Dr Sophie Duncan | University of Oxford

Dr Sophie Duncan

Calleva Postdoctoral Researcher, Faculty of English & Magdalen College


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, and cultural memory.

Her first book, Shakespeare’s Women and the Fin de Siècle, examines iconoclastic turn of the 19th century performances of Shakespeare’s heroines by star Victorian actresses including Ellen Terry, Madge Kendal and Lillie Langtry. The book roots late Victorian Shakespeare in the exciting and complex world of actresses’ professional and creative lives, showing how Shakespeare in performance and fin-de-siècle culture influenced 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).  


  • Shakespeare – especially performance history, feminism, and Shakespeare’s own life
  • The suffrage movement
  • Theatre history – especially actresses
  • Victorian literature
  • The science of tragedy – why we enjoy watching tragedies
  • Ira Aldridge (1807-1867), African American actor
  • The psychology of theatre audiences

Media experience

Dr Duncan has experience of working with the media, including interviews for BBC World Service, BBC Scotland, BBC Radio 3, BBC 5Live, local radio stations, Newstalk (Ireland) , and Voice of Islam Radio (UK/Middle East).

She has also acted as a historical adviser to a number of TV, radio, theatre, film productions, including working with the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company, BBC Radio 4 (Home Front), BBC1 (EastEnders), BBC Birmingham/AHRC, the Tricycle Theatre, the New Vic Theatre and the Jermyn Street Theatre.


English, French