3 days left to vote! BAVS Postgraduate Elections 2015-17

Elections are now open to find a new BAVS Postgraduate Representative, 2015-17. The postgraduate representatives are here to be your voice in the BAVS community, and it’s important that you vote to get the representation you want. Please note that ONLY current postgraduate and early career (3 years post-PhD) members of BAVS are eligible to vote. 

Voting end this Friday: 7 August

Cast your vote here.


Read the candidates’ statements below.

Lucy Hanks: Many people ask me why I chose to focus my research on Charlotte Brontë; a woman whose critical heritage could compete with other literary greats, such as Dickens or (maybe) even Shakespeare. One of the main reasons I enjoy researching the Brontës is the opportunity to engage with the lively and rich research community their works invite. The role of Postgraduate Representative for BAVS would be the perfect opportunity to continue promoting and celebrating scholarship of the Victorian period, and recognising how much postgraduate students have to offer both the critical heritage of the Victorian period, and each other.

My postgraduate research, including my MSt and PhD studies, will incorporate the works of many other nineteenth century female writers in an exploration of manuscript editorship. More particularly: female self-censorship and the repercussions this has for the female text. I am due to begin my MSt in English (1830-1914) at the University of Oxford in October. The research element of this course will work from an awareness of the instability of the text and the manuscript and will look closely at the manuscripts of Charlotte Brontë’s Villette and Shirley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh and Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë. This will establish how an external female ideology is channelled as an internalised form of female self-censorship, and how this operates on the manuscript and the female bodies within those texts. Having already completed research upon Victorian women’s writing, Charlotte Brontë’s works in particular, I am hoping that my postgraduate studies will broaden the scope of my knowledge of the Victorian period; the opportunity to work as a Postgraduate Representative would allow me to do this, and put me in the optimum position to learn from and share ideas with postgraduate students, and research which is not limited to one aspect of Victorian scholarship.

I recently delivered a paper entitled ‘a personage in disguise’: Charlotte Brontë’s Villette and Victorian Female Self-Representation at the Writing Women’s Lives conference, held at Bath Spa University. The most rewarding aspect of this experience was the opportunity to meet and talk to other scholars in the field of life-writing, and gain feedback and guidance on my own research. If I were awarded the opportunity of Postgraduate Representative, I would use social media, such as Twitter and The Victorianist to encourage postgraduate student engagement with all aspects of research; a place where students could discuss and reflect upon critical material, and meet with likeminded individuals. I am a sociable person; I take to Twitter regularly in my spare time (though, admittedly, I like to document the day-to-day drivel of my life, instead of the much more interesting Victorian research). What I really enjoy is talking about research; in addition to the yearly conference, this online forum could also be extended into research forums/conferences especially for postgraduate students, enabling them to share ideas and experience delivering their research in a professional capacity.

Inviting this sort of engagement would hopefully allow me to build relationships and act as a fair and proactive representative. My current employment as a postgraduate administrator at the University of Birmingham has afforded me lots of experience working with student reps and servicing student committees. I therefore feel as though I could offer a professional and efficient service to postgraduate members of BAVS, drawing on my own employment experience to give me confidence to get my voice heard for the postgraduate students I am representing.

One word I have used frequently throughout this application is ‘scholarship’. Although useful in this context, I would try to apply this term as little as possible in the role of Postgraduate Representative, and attempt to move postgraduate research away from the boring connotations of sober scholarship towards a wider engagement with popular culture. Despite the wealth of criticism arguing the contrary, Charlotte Brontë is continually misunderstood in popular culture as a sickly, grieving, innocent woman who somehow, against all odds, managed to create Jane Eyre and Villette (perhaps two of the greatest novels written in the English language). It is not only important for Brontë criticism, but for women worldwide, that these misunderstandings are expelled and the true snobby, bossy author is presented instead. This is true for a lot of Victorian criticism and biography, such as the cruel exclusion of Nelly Ternan from Charles Dickens’ biography. I would make it my endeavour to liberate this ‘scholarship’ and promote the popularisation of the truth about Victorian writers and their culture, using the fresh and exciting research of postgraduate students to prove that the facts are so much better than the myths.


