Ewan Fernie


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I have supervised PhDs on a range of subjects, including Shakespearean narcissism and existentialism; Stephen Greenblatt and the subjectivity of criticism; Shakespeare and the American imagination; androgyny in Renaissance drama; undressing in early modern literature and culture; Shakespeare and the Bible; Shakespeare and Wagner; forgiveness in Shakespeare and early literature; A Midsummer Night’s Dream and immortality; and the fortunes of verse drama after Shakespeare.

I would be very pleased to hear from students interested in working with me on Shakespeare and nineteenth-century culture and politics, particularly in Birmingham.


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Personal profile

Research interests

I am the Director of the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project, which aims to re-connect Birmingham’s communities with the city’s pioneering and politically progressive Shakespearean heritage.

My latest book (co-edited with Paul Edmondson) is New Places: Shakespeare and Civic Creativity (Arden, 2018).

My latest authored book is Shakespeare for Freedom: Why the Plays Matter (Cambridge University Press, 2017).  Ranging across the breadth of the Shakespeare phenomenon, it offers a new interpretation not just of the characters and the plays, but also of the part they have played in theatre, civic culture and politics. 

In 2016, I published Macbeth, Macbeth, an experimental fiction written with Simon Palfrey. This exemplified an alternative and more primary and creative form of literary response, making a whole new world and story in the image of Shakespeare’s darkest tragedy, and featured original artwork by Tom de Freston. 

In 2015, I published Thomas Mann and Shakespeare: Something Rich and Strange, co-edited with Tobias Döring. This first ever volume devoted to the always interesting if sometimes disturbing connections between these two major authors was the clearest indication to date of my interest in bringing powerful German perspectives and ideas to bear on English literature.

In 2013, I published The Demonic: Literature and Experience, a wide-ranging investigation of the demonic theme in western literature and philosophy. This linked demonic to psychological, sexual and more positive religious experience as well as to revolutionary political creativity, and sought a more experientially honest and intense way of doing and writing criticism.  

I am currently working with Katharine Craik to create a new play, Marina, based on Shakespeare’s Pericles, as a Research and Development project for the RSC.  Marina explores themes of female depression and radical chastity, in Shakespeare’s time and today. 

As part of my work as Director of the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project, I am researching the career and ideas of Birmingham’s remarkable ‘lost prophet’: George Dawson (1821-76).  Dawson pioneered a new ‘Civic Gospel’, which included founding the world’s greatest Shakespeare Library for all the people of Birmingham, regardless of class or creed.  He exemplifies a lost, Birmingham-based form of Englishness, which presents a salutary challenge to contemporary culture. 

I am writing a book called Lost Prophets, which offers a new interpretation of the Victorian period as the unfinished nineteenth-century, making exciting, under-appreciated connections between a range of remarkable historical figures and reassembling the forgotten story of the trailblazing humanitarian project they collectively initiated. 

I am also the author of Shame in Shakespeare and the editor of Spiritual Shakespeares and Reconceiving the Renaissance.  I am also General Editor (with Simon Palfrey) of the ‘Shakespeare Now!’ series of short, provocative books in the Arden Shakespeare imprint.  

In 2011 I co-authored Redcrosse, a new Spenser-inspired liturgy for St George’s Day, which has been performed in major UK cathedrals and by the RSC and was published by Bloomsbury.  Redcrosse was one major outcome of the AHRC / ESRC funded project, The Faerie Queene Now: Remaking Religious Poetry for Today’s World, for which I was Principal Investigator.  It was additionally supported by grants from the Arts Council, the PRS Foundation for Music, LCACE, Awards for All and the Church Urban Fund.


I won the James Elliott prize for my 1994 first-class degree from the University of Edinburgh, where I was also awarded a medal in aesthetics and a number of other prizes. I took my PhD from the University of St Andrews in 1998, and from 1998-9  was the Caroline Spurgeon Research Fellow at Royal Holloway. I was Lecturer in English at the Queen's University of Belfast from 1999-2003, and returned to Royal Holloway as a Lecturer in Shakespeare in January 2003.  I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2005 and Reader in 2007 before taking up my Chair at the Shakespeare Institute in January 2011.


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