Professor Philip Schwyzer

Research interests

    • Shakespeare
    • Spenser
    • early modern English and Welsh literature
    • death and memory
    • national identities
    • archaeology and antiquarianism


My research interests tend to cluster around borders and boundaries - between nations, between periods, and between disciplines. Much of my work has focused on cultural and literary relations between the nations of Britain, particularly England and Wales. I’ve also sought in various ways to bridge the gap between ‘late medieval' and ‘early modern'. I find myself increasingly interested in the intersection of literary and material cultures, especially as vehicles for the expression and preservation of cultural memory.

My first book, Literature, Nationalism and Memory in Early Modern England and Wales (Cambridge, 2004) explored the emergence of national consciousness in the Tudor era. My ongoing concern with the ‘British problem' in early modern literature is also expressed in two co-edited collections, Archipelagic Identities (Ashgate, 2004) and Shakespeare and Wales (Ashgate, 2010), and in my edition of Humphrey Llwyd’s Breviary of Britain (MHRA, 2011).

In Archaeologies of English Renaissance Literature (Oxford, 2007), I set out to uncover some buried affinities between the disciplines of archaeology and literary criticism, as well as exploring a range of archaeological motifs – from miraculously preserved corpses and Egyptian mummies to ruined monasteries and Yorick's skull – in a series of late medieval and early modern texts.  Since then I have remained fascinated by the “matter” of memory, and of literature. My most recent book, Shakespeare and the Remains of Richard III (Oxford, 2013), explores how recollections and material traces of Richard III's reign survived over the course of a century to influence the world and work of William Shakespeare. As a consequence of the public excitement over the discovery of Richard's remains I have given a number of public lectures on Shakespeare and Richard III, one of which is available to be viewed online.

Research collaborations

I am a Principal Investigator and overall Project Leader for the HERA-funded project "Deploying the Dead: Artefacts and Human Bodies in Socio-Cultural Transformations" (DEEPDEAD, 2016-19). In collaboration with teams in Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany, the DEEPDEAD project will examine the political uses and cultural meanings of human remains and related artefacts, from prehistory to the present. The UK team will be dealing with cases ranging from the relics of medieval saints and the supposed discovery of the bones of King Arthur in the twelfth century, to the recent discovery and reburial of the remains of Richard III.

I am also Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded project "Inventor of Britain" (2017-20). In collaboration with co-investigators at Bangor and QUB, and with the National Library of Wales, the project will culiminate in a scholarly edition of the complete works of the sixteenth-century Welsh historian and cartographer Humphrey Llwyd, as well as interactive digital editions of his innovative and influential maps.

From 2012 to 2016 I led a large-scale collaborative project called “The Past in its Place," which aims to explore how a range of English and Welsh locales (including cathedrals, ancient habitations, and landscapes) have functioned as sites of memory from the middle ages to the modern era. This project is funded by the European Research Council and the Leverhulme Trust. The research team includes ten academics representing the fields of English Studies, History, Geography, and Archaeology, from the Universities of Exeter and Chester.  A strand of this project, "Speaking with the Dead: Histories of Memory in Sacred Space", involving collaboration with cathedrals including Canterbury, Chester, Exeter, St Albans and St Davids, was featured in public exhibitions at several of these cathedrals in 2014. 

I have also collaborated with Professor Andrew McRae, Dr. Daniel Cattell, and Dr. Sjoerd Levelt in AHRC-funded The Poly-Olbion Project, which will culminate in a scholarly edition of Michael Drayton's Poly-Olbion, including the intriguing and erudite annotations of John Selden. The project mounted an exhibition and conference at the Royal Geographical Society in 2015, leading to a forthcoming volume of essays on Poly-Olbion and the mapping of early modern Britain.