Early Career Researchers

IASH Twitter Takeover – Favourite Collages #1 – ‘Collection of botanical collages from the circle of Booth Grey.’

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, this week I’m over on the IASH twitter talking about my research project, Collage before Modernism. Yesterday, I asked you what some of your favourite collages were – and the results included: Joseph Cornell’s amazing boxes; quilts from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s 2010 exhibition; and queer zines, such as those preserved on .

Each day for the rest of this week, I’m going to introduce you to some of MY favourite collages, and first up, it’s this series of Botanical Collages from the Circle of Booth Grey, now housed at Yale Center for British Art (YCBA).

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I was lucky enough to spend a month at YCBA in May this year as part of their Visiting Scholarship programme. During this time I looked at a huge amount of amazing material, but perhaps the most puzzling was the ‘Collection of botanical collages from the circle of Booth Grey.’ With their black grounds and stark attention to the details of the plants that they replicate, the collages clearly echo those made by Mary Delany, many of whose infamous and extensive series of botanical collages – what she called her ‘paper mosaicks’ – are now in the collections of the British Museum. Delany’s collages just one example of Delany’s industrious material production – she also made shell work, engaged in needlework, and drew and painted. As such, the collages have been discussed in terms of feminine accomplishment, craft practices, botanical amateurism, and female friendship, all of which provide compelling contexts in which to understand these works. Grey’s collection, however, complicates this paradigm.

The attribution to Grey – an elite male – is accordingly tentative. The series’ current record title on the YCBA catalogue – ‘Collection of botanical collages from the circle of Booth Grey’ – indicates only an ambiguous relationship to Grey. He is not necessarily identified as artist, or owner, we are told only that the collages have some connection to him. Yet this identification was prompted by some fairly compelling evidence: an inscription on the original album that once held these collages ’98 Plants done by the Honble. Booth Grey’, ‘done’, here, of course, suggesting that they were ‘made’ by Grey.

Grey certainly could have come into contact with Delany: as the younger son of the Countess of Stamford, and whose older brother was married to the Duchess of Portland’s daughter Henrietta, Grey was part of the elite, and crucially, creative, social circle in which Delany also moved. Kohleen Reeder also supposes that Grey even gave Delany some of her specimens, highlighting a potential relationship that was directly related to these material and artistic practices. Yet despite these corroborating details, there is a palpable reluctance to link Grey to these objects, a feeling that something about this picture must be wrong. Key to this hesitancy, I think, is a general assumption that men simply did not make collage – certainly not during this period, in the late eighteenth century. By 1912 of course, and the advent of Modernism, men certainly did make collage, and that collage was definitively art. This is the date of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque’s earliest papier collé, as exemplified by works such as Picasso’s Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper of 1913. By this point, collage has become a key visual weapon in the attack on traditional painted representation; a central form of Modernist experimentation. This narrative of the Modern invention of collage, however, entirely divorces it from those images and objects that preceded it. The paper flowers of Delany, and, maybe, of Grey, lie far from Picasso’s radicalism, tinged by their association with the explicitly female frameworks of craft, amateurism, and the domestic.

Yet attention to collages like those ‘from the circle of Booth Grey’ – whatever that ultimately might mean – provide a chance to challenge this neatly drawn timeline with its rigid, teleological chronology. Instead they allow us to rethink the relationship between collage and craft; between masculinity and modernism. During my Postdoctoral Fellowship at IASH, I’ll be teasing out this complex relationship in my article, ‘Collage, Masculinity, and the Modern: Gendered Art Histories 1780-1912’, which is forthcoming as part of the Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies Special Issue, ‘Making Masculinity: Craft, Gender, and Material Production in the Long Nineteenth-Century’ that I’m co-editing with Dr Katie Faulkner. Whatever the ‘truth’ around Booth Grey’s collages, they provoke a number of questions that I am excited to try and answer.

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Award: IASH Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

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I’m thrilled to announce that from September 2017 until August 2018 I will be joining the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. The fellowship is ten months long, but includes a two-month interruption for my fellowships at the Huntington and the Harry Ransom Center. The fellowship will allow me to conduct research for my postdoctoral research project, Collage before Modernism: Art, Intimacy and Identity in Britain and North America, 1700-1900. I’ll post more about my time at IASH as I take up the Fellowship.

