academia

Week in Review – 8 January

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Screen Shot 2017-01-08 at 20.51.01.jpgImage via The Conversation 

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!

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Week in Review – 7 August

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This week’s object of the week isn’t mine per se, but Zara Anishanslin’s. In her recently published book, Portrait of a Woman in Silk: Hidden Histories of the British Atlantic World, Anishanslin uses the silk dress depicted above as a means to (de)construct and examine the worlds of four identifiable people who produced, wore, and represented it: a London weaver, one of early modern Britain’s few women silk designers, a Philadelphia merchant’s wife, and a New England painter.

 Other announcements, events, courses, and posts that caught my eye this week included:

The recent special issue of the Scandinavian Journal of History on Gender, Material Culture and Emotions in Scandinavian History. The issue contains articles on religion and emotion, needlework, botany, and Chinese porcelain.

The University of Exeter’s fascinating new MOOC Empire: the Controversies of British Imperialism, which begins today.

Sean Willcock’s fascinating article ‘Composing the Spectacle: Colonial Portraiture and the Coronation Durbars of British India, 1877-1911‘, in the latest volume of Art History.

The Paul Mellon Centre for British Art’s new public lecture course, The Country House: Art, Politics, and Taste. The course covers a fascinating array of subjects over a broad period. See the syllabus here.

This videoAcademic video blogs: 5 tips for getting started. I’ve written before about enjoying both Ellie Mackin & Emma Cole’s early career researcher vlogs, so it was with interest that I watched this source from jobs.ac.uk. I believe that video blogs, much like twitter, can help to destabilise traditional hierarchies endemic to academia.

Alexis L. Boylan’s article ‘Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and the Erotics of Illness‘, from the recent issue of American Art is a gorgeously written, fascinating approach to its subject, Saint-Gaudens’ portrait miniature of the infirm Louis Stevenson.

Lily Ford’s essay Unlimiting the Bounds”: the Panorama and the Balloon View‘, the second essay in a two-part series in which she explores how balloon flight transformed our ideas of landscape.

 

Week in Review – 24 July

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My object of the week is this book of spirit drawings by the medium Anna Mary Howitt. Now held at Cambridge University Library Special Collections, the drawings – which date to around 1857 – are the subject of a recent blog post.  Interestingly, the post corresponds with the Courtauld Gallery’s current exhibition Georgiana Houghton: Spirit Drawings, which features watercolours produced by the titular artist. As critics have noted, the show is an important subversion of traditional hierarchical histories of art.

Other objects, posts, articles and links that caught my eye this week included:

Ellie Mackin’s vlog on the Academic Bullet Journal. Like Ellie, I’m deeply interested in both the methodologies and materialities of research, and we’ve shared many discussions about notebooks and how we use them. This video provides a great introduction to using the bullet journal system to organise research projects.

Anna Katharina Schaffner’s post on the history of exhaustion: ‘Why exhaustion is not unique to our overstimulated age‘. My monograph project (tentatively titled Home Ties: Materiality, Identity, and Emotion in British Domestic Space, 1750-1840) is deeply rooted in the histories of emotions and feelings, so I was excited to see this critically-engaged discussion of exhaustion. Schaffner’s book Exhaustion: A History, is also out now via Colombia University Press.

The Nineteenth-Century Matters: Chawton House Library 2016-17 Fellowship, which will provide the successful applicant with affiliation in the form of a Visiting Fellowship at Chawton House Library and the University of Southampton.

Pat Thomson’s review of Les Back’s Academic Diary: Or Why Higher Education Still Matters – a fascinating book that adapts Back’s blog documenting the intricacies of the modern academy.

Lily Ford’s beautifully illustrated article for the Public Domain Review“For the Sake of the Prospect”: Experiencing the World from Above in the Late 18th Century.

Heather Bozant Witcher’s lecture, “Written-Visual Aesthetics: The Rossettis and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood” at the The University of Delaware Library. Witcher’s lecture explores the dynamic creative relationship between Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his sister, Christina.

The CFP for the conferenceFailing at Feelings. Historical Perspectives (1800-2000).

The BARS/Wordsworth Trust Early Career Fellowship, which is designed to help an early career researcher not currently in permanent employment to spend a month living, researching and collaborating in Grasmere.

Kelly Christian’s fascinating articleUnruly: Hair, Politics and Memorial’.

The CFP for the special issue of Victorian Periodicals Review on “Victorian Education and the Periodical Press”.

Award: Design History Society Research Travel and Conference Grant

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I’m thrilled to have received a Design History Society Research Travel & Conference Grant for my project, From House to Home: Gender, Identity & Emotion in British Domestic Space, 1750-1830The project develops research from my PhD thesis for publication as a monograph, and explores the complex relationship between the production and consumption of domestic space and issues of identity, affection, gender, and sexuality.

Specifically, the Research Travel and Conference Grant will facilitate the completion of crucial primary research for this project, to be conducted at a number of repositories including the British Library, where I will consult the papers, journals, and correspondence of Caroline Lybbe Powys, Anne Seymour Damer, Mary Berry, and John Wilkes; as well as the Royal College of Surgeons, and the Wellcome Library, where I’ll view further correspondence from Mary Berry.

