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Birkbeck academic awarded prestigious Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award

Dr Woods' "Shakespeare's Unreformed Fictions" looks at Catholicism in Shakespearean drama

Dr Gillian Woods, Lecturer in Renaissance Theatre and Drama in Birkbeck's Department of English and Humanities, has won this year’s Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award for her book Shakespeare’s Unreformed Fictions.

Shakespeare’s Unreformed Fictions looks at why Catholicism continued to have an imaginative hold over Shakespearean drama, even though the on-going Reformation outlawed its practice.

The Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award is given to a first monograph published in the last two years which has made an important contribution to the understanding of Shakespeare, his theatre, or his contemporaries.

Dr Woods will share the £3,000 prize with joint winner Professor David B. Goldstein, and will deliver a public lecture on her work in the newly opened Sam Wanamaker Playhouse on Wednesday 1 October at 7pm.

Dr Woods said: “It’s a terrific honour to receive an award from the Globe, an institution that does such a brilliant job of making Shakespeare accessible to a wide range of people. The recent opening of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse has made the last few months a really exciting time for students of Renaissance drama. The indoor space enables researchers to frame new questions and think through the answers in practical ways (while seeing some fantastic productions). I’m thrilled to be able to present my work there.”

Describing what led her to her chosen field of study Dr Woods said that she felt something seemed out of place in early modern drama. “Metaphors, idioms, characters and ideas that had been condemned by the Reformation remained glaringly present in post-Reformation plays.  At the time I started my research, a number of critics were interested in what such content told us about Shakespeare’s personal faith. I had different questions in mind: how might audiences have reacted to this material? What would have been the associations of, say, a friar, and how did that impact on the meaning of plays like Romeo and Juliet and Measure for Measure? The theatre provided a space for dramatists to work through all kinds of contentious political and social issues at a (relatively) safe fictional distance. I was intrigued about how matters of faith and belief were handled in a venue that requires some willing suspension of disbelief.”

The Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award was judged by a panel of prestigious academics comprising Patrick Spottiswoode, Director Globe Education (Chair); Dr Farah Karim-Cooper (Globe Education); Professor David Lindley (University of Leeds); Professor Gordon McMullan, (King’s College London); Professor Laurie Maguire (University of Oxford); and Dr Abigail Rokison (The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, and inaugural Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award winner in 2012).

Dr Woods teaches on the BA English and MA Renaissance Studies degree programmes.

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