Dr Stephen Watkins

I specialise in the literature and culture of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with particular interests in theatre and performance, the history and theory of the novel, and the ways in which institutional and economic practices facilitate certain kinds of literary production. I have related interests in the staging of the early modern and eighteenth-century repertoire in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, in the development of comedy as a genre in all its forms from classical Greece to contemporary television, and in Shakespearean performance. 

Much of my work to date has explored Restoration and eighteenth-century adaptations of Shakespeare, and I have just completed a book chapter for the projected 3-volume Cambridge History of Punctuation in English Literature (gen eds: Elizabeth Bonapfel, Mark Faulkner, John Lennard, Jeffrey Gutierrez) on 'Playbook Punctuation in the Restoration and Eighteenth Century'.

Current projects

I am currently writing a short monograph for Cambridge University Press entitled Acting Shakespeare in the Restoration. This will be the first book to subject the full range of adaptations to a sustained performance analysis, investigating such questions as how, precisely, did Restoration actors and actresses approach a 'Shakespeare' play? What skills - vocal, physical, musical, terpsichorean - did they need to do justice to these new scripts? And how were their performances received by contemporary audiences? 

Alongside this, I am in the early stages of a new project on the play manuscripts held as part of the Larpent Collection, now housed at the Huntington Library in California. Between 1737 and 1824, every play performed on a public stage in Great Britain was required to be submitted to the examiner of plays for licensing, who was John Larpent from 1778. These manuscripts offer us a unique insight into the collaborative processes by which new and revived plays made it from desk to stage. In particular, my project will explore how eighteenth-century theatre companies reused dramatic material from the pre-1642 repertory to satisfy contemporary audiences' demands for novel productions, often in the process transforming that material into entirely new forms and genres.

For undergraduates, I teach and lecture on the Early Modern, Eighteenth-Century, and Shakespeare papers. At postgraduate level, I offer dissertation supervision for the Mst in English Literature 1550-1700.


As an undergraduate, I studied at the University of Southampton before moving to the University of York for my MA. I returned to Southampton to take up an AHRC-funded PhD on the seventeenth-century poet and playwright, Sir William Davenant, which I completed in 2019. Before joining Oxford in 2022, I taught at the Universities of Derby and Southampton.