Dr Robert Stagg
I am a Shakespearean and early modernist whose principal research interests are in literary form, ranging from prosody (rhyme, metre, rhythm) to verse structures (blank verse, the sonnet). My main affiliation is to the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, where I am a Leverhulme Research Fellow. I am also a Senior Member of St Anne's College, where I organise a number of schemes including the University's Michael Dillon LGBT+ Lectures. For the academic year 2020-1, I served as Junior Pro-Proctor of the University.
My first book Shakespeare's Blank Verse: An Alternative History was published in October 2022 by Oxford University Press. This is the first book-length study of Shakespeare's blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter) and early modern blank verse in general, ranging from the continental precursors of English blank verse in the early sixteenth century to the reception and editing of Shakespeare's blank verse in the eighteenth century and beyond. It takes in writers from Christopher Marlowe to John Milton, and tries to reconnect Shakespeare's versification to broader literary, theatrical, bibliographical, editorial, historical and social questions.
I am now at work on a complementary pair of books, provisionally titled Shakespeare's Worldly Style and Forms of Desire: Sex and the Early Modern Sonnet. The first of these books rethinks scholarly descriptions of a 'Global Shakespeare' by considering the involvement of Shakespearean poetic form with a suite of international poetic traditions, from Arabic lyric to early American writing. The second book argues that the formal structures of the early modern sonnet - the couplet, the sequence, the volta - were also erotic in character, and that the sonnet was therefore a particularly and peculiarly structural way of apprehending sex in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
I have published articles in The Review of English Studies (about blank verse 'bombast'), Shakespeare Survey (about supernatural metre), Essays in Criticism (about bathos), Shakespeare (about versification and race), and Studies in Philology (about feminine rhyme and boy actors). I have also published peer-reviewed chapters in three edited collections, The Edinburgh Companion to Literature and Music (ed. Delia da Sousa Correa), Reading the Road: Shakespeare's Crossways to Bunyan's Highways (ed. Lisa Hopkins and William Angus), and Humorality in Early Modern Art, Material Culture, and Performance (ed. Kaara Peterson and Amy Kenny). The first is a short polemic against the notion of a 'music of poetry', the second is about the problem of representing pedestrian travel onstage, and the third is about versification and the humors. I have a further chapter forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Sir Philip Sidney (ed. Catherine Bates) which traces the intellectual and continental history of Sidney's versification, and have edited a special issue of the British Shakespeare Association's journal Shakespeare which is titled 'Shakespeare and Versification' (published in September 2022). Finally, I sometimes review new books on Shakespeare and early modern literature for The Times Literary Supplement and a number of academic journals.
I have received major (1-3 year) research funding from the Leverhulme Trust, the Wolfson Foundation and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. I have been awarded research fellowships including a Berlin Sessions Visiting Fellowship in (unsurprisingly) Berlin (2020); a Pforzheimer Visiting Research Fellowship at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas (2019); a Wolfson Visiting Research Fellowship at the New York Public Library (2017); a Tom Jarman Research Fellowship at Gladstone's Library in Hawarden (2017); and a Jubilee Education Fund grant to research in the Royal Shakespeare Company archives in Stratford-upon-Avon (2015). My postgraduate research won Oxford's Charles Oldham Shakespeare Prize for best masters/doctoral work on a Shakespearean subject, and I recently received an 'honourable mention' (runner-up award) in the London Renaissance Seminar's inaugural 'Contribution Awards' for "outstanding contributions to the field of the Renaissance". I have given keynote/invited lectures about my research at institutions around the world, for example at Sapienza University of Rome, Yale University, the University of Padova, the London Shakespeare Seminar, Bochum University, Shakespeare's Globe, and the International Shakespeare Conference.
I have written, produced and presented a fully-funded feature-length documentary about Shakespeare's early career in Shoreditch ('Shoreditch: Shakespeare's Hidden London'), and have worked with a number of theatre companies on Shakespeare productions and festivals. Recently, I have been appointed to the Arden Shakespeare advisory board as one of the first three Arden Fourth Series Fellows, working with the general editors and individual volume editors to shape the future direction of the series.
At present I am not teaching due to the award of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.
BA Emmanuel College, Cambridge (2010); MSt Exeter College, Oxford (2012); PhD University of Southampton / University of London (awarded 2018).
Runner-up, London Renaissance Seminar Contribution Award, 2020. Charles Oldham Shakespeare Prize (for best postgraduate research on Shakespeare), University of Oxford, 2012. Herchel Smith Prize, Emmanuel College, Cambridge, 2010.
Leverhulme Early-Career Research Fellow, The Shakespeare Institute, 2020-2023. Arden Shakespeare Fourth Series Fellow, 2020-present. Berlin Sessions Time and Space Visiting Fellow, Humboldt University / Berlin Mayoralty, 2020. Pforzheimer Visiting Research Fellow in the Humanities, Harry Ransom Center, UTexas (Austin), 2019. Wolfson Visiting Research Fellow, New York Public Library, 2017. Tom Jarman Research Fellow, Gladstone's Library, 2017. Jubilee Education Fund Visiting Scholar, Shakespeare Centre (RSC archives), Stratford-upon-Avon, 2015. Wolfson Scholar in the Humanities, 2013-17.