Stay tuned for more posts on my monograph project as it develops.

Award: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library Short-Term Research Fellowship

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Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 19.44.14Gertrude Menough, Clematis Lodge Collage Album, c. 1895. Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library.

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been awarded a Short-Term Research Fellowship from the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, which I’ll be taking in August 2017. The award will facilitate research for my postdoctoral research project, which is provisionally titled, Crafting the Self: Assemblage & Identity, 1770-1900. As I’ve noted previously, the project will provide a history of ‘assemblage’ produced in Britain, North America, and British India between 1770 and 1900, highlighting its pervasiveness across an array of artistic, literary, and cultural practices, and its enactment in disparate geographic locations. The project will accordingly examine a broad variety of assemblages made by men, women, and children across the Atlantic world and Britain’s colonies in order to understand the universality of assemblage during this period.

Primarily, the Winterthur Short-Term Research Fellowship will facilitate research on the Winterthur’s collection of ‘collage albums’. Also known as ‘scrapbook houses’, collage albums comprise imagined interior spaces arranged from carefully clipped images of interior furnishings. My research will examine the collage albums in relation to women’s self-fashioning in the mid-late nineteenth century, arguing that their production both expressed and reflected women’s creative and domestic identities during this period.

As the project develops, I’ll post more information about my motivations, methodologies, and the specifics of what I’ll be examining in each of my six case studies. For now, however, I’m concentrating on revising my doctoral thesis for publication, a process that I’m also keen to write about on the blog. Stay tuned for posts on going from PhD to published, and if there are specifics of this journey that you’d like me to discuss, get in touch with me via my twitter handle, @Freya_Gowrley.

Pedagogy Matters – Set Readings

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This is the first in what I hope will become a regular series about teaching. I currently work as an undergraduate seminar tutor across three of the University of Edinburgh’s departments: History of Art, Architectural History, and Celtic and Scottish Studies. I also contribute to the University of Ohio’s yearly historical linguistics and cultural history summer school, and this year I’ll be teaching as part of the Sutton Trust’s widening participation project for the first time. As such, I consider myself to be a fairly experienced and adaptable teacher. Nevertheless, I’m consistently coming across areas that I’d like to improve upon, or problems that need solutions. It is these that I’m hoping to think about in this series.

On Monday of this week, a fellow History of Art 2 tutor posted John Warner’s blog post ‘When Students Won’t Do the Reading’ to our tutor’s group facebook page. It is, as the author states, a common and complex problem, and one not easily solved. Whilst I enjoyed Warner’s post as an exploration of the topic, I felt that it lacked practical advice on solutions to the issue.

Accordingly, I shared the post on twitter and asked the following question:

I received a relatively large number of responses, many of which reaffirmed the importance of the issue, and many more of which offered advice on how to deal with it. Some suggested emphasising to students the importance of reading as a task, and stressing that attendance is about more than simply showing up. Some also shared their own experiences of what works in class, including the following tasks, some of which I myself have used in the past:

  • dividing students into small groups and giving them a source/piece of writing to respond to
  • having students actively lead seminar groups
  • having students set and ask questions
  • allocating secondary readings to pairs of students, which they present on the following week
  • multiple choice tests
  • using social media
  • giving students a list of questions to discuss as first activity

A few thoughts:

Firstly, I’m not sure that this list necessarily solves the problem of how to ensure the reading is done prior to the seminar itself. Instead, I think that the list offers a number of practical and creative solutions for tutors running classes in which you have a number of students who have yet to do the reading. Certain tasks, such as dividing students into groups and asking them to respond to sections of text, provide time to read and respond to reading not yet complete, saving both you and your class from agonising minutes of silence because, for example, your seminar fell on the day that the essays were due.

Perhaps more significantly though, the list also suggests that the not-reading isn’t really that much of an issue. As such, it provokes a question: is the primacy of the ‘set-reading’ waning? Humanities courses are well known for having heavy reading loads for both lectures and seminars. Yet, practical demands on students’ time (such as the sheer amount of reading and competing ‘hard deadlines’) often mean that they cannot complete reading, even if they’d like to. Whilst I’m sure no one is suggesting that students shouldn’t read deeply and widely into their subject, it seems that perhaps weekly seminars are not the time to ensure that they do. Far more important seem to be ways of getting students to meaningfully participate within the class itself, where discussion can operate alongside, or even independently from, the reading. Here, I refer you to Dr. Lucinda Matthews-Jones’ excellent discussion on ‘Notes on Seminar Participation’ over on her blog, another response to our twitter discussion.

Just as I noted regarding Warner’s original post, I’m not sure I’ve offered any real solutions here. Instead, writing this post has encouraged me to reflect on the idea that whilst talking about a set-reading is a traditional format for a seminar, it shouldn’t be the only one. Digital technologies, group work, and student-led tasks all offer valid and important additions and alternatives to discussing the reading, and I look forward to exploring them further in my own tutorials.