Early English Drama and Culture
The broad focus of my research is the cultural world of late medieval and early modern England, especially the literary and dramatic works of William Shakespeare and his immediate contemporaries, predecessors, and successors. Along with Deborah Cartmell (De Montfort University), Gabriel Egan (De Montfort University), Lisa Hopkins (Sheffield Hallam University) and Tom Rutter (University of Sheffield), I co-edit Shakespeare, an international scholarly journal of Shakespeare studies. I previously served as Vice President of the Australian and New Zealand Shakespeare Association (2010–2012) and as Secretary of the Perth Medieval and Renaissance Group (2012).
My interest in literature lies in the historical and the material conditions of its production, and the ideological, cultural, and economic contexts of its transmission and reception. In particular, I’m fascinated by the ways in which different textual and visual narratives are transmitted, adapted, and appropriated to suit changing religious, social, and political agendas. I’m also interested in the ways that medieval and early modern plays have edited and published over time, and how they have been (or can/should be) adapted into other media (especially electronic media) and cultural forms, such as film, children’s literature, graphic novels, puppetry, advertising and visual culture, and cartoons. My dream is to one day be involved in the production of animated versions of Elizabethan and Jacobean plays. If anyone is working on a stop-animation Volpone, get in touch!
Digital Humanities and Textual Scholarship
Much of my current work falls under the broad rubric of “digital humanities,” a term I take to refer to the exploration and application of methodologies from computing to traditional humanities research (and vice versa). This meeting of worlds and technologies, old and new, offers potentially new and exciting avenues for scholarship. I was elected to the Executive Committee of the Australasian Association for Digital Humanities in 2013.
My interest in the material conditions of literary and dramatic production inevitably led to a fascination with bibliography and textual scholarship — in particular, the various processes by which Renaissance dramatic texts are mediated, to both historical and contemporary readers and audiences. According to W. W. Greg’s Bibliography of English Printed Drama to the Restoration, there are roughly 836 plays printed between 1512 and 1689. This figure, of course, does not include the many plays that survive only in manuscript. The majority of these plays are not available in modern critical editions, and have still to receive adequate scholarly attention.
Enter the Digital Renaissance Editions. The project seeks to publish fully annotated, critical editions of early modern English drama, inspired by and modeled on the Internet Shakespeare Editions. This project, of which I am coordinating editor, is conceived as a marriage between bibliography and textual scholarship, digital humanities, and computational stylistics. In addition to the sort of scholarly apparatus one expects in print editions, these electronic editions will also offer powerful search functions, concordances, tools for textual and stylistic analysis, and rich multimedia content.
Dr Brett D. Hirsch
Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (M208) / University of Western Australia / 35 Stirling Hwy / Crawley WA 6009 / Australia