As an undergraduate at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, I was eager to explore interdisciplinary approaches to the study of early modern literature. I had the opportunity, in my final year, to take a ‘Material Renaissance’ paper, which looked at Renaissance writing through the lens of contemporary material and visual culture. I enjoyed this paper immensely, and found it illuminating to consider, for instance, the descriptions of clothing in Herrick’s Hesperides alongside the portraiture of Van Dyck, or the extent to which Spenser’s Amoretti and Epithalamion functions as a textual posy ring.
My enthusiasm for cross-curricular lines of enquiry has endured, and during my year away from formal study, I have become increasingly interested in research approaches that extend beyond the traditional remit of the humanities. After graduating in June 2015, I began working with the charity ReLit, an organisation that explores and promotes the use of literature in therapeutic contexts. This experience has encouraged me to consider the potential for crossover and collaboration between medicine and the humanities, both within and beyond my research. I will continue to provide support for the charity over the coming year, while exploring some of the ideas this work has generated through my research. My MSt dissertation will examine two of Shakespeare’s so-called ‘late plays’, Pericles and Cymbeline, in relation to recent developments in trauma theory. Although the emergent field of Shakespearean trauma studies has, so far, been dominated by discussions of Shakespeare’s tragedies, I hope to be able to utilise ideas about traumatic repression and repetition to illuminate the latent but recurring threat posed to the heroines of these tragicomedies. I want to consider trauma as a structural principle of Pericles and Cymbeline; like a traumatic memory, the danger is neither fully evaded nor fully acknowledged, but haunts the plays visually and verbally even in their final scenes. As well as pursuing my interest in research combining medicine and the humanities in my thesis, I look forward to developing my understanding of Renaissance material culture through other aspects of the MSt.
The ethos of the Ertegun Programme is to foster dialogue, discussion and the expansion of knowledge across academic disciplines; I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity that the scholarship affords me to work alongside and exchange ideas with researchers from a variety of subjects.