Award – Huntington Library Short Term Fellowship

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I’m thrilled to have been awarded a Huntington Library Short Term Fellowship for the 2017-2018 academic year. The award will allow me to conduct research for my postdoctoral project Collage before Modernism. The broader project will provide an unprecedented history of ‘assemblage’ produced in Britain, North America, and British India between 1700 and 1900. Employing an inclusive definition of the term, the project will examine a variety of material and literary forms of assemblage, including paper collage, shellwork, scrapbooking, and photocollage, and will explore how their production reflected the intimacies, interests, and identities of their makers.

The Fellowship will facilitate research for several aspects of the broader project, including an examination of a number of scrapbooks, commonplace books (both manuscript and published), and albums in the Library’s collections. I’ll also be looking at the correspondence of Robert Southey, Charles Lamb, and Elizabeth Montagu, and a number of grangerized books.

Week in Review – 8 January

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Perhaps the most significant event this week, was the passing of the great art critic John Berger, whose hugely influential book and tv series ‘Ways of Seeing’, has been a touchstone of art historical and critical enquiry since its publication in the 1970s. Many excellent articles and obituaries of Berger were published this week, including this, this, and this.

I was excited to see that Joanne Begiato’s article ‘Tears and the Manly Sailor in England, c. 1760–1860‘, in the Journal for Maritime Research is free access. Download it here.

I greatly enjoyed the post, ‘Feel free to call me Dr.’ on the Tenure, She Wrote blog. It’s excellent on the politics of nomenclature in academia, and the importance of these issues for academics who are from minority backgrounds. I also enjoyed Dr Kieran Fenby-Hulse’s post, ‘From 2016 to 2017: Thoughts on Research Practice, Embedding Creativity, Punk Academia, and Work-Life Balance‘, which is also great on issues of identity within the academy.

There were a number of events that drew my attention this week, including the Centre for the History of the Emotions‘ 2017 Seminar Programme , the upcoming event ‘Living With Feeling in the Nineteenth-Century‘ at Royal Holloway’s Centre for Victorian Studies, and the Cruising the 1970s project’s eventBetween the Sheets: Radical print cultures before the queer bookshop‘.

The following CFPs also caught my eye:

Call for Submissions: Anthology on Arab Masculinity

CFP: Moving Beyond Paris and London: Influences, Circulation, and Rivalries in Fashion and Textiles between France and England, 1700-1914 (Paris, October 13-14, 2017)

CFP: Remembering the Dead: Slavery and Mortality through Visual Culture in Comparative Perspective, AHA 2018 Panel (Washington D.C., 4-7 January 2018)

Call for Submissions: Museums Journal (theme: ‘Small’)

Call for Participation: Material Culture Caucus at 2017 ASA Conference

Business, Wealth, Enterprise, and Debt: The Economic Side of Mormon History, 1830-1930

CFP: “Hope and Fear”: Interdisciplinary Conference in the Humanities

CFP: Milestones, Markers, and Moments: Turning Points in American Experience and Tradition

CFPInternational Postgraduate Port and Maritime Studies Conference (20-21 April 2017, University of Bristol)

CFP: Classical Antiquity & Memory (19th – 21st Century)

CFP: BAVS 2017 conference, Victorians Unbound

I also really enjoyed the following interview with the design historian Glenn Adamson, titled, ‘The Object as Reality-Check’. It’s a fascinating read that ties discussions of material objects, past and present, with their political contexts. Specifically, Adamson discusses this in relation to his recent course ‘Objects of Dispute‘, a 10 session-long intensive seminar offered as part of the MA in History of Design and Curatorial Studies, run jointly by The New School’s Parsons School of Design and the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, and in so doing, teases out the pedagogical issues of teaching about contentious material culture in the current political climate.

Tonight, I listened to my colleague Christian Weikop’s fascinating Radio 3 programme, Kandinsky – A Story of Revolution. It’s available on iPlayer now.

Finally, I note that Yale Center for British Art is advertising its Curatorial Research Fellowship opportunity – there’s just a few more days left, so submit your applications while you can!

Looking Forward to 2017

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Inspired by a number of reflective end-of-year blog posts (including this and this) I thought I’d map out my aims and activities for 2017. If you’d like to gain a sense of what I achieved in 2016, you can check out my series on being a year post-phd here, here, and here.

