The next MEMSA seminar will feature a presentation from Jitka Štollová, who is a Ph.D. candidate at University of Cambridge. Her talk ‘Beyond Shakespeare: Richard III in the Seventeenth Century’ links both the medieval and early Modern worlds. The seminar will take place this Tuesday at 6 pm at the Durham World Heritage Visitors Centre. We interviewed her about Shakespeare, Richard III, and more.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?
I am currently completing my Ph.D. at Trinity College, Cambridge, where I started my studies after finishing a B.A. and M.A. at Charles University, Prague. However, I spent part of my Master’s degree as a visiting student in Durham. So in a way I am also from Durham – a little bit.
What brought you to Durham?
On this occasion, it is a talk I am giving for MEMSA. But I keep coming back to Durham a few times a year. Teachers at the English Department are among the most supportive and encouraging people I have ever met. They were, after all, the ones who suggested that I try to get a scholarship to do my doctorate in the U.K. Durham is a very special place for me and I always enjoy being back.
What do you love most about the medieval/early Modern period?
I love the diversity of topics one can explore, something I greatly appreciate because I am certainly not a person focusing on a single research topic.
What does your research focus on in particular?
My dissertation examines the reputation and representation of Richard III in the seventeenth century. I am looking and works written after Shakespeare’s play which, to certain degree, shed a new light on this controversial character. However, because these sources could never match Shakespeare’s highly engaging depiction, they gradually sunk into oblivion.
This being said, I have a range of research interests that are not related to Richard III. Another area I am very interested in is early modern paratexts and the material side of playbooks. I have published on character lists in early modern playbooks. My essay on the London book trade in the Civil Wars came second in the annual Review of English Studies competition and will be published in this journal this year. And finally, I am interested in the influence of Shakespeare on modern drama, especially the works of Václav Havel.
What led you to your area of interest?
What I find much more fascinating is how his literary portrayal was developing under the influence of particular historical events as well as cultural fashions.
I have an amalgamation of interests that keeps me busy and engaged. I suspect I would grow a bit bored with my topic if I only had one interest. Richard III, however, is my long-standing interest. I previously examined this character in my B.A. dissertation. There is something fascinating about the changing portrayal of a man who ranks among the most notorious tyrants in English history. It is not really the historical truth that captivates me. I am not trying to determine whether he killed the Princes or not. What I find much more fascinating is how his literary portrayal was developing under the influence of particular historical events as well as cultural fashions.
If you were not in academia, what would you be doing?
An interesting question. Perhaps working in the Václav Havel Library in Prague. Or hiking somewhere in Siberia (again).
Do you have a favourite medieval/early Modern text?
I am always keen to read anything by John Ford, who remains, much to our shame, an unjustifiably overlooked playwright. Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi is a wonderful piece. I am pleased to say that I still find delight in reading Shakespeare’s Richard III, even after all these years.
Jitka’s seminar will take place this Tuesday, 2 February. Wine and nibbles will be provided from 5:40 pm, with the lecture beginning at the usual time at 6 pm. Check out our other seminars here. All are welcome.