Dr Catherine Richardson
Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies - Reader in Renaissance Studies
Office: W3.N6 (Rutherford)
I joined the University of Kent in 2007 from the University of Birmingham where I was lecturer in English and History and Fellow of The Shakespeare Institute. I’m interested in the relationship between texts and the material circumstances of their production and consumption – for instance the way individuals described objects as they wrote them into probate inventories, or how theatre audiences ‘saw’ spaces in relation to the dialogue of a play, the physical nature of the theatre and their own memories and imaginations. My research, then, focuses on the movement between living and writing, between experience and narrative.
A good deal of my work is on the material culture of early modern England. I am working on a long-term project on the clothing of those below the level of the elite in early modern England, focusing on the function of dress in an urban context. This offers an opportunity to examine the relationship between prescriptive discourses about clothing – sumptuary legislation, moral literature etc, and the evidence of social practice available from testamentary and judicial documents. In common with the majority of my work, this project is based on extensive examination of local archival materials, and an attempt to relate these to national discourses and the material remains of the period.
In the shorter term, I’m working on a series of projects about domestic life, all of which are about trying to understand the experience of living in a house for the middling sort. I run an AHRC research network on Ways of Seeing the English Domestic Interior, 1500-1700: the case of decorative textiles with Tara Hamling at Birmingham, which investigates peoples’ experience of household life in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and considers how we might use this information to enhance our experience of visiting historic properties in the twenty-first century. The network uses the latest developments in computer science and cognitive science in order to understand how the domestic interior was experienced in early modern England, and it brings together researchers in the humanities and sciences, conservators, museums curators and heritage professionals, including individuals from English Heritage, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Historic Royal Palaces and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. In order to make the task more manageable, we focus on a specific case study – ‘how did early modern men and women respond to decorative textiles in their houses?’ Find out more about the network here. Tara and I are also writing a book on middling domestic interiors – how people experienced their living spaces and furnishings – from bed chambers and warming pans to apostle spoons and chamber pots, titled A Day at Home in Early Modern England. There’s more information about this and other projects on the Material Histories blog.
I am also currently involved in the DocExplore Project which investigates the computer-based access and analysis of historical manuscripts. The project involves the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies and the School of Engineering and Digital Arts at Kent, and the University of Rouen [need links], in association with the Biblioteques [can't get the accent!] de Rouen and Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library. Building on my research into the material and haptic qualities of texts as objects, my contribution has explored ways of simulating the physical experience of handling a manuscript, and the end result allows public institutions to create ‘a new digital archive that enables readers to interact with the materials without damaging centuries-old books’ (The Guardian). Users can also access translations and transcriptions, sound and video resources, and historical notes. The system has been on display at the Salon du Livre Ancien, Abbatial St. Ouen in Rouen, and Canterbury Cathedral. In 2013 I ran a postgraduate research event on the system, within the Going Digital strand of AHRC-funded training in the CHASE consortium (more details on the blog).
- C. Richardson and M. Merry ed., Household Account Book of Sir Thomas Puckering of Warwick, 1620: living in London and the Midlands, Dugdale Society, 2012 http://www.dugdale-society.org.uk/Main.html
- Shakespeare and Material Culture, Oxford University Press, 2011
- C. Richardson and T.Hamling eds., Everyday Objects: Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture and its Meanings, Ashgate, 2010
- C. Richardson and C. Dyer eds., William Dugdale, Historian, 1605-86: His Life, His Writings and His County, Boydell and Brewer, 2009
- C. Richardson, Domestic Life and Domestic Tragedy, Manchester University Press, 2006
- Catherine Richardson ed., Clothing Culture 1350-1650, Ashgate, 2004
Some recent chapters and articles
- ‘City comedy and material life’, research essay for The Dutch Courtesan Project, University of York
- ‘Domestic Manuals and the Power of Prose’ in Andrew Hadfield ed., Oxford Handbook of Prose, OUP, 2013
- ‘Household Books’ in Kesson and Smith eds., Elizabethan Top Ten, Ashgate, 2013
- ‘‘make you a cloak of it and weare it for my sake’: material culture and commemoration in early modern English towns’ in Michael Penman ed., Monuments and Monumentality Across Medieval and Early Modern Europe, Shaun Tyas, 2013
- ‘Domestic Life’ for Arthur Kinney ed., The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare, OUP, 2012
- “‘As my whole trust is in him’: Jewellery and the Quality of Early Modern Relationships.” in Bella Mirabella ed., Ornamentalism: The Art Of Renaissance Accessories, University of Michigan Press, 2011
- ‘Social Life’, in Arthur Kinney ed., Elizabethan and Jacobean England: Sources and Documents of the English Renaissance, Blackwells, 2010
- 'Household Writing’ in Summit and Bicks eds., Palgrave History of Women’s Writing 1500-1610, Palgrave, 2010
- Giuseppina Muzzarelli, Giorgio Riello and Elisa Tosi Brandi eds., Storie di Moda, Bruno Mondadori, 2010
- ‘Tragedy, Family and Household’ in E. Smith and G. Sullivan eds., Cambridge Companion to English Renaissance Tragedy, Cambridge University Press, 2010
- ‘The stage, costume and fashion’ in Giorgio Riello and Peter McNeil eds., The Fashion History Reader, Routledge, 2010
- ‘Dugdale and the material culture of Warwickshire’, in C. Dyer and C. Richardson eds., William Dugdale, Historian, 1605-86: His Life, His Writings and His County, Boydell and Brewer, 2009
- ‘Shakespeare and Material Culture’, Literature Compass, Volume 7, Issue 6, pages 424–438, June 2010
- ‘Early modern plays and domestic spaces’, Home Cultures special issue on literature and the domestic interior, eds., Victor Buchli, Alison Clarke, Dell Upton, special ed. Charlotte Grant, Vol. 2, 3, November 2005, Berg, 269-283
- ‘The material culture of Stranger life’, Proceedings of the Huguenot Society Vol XXVIII No. 4, 2006, 495-508
I welcome graduate students in any areas of the dramatic, social and cultural history of the period, and am particularly interested in supervising interdisciplinary projects. I have previously supervised students working on various aspects of Shakespeare studies, early modern account books kept by women, military culture, the construction of community and ecclesiastical court depositions.
I am the Orders Secretary and a Council Member of the Malone Society.