Organised by Emily Bowles (University of York) and Emma Butcher (University of Hull) on behalf of the NNCN postgraduate wing, the Victorian Studies Professionalisation Day took place at the University of York on 26 May 2015 with postgraduate attendees from all over the country. The aim of the event was to provide career advice and support for postgraduate students working in Victorian Studies, as well as to give them the opportunity to meet, network, and discuss possibilities for future collaborations with like-minded academics. The idea was to provide a holistic approach to academic life, covering everything from publishing to teaching, postdocs, managing your work/life balance and thinking about the future of the field.
The day began with a session from Dr Susan Walton (University of Hull) and Dr James Williams (University of York) on publishing, providing advice on turning a PhD thesis into a book; producing articles; and alternative approaches to publishing. Dr Walton and Dr Williams provided contrasting approaches to publishing post-PhD, and it was particularly useful to see how they had used specific sections of their theses. Postgraduate students don’t often get to see how the PhD theses of more senior academics look, and this was a valuable insight into the process. The session gave attendees practical tips, as well as the opportunity to ask specific questions about their own work.
The second session, on scholarly editing, gave attendees the expertise of three professors at York (Professors John Bowen, Hugh Haughton and Jon Mee) in an informal roundtable format, again giving the audience the opportunity to ask questions of experts in their field with regards to different publishers, textual authority and opportunities for engaging in editing work. In the afternoon, Dr Helen Rogers (LJMU) and undergraduate student Billie-Gina Thomason gave a presentation on using social media and online resources in teaching, outlining the benefits of these approaches when applying for grants and offering the student perspective. You can find out more about Billie-Gina’s project for Writing Lives here, and more about the project and Dr Rogers’s teaching here. There are also tips for incorporating social media and blogging into teaching here.
Following this, Dr Charlotte Mathieson (University of Warwick) delivered a highly informative talk on applying for postdoctoral fellowships, offering practical advice including deadlines and success rates alongside her personal experience – the slides from her talk are available here. Professor Valerie Sanders (University of Hull) presented on balancing an academic career, discussing ways of maintaining a work/life balance and also a research/teaching/admin balance. The key message Professor Sanders conveyed was the importance of finding what works for you, and what you like to do, in the face of external and internal pressures.
The day culminated with a keynote on the future of Victorian Studies from Professor Joanne Shattock (University of Leicester), who has written on the subject previously in ‘Where Next in Victorian Literary Studies? – Revising the Canon, Extending Cultural Boundaries, and the Challenge of Interdisciplinarity’ for Literature Compass (2007). Professor Shattock revisited her earlier work to evaluate how priorities might have changed since then, and how ‘big humanities’ has changed in the face of digital humanities and the increased access we now have to data and materials that were previously very difficult to work with. The discussion of the future of the field was particularly relevant in the face of the recent V21 Manifesto, and postgraduate attendees were able to engage in a lively debate with the academic speakers about the state of Victorian Studies.
The event would not have been possible without the support of the NNCN, the Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies, Dr Rosemary Mitchell and the University of York Postgraduate Community Fund. Thank you everyone who attended, and please do get in touch if you would like to suggest ideas for, or organise, future postgraduate events.
The next NNCN event will be a conference taking place at the University of Hull this autumn – keep an eye out for updates!
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