Choppy sea

The Politics of Identity in Shakespeare's Mediterranean Water Cultures


Funded Phd


4 years

Application deadline:

29 March 2021

About the Leverhulme Centre for Water Cultures

The University of Hull's Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships Centre for Water Cultures pioneers a new, humanities-led, interdisciplinary and transhistorical research area, the ‘green-blue humanities.’

It equips a new generation of PhD students to take this agenda forward, transforming our understanding of our relationships with water and shaping future research agendas, methods, and approaches within and between disciplines.

Join our webinar – Thursday 11 March 2021

We are hosting a free webinar to help you find out more about funded postgraduate research at the Leverhulme Centre for Water Cultures. Join us to hear from programme leaders, supervisors, students and researchers and ask any burning questions at the Q&A. Register here

About this project

This is an exciting opportunity for an ambitious, talented and enthusiastic researcher to conduct interdisciplinary research in order to advance thinking within the area of blue-green humanities through examining the ways in which selected Shakespeare’s plays deal with the unstable and threatening presence of water and how this shaped and determined the identities of those living with it.

"I to the world am like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth -
Unseen, inquisitive - confounds himself . . ."

Living with, through, by and in water are key elements of the Shakespearean imaginary. This interdisciplinary PhD project will examine the ways in which Shakespeare’s plays of the Mediterranean (principally Othello, The Merchant of Venice, Anthony and Cleopatra and The Comedy of Errors) speak to the ways in which living with unstable and threatening bodies of water influenced the interrelation of different cultures, and/or religious and personal identities. The project will locate specific texts within a nexus of contemporaneous fluvial sites (banks, boats, shores, deltas etc.) and a number of relevant sources that speak to the ways in which people lived with water and had their identities determined by it.

When Shakespeare's characters use aquatic language, their syntax tends to ‘float’, becoming inexact or ambiguous – as water (the metaphor) becomes a propositional space, a locus of risk and hazard in which alternative possible realities can be tested and philosophically explored. In this way, water constitutes not only the material reality of a dramatic location (in Egypt, Venice or the Ottoman Empire), but also a site of intellectual exploration that re-models for audiences a set of propositional concepts demonstrating not just how we currently do live, but how we could.

We encourage applications on this theme that speak to Critical Race Studies and/or Comparative Cultural and Literary Analysis.

The Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships Centre for Water Cultures pioneers a new, humanities-led, interdisciplinary and transhistorical research area, the ‘green-blue humanities’

Find out more

The Energy & Environment Institute is a world leader in research into global water risks and resilience

Find out more

The University’s Risky Cities project draws on Hull’s long history of living with water to build flood resilience today and for the future

Find out more


Doctoral scholars appointed to interdisciplinary projects within the Centre for Water Cultures will be supported by PhD scholarships, funded for 48 months. These cover fees at the UK rate, a maintenance grant of £15609 per year, and a generous research and training support grant.

We expect to support at least 5, and up to 8, doctoral scholars to join the Centre for Water Cultures in September 2021. Further projects will be advertised in future years.

Entry requirements

We welcome applications for this funded 4-year PhD studentship, to start in September 2021.

You should have a good first degree (at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or international equivalent) in a relevant subject. A Masters in Drama, or Theatre and Performance Studies or English Literature is desirable but not essential.

International applicants 

The Centre for Water Cultures welcomes applications from international candidates.

While the Leverhulme Trust funds fees at the UK rate, we are able to offer a limited number of international fee waivers to support EU and international applicants. These are likely to be attached to no more than 30% of our scholarships.

How to apply

Please follow the instructions on how to apply carefully as otherwise your application may not be considered.

Apply for the project The Politics of Identity in Shakespeare’s Mediterranean Water Cultures.

You will need to provide the following supporting documents:

  1. CV of no more than 2 pages (Arial, minimum font 11 point, margins 2.54cm).
  2. Transcripts. (A transcript is proof of education. It is a detailed record of all the subjects you have studied with your scores in the form of marks or grades given by your institution of study.) 
  3. Personal Statement: Please provide a personal statement, of no more than 800 words (Arial, minimum font 11 point, margins 2.54cm), outlining: (i) what motivates you to pursue PhD study; (ii) why you are interested in your chosen project; (iii) your research experience, including how your skill set matches the requirements for your choice of project and/or any additional training you will need; and (iv) the wider significance of research in this area and potential future research directions for the project.
  4. English Language qualifications where required. For more information, see our PG admissions page.