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Mr Peter Lewis

Job: PhD student

Faculty: Arts, Design and Humanities

School/department: School of Humanities

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH

T: N/A

E: p17026614@my365.dmu.ac.uk

 

Personal profile

Peter is a PhD Researcher in Shakespeare Adaptation in Fiction exploring, in particular, why some plays and characters are rarely adapted while others are consistently selected for new novelizations. His project focusses on the reasons for the apparent “unadaptability” of Portia from The Merchant of Venice.  

He recently retired following a forty-year career in IT systems consultancy, during the final fifteen years of which, Peter returned to part-time study to complete a BA Hons in Literature with The Open University, followed by an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. His original degree was a BA Hons in Economics with Mathematics and Statistics studied at the University of Sheffield.  

Peter’s approach to research is influenced by his practice-based experience in creative writing and builds on his MA for which he wrote an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Although this, and a later second novel, remain unpublished, he has had several short stories published in literary magazines.

Research group affiliations

Publications and outputs 

'“My Little Body is Aweary of this Great World”: The Decline of Portia' in the Shakespeare journal, July 2019 
Book Review: The Palgrave Studies in Adaptation and Visual Culture Series Review in the Adaptation journal, January 2020

Research interests/expertise

Shakespeare Adaptation especially Novelization

Qualifications

MA (Creative Writing); BA Hons (Literature); BA Hons (Economics with Maths & Statistics)

Conference attendance

  • 'Missing: Novelizations of The Merchant of Venice and the Role of Feminism in the Disappearance of Portia' at BritGrad 2019
  • 'Did Portia Vote Leave or Remain?' at the British Shakespeare Association Conference 2019
  • 'Writing Shakespearean Fiction' Workshop at the Shakespeare Association of America Conference 2020 (Virtual)

PhD project

PhD title

The Neglect of Portia and Adapting the Unadaptable in 21st Century Novelization of The Merchant of Venice

Abstract

The critical discourse concerning the study of Shakespeare adaptations in fiction analyses the ‘what’, ‘how’, and ‘why’ of the subject (i.e. which plays have been adapted and how, and why they have been chosen). An area that has not been considered, however, is why certain plays are often disregarded by adaptors and, even when those plays are approached, why specific characters within them are neglected. To correct this omission, this research project will extend the debate by addressing the key research question of considering not what is being adapted but ‘what is not being adapted and why?’ It identifies Portia from The Merchant of Venice as just such a ‘neglected’ character. 

Using The Merchant of Venice and its adaptations as case studies, the project structure has four sections: 

The first examines the theory and process of novelization, looking at the history and development of the form, and includes a history of adaptations of Merchant across all genres – something not available elsewhere – as well as a timeline showing significant milestones for Merchant and its afterlives. 

Next, the project considers the concept of ‘unadaptability’, focussing on the character of Portia. Although her role is the fourth largest female part in the Shakespeare canon and the largest role in Merchant, Portia has been consistently under-represented in the twenty-first century both creatively and critically. The project aims to understand her decline from Victorian icon to Post-Modern cypher by investigating how perspectives of Portia’s character have changed over time in relation to fields such as, gender, race and nation, class, and privilege, as well as considering the comparative critical legacy of Portia and Jessica, and how all of this is reflected in adaptations of Merchant and their intertextuality. 

The third section of the main thesis performs a close critical analysis of the most recent novelization of Merchant, Howard Jacobson’s Shylock is my Name, and compares it with previous adaptations of the play in fiction, with emphasis on the handling and disregard of specific characters (such as Portia and Nerissa). 

Finally, as an appendix to the main thesis, the project also includes a ‘Novelization in Practice’ element – the writing of a new novelization, telling Portia’s narrative from the viewpoint of the female characters (e.g. Portia, Nerissa, Jessica) in a modern-day setting – something which no other writer has attempted.

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