Society for Renaissance Studies: Response to the coronavirus pandemic

April 9, 2020

During this anxious time, it has been truly heartening to see the myriad of creative and often generous interventions that organisations large and small have made to support scholars and students stuck at home. From publishers and libraries who have opened up collections of journals and books that usually reside behind paywalls, to museums and galleries curating special on-line exhibitions and others giving free access to huge banks of recorded theatre and music performances, the response has shown the extraordinary possibilities of the digital at least to mitigate our isolation.

However, there is no doubt that the future of our discipline is, and always will be only possible if its lifeblood of fresh ideas and lively interchange is sustained. And if the stream of opportunities for brilliant young scholars to develop careers or the chances we all depend on to meet in person to discuss our work dries up, our world will soon become a backwater and eventually ossify. So we are also thinking ahead to the implications of the aftermath when it comes, when it is all but inevitable that pressures to rebuild the wider economy mean that the institutions that sustain the humanities in general and Renaissance studies in particular will, at best, probably take years to recover their former state, if indeed they ever do.

Outlined below, are the immediate steps the Society has taken to complement the initiatives of other institutions and, in particular, to support the needs of the Renaissance studies community in any ways that we can.

  • Council has decided to increase from two to four the number of one-year postdoctoral SRS Fellowships (each worth £15,000) that we will award for 2020/21. The deadline for applications has also been extended until 31 May 2020.
  • Council has also decided that all grants already awarded for conferences that have now had to be postponed can be rolled forward until next year.
  • Following a highly successful try-out online launch of Erin McCarthy’s new book, Doubtful Readers, ‘attended’ by a worldwide audience of nearly 100 people, the SRS has invested in webinar software to offer a free online platform via the website. This is available to any member of the Society to organise short online sessions to share work in progress, hold discussions, and even run mini symposia, hosted by the Society. More details.
  • The SRS biennial conference in Norwich has been postponed until 29 June–1 July 2021. All delegates who were accepted for 2020 are automatically re-invited, but there will also be a fresh call for papers, with a deadline for new abstracts or confirmation of existing papers and sessions of 31 August 2020. The Council has also created a hardship fund to support ECRs who found themselves out of pocket due to the postponement. Further details. We have also decided to postpone the following SRS biennial conference (Liverpool) to July 2023.
  • The Society’s Annual General Meeting has been postponed until September, in the hope that we will be able to hold it ‘in person’. If restrictions on travel or larger gatherings remain in force at that time, we will conduct the AGM online.

We are keeping the situation under continuous review and will continue to do whatever we can to hold our precious community together.

With all best wishes,
Richard Wistreich
Honorary Chair