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Thesis title: ‘Early Modern Melancholia and Present Day Depression: A Comparative Study of the Female Experience in Dramatic and Medical Sources
My PhD research considers the history and representation of the experience of female melancholia in the early modern period as seen through the lens of Shakespearean drama. It examines early modern proto-medical treatise and casebook writings on melancholy as well as more recent contemporary psychosocial studies and psychiatric material on the diagnosis and experience of depression for women today. In my research psychiatry, psychology, sociology, early modern treatises and drama coalesce and enter into dialogue. By adopting this interdisciplinary approach, I pose the question: to what extent do sources from the early modern speak to the present day? I investigate how far Shakespeare, John Fletcher and George Wilkins engage with proto-medical understandings of melancholia in their depictions of the female experience of melancholia on the stage. I consider how the articulated experience of female melancholia seen in King John, The Two Noble Kinsmen and Pericles sheds light on the less articulated experience of depressed women today in the way that these early modern female characters speak and the response they receive from their onstage audiences.
My thesis is a medical humanities project and my research seeks to look beyond the Hamlets who have come to characterise the experience of early modern melancholia. Instead I turn from the upper-class male experience to consider the diverse portraits of the female experience early modern drama offers. I also explore the early modern period as a time in which the female self emerges and consider to what extent melancholia plays a part in facilitating the development of female identity and agency.
Shakespeare, early modern drama, renaissance literature, adaptation, appropriation, psychiatry, psychology, sociology, medical humanities
My research interests lie in the adaptation and appropriation of Shakespeare in performance and culture; Shakespeare and early modern drama; renaissance poetry; the influence of Shakespeare on contemporary literature; CS Lewis; the Inklings; and children’s literature.
I also regularly give guest lectures in Oxford and further afield on Oxford writers such as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, the Inklings more widely, Philip Pullman, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Colin Dexter as well as public engagement talks on topics from Narnia, through Shakespeare to Ibsen, nineteenth century drama and beyond for students from primary school pupils to undergraduates and academics.