Interview with Helen Clifford

Our next seminar will be taken by Helen Clifford on 14th May 2018. As usual tea and biscuits will be served at 17:40 with the seminar starting at 18:00. Below we talked to Helen about Shakespearean productions and the weirdness of Early Modern theatre.

Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from?

I’m originally from Watford and have spent most of my academic life up here in Durham, apart from my MA year in Stratford-upon-Avon (unsurprisingly!).

What brought you to Durham?

For the PhD, the supervisor combination and the reputation of the English department. And I knew that I liked the place from undergrad!

What is your favourite thing about the medieval/early modern period?

Probably the variety and sheer strangeness of early modern drama – once you start to make moves away from Shakespeare, everything gets very weird very quickly, which is a lot of fun.

What does your research focus on?

I work on Mikhail Bakhtin’s criticism of Shakespeare and drama more generally. Bakhtin writes mainly on the novel and medieval carnival, so I’m hoping to expand the ways he’s been used in Shakespeare scholarship so far and think about what a Bakhtinian aesthetics of theatre might look like.

What do you plan to focus on in your seminar?

My seminar is a very early test run using Bakhtin as a critical framework to analyse Shakespeare productions – for this paper, they’ll be two of Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s shows, Roman Tragedies (which brings together three of the Roman plays) and Kings of War (which incorporates 5/6 English histories).

If you were not in academia, what would you be doing?

I honestly don’t know. Probably something quite unexciting interspersed with lots of theatre trips to break up the monotony!

Do you have a favourite medieval/early modern text?

My favourite Shakespeare play changes weekly, but for the moment maybe Measure for Measure? The Donmar Warehouse have just announced a production with some interesting gender-swapped stuff going on, so I’m hoping to get to that later in the year.

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