Grant success in English Literature

Published: 2 July 2007 at 14:10

As Anglia Ruskin University expert in Renaissance literature prepares to modernise the works of author James Shirley.

Dr Eugene Giddens, Director of Research within the Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences at Anglia Ruskin University, in collaboration with Dr Barbara Ravelhofer (Durham University) and Dr Teresa Grant (Warwick University), has recently received one of the largest ever grants bestowed by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).  Drs Giddens, Ravelhofer and Grant are the general editors of The Complete Works of James Shirley, to be published by Oxford University Press, and the AHRC award of £832,207.00 (plus additional funding for a PhD studentship) generously contributes to the preparation of that edition.

Shirley was arguably the most important Caroline dramatist, bridging the theatrical gap between his Jacobean forebears and Restoration followers. He was the favoured dramatist of Charles I (with whom he collaborated on The Gamester) and the first professional dramatist to work in Ireland. His extensive range of work has never fully been edited, and the last edition of his collected drama appeared in 1833.

Speaking about James Shirley, Dr Giddens said:

"His work is still relatively unknown because it is not readily available in print. It has continued to be successful on stage, however, as witnessed by important revivals from the Restoration to the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hyde Park in 1987. Shirley wrote around 50 titles, including plays, poems and prose. Our editorial team will be publishing ten volumes of his writing and it is expected that these will be available from 2011."

James Shirley (1596-1666), who was educated at St Catherine’s College, Cambridge, was a Caroline writer in the tradition of the great Elizabethans and Jacobeans. An exponent of tragedy, comedy, tragicomedy, masque, pastoral, entertainment, morality, and neo-miracle, his non-dramatic works include poems, a phrasebook and grammars. Shirley wrote for a wide variety of theatres, ranging from the Blackfriars to the first public playhouse in Dublin.

The Complete Works has been supported by £14,042 of seed-corn funding from the British Academy (2005), which acted as a springboard towards achieving the contract with Oxford University Press and for further funding with the AHRC. Dr Giddens has also recently been named the Clark-Huntington Bibliographical Fellow for 2007-2008, for his work on the author, and his position as Skinner-Young Reader in Shakespeare and Renaissance literature is generously supported by the bequest of Shirley Skinner-Young.