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!
Computational Methods and Textual Scholarship
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. This project, of which I am coordinating editor, extends the pioneering work of the Internet Shakespeare Editions to publish electronic critical editions of plays by Shakespeare's predecessors, contemporaries, and successors, with the aim of expanding the range of early English drama available for study, teaching, and performance.
Much of my current work might also be characterized as exploring the application of computational methods and methodologies to literary and textual studies. In addition to the creation of electronic scholarly editions, I am interested in the theory and practice of authorship attribution, digital methods for compositorial studies, bibliographical databases, computational stylistics and the quantitative analysis of literary texts, and digital humanities pedagogy. I was elected to the Executive Committee of the Australasian Association for Digital Humanities in 2013.
Dr Brett D. Hirsch
Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (M208) / University of Western Australia / 35 Stirling Hwy / Crawley WA 6009 / Australia