Professor Gordon McMullan
Professor of English
BA (Birmingham), MA (Kansas), DPhil (Oxford), FRSA
Tel +44 (0)20 7848 2177
Address Department of English
King's College London
London WC2R 2LS
I specialise in Shakespeare and early modern theatre and culture. I am a general textual editor of the Norton Shakespeare and a general editor of Arden Early Modern Drama. With Ann Thompson and Sonia Massai and colleagues from UCL and Goldsmiths, I co-run the London Shakespeare Seminar and I am a longstanding member of the steering committee of the London Renaissance Seminar. The MA in Shakespeare Studies, taught jointly with Shakespeare’s Globe, which I created and convene, celebrates its first decade in 2010.
I have been a Leverhulme Fellow and have held visiting fellowships at three Australian universities. With Philip Mead (University of Western Australia), I currently hold an Australian Research Council grant for a comparative study of the memorialisation of Shakespeare in 20th century Sydney and London.
I am a founding member of the London Shakespeare Centre, launched at King’s in 2009.
I have research interests in four principal areas:
Shakespearean and early modern drama, especially Jacobean theatre, with particular interests in cultural politics, in performance practices, in gender, and in issues of collaboration and repertory
the editing of Shakespearean and other early modern dramatic texts
the cultural and critical afterlife of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, notably the ways in which Shakespeare has been embedded in cultural memory in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries
the idea of ‘late writing’ or ‘late style’ across the artistic disciplines. My most recent monograph, Shakespeare and the Idea of Late Writing: Authorship in the Proximity of Death, was published by Cambridge in 2007.
My first book, The Politics of Unease in the Plays of John Fletcher (1994), was a contextual account of the intersection of the canon of a major Jacobean playwright – the longer-lasting half of the team of ‘Beaumont and Fletcher’ - with questions of gender, colonialism and collaboration. While continuing to produce critical work of this nature, I’ve extended my engagement with early modern dramatic texts by way of textual editing.
I edited Henry VIII for the Arden Shakespeare series and 1 Henry IV for Norton Critical Editions. As a general editor of Arden Early Modern Drama and a general textual editor of the third edition of the Norton Shakespeare – for which I am editing Romeo and Juliet – I work with others to create a wide range of texts of early modern plays.
I have a specific interest also in the idea of ‘late writing’ or ‘late style’ – a topic most recently addressed by Edward Said in his posthumous On Late Style.
My monograph, Shakespeare and the Idea of Late Writing: Authorship in the Proximity of Death (Cambridge University Press, 2007) takes Shakespeare as its primary exemplar in an analysis of the validity of the allegedly transcultural, transhistorical ‘discourse of lateness’ – that is, the argument that a certain (invariably male) writers, painters or composers (eg Titian, Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Beethoven, James, Shostakovich) are marked out as geniuses by their sharing of a sudden burst of intense creativity at the very end of life, a productivity characterised by certain features: primitivism, abstraction, serenity (or sometimes furious resistance), a characteristic awkwardness or tangibility of stylistic feature (for instance, what art historians call ‘loose facture’) and, above all, transcendence.
I am interested in defining this critical phenomenon, in analysing the relationship between ‘late style’ and ‘old-age style’, and in general in juxtaposing and interpreting the last works of artists and writers.
Gordon McMullan (2010) 'Memory's Library: Medieval Books in Early Modern England' JOURNAL OF BRITISH STUDIES, 49 (1), pp. 148-150. [Book Review (Print)]
Gordon McMullan (2009) '"Plenty of blood. That's the only writing": (mis)representing Jacobean tragedy in turn-of-the-century cinema', in The Spectacular in and Around Shakespeare pp. 123-136 [Chapter]
Gordon McMullan (2009) 'The Lateness of King Kear: Alteration and Authenticity in Shakespeare and Tate', in The true blank of thine eye: Approches critiques de King Lear pp. 83-101 [Chapter]
Gordon McMullan (2009) 'What is a 'late play'?', in The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare's Last Plays pp. 5-28 [Chapter]
Literature of the Renaissance in England
A Mad World, My Masters: Performing Culture in Jacobean London
Expertise and Public Engagement
I am happy to talk to anyone interested in working on a PhD in any of these research fields.
I have an interest in the performance of Shakespeare and early modern drama and have written on, for instance, the self-fashioning through identification with Shakespeare of Sir John Gielgud and Mark Rylance. I have enjoyed a close collaborative relationship with Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre for over a decade. I have also served as textual advisor for RSC productions and have appeared on BBC TV and Radio, discussing Shakespeare-related issues.
I regularly participate in a range of international conferences, notably those of the Shakespeare Association of America, and I have run several conferences and seminars, including two pairs of symposia, ‘Reading the Medieval in Early Modern England’ (King’s and the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia, 2002-3) and, most recently, ‘Rethinking Late Style: Art, Music, Literature’ (King’s and the Australian National University, 2007-8).