I’m a Teaching Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham, and I write poetry, plays, and academic criticism. I’m also a PhD researcher at the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute, funded by the Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership.
My thesis investigates the influence of Shakespeare on the development of verse drama in Britain up to the present day. I’m particularly interested in how dramatists using this form have dealt with the problem of working in the shadow of the world’s most famous writer, and in how comparison to Shakespeare has, fairly or unfairly, affected the way more recent verse plays have been received by critics and audiences.
The creative aspect of my thesis seeks to explore what is unique, fresh and viable about the dormant form of verse drama, and to test practically the possibilities it offers for engaging theatre audiences today. My supervisors are Professor Ewan Fernie and the poet Dr Luke Kennard. I have a formal academic profile here.
In March 2017, I was Global Premodern Studies Visiting Professor for the University of Minnesota. My article ‘“Put not / Beyond the sphere of your activity”: The Fictional Afterlives of Ben Jonson’ won the 2016 Ben Jonson Journal Discoveries award. ‘Shakespeare Unbard: Negotiating Civic Shakespeare’ — a chapter co-authored with Hester Bradley, based on work arising from the Shakespeare and Creativity MA exploring the history of Shakespeare celebrations — is forthcoming in New Places: Shakespeare and Civic Creativity, edited by Ewan Fernie and Paul Edmondson, from the Arden Shakespeare in 2017. I have also chaired two conferences: Out of Practice, an innovative event foregrounding practice-based research at PhD level, and BritGrad, the British Graduate Shakespeare Conference, the largest postgraduate event of its kind. In 2016, I was an academic advisor to the Our Shakespeare exhibition at the Library of Birmingham.
My other research interests include:
- Contemporary poetry
- Fictional depictions of Shakespeare and especially Shakespeare’s contemporaries, with a focus on Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe
- Incidental uses of Shakespeare in popular music and pop culture
- Depictions of class in post-war British literature and music, including a project close reading the songs of the Yorkshire chansonnier Jake Thackray.
I can be contacted at richardtobrien AT gmail DOT com, and a full CV is available on request.