Postgraduate Symposium: Review

On June 21 we held our first Postgraduate Symposium with a guest lecture by Dr Sarah Parker from the University of Loughborough.

The event included papers which spanned a variety of nineteenth-century topics and authors. Our aim was to provide our postgraduate researchers at Anglia Ruskin University with an opportunity to present their work for the first time, or to rehearse a conference paper and receive feedback before taking it to a wider audience, in a relaxed environment. We heard from seven members of the unit in addition to our guest lecture, and enjoyed some stimulating discussion of the papers.

In the first panel ‘Heroics and Sensations’, we explored revisions and reclamations of narratives throughout the nineteenth century. Kirsty Harris spoke about repurposing sacrifice and the sea-monsters of antiquity in Byron’s Don Juan. Shelley Walters gave a paper which reviewed Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s heroines, and Anne-Louise Russell discussed Florence Marryat’s engagement with sensation novels. Questions led to a discussion about transformative narratives, and how nineteenth-century writers adapted established forms and traditions in order to reclaim them to tell and shape their own stories.

Our second panel focused on Victorian women writers, and saw papers from Edwin Marr about ideas of universal salvation in the works of Anne Brontë and Marie Moxon discussing glass-space and identity in Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels. Both papers prompted conversation about the ways in which Brontë and Gaskell deal with identity and the view of the self in their works.

Sarah Parker’s keynote followed, which was a fascinating exploration of the woman’s role as muse in nineteenth-century art and literature. Sarah discussed the figure of the muse as artistic subject rather than object, and used an impressive collection of archive photographs to illustrate her paper. This led to an informative section on ways of working to create impact and outreach in academia, which was useful for postgraduate and early career scholars, as well as interesting to see how Sarah’s engagement with outreach projects had informed some of her work.

We filmed Sarah’s talk, and you can view it by clicking here.

The final panel of the day studied ideas about exploration in Victorian literature. Alison Blair-Underwood gave a paper on James Thompson’s City of Dreadful Night which examined the growth of atheism alongside industrial change in the city. Abderrezaq Ghafsi then spoke about the reception and continued legacy of Charles Dickens in Algeria, focusing especially on his life-narrative accounts. Questions provoked interesting discussion about the forward-looking narratives of both Thompson’s poem in its engagement with insomnia and depression, and Dickens’ works with their continuing global inspiration and relevance.

Many thanks to everyone who was able to attend the Postgraduate Symposium, and to Sarah Parker for giving such a fascinating keynote. It was a really informative and useful event for our postgraduate members, and very enjoyable to hear what so many of us are working on. We hope to run the symposium again next year!

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