Intersections 2017 – First Keynote

Our Frankenstein(s): Points of reference and Points of entry

 Professor Julie Sanders (Newcastle)

Keynote speech – Thursday 19th January – 10:15-11:30 – Embassy Theatre

Respondent: Dr. Joel Anderson (RCSSD)

This talk will attempt a creative and playful approach to a version of adaptation studies as work in progress that presents projects not yet fully realised, adaptations always in the process of becoming, a repertoire in the making, and scripts still in development. The intention will be in part to explore the value and purpose of engaging with theatre work from its earliest inception in order to interrogate the creative process, and the ways in which theatre work is always an example of adaptation in process. What adaptation studies and academic work, not least editorial but also critical, might gain from engagement and collaboration with theatre companies will be a major focus: in terms of the so-called ‘finished product’, production or performance, but also with ideas half-formed, those set aside in the process of rehearsal, and those which emerge after the official first night reviews. In the course of the discussion, I will suggest that not only is all theatre work adaptation in process but also that adaptation criticism is in this respect always unfinished, open-ended, subject to review ….

To achieve this focus in the argument, I want to think about the Frankenstein paradigm. I will consider the story’s history in many genres and formats, not least theatrical, which results in the fact that we all have different points of entry and points of reference for this “modern myth”. But I also then want to apply this thinking to the very particular example of an upcoming production in February-March 2017 of Dr Frankenstein by Selma Dimitrijevic at Northern Stage in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. This is a newly commissioned, gender-disruptive, adaptation that finds its points of reference both in the filtered and accretive history of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s text and in a range of contemporary issues and societal challenges, from questions of education and access to scientific research and medical ethics to migration and xenophobia.

Professor Julie Sanders is an English Literature and Drama specialist with an international reputation in early modern literature and in adaptation studies. She obtained her first degree in English at Cambridge University and then went on to study for a Masters and a PhD at the University of Warwick, during which time she studied on exchange at Ca’Foscari in Venice and at UC Berkeley. Her first lectureship was at Keele University in 1995 and she then joined the University of Nottingham as Chair of English Literature and Drama in 2004. At Nottingham she was Head of the School of English from 2010-13 and then seconded for two years to their Ningbo China joint venture campus as Vice Provost (Teaching and Learning) where she helped launch the AHRC’s first centre in China focussing on Digital Copyright and IT research. In 2012, Julie was awarded the British Academy’s Rose Mary Crawshay Prize for international women’s scholarship and she has a strong track record in cross-disciplinary research and international collaboration.