Meet the staff: Ailsa Grant Ferguson

Ailsa is Principal Lecturer in Literature and teaches across our undergraduate and postgraduate Literature courses.

Tell us a little about your academic background and your research interests:

My research is in the field of early modern English literature and its afterlives, especially Shakespeare in performance and cultural contexts, performance and gender, literary commemoration, heritage  and memory, and early modern women’s writing. I am widely published on Shakespeare in cultural memory; Shakespeare and the First World War; Shakespeare and adaptation, appropriations of Shakespeare and counter-cultural expression; early modern mothers’ legacies and the idea of posthumous writing. My most recent major project uncovered the full history of the Shakespeare Hut, a First World War building for New Zealand ANZACS on leave in London that contained a purpose-built theatre and was created to mark Shakespeare’s tercentary in 1916. I am currently holder of an Art and Humanities Research College (AHRC) Research Development and Engagement (RDE) Fellowship, as PI for a major research project, in collaboration with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, focusing on Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna and her home, Hall’s Croft, and the mediation of early modern women in heritage presentation and cultural memory.

I joined the University of Brighton in 2014, following working as the National Theatre’s first academic in residence, and a post at King’s College London. In my early career, I taught at the University of Bristol and am also a PGCE-qualified and experienced teacher with keen interests in pedagogy and widening participation, having spent time as head of department (English, Media and MFL) in an FE College and as an experienced A Level examiner before taking up my previous post at King’s.

After receiving the Society for Theatre Research Award in 2013, my first monograph, Shakespeare, Cinema, Counterculture was published by Routledge in 2016, which was followed by co-authoring a collaborative monograph with an international group of scholars, Antipodal Shakespeare (published by Bloomsbury in 2014). My second monograph, The Shakespeare Hut was published in 2019 by the Arden Shakespeare (Bloomsbury). I have cowritten, with Dr Kate Aughterson, a major new textbook for the Arden Shakespeare series, Shakespeare and Gender, which was published in August 2020. I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and am currently an AHRC Research, Development and Engagement Fellow (2022-3), as PI on ‘Susanna Hall and Hall’s Croft: Gender, Cultural Memory, Heritage’:

What first attracted you to this particular area of research?

Originally a Shakespearean scholar with expertise in the appropriation of Shakespeare by resistant cultures, especially in cinema and performance, as my career developed I moved into specific expertise in literary commemoration, Shakespeare in WW1 and the campaign for suffrage in the UK, 17th century women’s writing and literary heritage and so on, as I become more fascinated by how literature, gender, identity and cultural memory intersect.

What are you currently working on?

An AHRC-funded study exploring how we ‘remember’ Susanna Hall (who was Shakespeare’s eldest daughter) and her home as a heritage site.

Who or what has been a major source of inspiration in your area of study in recent years and why?

Work by Katherine Scheil and Nicola Watson are currently big influences on my approaches to writing and thinking about literary heritage. My current project was partly inspired by my fascination with a book called The Shakespeare Trade, by Barbara Hodgdon, which I first read when it was new in the 1990s! She went to Stratford-upon-Avon and made a small comment that has become central to my current project: ‘the story left untold was Susanna’s’.

Who would you like to engage through your research and/or what sort of impact would you like it to have in the world?

As many people as possible! I have a particular interest in public engagement work and my current project is focussed around how to engage with users around the world. My previous project on the Shakespeare Hut (a temporary building for New Zealand ANZAC soldiers in WW1 that contained a suffragist-ed theatre) led to an impact case study that showcased a huge range of stakeholders and beneficiaries, which was amazing.

Suggest a favourite…

Book or article (academic): The Shakespeare Trade, Barbara Hodgdon
Fiction book: Persuasion, Jane Austen
Music: Bach Brandenburg Concerto no.3
FilmBack to the Future 🙂

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