Abby Boucher: I am entering the final year of my PhD in English Literature at the University of Glasgow. My primary research analyses the portraiture and portrayal of aristocratic bodies in Victorian Literature. I also have two current side projects, the first of which looks at the treatment of menopause in Gothic literature, and the second which interprets the relationships in the works of Charlotte Brontë as sadomasochistic, and thereby aims to undo the false dichotomy of her characters as either ‘victims’ or ‘feminist icons’.

I would be an ideal postgraduate representative not only because of my fervent interest in all things Victorian, but also because of my exceptional organisational and administrative skills: between my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, I withstood a trial-by-fire job as the assistant to a high-powered attorney, a job which honed my ability to complete tasks and solve problems immediately and meticulously. These skills, applied to the BAVS position, would enable all postgraduate questions to be answered accurately and quickly, ensure that all concerns and suggestions are presented and dealt with, and, most importantly, to guarantee that information is circulated promptly to all postgraduate BAVS members so no opportunities are missed. Further, as the organiser of an international conference at my university and the manager of monthly high-profile events at a law firm, I have a great deal of experience in event planning and the organisation of workshops.

Finally, as a very active member of postgraduate and early-career researcher crowds on various social media (albeit under a screen name), I am able to collect a wide range of relevant information, events, and opportunities that might not otherwise be reported on The Victorianist site.

Were I elected to this position, it is my intention to expand the current BAVS postgraduate network through media presence and thereby create greater connectivity and sense of community amongst its members. I would also strive to generate workshops, forums, and resources which would help postgraduate members learn about and deal with issues of employability. I would like to create a space on the The Victorianist site for postgraduates to share concerns, knowledge, and advice about continuing one’s journey in Victorian Studies outside of a postgraduate capacity.


Lois Burke: I have been a member of BAVS since August 2014, and am continually following the work of BAVS online and at events such as the ‘Paraphernalia!’ conference at Leeds Trinity University earlier this year. I am currently completing my MA in Romantic and Victorian Literature at Durham University. My dissertation, supervised by Professor Stephen Regan, is on the intersection between narratology and gender in fin-de-siècle novels. I have been awarded funding to commence my PhD later this year at Edinburgh Napier University under the supervision of Linda Dryden, Anne Schwan and Sarah Artt. My project is entitled ‘The Parish Girl’s Progress: Girlhood and Bildungsroman in Victorian and neo-Victorian Literature’, and will examine the metatextual progression of Victorian girls in Dickens, James, Carroll, and appropriations of girlhood in contemporary novels. I am also interested in the long nineteenth century, and am particularly excited for this year’s BAVS conference on Victorian Ages.

In June of this year I produced a post for the BAVS postgraduate blog. This was based on research that I completed as part of a gender studies Spring School with Newcastle University. The Spring School was a competitive opportunity and I was awarded a bursary to attend these events. My interests in the Northumberland County Asylum do not directly inform my MA dissertation but I balance my University work with other professional commitments, which is an essential skill for the BAVS postgraduate representative role. While I was studying for my MA I also completed a six-month voluntary placement with the women’s writing magazine, Mslexia. This role involved writing posts for the Mslexia blog, writing and inputting content for the print magazine, and contacting subscribers over telephone and via email. I have also completed some marketing work for the online music retailer Vinyl Guru, and would manage the Twitter and Facebook pages of the business. I appreciate the importance of digital humanities and use Twitter, Academia.edu, and LinkedIn as platforms to network with other academics, and regularly update my own accounts.

During my degrees I have made efforts to act as a representative of the respective English departments. As an undergraduate at Teesside University I volunteered as an English Studies Ambassador, which involved visiting local schools and colleges, assisting at open days, all in the effort to promote the study of English at degree level and encourage wider participation in the arts. After I had graduated I was invited back to be a graduate ambassador for the department. I spoke at their ‘Why English?’ conference for college-age students and along with another Teesside graduate, I am organising a workshop for undergraduates who might be considering MA study. During my final year of undergraduate study I was also a PASS (Peer Assisted Study Session) leader and would prepare additional seminars for second-year students. At Durham University I have been a regular attendee of the events organised by the CNCS (Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies) and I am on the editorial board of an undergraduate journal, The Durham English Review. I provide constructive feedback on essays relating to literature from the eighteenth to twenty-first century. I feel that all of these opportunities that I have involved myself in evidence my eagerness to immerse myself in academic culture in preparation for a career in academia. I am keen to continue to develop my networks with Victorianist groups and BAVS in particular.

