Thesis title: Diseases of Desire: Female Sexuality and Plague Discourses on the English Stage 1590-1700.
Supervisors: Professor Emma Smith and Dr David Taylor
Early modern and Restoration drama
Gender and sexuality on the seventeenth-century stage
Seventeenth-century women's writing, especially female playwrights
Theatre and performance history
From Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost (1598) to Vanbrugh's The Relapse (1696), the theatrical tropes surrounding plague and female sexuality were often interchangeable. Seventeenth-century playwrights frequently used this compatibility to encode concerns over contagion and its containment into a genre in which explicit discussion of plague was perhaps unwise. My project considers how the association between plague and female sexuality was maintained and developed on the English stage over the ‘long seventeenth century’, ultimately acting as an intellectual throughline from Shakespeare to the death of Elizabeth Barry. The endurance of this relationship complicates the prevalent practice in literary studies of bifurcating theatre history of the seventeenth century into two periods: the early modern (ending with the closure of the theatres in 1642) and Restoration (beginning with the reopening of the theatres in 1660 and the arrival of professional actresses). While the period sees obvious and well documented changes to theatrical tastes, conventions and practices, focusing on these differences negates the continuities that present themselves across the era, not least of which is a relationship between theatre, plague, and female sexuality. My thesis makes a case for studying seventeenth-century drama as a cohesive unit.
I am particularly interested in practice-based research and public engagement. I am a participant in the Jesus College Shakespeare Project, and can be heard talking about modern interpretations of Restoration drama on the Reimagining Performance podcast ‘Post-Show Conversations’ (https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/torch-post-show-conversations-scandaltown).