dissertation corner with jenna houston

Interview conducted by Nicoletta Peddis

In our first ever visit to ‘Dissertation Corner’ we are joined by third-year student, Jenna Houston, who is currently penning a dissertation on binary relationships in Gothic literature!

Tell me about your dissertation.

My dissertation is on Gothic setting and space. I’m looking at the different binaries within Gothic spaces. I’ve chosen three chapters for my dissertation each looking at a different aspect of space. Currently these are urban and rural spaces, safe and unsafe spaces, and public and private spaces and how they all overlap in my chosen texts. My dissertation texts are Wuthering Heights, The Yellow Wallpaper and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – which are texts I wouldn’t have necessarily put together but they all seem to fit well with my topic.

How has your dissertation changed from your proposal?

Everything has changed! In my initial proposal I was pretty certain that I wanted to focus specifically on the 20th Century Gothic and consequently had 20th century texts. But over the summer I changed my mind and have taken a complete leap back to the 19th Century which is something that I could never see myself writing and researching this time last year. Aside from that, it’s just been a process of narrowing everything down and making my topic a bit more specific than my proposal.

How did you come to choose this topic and this research area?

I’ve always been really interested in the Gothic and Gothic texts – which is strange because I hate Gothic/horror and thriller type films so it’s definitely just a genuine love of the context surrounding the Gothic and the narrative techniques by authors of Gothic texts that makes it interesting to me. I also studied a course called ‘Elements of Gothic’ at A Level, which introduced me to the genre, so I’ve kind of come full circle with it since starting university. And with regard to setting and space, I’ve always been interested in spaces and the intersections between different spaces and how they sometimes map on different characters and texts and I think I picked this up from a module in my second year American Literature, Space and Place – because that had a close focus on spaces and I just loved every aspect of it.

What are you enjoying about your dissertation so far?

I am enjoying the research because it’s always a great feeling when you come across something that you never thought about yourself that changes your perspective on a certain aspect of your argument or topic. I’ve already learnt so much from just reading around the topic that it’s made me really excited about the process. I think that it’s also such a test of your academic stamina in the sense that you have to have such confidence in your own academic voice (which is sometimes hard) but I think the dissertation is going to be a huge learning curve for me.

What would you say has been most challenging so far?

For me, it’s just organising my time, I’m not amazing at time management anyway, (and never have been) but having to organise doing dissertation work myself (as it isn’t a taught module) and making sure that I’m also giving enough time to my taught modules is a challenge, but one that is completely manageable. So I suppose balancing everything is the struggle for me with my dissertation.