Dr Sarah Burdett, Faculty of English




Biographical Information

I started my education at a state school in North London, before completing my BA in English Literature at the University of East Anglia (2008-2011; Starred First Class). I joined the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies / Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York in 2011 where I studied for an MA in Romantic and Sentimental Literature (2011-12; Distinction). I was awarded a department-funded scholarship to remain at York for the completion of my PhD, producing a thesis titled 'The Martial Woman in British Theatre, 1789-1803'. During my time at York, I was awarded the Georgian Society Patrick Nuttgens Award for the quality of my research (2015); I was nominated as Post-Graduate Who Teaches of the Year in the University of York's 2015 Teaching and Supervision Awards; and I was shortlisted for the BSECS conference President's Prize (2015). Research from my doctoral project formed the basis for my debut monogragh, titled The Arms-Bearing Woman and British Theatre in the Age of Revolution, 1789-1815 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2023).

I have been involved in a number public-facing research projects. In 2017 I was appointed as Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the AHRC-funded ‘Staging Napoleonic Theatre’ project at the University of Warwick. In this role, I collaborated with creative partners including English Heritage at Portchester Castle, the Georgian Theatre Royal (Yorkshire), and FabLab Coventry on the revival of two critically-neglected early nineteenth-century melodramas, and on the organisation and delivery of a series of public workshops on melodramatic traditions. I have moreover devised and presented interactive talks on gothic literature and theatre for KS4 students in partnership with the education team at Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham. I have additionally led and devised academic colloquia: in 2021 I set up and ran the 'Representations and Contexts' seminar series at St Mary's University, and in 2015 I co-organised the two-day interdisciplinary conference 'Difficult Women, 1680-1830' at the University of York.  

I have undertaken Visiting Research Fellowships at the Bodleian Library (Oxford) and the Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington DC). Prior to joining Cambridge, I taught at institutions including UCL, Warwick, Plymouth, St Mary’s and York. 

Research Interests

My research explores the intersections between theatre, gender, and nationhood in the second half of the eighteenth century. Key interests within this field include dramatic responses to the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars (formal, stylistic and affective); the censorship of political plays; illegitimate theatre; the female playwright; the figure of the eighteenth-century actress; and theatrical adaptation as a vehicle for transnational dialogue and exchange. My debut monograph is titled The Arms-Bearing Woman and British Theatre in the Age of Revolution, 1789-1815 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2023). The book spotlights the intricate and often allegorical ways in which the figure of the female warrior intervenes in discourses pertaining to Anglo-French, Anglo-German, Anglo-Irish, and Anglo-Spanish affairs, during a period in which Anglo-European relations are undergoing perpetual shifts. The book questions also the extent to which new foreign genres imported to England at the turn of the nineteenth century – notably, the German Sturm und Drang and the French-derived melodrama – enable possibilities for the emergence of a transcendently destructive heroine, whose coalescence of spotlessness and deadliness suits her seamlessly to an affective replication of revolutionary trauma.

I am currently working on my second book project, provisionally titled Staging Hibernia and Caledonia: Gender, Theatre, and National Identity, 1770-1832. The study proposes to identify a synergetic relationship between genre, performer, and national arena that crucially impacts the cultural and social implications embodied by Irish and Scottish heroines staged in the theatres of Dublin, Edinburgh and London across the 62-year period. The project addresses the ways in which the nationalities and racial identities of the scripted heroines, the ethnicities and regional characteristics of the actresses that play them, and the genres in which they appear, work to formulate and reformulate gendered constructions of Englishness, Irishness and Scottishness, at a historical moment crucial to the formation of a stable British identity. Alongside this project, I am additionally pursuing research into theatrical representations of socially elite sports women in late Georgian England, placing particular emphasis on comedic and melodramatic embodiments of the female equestrian and huntress. 


Areas of Graduate Supervision

I have supervised BA and MPhil dissertations on topics including the 1790s Jacobin / anti-Jacobin novel, gothic literature and the French Revolution, and 18th / 19th-century negotiations of masculinity and femininity in poetry and art. 

Selected Publications


Burdett, S., The Arms-Bearing Woman and British Theatre in the Age of Revolution, 1789-1815. (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2023) The Arms-Bearing Woman and British Theatre in the Age of Revolution, 1789-1815 | SpringerLink

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

Burdett, S., and Jonathan Hicks, 'Teaching Romantic Melodrama: Introduction'. 'Teaching Romanticism' series, Romantic Textualities: Literature and Print Culture, 1780-1840 (Dec. 2022). 

Burdett, S., “’Tis Gallia’s Hopeless Queen!”: Resurrecting the Dead in John Philip Kemble’s Macbeth.Last Scene of All: Representing Death on the Western Stage, ed. Jessica Goodman (Cambridge: Legenda, 2022), pp.43-61.

Burdett, S., Katherine Astbury, and Diane Tisdall, ‘Excavating French Melodrama of the First Empire’. Sound Stage Screen, vol.1, no. 1 (Spring 2021), pp.7-46.

Burdett, S., ‘“Weeping Mothers Shall Applaud”: Sarah Yates as Margaret of Anjou on the London Stage, 1797.’  Comparative Drama, vol.49, no.4, special edition on ‘The Actor in the Interval’ (Winter 2015), pp.419-444.  

Burdett, S., ‘“Be Mine in Politics”: Charlotte Corday and Anti-Union Allegory in Matthew West’s Female Heroism, A Tragedy in Five Acts (1803)’. Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Research, vol.30, no.1-2, Double Issue, (Summer/Winter 2015), pp.89-108. 


Burdett, S., and Jonathan Hicks eds., ‘Teaching Romantic Melodrama'. 'Teaching Romanticism' series, Romantic Textualities: Literature and Print Culture, 1780-1840 (Dec. 2022)


(Forthcoming) Burdett, S., 'Review: The Censorship of Eighteenth-Century Theatre: Playhouses and Prohibition, 1737–1843, ed. David O'Shaughnessy.' English Studies: A Journal of English Language and Literature (2024)