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The Politics of Identity in Shakespeare’s Mediterranean Water Cultures


School of Drama, Music and Screen

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About the Project

We welcome applications for funded 4-year PhD studentships to start in September 2021. This is an exciting opportunity for an ambitious, talented and enthusiastic researcher to conduct interdisciplinary research in order to advance thinking within the area of blue-green humanities through examining the ways in which selected Skakespeare’s plays deal with the unstable and threatening presence of water and how this shaped and determined the identities of those living with it.

I to the world am like a drop of water

That in the ocean seeks another drop,

Who, falling there to find his fellow forth - 

Unseen, inquisitive - confounds himself . . .

Living with, though, by and in water are key elements of the Shakespearean imaginary. This interdisciplinary PhD project will examine the ways in which Shakespeare’s plays of the Mediterranean (principally Othello, The Merchant of Venice, Anthony and Cleopatra and The Comedy of Errors) speak to the ways in which living with unstable and threatening bodies of water influenced the interrelation of different cultures, and/or religious and personal identities. The project will locate specific texts within a nexus of contemporaneous fluvial sites (banks, boats, shores, deltas etc.) and a number of relevant sources that speak to the ways in which people lived with water and had their identities determined by it.

When Shakespeare's characters use aquatic language, their syntax tends to ‘float’, becoming inexact or ambiguous – as water (the metaphor) becomes a propositional space, a locus of risk and hazard in which alternative possible realities can be tested and philosophically explored. In this way, water constitutes not only the material reality of a dramatic location (in Egypt, Venice or the Ottoman Empire), but also a site of intellectual exploration that re-models for audiences a set of propositional concepts demonstrating not just how we currently do live, but how we could.

We encourage applications on this theme that speak to Critical Race Studies and/or Comparative Cultural and Literary Analysis.

Contact for enquiries

[Email Address Removed]

Find out more through our webinar

Watch this recording of our webinar, to help you find out more about the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships Centre for Water Cultures. Hear from programme leaders, project supervisors and researchers, including answers to questions posted in the Q&A. Watch here

If you just want to find out more about this research proposal, watch the presentation by the Lead Supervisor here


Funding Notes

Doctoral scholars appointed to interdisciplinary projects within the Centre for Water Cultures will be supported by PhD scholarships, funded for 48 months. These cover fees at the UK rate, a maintenance grant of £15609 per year, and a generous research and training support grant.


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