Spotlight on Research!

There’s so much going on around the campus, and as we all squirrel away on our research it can be easy to lose sight of what other people are up to. So to keep connected with what other researchers are doing, we’re starting a new blog feature called ‘Spotlight on Research’!

Name: Lana Harper


School of English, Centre for Early Modern and Medieval Studies.

Thesis title:
Moving Indoors: Repositioning Theatrical Practice in Seventeenth Century Politics.

When I’m not writing my thesis I:
Wheeze through my marathon training, edit Sussex’s interdisciplinary journal ‘Excursions’, try to learn French, eat vast quantities of chips and drink too much wine. Oh, and I dabble with running this blog! So you might have seen me at some Hive events in my role as Hive scholar.

My PhD is about:
My research is a broad sweep of the way that theatre changed from the 1560s to 1700, both as an industry and as an art form. I’m doing this by looking how the buildings that plays were performed in changed across that time, and how this affected the types of plays that were written to be performed in them. Since the first permanent commercial playhouses were only built in London in the 1560s and 1570s, I’m really talking about the birth of English theatres. One of the main shifts I’m looking at is how playhouses changed from large, open-air theatres such as the Globe to much smaller, indoor theatres. I also look at how they were originally built in the outskirts and suburbs of London, and then started to move into the city centre and form the origins of the modern West End, particularly after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.

My main focus is on English theatres – and this actually means London theatres as no other city had a big enough population for a permanent theatre at the time. But I also have a brief look at the drama in neighbouring countries, such as Ireland, Scotland and France. Scotland had very little theatre after James VI and I left for London when he became King in 1603, because the Kirk was hostile to it. Ireland had a short-lived theatre in the late 1630s, just before the outbreak of the English Civil War. It catered to the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and seems to have been a form of cultural imperialism by the English. And France had its own rich and different tradition of theatre that the English borrowed many elements from. But because the Monarchy were closely associated with French courtly life, the French elements that were absorbed into English drama (which originally grew from a much more home-based tradition)  ran roughly in parallel to the gentrification of
theatre as a form.

Overall, I argue that the move towards small, indoor, central London theatres began to turn theatre from a popular and accessible form of entertainment to the elitist one it still is today.

Would you like to share your research with our wide readership in a ‘Spotlight on Research’ post? Just email a profile in the same structure as the one above to The description of your PhD should be in a conversational style that is easy to understand for non-experts, and the whole thing should be under 500 words.


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