The Centre for 21st Century Humanities had the privilege of hosting Merton Professor Lorna Hutson recently.

Leading Shakespeare Scholar wows audience in public lecture

Friday, 10 March 2017


Researchers from the University of Newcastle’s The Centre for 21st Century Humanities and The Early Modern Women’s Research Network were recently treated to an exciting talk by Lorna Hutson, Merton Professor of English Literature, Oxford University.

Professor Hutson presented ‘The Shakespearean Unscene: Sexual Phantasy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Held at the University of Newcastle’s Sydney campus Professor Hutson discussed how Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream represents female desire, and addressed one of the central problems of the play: its seeming celebration of female sexual desire and fantasy in a culture that was deeply invested in women’s chastity and the repression of that desire.

She explored how the play uses legal forms and language to represent female erotic ‘phantasy’ in a brilliant new reading of the play that illuminated both the intersection of law and literature in the period as well as the conflicting ways in which the play has been read over the last two centuries.

Postgraduate research students from Newcastle travelled to Sydney along with researchers from The Centre for 21st Century Humanities and The Early Modern Women’s Research Network (EMWRN).



Co-founder of The Early Modern Women’s Research Network, Associate Professor Ros Smith said it was a pleasure hosting her former colleague for the talk.

“Professor Lorna Hutson provided a stimulating, erudite and groundbreaking lecture rethinking how Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream represents women, love and sexuality. Professor Hutson is a scholar at the very top of her game and her lecture provided a model of sophisticated argument to the many HDR students who were lucky enough to hear her paper,” said Associate Professor Smith.

Director of the Centre for the Centre for 21st Century Humanities, Professor Hugh Craig (seen above) said “It was exciting to be hearing about A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Elizabeth Street at a University of Newcastle event. The humanities felt very topical as Professor Hutson explored the women characters’ fears of shame, sexual violation and betrayal.”

Co-founder of the The Early Modern Women’s Research Network Dr Trisha Pender said it was a big coup for EMWRN and UoN to host such a respected scholar.

“I don’t think it’s very often that the University of Newcastle hosts an incoming Merton Professor – arguably one of the most prestigious appointments in English Literature worldwide, with previous positions being held by the late greats Helen Vendler and J.R.R.Tolkein.”