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British Shakespeare Association conference reports

The British Shakespeare Association’s annual conference took place on July 3rd – 6th at the University of Stirling in Scotland. The conference was attended by hundreds of academics, teachers, practitioners and enthusiasts from around the world.

Keynote lectures were delivered by Professor Margreta De Grazia (University of Pennsylvania), Professor Andrew Murphy (University of St. Andrews), Professor John Drakakis (University of Stirling), Michael Bogdanov (The Wales Theatre Company) and Dr Colin Burrow (University of Oxford).

The BSA was delighted to provide bursaries for several conference delegates, whose experiences we recount below:

Thank you to the BSA for the bursary towards my conference costs. Working up my conference paper has helped to clarify my thinking, but of course the best things were the chance to meet and spend time with fellow Shakespeare enthusiasts. An unexpected highlight was getting an insight into acting through volunteering during Andrew Jarvis’s workshop.

– Alison Stone, University of Otago, New Zealand

It has been a pleasure to participate as a delegate in the 2014 BSA Conference at the University of Stirling. It has been an immensely rewarding experience, and I had the unique opportunity to listen to very fascinating paper presentations and lectures and to share my interests with other scholars. Although Shakespeare is not the main subject of my studies, the atmosphere during the conference rekindled my interest in the English writer. Furthermore, I received a great deal of methodological input that will benefit my own research project, even if not strictly related to Shakespeare. It was an honour to be awarded with one of the Conference Bursaries. It enormously helped me, because I only had to focus on my paper presentation and on other talks, without thinking constantly about my finances.

– Roberto Bonci, University of Oxford, UK

Although I have presented my work at conferences on drama and on eighteenth-century culture, this bursary allowed me to share my ideas about Shakespeare and acting theory for the first time with experts in the field of Shakespeare studies. Having now done so, I can look back on the event and say that all the feedback I received from other delegates (with particular thanks to Margreta de Grazia and Andrew Jarvis) was extremely useful to me, and helped me to reformulate key ideas about Shakespeare’s place and influence in the tradition of writing about performance. On top of this, I could hardly have gone to a better conference to witness the range of current work (from researchers, performers and teachers) on Shakespeare, and I now have a better idea of where my place within it all lies. Last, but certainly not least, I met many other delegates who shared my interests and were keen to exchange ideas with me; I fully intend to maintain such connections going forward, and look forward to seeing them again at the next BSA conference.

– James Harriman-Smith, University of Cambridge, UK. James has written in more detail about the conference on his blog, A Muse of Fire.

Firstly, thank you so much for supporting my attendance at the conference with this grant – and also with your exceptionally kind willingness to answer many disability access questions both before and during the conference. As a disabled delegate, attending conferences presents unique challenges, but I felt incredibly well-supported by BSA and the whole team at Stirling.

Academically speaking, the conference was a magnificent experience. I received insightful and specific feedback on my own work, and suggestions of people with whom I could discuss my interests in future. The audience in my panel struck the ideal balance between friendly and challenging: I left with new ideas and directions, but not feeling knocked down. I hugely enjoyed attending other talks, plenaries and panels. Margreta de Grazia’s plenary address will, I am certain, stay with me and continue to influence my understanding of Shakespeare’s theatrical depiction of pastness and presentness for years to come. All senior scholars at the conference were supremely gracious and generous with their time to those of us at the very beginning of our academic careers, and the friendly atmosphere fostered constructive discourse during the question periods. For the first time, I was able to attend a session focusing more on performance than on traditional academic criticism – Andrew Jarvis’s workshop – and discovered that I’ve been missing out at other conferences. I found it immensely stimulating and thought-provoking to watch Andrew taking his volunteers through a series of directorial exercises and exploring Shakespeare’s ‘clues’ to his actors.

I also felt that the supplementary conference activities were well-conceived and highly enjoyable. Although my medical situation prevented me from participating in as many things as I would ideally have liked, I did manage to attend The Comedy of Errors and to visit Stirling Castle. I was delighted that the chosen play happened to be a less commonly performed one: most appropriate for a collection of Shakespeare-mad delegates such as ourselves. The collegial, intellectually exciting mood of the conference was a pleasure to experience, and is probably beyond my powers of description. I departed (reluctantly) with a shocking number of new books, with myriad notes and references to look up, with renewed enthusiasm for my own work – and with many, many thoughts about Shakespeare buzzing round my mind. I would definitely make BSA my top choice for a return visit in future, and am already crossing my fingers for 2016!

– Chloe Stopa-Hunt, University of Cambridge, UK

Attending the 2014 BSA conference in Stirling gave me the opportunity to engage with a huge range of current Shakespeare scholarship, and to discuss and debate new ideas with scholars I wouldn’t have otherwise met. As a young researcher, I really valued the conversations I was able to have with established academics whose work I admire. I’ve rarely experienced such engagement and generosity than from those responding to papers at this conference, and the many comments I received on my paper have been invaluable in the process of writing it up into a full article. Without the postgraduate bursary I received, I wouldn’t have been able to attend the conference, so I’m very grateful to the BSA committee for their help in this regard.

– Clare Whitehead, Queen Mary University of London, UK

The British Shakespeare Association conference was a great introduction to the world of Shakespeare studies. I met so many people, working on such diverse projects – it really brought home how rich the field is. I hope I’ll be able to come back later in my academic career!

– James Everest, University College London

For a PhD student from eastern Europe travelling to the UK is quite a substantial financial burden so any form of support is helpful. A bursary I received from the British Shakespeare Association helped me to reduce the cost of the conference fee. Moreover, I felt very much honoured and appreciated as a young scholar when my name was called out during the conference reception. It was very rewarding to be acknowledged among other aspiring researchers. Most importantly, I am very happy I had an opportunity to take part in such an inspiring conference.

– Katarzyna Burzyńska, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland

The BSA conference was a particularly useful activity for my research given the Shakespeare focus and the two panels of Shakespeare in education, which spoke to my thesis. I also presented a paper, and the fine tuning of this has helped clarify my overall objective. There was a fascinating paper given by Margreta de Grazia on ‘Anachronism v Modernism’ which spoke very much to my understanding/definition of Presentism, and I was also able to make some useful contacts.

– Abigail Richardson, The Rutland County College, Oakham/De Montfort University

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