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As always seems to be the case, 2017 is shaping up to be a very busy year.

In January, I’m primarily working on editing my PhD thesis for publication: firstly, I’m editing the sample chapters of my book that will be submitted for review, and secondly, I’m revising an article on needlework and visual culture, which is currently at revise and resubmit stage with a peer-reviewed journal. As a broader research aim, I also want to develop a sustainable daily writing habit during this month.

January is also the month in which I return to teaching, and this term I’m teaching four courses, one of which is completely new to me. I’m excited (and slightly apprehensive) about the challenges of a heavier teaching load, and interested to find ways of balancing my time between teaching and research commitments. Indeed, while teaching and marking dominate the months of January, February and March, I’m also planning on revising another article, this time on the interior decoration of A la Ronde, during this time. In February, I’m working on hosting a public event on Queer Material Heritage to tie in with this year’s LGBT History Month theme.

In April, I’ll be finishing off some marking, but more excitingly I’m off to Yale University’s Lewis Walpole Library for a two week-research trip. I’ll be researching an exciting mixture of things for both my monograph project, as well as my postdoctoral project on collage in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Directly following on from this, I’m spending the month of May as a Visiting Scholar at Yale Center for British Art, during which time I’ll also conduct research for the collage project, this time on composite albums, botanical paper collages, and a number of mourning objects.

In June I’ll be travelling to Umeå, Sweden for the International Society for Cultural History 2017 Conference, which this year is on ‘Senses, Emotions and the Affective Turn: Recent Perspectives and New Challenges in Cultural History’. My presentation, ‘Lost Objects & Loss Objects: Intersections of Absence and Presence in Eighteenth-Century Material Culture’, will hopefully provide the perfect opportunity to tease out some of the key issues for the Introduction of my book.

In July, I’m off to another conference, this time in London. At Sibylline Leaves: Chaos and Compilation in the Romantic Period, I’ll be presenting my recent work on Romantic commonplace books, which has functioned as a sort of pilot study for my collage project.

Finally, in August, I’m spending a month as a research fellow at the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library. Other than providing a gorgeous setting for research, I’ll be using the Wintherthur’s library and museum collections to conduct research on a form of paper collage known as ‘scrapbook houses’. I’ll definitely be posting about all my research trips so stay tuned!

I’ll also be running Edinburgh’s Eighteenth-Century Research Seminars again this year (with the first session on Jan 25th) and Katie Faulkner  and I are hoping to develop a project from #WaysofSheing, which will look at the contribution of female art historians across history – watch this space.

From September onwards, things are a little more hazy, although I’m a hundred per cent sure that I’ll be working on publications as much as possible, having kept various articles and the book ticking over during the first 8 months of the year. So 2017, let’s do this.

Week in Review – 1 January

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Happy New Year to all my readers. 2017 promises to be an exciting year, but I’ll talk more about that in Wednesday’s post. For now, here’s a roundup of everything that caught my attention in the final week of 2016.

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First up, these Summer 2017 internships with the Boston Furniture Archive, which sound like a fantastic opportunity to do some hands-on collection based work.

Next, the Centre for the History of the Emotions’ 2016 Annual Lecture by Professor Stephen Brooke (University of York, CA). Titled ‘Hate and Fear: Emotion, Politics and Race in 1980s London’, the lecture is now on the centre’s youtube channel.

The Bard Graduate Center’ forthcoming Summer Institute American Material Culture: Nineteenth-Century New York (July 3–28, 2017), also caught my eye. Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute promises a in-depth look at the history of New York and its associated material culture.

Prompted by Karen Kelsky’s excellent recent Vitae blog ‘The Job Market in a New Administration’, I also read Ellen Willis’s essayIdentity Crisis‘ for the first time this month. As issues of identity are at the forefront of this changing political landscape, prolonged considerations of the meaning and manifestations of identity have never been more important. Willis’s essay, though written in 1992, is incredibly relevant for the current academic and political climate.

