In 1650 Oxford is in the midst of the Bloody civil war, in which divine and secular authority are both at issue. A young woman, hanged for infanticide, is given over to the university scholars, for an anatomy lesson. Shockingly she ‘comes back to life’ on the anatomy table. This paper raises a series of meditations about philosophy, the history of science, relations of gender, knowledge, and power. Suggested background reading from Prof. Taylor: Laura Gowing, “Secret Births and Infanticide in Seventeenth-Century England”.
Professor Jane Taylor holds the Wole Soyinka Chair of Drama and Theatre Studies at the University of Leeds. She is a South African who has worked extensively across creative arts and literary/cultural scholarship. For a decade she held the Skye Chair of Dramatic Art at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and has been for several years a Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago. She has been a Visiting Fellow at Oxford and at Cambridge, and has been a recipient of Mellon and Rockefeller Fellowships.
Taylor has a scholarly and creative interest in puppetry and has written plays for Handspring Puppet Company (makers of War Horse). She edited the critical study of Handspring Puppet Company, and is on the Board of the Company. She writes on questions of the history of performance and is working on a large-scale study of the History and Theory of the Performance of Sincerity, an undertaking that examines the impact of the Reformation on modes of self-presentation. She also writes about the work of contemporary artist/director William Kentridge.
In the 1990s she established Fault Lines, a series of cultural responses to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Her play (with Handspring), Ubu and the Truth Commission, has been staged in several contexts of political upheaval, and Taylor frequently engages in public discussion around the meanings and questions provoked by ideas of transitional justice. Taylor also has two published novels; one of which (The Transplant Men) concerns the first human heart transplant that took place in South Africa in the 1960s. She teaches within the newly emerging discipline of Medical Humanities. In 2011 she staged a new play (After Cardenio) that she had written on a commission from the Renaissance scholar, Stephen Greenblatt.