By Tia Byer
On Wednesday 7th February 2018, English Literature students at York St John University were treated to a Literature Research Showcase. English Literature Faculty members presented their research and gave the low-down on what they are working on. Third-year student and Sub-Editor Tia Byer reports.
The inaugural Literature Research Showcase took place at the request of us eager students. A university lecturer’s job is two-fold in its demands, and teaching is only one aspect of what she or he does. The other half is the research that informs their teaching. Listening to lecturers’ anecdotes about the work they do beyond the seminar room is perhaps the most cherished aspect of university life that we budding academics can look forward to. Whether it is finding out what their undergrad dissertation topic was, or how they completed their 80,000 word PhD, or the research they undertake as part of their own status as scholars, we always want to know. Attending and presenting at conferences abroad is one aspect of scholarly life in particular that definitely always impresses. Literature and travel? Yes, please!
The high level of enthusiasm created by this showcase was reflected by the evening’s impressive turnout. First, second and third years, as well as MA and PhD students and other University staff, all showed up in anticipation of this event. Sipping on our complementary wine and guessing at what treats lay in store, we eagerly awaited the presentation.
The diversity of research interests astounded me. From tracing the matrilineal tradition in Caribbean food and literature with Dr Sarah Lawson Welsh to Dr Kaley Kramer’s analysis of York’s female printing pioneers, the English Literature team certainly know how to pick some of the most obscure and exact research interests. One such precise and perhaps ground-breaking research in literary studies (well for me a least) was discussed by Dr Fraser Mann. Along with York St John’s very own Dr Rob Edgar and Dr Helen Pleasance, music and lyrics take on a whole new meaning with their analysis of the ‘Literary Music Memoir’. Resident nineteenth-century expert Dr Jo Waugh’s work aims to debunk the ‘Brontë Myths of Unique Subjectivity’ surrounding the Brontës historically over-romanticized deaths. Julie Raby’s interest in the use of popular culture in contemporary Shakespeare was most revelatory. And Dr Adam Smith’s work on eighteenth-century Whig print culture and its political erasure from historical narrative additionally introduced to me an entirely new area of literary studies.
It is incredible to think that in addition to teaching us, marking all of our assignments, and supervising our dissertations, our lecturers have a whole other side to their job as professional academics. To think that we moan about our workload as undergrads in comparison to our busy teachers seems rather foolish now. Suddenly our schedules do not appear to be as hectic as we pretend when our lecturers set that extra piece of weekend reading. Perhaps the lecturers actually understand what it means to have a demanding workload more than we would like to admit!
The Literature Research Showcase was an inspirational, impressive and rather humbling experience. In light of this showcase, what still continues to baffle me is how they manage to fit it all in! I hope never to moan again about my own workload. But all in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. It was so interesting to hear about the wide range of expertise on the English Literature programme at York St John. What’s more it was really incredible to see literary studies in practice. Standing in front of us was evidence of how far one can go in the pursuit of literature. I felt inspired about where my simple passion for reading could take me. Who knows, it might even be one of us in the showcase presenting our research one day.
A wonderful inaugural Literature Research Showcase. Long may it continue!