Medievalist, storymaker, theatre director, folk dance teacher, BBC / AHRC New Generation Thinker

Play Time: Acknowledging the backstage crew

So, my book, Play Time: Gender, anti-Semitism and temporality in medieval biblical drama,
has gained a very pretty three-dimensional form!Play time

But rather than simply blowing my own trumpet (which I do regularly enough), I want to make like the Chester Mrs Noah, and acknowledge community rather than the individual.

I am making the book’s acknowledgements public so that those without access to the book can see I am grateful for their support.  I also used the acknowledgements to say some things that have been playing on my mind for several years about how this book very nearly didn’t happen; about the haemorrhaging of important researchers due to a lack of secure, fairly paid employment and about the mental health toll this carries for early career and established researchers alike.

Thank you to everyone below for what you do.



Like the plays it studies, this book has demanded a true community performance during a fragile time.

Life as an early career researcher holds much in common with some of the insecure, ‘queer’ models of time I address in Chapter 3, with its unstable signs and lack of reliable futurity.

Each temporary teaching position produces materials with a limited future. The teacher will not be there to repeat those classes, and, in many cases, will not see their students graduate.

Each unsuccessful job application represents a future that did not happen, and takes time and resources that might have been spent on research.

Each conference reveals that a worrying number of scholars whose research has been crucial, innovative and brilliant, are absent.

The current, precarious higher education climate survives on a cycle of endless striving which leaves its researchers open to feelings of amateurism and imposter syndrome. Several of the scholars whose work has been fundamental in developing this book are not currently in secure employment.

I am now fortunate to have a position which has unequivocally and liberally supported this research. I have also been privileged to benefit from the support networks I list below, and from the financial and emotional support of my partner, Andrew. This book has only survived and grown due to a vast ‘guild’ of colleagues spanning many universities, disciplines, research environments and performance spaces. They have offered their time, encouragement, skills and dazzling belief in this project.

This pageant is yours, too.

This book would not have been finished without the stability and support provided by the University of Wolverhampton. I am indebted to their insightful Early Researcher Award Scheme, which gave me the time and structure I needed to complete this project. Particular thanks to my colleagues Frank Wilson, Josiane Boutonnet, Aidan Byrne, Benjamin Colbert, Sebastian Groes, Debra Cureton and Sarah Schofield, who have given me so much support in all my academic work. Thank you also to my anonymous readers, whose detailed feedback has done so much to improve this book.

Anke Bernau from the University of Manchester has shared her insight, encouragement and scholarly bravery from the very beginning of this project. Thank you to Jacqueline Pearson and Gale Owen-Crocker for sharing their wealth of knowledge, enthusiasm and eye for detail, and David Matthews and Greg Walker for their constructive feedback and support. Special thanks to my Manchester medievalist colleagues Hannah Priest, Kate Ash, Chris Monk, Stephen Gordon, Pam Walker, Kathy Frances and Linda Sever for years of advice, good humour and support. Particular thanks to Meredith Carroll, Tim Hyde and Sue Goodman for bringing this book from manuscript to publication.

The early stages of this research were supported by the generous contribution of the Liddon Fund from the Society of the Faith. Thank you also to the AHRC for funding a performance of a mystery play as part of their Afterlife of Heritage Research project and for their sponsorship through the 2018 AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers award. The support of my former colleagues at the University of Hull was also key in developing this book. I am particularly indebted to the constructive feedback on early drafts and the scholarly support of Janet Clare, Veronica O’Mara, Elisabeth Salter and Lesley Coote.

Thank you to my community of mentors, allies and colleagues on the Gender and Medieval Studies network, who have seen this project develop over the years. Liz Herbert McAvoy, Trish Skinner, Roberta Magnani and Laura Varnham have not only provided mentorship for my work but also regularly act as fierce supporters, advocates and opportunity-makers for many postgraduate and early career researchers in our field. Laura was particularly generous in helping me with the proposal stage of this book. Thank you to Rachel Moss, Diane Heath, Amy Morgan, Jade Godsall, Mary Bateman, Hannah Piercy and Charlotte Steenbrugge for organising key conferences during this project, sharing their knowledge and answering questions about things as diverse as theology, childbirth, queer time and sheep (for what I did not, in the end, call the ‘queer sheep chapter’). The collegiality and support of the global online community whose members gather to write under the #remoteretreat tag has also helped impose temporal structure on the writing process. Particular thanks to my formidable battalion of proofing angels: Lucy Allen-Goss, Victoria Biggs, Aidan Byrne, Jan Danek, James Howard and Laura Kalas.

Thank you to St Peter’s Chaplaincy, Manchester Histories Festival and Wolverhampton Literature Festival for enabling me to stage some of the plays featured in this book, and to my storytelling and folk communities for teaching me how community performance works and why it is important.

Thank you always to my cohort of unruly women, Emma Rush, Carmel Clarkson and Rachel Mann, whose creativity inspires me so much.

Finally, to my family, Andrew Swaine, David Black and Sue Black. No time spent with you is ever long enough.