Dr Sophie DuncanBack to People

Department: Calleva Research Centre
College appointment: Calleva Centre Postdoctoral Research Associate
Officer: Junior Dean of Arts


Sophie Duncan obtained her BA (Hons) English Language and Literature (First Class), and an MSt in English (1780-1900) as a Scholar of Oriel College, University of Oxford. She received her DPhil from Brasenose College, Oxford, where she was Senior Hulme Scholar, in 2013. She then became Stipendiary Lecturer at St Catherine’s and Supernumerary Fellow in English at Harris Manchester College, before returning to full-time research at Magdalen.


She has been a guest lecturer at King’s College London and the Bread Loaf School of English. In 2013, she became Editor of Victorian Network, an open-access, MLA-indexed, peer-reviewed journal of the best early-career work on Victorian literature and culture. Her research includes longstanding links with the world of professional theatre, and she works regularly as a historical advisor/dramaturg in theatre, television, radio and film.


Research Interests:

Dr Duncan’s research interests encompass Early Modern, Victorian and contemporary drama. She is particularly interested in theatre history and the history of the actress, women’s creative networks, depictions of female sexuality, celebrity, embodied and extended cognition, and cultural memory.


Her first book, Shakespeare’s Women and the Fin de Siècle (forthcoming with Oxford University Press) examines iconoclastic fin-de-siècle performances of Shakespeare’s heroines, by star Victorian actresses including Ellen Terry, Madge Kendal and Lillie Langtry. The book roots fin-de-siècle Shakespeare in the exciting and complex world of actresses’ professional and creative networks, showing how Shakespeare in performance and fin-de-siècle culture inflected each other, from the ‘Jack the Ripper’ killings to the suffragists’ struggles for franchise. Her current project examines Renaissance theories of extended cognition through stage properties in performances of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.


She has also published on the African American actor Ira Aldridge (1807-1867), the bibliographical history of Oscar Wilde, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897).  With the Calleva Centre, she co-convenes the seminar series on ‘Make-Believe’.



Sophie Duncan teaches broadly from the Early Modern period to the present day, with a particular focus on the Renaissance, long nineteenth century, and British Drama since 1945. She particularly enjoys supervising final-year undergraduate and graduate students with interests in Renaissance drama and Victorian literature, especially fin-de-siècle literature, women’s writing, or nineteenth-century drama and theatre culture. She is always happy to meet students or school groups who want to know more about studying English at Oxford.


Selected Publications:

Books and Articles:

  • Shakespeare’s Women and the Fin de Siècle (Oxford University Press, 2016)
  • ‘Shakespeare and Vampires at the Fin de Siècle’, Feminist Theory (in press).
  • ‘The Progressive Ira Aldridge: Black Modernity in Chakrabarti’s Red Velvet’ in Tiziana Morosetti (ed.), The Exotic Body in Nineteenth-Century Drama (Peter Lang, 2015).
  • ‘Maids and Men: gender roles in Twelfth Night’ English Review (November 2015, in press).
  • ‘Dynasty, memory and Terry: curating the 1896 Cymbeline.’ Platform: Journal of the Theatre and Performing Arts1 (2014).
  • ‘Oscar Wilde’s A Good Woman: a bibliographical investigation into Magdalen MS. 300’ Bodleian Library Record2 (2010), 230­–47.

Podcasts and Films:

  • Twelfth Night: series of six filmed lectures for Massolit, teaching resource for KS4 students worldwide.
  • ‘Oscar Wilde’s Women’: podcast for Oxford University’s Great Writers Inspire project (via iTunes U).
  • ‘Shakespeare’s suffragettes’: podcast for Great Writers Inspire (via iTunes U).