Happy birthday, Shakespeare!
I know, I know, April 23 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, but “Happy Deathday!” doesn’t have the same ring to it. Yet, I’ve found that so much of Shakespeare’s drama locates facing death and seizing the day as two sides of the same coin. My 30th birthday falls on Shakespeare’s milestone birth/deathday, but far from lamenting the passing of another year, I’d like to look back and see how I carpe’d the heck out of the diem!
What I’ve been up to:
- I’ve been working my Shakespeare-loving butt off writing my PhD and getting it published, chapter by painstaking chapter, in academic journals. This means doing the research, editing it until my supervisor is happy with it, submitting it to journals for publication, and being told that it’s not good enough: try again. It takes a thick skin to cope with kind of criticism, but that’s the nature of my profession. I try to remember that the acknowledgements page of every academic’s book includes expressions of thanks to all of the people who told the author that her writing wasn’t good enough. Those people took the time to read her research, and give thoughtful suggestions about how to improve its delivery. I got to see two of my articles in print this year, and one more got accepted for publication (stay tuned!), so I’m feeling full of pride, but am also humbled by the recognition of how much time and effort it takes in order to reach these academic milestones.
- Research can be a solitary activity. I put my ideas in conversation with those of other literary critics from the comfort of my quiet apartment (or louder Starbucks), but it is a rare pleasure to share these exceptionally niche conversations in person. Since Shakespeare’s last birthday, I had the chance to do some really fun conferencing. I gave a paper on compassion (and the lack thereof) in The Merchant of Venice while getting to visit one of my favourite cities in the world: Amsterdam. Houseboats, stroopwaffles, and the company of fellow early modernists? Yes, please! I also proposed and moderated a panel at a conference in my hometown of Toronto. Instead of offering my own paper, I used the panel as an opportunity to reach out and hear how my peers are bringing their own unique perspectives to our shared research interests.
- I am an unashamed Anglophile. I am always contriving ways to return to England, and this past summer, my mother and I travelled to London to see Benedict Cumberbatch play Hamlet. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, made all the more special by the fact that I got to see it twice!
- I am also a self-professed “Cumberbitch” (or, as my more genteel mother says, “Cumberbunny”), and was interviewed by The Guardian about our journey to bow at the dual altar of Shakespeare and Celebrity.
- While I haven’t been updating this blog as much as I always intend to, I did dip my toe into the “Digital” side of the Digital Humanities by participating in a workshop of the basics of TEI, Text Encoding Initiative. It was a cool way to map out or annotate information, and I’m always looking for opportunities to get more involved with DH in the future!
- I’ve also used the “Digital” to meet many humanists this year. As a researcher for the TRaCE Project, I’ve been conducting Skype interviews with English Literature PhD grads in order to reflect on the changing value of the English PhD and how people put their PhDs to use. Some stories are scary, some stories scream success, but overall, I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to soak up the guidance of these people who have braved academia and lived to tell the tale.
What’s next for me? Shakespeare’s birthday resolutions ’16:
- It’s time to finish that PhD! Spoken as someone who works on her dissertation five days a week every week, I can tell you: it can take 6 full years to complete a PhD. That’s just how long it takes to create this extended, meaningful, original piece of work.
- Once I’m finished my PhD and on the job market, I might finally have the time to watch (and blog about!) all those Shakespeare films that I’ve missed in the past few years. Of particular interest, my beloved Benedict Cumberbatch playing Richard III in the BBC’s Hollow Crown See the trailer here!
- I want to go to England again, of course! Although I’m probably going to complete my PhD before achieving my dream to attend BritGrad, I’ve got my sights on this awesome conference organized by Shakespeare’s Globe: “Cultures of Mortality: Death on the Shakespearean Stage”. It’s sure to be killer!
- I’m actively investing myself in finding an academic job where I can continue doing what I love: researching and teaching Shakespeare, and mentoring the bright young students who give meaning to all of my heard work. I work my butt off, and I’m ready to get paid for it!
So let’s raise a glass!
…or two, or three, or in my case, four, as I celebrate Shakespeare’s life and my birthday on the second night of Passover! How will you be celebrating?