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Name: Alexandra Hewitt

PhD: History 

Thesis Title: Shakespeare’s Self-Fashioning: social identity and the interiors of the lesser gentry house in early modern England.

Supervisors and Institution(s):

Dr Tara Hamling, University of Birmingham

Dr Chris King, University of Nottingham


Thesis Description:

My project focuses on a significant, but lost, building: New Place, William Shakespeare’s town house in Stratford-upon-Avon from 1597 until 1616, rebuilt in 1702, demolished in 1759. It aims to provide a detailed reconstruction of the decorated interiors of Shakespeare’s main residence, based on comprehensive analysis of extant material in comparable buildings. In early modern England there was an obligation for men of Shakespeare’s standing to own and adorn houses commensurate with their status, however this kind of material investment has received little attention. My MA dissertation established that domestic building and decoration played a significant role in the construction and communication of gentry identity, but a wider and more ambitious study is needed in order to understand patterns at this social level. My thesis will study other extant buildings to address a significant and challenging case study, thereby developing an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to the study of material culture in self-fashioning at the level of the lesser gentry.

My research responds to recent activity around New Place, and new approaches to Shakespeare’s biography. Finding Shakespeare's New Place: an archaeological biography (Edmondson, Colls and Mitchell, 2016) provides a fresh appreciation of the archaeology and architecture of New Place, yet its interiors remain tantalisingly elusive. In resolving this omission and arguing for the significance of decoration, my project contributes to three major fields: early modern studies, country house studies, and Shakespeare studies. In its focus on Shakespeare and the heritage of Stratford-upon-Avon, my project also aims to provide new information about the playwright which will be of interest to Shakespeare enthusiasts worldwide.


Conferences:

  • 'Negotiating Status in the Urban Domestic Sphere', conference paper, EMREM Annual Symposium, University of Birmingham, May 2019.
  • 'New Place by Indirection', conference paper, Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting 2019, RSA and University of Toronto, March 2019.

  • 'Negotiating Status in the Lesser Gentry House', poster presentation, Powering the Powerhouse: New Perspectives on Country House Communities, University of Sheffield and Chatsworth House, June 2018.

  • 'Imagining Shakespeare's New Place', poster presentation, M3C Research Festival, Birmingham, May 2018.
  • 'Shakespeare's Self-fashioning', lightning presentation delivered as part of the CREMS Seminar Series, University of Birmingham, March 2018.

Placements:

  • Research Assistant, Museum of London, July to October 2019.
    An independently arranged employability placement in the Engagement Team at the Museum of London, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council/ M3C.
  • Exhibition and Interpretation Assistant, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, 2014/15.
    An internship at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust as part of Birmingham University’s Cultural Intern Scheme.

Public Engagement:

  • 3D model of New Place, on display in the New Place museum, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, launched April 2018.
    Acted as advisor on this project relating to the interiors of Shakespeare's house, New Place.
  • 'Imagining New Place', talk delivered as part of the Shakespeare Connected day at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, 14 April 2018.
  • ‘Elizabethan War Propaganda’, talk delivered at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust as part of Explore Your Archive Week, November 2014.

Exhibitions:

  • 'Imagining New Place', an online exhibition with The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, April 2018.
  • ‘Shakespeare’s Theatre’, The Shakespeare Centre, March 2015.
  • Re-presentation of Mary Arden’s Farm, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, March 2015.
  • ‘Tudor Courtship’, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, March 2015.
  • 'Shakespeare’s Treasures’, The Shakespeare Centre, December 2014.
  • Co-curated ‘The Tudors in 100 Objects’ online exhibition as part of MA Special Subject, 2013/14.

Blogs and Journals:

Teaching:

  • Postgraduate Teaching Associate, University of Birmingham, September 2018 - Present.
    Seminar tutor for first year History module 'Reformation, Rebellion, Revolution: The Making of the Modern World 1500-1800'.

Training:

  • Introduction to Learning & Teaching in HE for Postgraduates (ILT001),  University of Birmingham, September 2018. 
  • Small Group Teaching for Postgraduates (ILT003), University of Birmingham, September 2018.
  •  Palaeography for Researchers, University of Birmingham, January - February 2018.
  • Latin for Postgraduate Researchers, University of Birmingham, September - December 2017.
  • PAST Archival Training, The National Archives, November 2017.
  • Cultural Intern Scheme, University of Birmingham, 2014/15.
  • An Introduction to Elizabethan Handwriting, MA Palaeography module with University of Birmingham and The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, 2013.

Volunteering:

  • Volunteer Guide, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, 2013/14.
  • Postgraduate Staff Student Forum Rep, University of Birmingham, 2013/14.

Career Achievements:

  • 2016/ 2017 - Marketing and Communications, Leeds University Union.
  • 2016 - EFL Teacher, Jumpstart Schools, Taipei, Taiwan.
  • 2015 - Communications Coordinator, University of London. 
  • 2015 - Visitor Experience Team Member, Harewood House Trust.

Other Research Interests:

  • Print culture and the visual arts. 

  • Material culture.

  • Museum and heritage interpretation.


 

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