Representations of Education in Literature and Popular Culture

Supervisor: Dr Sarah Olive

A) Rationale for the project

Formal education is, in many countries, increasingly a universal experience. Education also occurs throughout our lives in various informal contexts. It is hardly surprising that we are surrounded by literary texts and popular culture that represent experiences of education, from school days to driving lesson to language learning and much more. I am interested in representations of Shakespeare in other countries and in diverse popular forms such as manga and anime. Articles concerning such representations have been published in the British Shakespeare Association’s Teaching Shakespeare magazine, of which I am the founding editor.

B) References that should be read (if you do not have access to these, please email

For example:

  • The work of Christy Desmet and Douglas Lanier
  • Adam Hansen, Shakespeare in Popular Music
  • John Berger, Ways of Seeing
  • Stuart Hall, Representation
  • Bronwyn Williams and Amy Zenger, Popular Culture and Representations of Literacy

C) Research aims / questions

To explore a currently under-researched aspect of and/or texts containing representations of education in literature and popular culture. To theorise about the function of and/or effect of these representations on stakeholders: readers, educators, students, publishers, educational and literary organisations and cultural industries. Research questions to be determined by the student, through reading and supervision. 

D) Methods

To be determined by the student, through reading and supervision. My own work in this area has focussed particularly on analysing representations of teaching and learning Shakespeare in documentary and reality television programmes as well as in dedicated Shakespeare seasons such as the BBC’s Shakespeare Unlocked (2012) and Shakespeare Festival (2016). More recently, I have explored young adult vampire Romeo and Juliet novels as representations of a crisis around young adult sexuality, consent and sexual violence - and as a resource for dealing with these issues