Category Archives: News

New book series – Studies in Mobilities, Literature and Culture with Palgrave Macmillan

I am pleased to announce the launch of a new book series Studies in Mobilities, Literature and Culture with Palgrave Macmillan, edited by Marian Aguiar, Lynne Pearce and myself. Please feel free to get in touch directly if you would like to discuss potential submissions.

About the series:

This series represents an exciting new publishing opportunity for scholars working at the intersection of literary, cultural, and mobilities research. The editors welcome proposals that engage with movement of all kinds – ranging from the global and transnational to the local and the everyday. The series is particularly concerned with examining the material means and structures of movement, as well as the infrastructures that surround such movement, with a focus on transport, travel, postcolonialism, and/or embodiment. While we expect many titles from literary scholars who draw upon research originating in cultural geography and/or sociology in order to gain valuable new insights into literary and cultural texts, proposals are equally welcome from scholars working in the social sciences who make use of literary and cultural texts in their theorizing. The series invites monographs that engage with textual materials of all kinds – i.e., film, photography, digital media, and the visual arts, as well as fiction, poetry, and other literary forms – and projects engaging with non-western literatures and cultures are especially welcome.

 

FWSA Student Essay Competition

There’s 1 month to go until the deadline for the 2016 Feminist and Women’s Studies Association (UK & Ireland) essay competition.

To encourage a new generation of feminist scholars, the FWSA sponsors an annual student essay competition for work which is innovative, interdisciplinary and grounded in feminist theory and practice. The top seven entries will be judged by our judging panel and will be published in the Journal of International Women’s Studies (see here for the 2015 issue). In addition, the winner will receive a year’s free FWSA membership and a publisher’s prize.

Students at any stage of their studies at a British or Irish university are encouraged to submit work that has not been previously published and is not currently under consideration for publication, or for competitions which result in publication elsewhere. Essays should be 6,000 – 7,000 words (including footnotes and bibliography).

The deadline for this year’s competition is Monday 2nd May 2016.

Full details including coversheet and submission instructions are available at http://fwsablog.org.uk/prizes-and-grants/student-essay-competition/

Please direct any queries to fwsachair@gmail.com or to me, the competition officer at charlotte.mathieson@ncl.ac.uk

 

 

The challenges facing ECRs: Taylor & Francis Conversazione Dinner, December 2015

Back in December, I was invited to participate in a Taylor and Francis Conversazione on the issues and challenges facing early career researchers. As this overview of the event details, the evening covered a wide range of issues that impact upon ECRs – many around the job market and the challenges of getting published and remaining employable when under the pressure of working on short-term contracts, as well as balancing different elements of career development (teaching/research/professional development), and building up an academic profile. My perspective drew upon the work I have done around the REF and early career researchers, explaining how the REF impacts upon ECR publishing decisions and what other challenges this raises for ECRs.

While many of these issues are currently much-discussed and inevitably tend towards the negative, it was really encouraging to see the evening focused on new ways and avenues through which to support ECRs around these issues, with suggestions of support from the senior academics in attendance, to initiatives by publishers such as T&F. T&F’s blog is providing a useful space for some of these discussions to continue, while Palgrave Macmillan have an Early Career Researcher hub with advice from published authors and detailed guides on writing a proposal, peer review and more. Universities seem to be taking note too; I’ve got two similar talks lined up in coming months, where I’ll be speaking to ECRs about publishing in the context of the REF and career development more broadly. It’s positive to see the processes being demystified and made clearer to those starting out in academia and I’d be interested to hear of any more initiatives in this vein.

New Writings in Feminist Studies: Journal of International Women’s Studies

Although a little late in writing about this, I’m very pleased to present the winning and shortlisted essays from the 2015 Feminist and Women’s Studies Association essay competition, published in the Journal of International Women’s Studies (17.2). As essay competition officer I had the wonderful job of editing the special issue, and it was a pleasure to work with emerging feminist scholars. The essays cover a fantastic range of issues, from new perspectives on historical writers like Poe, Murdoch and Beckett, to research that responds to recent issues such as same-sex reproductive law or the 2012-13 anti-rape demonstrations in Delhi. The essays are well worth a read – I learnt a lot in editing the issue, and hope others enjoy the finished result as much as I enjoyed working on it.