As a BAVS postgraduate representative I would like to have more of a presence at postgraduate University open days at institutions where Victorian studies is a prominent research interest. This opportunity could be something that is emailed to English departments and also issued on the Victorianist website.

At the ‘Paraphernalia!’ conference Rohan McWilliam suggested that BAVS was taking a ‘curatorial turn’ in the next five years. This, along with ‘digital humanities’, was something that was also stressed at the recent AHRC Northern Bridge Summer School. I see increasing importance placed on Victorianists to engage both with collections and digital resources for their future academic work. As a BAVS postgraduate representative, I’d like to facilitate workshops for other postgraduates that focus on these skills, and even an opportunity to learn the basics of coding for academic blogging. I’d also like to engage more closely with independent research organisations, and seek out and advertise opportunities for BAVS postgraduates to work with nineteenth-century collections in their local area that they might not have been aware of.


Elly McCausland: I’m currently in the final year of my doctoral thesis at the University of York. My research examines adaptations of Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur produced for children between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. By exploring the changing ways in which authors have presented this medieval narrative to children, I explore shifting conceptions of childhood and its complex relationship to sociocultural contexts such as empire, educational policy, the two world wars and the rise of child psychology. My work on children’s Arthuriana has immersed me in the nineteenth century and sparked a number of other research interests from this period which I hope to pursue during an academic career: representations of risk in the Victorian novel; the relationship between adolescence and adventure in late nineteenth-century imperial romance; and the role played by medieval children’s literature in the rise of English studies during the nineteenth century.

I am very keen to become a more active participant in BAVS and see this role as a chance to engage on an intellectual and social level with fellow postgraduates and academics while helping to support and develop an exciting research community. I have substantial experience in designing, maintaining and publicizing a blog, having run a successful food blog since 2010, and I have also used this to establish a rewarding career in food writing. I have experience in social media, both academically and for my own blog, and would enjoy the chance to develop BAVS’ online presence and to engage with other academic voices in creative ways, encouraging blog submissions and online discussion and publicising relevant events. I’m interested in the possibility of starting an online reading group, featuring lesser-known Victorian texts or neo-Victorian literature, to facilitate the broadening of members’ reading interests and to spark discussion amongst BAVS members.

I have excellent organisational, time management and communication skills, and would enjoy the opportunity to employ these in planning new and exciting events for the BAVS community. I believe that engaging with other researchers is essential to an enjoyable postgraduate experience, and would ensure that BAVS postgraduates are able to meet and exchange ideas on a regular basis, perhaps organising informal dinners (or Mad Hatter’s tea parties) or trips to sites of Victorian interest alongside more formal academic events. The recent Victorian Studies Professionalisation Day at York impressed upon me the importance of opportunities to discuss career planning in a constructive and supportive environment, and I would endeavour to provide similar events in the future. As a food writer with a passion for historic recipes, I would love to establish a ‘Victorian recipe of the month’ section on the BAVS blog, combining food history and literary mentions of historic dishes with practical details for recreating Victorian delicacies in your own kitchen (perhaps beginning with the intriguing arena of ‘invalid cookery’ and the delightful-sounding ‘boiled arrowroot’). I would also propose an inter-disciplinary symposium exploring Victorian food, featuring a range of dishes from the period for the all-important refreshment breaks (having held the important and distinguished post of ‘Cake Director’ at the York Humanities Research Centre, I am well versed in the intricacies of supplying delicious cakes to hungry humanities students). I am also keen to organise a conference exploring the complex relationship between the Victorians and childhood, a fascinating topic that has received new critical interest recently, owing in part to the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland.

I would be very grateful for the chance to nurture my interest in the Victorian era and to use my academic and organisational skills in developing the links between BAVS and its postgraduates. I feel that this would be a highly rewarding opportunity to develop my career and research interests and – most importantly – to support and enhance a community of like-minded researchers.


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