By Dr Sebastiaan Verweij, Senior Lecturer in Late Medieval and Early Modern Literature, and Amy Smith, PhD History candidate
To continue our Faculty Research Centre and Group catch-ups, Dr Sebastiaan Verweij and PhD History candidate Amy Smith tell us about the highly innovative and interdisciplinary May workshop put on by the Early Modern Studies research group.
On 10 May, the Early Modern Studies (EMS) research group ran a workshop: ‘Place and Space in the Early Modern World’. Place and Space studies, including attention to landscape and environment, cuts through the research activities of EMS members in many different disciplines (including English, History, History of Art, Modern Languages, Theatre, Philosophy, Archaeology), and the workshop was organised as a way to share research methods, materials, and findings. Among our c. 40 delegates were also five colleagues from the Universities of Exeter and Cardiff, in part because EMS is keen to develop research collaboration with members of GW4, a research alliance group made up of the universities of Bristol, Bath, Cardiff and Exeter. We were also joined by PhD students in the Faculty currently on the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWWDTP) scholarships (with thanks for some additional funding from SWWDTP!).
Most of the workshop took the form of five-minute flashpapers, delivered by 17 colleagues in short panels. For any academic researcher to stop talking at the five-minute mark is no easy feat. However, all speakers deliver punchy, thought-provoking, and cutting-edge papers on diverse topics that felt nonetheless connected and in immediate conversation with others on the day. Topics included sea board spaces, Arthurian landscapes, castle gardens as women’s spaces, portable places and soil in cemeteries, British cathedral precincts, recreating the perambulation of Bristol’s city boundaries, flood lands, Italian urban space, dramatic space in the early modern theatre, the spaces of city comedy, urban space in Manilla, the philosophical precepts of space in time from Aristotle to Newton, the space of tragedy, and what urban planners refer to as ‘Space Left Over After Planning’. The day was concluded with an interdisciplinary and wide-ranging keynote address by Professor Nicola Whyte, a social and landscape historian at Exeter, on ‘Sacred landscapes and the subterranean imagination’, which took in Renaissance Italian painting, contemporary art, the seventeenth-century travel journals of Celia Fiennes, and heritage studies, as a way to understand premodern and contemporary response and approach to the landscapes that lie beneath our feet.
The workshop left us feeling like there was a great deal more to discuss, and so EMS has resolved to work out a way in which conversations can continue: perhaps in the form of future meetings, and through exploration of funding opportunities such as those offered by GW4, in order to organise more ambitious events (conferences, symposia, or collaborations beyond the university).
The PGR perspective by Amy Smith, PhD History candidate
PGR students (postgraduate research students) often chat about how ‘at home’ we feel in the School of Humanities. Whether we’ve been kicking around Bristol for years or only just joined, we all feel welcome at higher level academic events across the department. The Place and Space workshop on May 10th was no different. With so many stimulating topics, we joined in lively Q&A sessions and indulged in the sacred landscapes explored in Nicola Whyte’s keynote.
It was especially inspiring to see recently graduated doctoral students speaking alongside academics with a long publishing record. With several of us in the latter stages of our doctorates, it was a comforting glimpse into a potential future. Next time, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a number of PGR faces on the panels as we start to develop our scholarly profiles within the University and beyond.
The workshop was made possible by Faculty of Arts research group core funding, some additional funds from the Faculty, and a travel subvention for SWWDTP students.
The Early Modern Studies Research Group aspires to generate a sense of community for scholars from across the faculty (and beyond) who work on some aspect of the period from c.1400 to c.1800. To find out more about the Group’s activities, research and to join the mailing list, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.