PhD Proposal Process: The Little Proposal That Could

Two unrelated posts in the past 24 hours? I must be procrastinating…

Looking back through my posts, I realized that I abruptly stopped updating on my PhD proposal process. This was probably because things started changing and growing quite quickly after January 1, and after I submitted something for real I was way too nervous to show it to the world, lest the world harshly condemn it and my hopes of funding be dashed. But now! the hopes are as high as they have every been! Pending the results of my MA, I’ve been offered an International Studentship with the College of Humanities here in Exeter! Yay!

And so, now that the dust has settled a little bit, I am pleased to present to you a segment of my Little Proposal That Could:

‘lines of which Shakespeare or Sophocles might have been proud’: an analytical performance history of Middleton and Rowley’s The Changeling

I propose to undertake an analytical performance history of The Changeling, beginning with its original performance circumstances and running through to the present day. My analysis will include all accessible productions, whether for stage or screen, amateur or professional companies. Additionally, I will carry out close readings of critical writings on The Changeling, such as T.S. Eliot’s essay ‘Thomas Middleton’ (which lent a quotation to my title), in order to properly contextualize the productions in question. The focus of my analysis will be on the ways in which various productions of The Changeling reflect and respond to the circumstances within which they were created and the ways in which the same productions fit into the larger theoretical arc of The Changeling in performance. I am also interested in how The Changeling responds to Shakespeare’s plays in production and how it functions as independent of Shakespeare.

This project will be a valuable contribution to the study of early modern drama, as it will allow the opportunity to examine both specific circumstances and long-term trends across the history of one of the most important tragedies from that period.  The performance history of The Changeling has the potential to reveal the moral, political, and social circumstances of the times and conditions within which each particular production came to life while simultaneously tracking larger trends in these areas across the play’s history. Within the framework of performance history, I hope to explore both reasons why the play continues to be performed and the ways in which various productions inevitably reflect the circumstances under which they were produced. This sort of study has frequently been conducted with regard to Shakespeare’s plays but has never been done on The Changeling. Given the play’s continued popularity, I feel that the study I propose is both timely and important. Here follow roughly 2000 words about the play and its performance history as well as a lengthy list of sources and known productions. I’ve since learned that “reflect” is a dangerous word to use when discussing art and society because, in reality, art shapes society as much as society shapes art. Various other glaring errors include misspelling Joe Hill-Gibbins’s name as Joe Jill-Gibbins and leaving a couple of significant film adaptations off of the bibliography. But I feel solid about the core ideas, and I can’t wait to start the real work of actually doing all the stuff the proposal says I’ll do!

Despite my hopefully evident excitement and glee, the proposal for this beast was the most difficult thing I’ve done in academia to date, so I can only imagine that the road ahead is paved–at least partially– with stumbling blocks and prickly bushes. Therefore, any words of wisdom will be greatly appreciated!



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