On Monday 8 June, a group of very bright students helped to put undergraduate research under the spotlight at the Humanities Student Research Conference. This event was part of the University of Gloucestershire’s annual Celebration of Research and the Festival Fortnight.
The conference brought together the work of level 5 and level 6 scholars. Bethany Norris (English Literature) presented her work on Jane Austen and modes of Gothic and anti-Gothic. Drawing on contemporary notices of Austen’s novels, Bethany demonstrated Austen’s engagement with contemporary politics and satire. Niall Gallen (English Literature and Creative Writing) spoke on J.G. Ballard’s interventions into ‘reality’ and representation in The Atrocity Exhibition. Niall’s presentation combined the verbal with the visual, demonstrating postmodern nightmares (or perhaps daydreams) of ‘conceptual’ reality, cut asunder from accepted norms of seeing and responding to disaster, particularly when they are mediated through TV images.
The diversity of research undertaken in the Humanities at undergraduate level was amazing. Historians Grace Cooper and Matt Saffery produced a teaching booklet of Horrible Early Modern History, and led a discussion about how the concept of ‘childhood’ is always determined historically and culturally. Alice Kerks (Theology and Religious Studies) developed a set of Christian aesthetics from her reading of the Harry Potternovels, combining theology with literary criticism. Jack Miles (History) used postcolonial formulations of the Other as a lens through which to critique how Cornwall and Cornish history and culture are experienced and represented, particularly in tourism.
Medieval children were really horrid.
Niall Gallen and Bethany Norris.
Two Dissertation students gave fascinating presentations that also helped level 5 students to see what kind of work they would undertake next year. Jordan Spencer (History) discussed his research project on JFK’s legacy, and sparked off a conversation that could have gone on into the evening. Evan Lewis (English Language) gave a witty and sage presentation on the dissertation journey, illustrated by pictures of vertical mountain ascents and bricked-up cul-de-sacs, but which in his case led to a rich project on the linguistics of sustainability, ‘The Dark Mountain’.
There was more: we ran a short panel on student societies, with Bethany and Niall speaking on the activities of the recently-founded English Literature Society, while Erika Mellor and Rachael Colmer spoke about the flourishing History Society. Dr Dave Webster gave a droll but typically thoughtful talk about the School’s annual field trip to Cordoba, with many incriminating photos.
Finally, we were delighted to present the fruits of last year’s research to some students whose work has been published in a special volume, edited by Dr Rebecca Bailey. Our special thanks go to Rebecca for this effort (and watch this space for a report). We’d like to make these beautiful publications an annual event – and the Conference will be back next year.
The Conference was funded by the School of Humanities. We thank Dr Debby Thacker (English Literature), whose successful bid provided the money to support student development. Our biggest thanks go to the presenters and delegates, and we’re grateful to those who would have liked to have contributed but could not. We’ve signed you up for next year’s event.