Professor Philip Schwyzer
Philip Schwyzer is a specialist in early modern English literature, with interests including William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, and the literature of personal and cultural memory. Much of his research happens on borders and boundaries, including those between the Middle Ages and the early modern period, between literature and archaeology, and between England and Wales. His books include Shakespeare and the Remains of Richard III (2013), Archaeologies of English Renaissance Literature (2007), and Literature, Nationalism, and Memory in Early Modern England and Wales (2004).
He is Principal Investigator on two major research projects: Deploying the Dead (DEEPDEAD), funded by HERA, and the Past in its Place Project, funded by the ERC. He is editing Michael Drayton’s great topographical and historical poem, Poly-Olbion, with Professor Andrew McRae, and is Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded Poly-Olbion Project.
- 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.
I currently lead a large-scale collaborative project called “The Past in its Place” (2012-16), 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 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 also collaborate 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.
I am a member of the AHRC Peer Review College, and am a former member of the Executive Committee for the International Spenser Society. In 2010, I organised the Shakespeare and Wales Symposium in Cardiff, and with my colleagues Dr Corinna Wagner and Dr Joanne Parker, I organised the conference 'Recasting the past: Early Modern to Postmodern Medievalisms' in 2011.
Future events associated with my current grants include a symposium on Death and Commemoration in November 2013, organized with Dr. Naomi Howell, and a conference on Place and Memory in 2015, co-sponsored by ECLIPSE. I am co-chair, with Prof. Karen Edwards, of the organizing committee for the International Milton Symposium, to take place at Exeter in July 2015.
External impact and engagement
The Speaking with the Dead Project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, culiminated in a series of public exhibitions and lectures at participating cathedrals, beginning in August 2014. Further public engagement activities are under development with Exeter Cathedral, supported by the ERC Past in its Place Project. These activities are co-ordinated by myself and Dr Naomi Howell.
The Poly-Olbion Project also features a public engagement side, co-ordinated with our partners Flash of Splendour Arts.
Contribution to discipline
I am a current member of the AHRC Peer Review College, and a former member of the Executive Committee of the International Spenser Society. I have recently served as external examiner for the University of Sussex BA in English, and the University of Bristol MA English Studies.
Due to my involvement in a number of externally funded research projects, I am not currently involved in undergraduate seminar teaching. I do, however, contribute lectures to a number of modules, including Approaches to Criticism; Beginnings; Shakespeare; Desire and Power; Theatrical Cultures; Renaissance and Revolution; Life and Death in Early Modern Literature; and Shakespeare and the History of Ideas.
In 2013 I was honoured to be nominated by students to deliver one of the first FRUNI Lectures (now known as Research Uncovered). A video of my lecture on "Shakespeare and the Remains of Richard III" can be viewed here.