“A fiery devil, thundering along”: HS2 and the Victorians

Over the last few months, debates over the High Speed 2 railway line have been mounting, with a succession of reports on the future of the line following the submission to Parliament of the HS2 bill back in November 2013. I’ve followed with interest the development of the planned line over the last few years, with a focus on two areas that will be affected if the HS2 line goes ahead: where I currently live in Warwickshire, the HS2 line will pass about a mile from the University of Warwick’s campus, cutting across the Kenilworth fields and passing  just north of Leamington Spa; and then further down the route passes a few miles from my hometown in South Bucks, where there remains a campaign to further protect the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), including ancient woodland, which the line traverses. HS2 Studying as I do the Victorian railways, it’s been interesting to see the resonances in response to the HS2 line in the context of arguments surrounding the “coming of the railway” in the 1840s. In particular, it’s been indicative to identify a reiteration of ideas around the railway as a symbol of modernity. For the Victorians, the railway was the most evocative symbol of a new, modern era, often depicted as a “fiery devil, thundering along” (Dombey and Son) that seemed to come from another age and was pernicious in its spread into the furthest corners of the country that had yet been (seemingly) untouched by modernity. In George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1874 – but set earlier in the century), the “projected line was to run through Lowick parish where the cattle had hitherto grazed in a peace unbroken by astonishment” (chapter 56); in Bleak House (1852-53) Dickens depicts an era pivoting on the edge of the railway era, contrasting the rural quietude of a place that is thus far beyond the reach of modernity – “the post-chaise makes its way without a railroad on its mind” – with the anticipation of the coming railway line which will soon change this: “with a rattle and a glare the engine and train shall shoot like a meteor over the wide night-landscape, turning the moon paler” (chapter 55). Wherever it went, the railway decisively announced that modernity had arrived, and had irrevocably changed the landscape: Dombey and Son shows us a landscape literally torn apart by the new railway line, Staggs’ Gardens “rent to its centre” and in a mess of chaos and confusion as the building of the railway tears houses to dust and creates a chasm in the city landscape.  HS2 sign HS2 poses much the same problem: as in the Victorian period, the requisite of the railway track to follow as straight a line as possible necessitates that everything in the projected path is demolished, moved or transported in order to make way for the tracks. There are countless areas where housing will be knocked down: in Burton Green, the track will cut through “straight as a ruler” and “slice” the village in half; in the Chilterns, the line will “bisect” the AONB although this has been avoided in plans for the northern phase 2 of the route. In this recent episode of Countryfile, farmer Robert Brown is among those to speak of the impact that the line will have on farmland (from c.17 mins in): running through the existing field layout, the route will change the way in which the land is managed and accessed, severing an existing field in two. It’s the same problem faced by the farmers of Middlemarch, who are occupied by “the vivid conception of what it would be to cut the Big Pasture in two, and turn it into three-corned bits, which would be ‘nohow’” (553). Railways don’t just destroy spaces, they change the organisation of space and restructure how it can be moved around.

There are of course crucial differences with the Victorian period, but what is interesting is the perception, as in the Victorian period, that this represents the onset of modernity for rural regions. HS2 does, of course, entail hardhitting and forceful destruction; but at the same time, HS2 is just one component of contemporary modernity’s impact upon the land. Every day, rural (and urban spaces) are being reshaped by the demands of new (and often contested) structures and it can no longer be said (if it could even of the Victorian period) that there are areas “untouched” by modernity: the rural areas through which HS2 travels are no less “modern” than the cities where it originates; modernity is here, now, in the machines that work the land, in the fibre-optic broadband cables that run beneath it, and in the planes that fly overhead. But as in the Victorian era, there is something about the railway that generates a more resonant and deeply felt response: then as now, the railway seems to stand for something more than the sum of their parts, forming an evocative site around which these other ideas about space and modernity coalesce. Railways make visible the latent structures that already permeate and produce the landscapes of modernity: as in the instances above, railways have a tangible impact on the organisations of locales and regions; in the railway network, uneven development becomes visible as those “off the railway” lose out; and in some iterations, the railway even becomes placed as the Moloch-like god of capitalism, which we are asked to view as an “act of faith“.

How the HS2 plans play out in practice has yet to be seen, and there is still time in which some of these impacts can hopefully be reduced, if not averted altogether: the next round of petitioning starts in July, and with near-daily news reports on the case against HS2, it can but be hoped that the government will reassess the situation; meanwhile attention is beginning to turn to phase 2 which will continue the line from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester, and it will be interesting to see how the impact is perceived in these regions too.