The following conferences, CFAs and CFPs also sound particularly interesting (with many touching on issues of identity that are so relevant to Willis’s essay):

  • CFP/Manuscripts: Special Issue of Journal of Homosexuality, “LGBTQ Popular Culture: The Changing Landscape”
  • CFP: #QueerAF: (Re)presenting Gender & Sexuality in History & Cultural Studies
  • CFP: 2017 Midwest Art History Society Session: “Is there an African Atlantic?
  • CONF: Politics in fashion and textiles (Vienna, 19-21 Jan 17)
  • CFP: Conflict, Healing and the Arts (Durham, 27 May 17)
  • CFP: The Coarseness of the Brontës: A Reappraisal (Durham, 10-11 Aug 17)
  • CFP: Material and Sensory Cultures of Religion
  • CFP: Material Culture Research Symposium (Glasgow, 12 June 17)
  • CFP: American Identities on Land and at Sea (New York, 21 Apr 17)

My final pick is the CFP for the multidisciplinary collection Colonial Caribbean Visual Cultures, which examines ‘the creation and circulation of colonial visual cultures from the Caribbean during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries’. The CFP reminded me of another recent publication, The Colour of Shadows: Images of Caribbean Slavery by Judy Raymond. I’m excited to read each of them.

Between. Reflections on a year post submission (part 3).

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In this final section of my three-part series looking at life immediately following the PhD, I want to discuss research. Not revising your thesis for publication (covered in post one), but starting a new, postdoctoral research project (or a few of them). Some may find the suggestion to conduct new research controversial, and would instead advise sticking to revising the thesis for publication. This is certainly a valid position to take, but not one that would have worked for me. Working on new research has been amongst the most important my post-PhD endeavours, affirming my love of research, ensuring that I had a viable second project when applying for jobs and postdocs, and providing much needed distance from the PhD. When not teaching (i.e. when the entirety of my spare time is focused on working on my monograph) I dedicate at least one day a week to my postdoctoral research project (an exploration of the relationship between assemblage and identity between 1780 and 1914). A central part in developing this project has been applying for fellowships, as discussed below.

Fellowships

There’s an old adage that success breeds success. While cliche, in terms of the academic job market, it’s certainly true that short-term fellowships at well respected research institutions will make you a more competitive candidate. I spent a good part of December and January of 2015-16 crafting applications for such fellowships, and received a travel grant to visit Yale University’s Lewis Walpole Library, a Visiting Scholar Award at Yale Center for British Art, and a Short-Term Research Fellowship at the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library. Though a lengthy and often disappointing process (I think I applied for around 15 fellowships in total), revising and refining your research proposal for each of the applications is a great way of developing your ideas for your second major research project. As many note, hiring departments aren’t as interested in what you have done, but what you will do, that is how your dissertation translates into a REFable published work, and that you have an dynamic and engaging idea for a second research project, which will similarly garner publications and funding. As many fellowships require you to work closely with the host institution’s collections, the application process allows you to compile a list of sources to consult during your project, thereby allowing you to develop a fairly specific picture of what your project will look like even at an early stage in its gestation. Furthermore, receiving a fellowship for your project, demonstrates both its viability under peer review, and more importantly, the fact that your work is fundable, something of immense importance to any hiring committee concerned with choosing a candidate who will continue to attract funding once in the job.

Tracking 

My final piece of advice is to track what you do. When you’re managing several projects and teaching concurrently, days, weeks, and months can slip by without any real sense of accomplishment, although this is often an erroneous perception. I like to keep a monthly list of my ‘achievements’ to demonstrate to myself that whilst I have been busy, I’ve also been productive. This is also useful at a broader scale – when I ask myself what have I done in the year since submission, I can list the following: successfully defended my PhD thesis, taught three courses & contributed to the Sutton Trust Summer School, organised a bimonthly research seminar series, ran a panel at AAH, given four conference papers, had two job interviews, received four travel grants and two research fellowships, submitted several book reviews and an article for review, became a peer reviewer for a journal, conducted archival research for my new research project, and just yesterday, I submitted my book proposal (minus sample chapters) to a publisher for feedback. And I still feel disappointed not to be further ahead. I list these achievements not to boast, but to show that the period ‘between’ is a busy, stressful, and productive one, when you’re expected to balance many divergent demands. I’m not sure there’s any way around this, but talking more about the realities of being at this stage, and strategies to deal with this difficult time period, can only be a good thing.