The Plan

The London Gazette’s announcement of Britain’s shift to New Style dates in 1752.

The organisers of the annual BSECS conference have just confirmed that my paper on editors and actors has been accepted. As well as reporting this good news, I thought I’d take a post to sketch, however roughly, my plan for the second year of my thesis. Without further ado, then, this is what I’ll be doing over the next eight months or so.

Now to mid-November

Extend my short paper on Diderot from Yale into something more substantial about Diderot’s relation with the English stage, to be presented to the Early Modern French Seminar here in Cambridge on Friday 15th November. This shouldn’t be too hard, as I have already prepared a lot of this material and my line of argument is quite clear. To be brief, I want to show that Diderot’s striking parallel between the author’s work and that of the actor owes much to John Hill. The inadequacies of Sticotti’s translation of Hill’s The Actor inspired Diderot to write the Paradoxe, and I would like to show that Hill’s own text initiates an anxiety about authorship and actors that Diderot pushes to its extreme.

If all goes well, and my ideas are not shot down in the cut-and-thrust of a research seminar, this longish paper (thirty minutes or so) will form the basis of my chapter on the literary critical value of arts of acting.

Mid-November to January

In this period, I will return to my work on the editors of Shakespeare and their various attitudes to the stage. At first, this will be survey work: I need to go through the notes to Theobald’s edition, as well as the annotations of all those eighteenth-century editors who came after him to see what (if anything) they say about the stage. Once this preliminary work has been completed, I will then use a slice of it as the basis for my BSECS paper, to be given in early January.

January to early March

This period will be devoted to the extension of the BSECS paper on editors and actors into the draft of a chapter. I want this to be my first draft of a thesis chapter as the ideas contained within it will have to set the stage for the rest of the thesis. Not only will I be advancing a narrative of the various tensions between stage and page with regard to Shakespeare in this period, but I will also be arguing simultaneously for the interest of a thesis that takes ‘acting’ in its largest possible sense. If that wasn’t hard enough, this is also the point where I’ll be laying down the various reference points (dates, biographies, events, etc.) necessary to the comprehension of the other chapters. Two months may not be long enough.

March to the end of April

By early April, which is to say the start of Cambridge’s Easter term, and if all has gone well up to this point, the approaching deadlines for JRF and post-doc applications will probably be forcing me to polish up previous work for submission rather than breaking new ground. In this situation, These two months will involve a draft of my second chapter on theories of acting. Having just finished a draft of chapter one, I should be able to write this second chapter with a fresh memory of what I have already said and what I still need to say to maintain and elaborate upon the big picture of the thesis.

Beyond April

Now things get vague. I still have three chapters to draft, all of them requiring some serious research first. As things stand, I know least for the chapter on how stage practice interacts with literary critical activity; I’m a little better prepared to write about illusion, since it is close to the theories of acting; and I’m about halfway there for my final chapter on actors as ambassadors, as I will be recycling some material about literary patriotism from early in my doctoral research.

In this situation, and depending on the various JRF applications and the advice of my supervisor, I’ll have to make a choice. When I do, I’ll write another blog post like this one. I’ll also come back and read this, and – almost certainly – smile at my optimism.


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