of Keele, and Lancaster University to provide a counterpart to the London Renaissance Seminar. Founding members were Professor Helen Wilcox (now at Bangor University), Professor Elspeth Graham (now at Liverpool John Moores), Professor Marion Wynne-Davies (now University of Surrey) and Professor Richard Dutton (now Ohio State University).
As well as organising one-day seminars to encourage dialogue between established scholars and new postgraduates, the NRS also promoted the publication of primary texts which were difficult to obtain for teaching purposes before Early English Books Online and other digital resources became more widely available. The Series Renaissance Texts and Studies, published by Ryburn Publishing and Keele University Press, published critical editions such as Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynd ed. Brian Nellist (1995), Jacobean City Pageants, ed. Richard Dutton (1995), Lady Mary Wroth: Poems, ed. R. E. Prtichard (1996), Elizabeth Cary’s The Tragedy of Mariam, ed. Stephanie Hodgson-Wright (1996). It also published a collection of essays Voicing Women: Gender and Sexuality in Early Modern Writing, ed. Kate Chegdzoy, Melanie Hansen and Suzanne Trill (1996).
Reconvened in 2007 by Professor Robert Appelbaum, Professor Alison Findlay and Dr Liz Oakley-Brown, the Northern Renaissance Seminar (NRS) is a peripatetic series of one-day events for the discussion of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature and culture.
Performance, Ceremony and Ritual structures human life every day: from rituals of greeting or parting, eating, drinking, through to those which mark the stages of life for individuals and the community, and civic ceremonies that constitute collective national and religious identities. Shakespeare’s Henry V pertinently raises questions about their value, asking ‘O Ceremony show me but thy worth!’ (2.1.222-6). Since all ceremonies are costly in terms of time, effort and (for larger ceremonies) material resources, what was their value in early modern society? What affective power do they continue to hold today? And what happens when they are represented on stage? We have explored these events in a series of interdisciplinary seminars using theoretical models developed in social anthropology, and through practical work.
Early Modern Surfaces Recent studies have variously explored ways in which a sense of inwardness is constructed through overlapping discourses of anatomy, subjectivity, and psychological character. By contrast, “surfaces” can now be relocated as a means to understand early modern identities in Shakespearean performance and writing. Surfaces are a threshold between the body and the world, inner and outer, private and public, imagination and production, actor and spectator, writer and reader, teacher and students. Permeable, opaque or transparent, surfaces are the material means by which our experience is structured and meaning is translated and mediated.
Professor Alison Findlay and Dr Liz Oakley-Brown are working collaboratively on this project to further previous critical work that has sought to probe beneath the surfaces of Shakespearean texts. By re-focussing attention on the surfaces themselves as complex elements in the ways meanings are generated, the project seeks to explore how ‘superficial’ Shakespeare is understood from the multiple perspectives of directors, editors, actors, critics, readers, spectators, teachers, students.
They launched the project with a panel on ‘Shakespearean Surfaces’ at the British Shakespeare Association Conference (University of Warwick, 2007). The ideas opened in the panel have expanded to include a Theorizing Surfaces conference and Surface Studies website to work on film, on ceremony as a superficial form of ritual and to performance-based research that moves beyond the written text.
Locating Early Modern Religion ‘I was moved to open to the people that the steeple-house, and the ground whereon it stood were no more holy than that mountain’. These words, spoken by the Quaker George Fox in 1652, suggest just one of the ways in which early modern religion was shaped by the location in which it was generated, celebrated, experienced, or challenged, whether that be (as here) Firbank Fell in Cumbria, or the churches and chapels, cities and villages, private homes and royal courts, national assemblies and congregational meetings, in which early modern religion was formed and reformed. Dr. Naya Tsentourou, who joined the Early Modern Team in October 2013, adds research on Milton and devotional space to our work in this field.
Corpus Research on Early Modern English (CREME) is a group of historians, linguists, literary scholars and computer scientists with a joint interest in texts from the Early Modern period (approximately late 1400s to early 1700s). We use the methods of corpus linguistics and natural language processing, that is, computer-aided analysis of very large bodies of text.
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