Shakespeare and Outreach

It’s been a while since I did a real post on this blog (January‘s doesn’t count). And I’m afraid it’s going to be a little longer yet until I do again. This is because I have begun writing up the thesis, and I’m finding it hard to switch between blog-mode and full-blown PhD chapter-writing mode.

That said, this blog is still important to me, not least because it maintains a bridge between my narrow academic world and a (admittedly only slightly) larger audience. Blogging, I’m sure, makes me write better, more accessible academic prose.

This is hardly a new point, and I’ve heard it repeated no end of times at various postgraduate training events. I’ve also argued for the benefits of blogging myself, and very recently. This was when writing an application for a project called ‘Critical Waves’, which offers PhDs the chance to do a podcast on their research, and even, if their oral presentation skills are up to it, appear on the radio too.

I’m yet to hear back from them, although, if you’re desperate, you can already listen to my dulcet tones on this very website.

In the ‘Critical Waves’ application, I rolled out the ‘blogging benefits’ argument, but also, to spice things up for both me and the judges, tried to make an awkward connection with my research. By way of conclusion to this rambling post, I’ll rehearse the same clumsy ballet of concepts here.

You see, I got interested in Shakespeare not so much because I think he’s amazing, but because everyone else thinks he is (and, for the most part, thought he was too). Shakespeare thus interests me as an author over whom literary minds have met for centuries. He is, to put it another way, the ultimate academic conversation starter. Working out how he became such, and how such a catalytic presence has shaped English literary and dramatic culture is the task of my PhD, stated in the widest terms.

Even more broadly than that, and as I’ve said here before, I love the fact that everyone can relate to my research topic on some level. Most people have done some Shakespeare at school, and, with that knowledge, I can build a bridge between my life and theirs.

If Shakespeare, as I’ve suggested, acts (and acted) as such a catalyst, such a connector, it seems to me wrong for research on him to become too erudite, too exclusive. To do so would be to fail to acknowledge why Shakespeare is so important in the first place. Of course, you can well argue that erudition is a necessary counterpoint to lazy vulgarization and is indeed sometimes authorised by it, but that would be missing the point I’m trying to get at here.

Simply stated, I suppose I’m saying that I believe that, if your research is important and relevant, then you should prove it, by blogging or by other means.

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