Universiteit Leiden

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Jonathan Powell

Postdoc in ERC Consolidator Project FEATHERS

Dr. J.D. Powell Ph.D.
+31 71 527 5586

Jonathan Powell is a postdoctoral researcher on the ERC consolidator project FEATHERS at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society.

More information about Jonathan Powell

Fields of interest

Law and Literature
Theatre History
Women's and Gender History
Manuscript Culture


I joined Leiden University in November 2023 as part of the FEATHERS project, funded by an ERC Consolidator grant and led by Prof. dr. Nadine Akkerman. Prior to this, I was postdoctoral research fellow on the pioneering ‘Engendering the Stage’ project, a collaboration between King’s College London, the University of Roehampton, and McMaster University in Canada. I completed my PhD in 2023, also at King’s, where my doctoral dissertation was awarded the 2022/23 King’s Outstanding Thesis Prize. 

At FEATHERS, my postdoctoral work is primarily focused on the legal pleadings of women in the records of early modern England’s central common law courts. These voluminous records have received little attention, despite the now well-documented litigiousness of early modern English society, and they allow me to recover the legal, rhetorical, and fictive strategies of many previous invisible women. I am particularly interested in collaborative forms of making (‘poiesis’) and in gendered constructions of “voice” in these records. I am also concerned with the more prosaic interactions these records reveal between client, attorney, and clerk. Through this work, I contribute to FEATHERS' wider investigations into the mediations of voice and authorship in early modern English manuscript culture. 

My current work emerges out of concerns and methods first explored in my doctoral thesis. My dissertation proposed an entirely new approach to early modern English theatrical history through the legal record, and resulted in new understandings of how common law shaped theatrical consciousness during a period of extraordinary and still unsurpassed litigiousness. Focused on civil procedures in the common law courts, the project offered new ways of thinking about how theatre practitioners made use of legal processes in their daily lives as well as to conceptualise nascently commercial processes of theatrical representation. I was fortunate post-PhD to have the opportunity to continue developing these ideas as part of the team at ‘Engendering the Stage’, an ongoing research project which seeks to establish a new evidence base for the gendered structures of performance in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England.

In addition to the above, I also hold long-standing research interests in the role of seventeenth-century poetic-making in the emergence of the modern legal category of the 'alien' as well as in developing 'alienation' as a historically-contingent and ethically-minded critical heuristic for the analysis of property law and early English commercial theatre building. During my PhD, I was employed as a research assistant by two projects currently ongoing at King's, on multilingualism and institutional links to the transatlantic slave trade. Both of these are topics I am interested in returning to in future work.

Curriculum Vitae

I completed both my BA and MA at University College London (UCL) before moving south of the river for my PhD at King's. In 2021, I was awarded a doctoral fellowship by the Institute of Historical Research (University of London), and I was a Thornley Fellow at the Institute between 2021 and 2022. 

As an educator, I have experience of teaching across a variety of periods and genres, including seventeenth-century travel writing, postcolonial memoir, the modernist novel, queer poetry, critical theory, and (unsurprisingly) early modern drama. I was recognised as an Associate Fellow by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) in 2021. 

In 2023, I served as Assistant Director for the Centre for Early Modern Studies at King's (CEMS KCL). This position was newly created by the Steering Committee in recognition of my long-term leadership at CEMS and built upon my previous four years of work for the centre as its research administrator. From my time at CEMS, I am particularly proud of my creation and curation of the popular CEMS KCL blog, an initiative which has provided publication opportunities to more than fifty early career scholars. I am committed to inclusive, interdisciplinary practice in all aspects of my research and teaching. 

Postdoc in ERC Consolidator Project FEATHERS

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Centre for the Arts in Society
  • Oude Britse letterkunde

Work address

Arsenaalstraat 1
2311 CT Leiden
Room number B0.18



  • No relevant ancillary activities
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