Dr Hannah Simpson

Lecturer in Drama and Performance

  • English Literature
  • School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

Contact details


  • Semester 2 2023 office hour: Monday, 12-1 pm, Room 2.09, 50 George Square.
    If you have any access issues that you'd like me to be aware of before coming to my office hour, please email me directly. All access information will be treated in confidence.


Originally from Northern Ireland, I completed my BA at the University of Oxford (English Literature and French, St Hilda's College), my MA at Boston University (English and American Literature, with a minor in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies) and my PhD at the University of Oxford (English Literature, St Cross College). I was then the Rosemary Pountney Junior Research Fellow in British and European Drama (1890 to Present) at St Anne's College, University of Oxford, before joining the University of Edinburgh. 


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Undergraduate teaching

Contemporary British Drama

Illness and Disability in Modern and Contemporary Theatre

Time and Space of Performance

Critical Practice: Performance

Reading Theory

Literary Studies 1A (close-reading) and 2B (context)

Dissertation supervision (Honours English Literature; Literature and Religion)

Postgraduate teaching

Dissertation supervision (MSc in Literature and Modernity 1900-Present)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I welcome PhD project proposals in the areas of modern and contemporary theatre, the medical humanities and disability representation, trauma studies, and Irish and Northern Irish literature.

Research summary

I work primarily on modern and contemporary theatre across the UK, US, Ireland and Northern Ireland, and Europe. I focus particularly on the representation of the human body on stage and on the overlap between theatre and politics. I have a special interest in the work of Samuel Beckett, depictions of physical pain and disability, and popular culture.

I also work occasionally on modern and contemporary poetry, including on the work of W.B. Yeats and Leontia Flynn.

I am available for dramaturg, programme writing and theatre consultancy work, particularly with regards to i) Samuel Beckett's plays and ii) disability representation and audience access.

Project activity

Samuel Beckett and the Theatre of the Witness: Pain in Post-War Francophone Theatre (Oxford University Press, 2022)


Samuel Beckett and the Theatre of the Witness explores Beckett's representation of physical pain in his theatre plays in the long aftermath of World War II, emphasising how the issues raised by this staging of pain speak directly to matters lying at the heart of his work: the affective power of the human body; the doubtful capacity of language as a means of communication; the aesthetic and ethical functioning of the theatre medium; and the vexed question of intersubjective empathy. Alongside the wartime and post-war plays of fellow Francophone writers Albert Camus, Eugène Ionesco, Pablo Picasso, and Marguerite Duras, this study resituates Beckett's early plays in a new conceptualising of le théâtre du témoin or a 'theatre of the witness'. 


Samuel Beckett and Disability Performance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022)


Samuel Beckett’s plays have attracted a striking range of disability performances – that is, performances that cast disabled actors, regardless of whether their roles are explicitly described as ‘disabled’ in the text. Grounded in the history of disability performance of Beckett’s work and a new theorising of Beckett’s treatment of the impaired body, Samuel Beckett and Disability Performance examines four contemporary disability performances of Beckett’s plays, staged in the UK and US, and brings the rich fields of Beckett studies and disability studies into mutually illuminating conversation. Pairing original interviews with the actors and directors involved in these productions alongside critical analysis underpinned by recent disability and performance theory, this book explores how these productions emphasise or rework previously undetected indicators of disability in Beckett’s work. More broadly, it reveals how Beckett’s theatre compulsively interrogates alternative embodiments, unexpected forms of agency, and the extraordinary social interdependency of the human body.


I am currently working on a project tentatively entitled "The Unexpected Dramatist", which examines the forgotten stage plays of modernist writers who are more famous as novelists: Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, E.M. Forster, James Joyce, Flann O'Brien, Elizabeth Bowen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner.