Travel and conferences
Research students in the School of English attend a range of national and international conferences to give papers and posters as well as making short visits to other institutions to use or consult essential resources for their research. In order to support research students with these activities, the Graduate School provides funding in the form of a prestigious Graduate School Travel Prize and some funds are also available to research students in the School of English.
Students who have had their conference and research travel funded in these ways are detailed below.
Doctoral candidate in English
'Basil Bunting and Friends' Conference at the University of Durham, July 2012
The ‘Basil Bunting and Friends’ conference at the University of Durham on 4th and 5th July was the first conference I have attended that focused purely on poetry. This meant that I was able to have lengthy discussions with other students and academics about the poetry scene, which is normally unusual at more thematic-based conferences. I met a final year PhD student, Samuel Rogers, for the second time and continued our discussions around poetic terms and divides – although we disagreed I think we both got something out of this! I also met the poets Tony Lopez, Tom Pickard, and Colin Simms, as well as lesser known but upcoming poets such as Rory Waterman and Eleanor Rees, and enjoyed hearing Pickard and Lopez read their poetry in the evening.
The papers were of very high quality and all engaged well with the theme; the paper which was most interesting to me was Samuel Rogers’, as he explored the impact of Modernist long poems on contemporary poetry. I felt that the amount of close reading which took place throughout was unusual and refreshing, and Alex Pestell’s paper on Bunting and William Carlos Williams provoked a group discussion of a poem of Williams’ in Spring and All. As I had hoped the Modernist focus of the conference meant that I could develop on the historical reach of my thesis by thinking about the relationship between avant-garde contemporary poetry and Modernist experimental poetics, something which I discussed briefly in my paper.
Harriet Tarlo’s plenary lecture was the most important talk in terms of my thesis, as she considered the notion of ‘ethical poetics’ and whether this is played out in a form/content alliance. This is pertinent as a way of thinking of environmentalist poetics, as Tarlo argued that the environmentalist philosophies of preservation and recycling are reflected in the form of found poetry. This made me think of a new angle for my work on Roy Fisher, which has focused on his slippage between the natural and artificial, but his scarcity and brevity of form could also reflect this sense of ‘ethical poetics’.
Another highlight of the conference was Tom Pickard’s film about Roy Fisher, called ‘Birmingham is what I think with’. I am now in contact with Pickard and should be able to obtain a copy of the film for myself.
My own paper was largely successful (after some difficulties with powerpoint!) and sparked some interesting discussion about the use of the terms ‘modernist’ and ‘postmodernist’ in relation to poetry. I was suggesting that literary legacies should be thought of in terms of historical continuity, with poetic reactivation of certain tropes and techniques, rather than separating out poetic schools and scenes with different labels. This was somewhat contentious given that the conference was part of the ‘marginal’ poetry scene but I’m hopeful that my paper inspired people to re-consider the use of such terms. Tarlo in particular liked my paper and recommended that I expand it to include the poet Geraldine Monk in an attempt to extend my element of recuperation to female poets.
Overall the conference was enjoyable and useful and I’m looking forward to following up the connections I made there.
Poet Tony Lopez speaking at the Basil Bunting and Friends Conference
at the University of Durham, July 2012
Doctoral candidate in applied linguistics
American Association of Applied Linguistics Conference in Boston, March 2012
One of the most important things I have gained from receiving the match funding from the School of English was the opportunity to network with other motivation researchers and PhD students, laying the foundation for possible future research collaborations. It was particularly exciting to meet a team of motivation researchers from Japan and a few other doctoral students who are researching in motivation and imagery. I have had the opportunity to examine and exchange research ideas vigorously with these researchers and have established informal ties.
Apart from networking with like-minded people, presenting one of my papers with my supervisor, Zoltán Dörnyei, who is a leading expert in L2 motivation, was undeniably an invaluable learning experience for me. Not only did I learn the way to approach research and data analysis in a professional manner, I also understood how to prepare for a presentation. From the Q&A sessions of both presentations, I came to understand the concerns of practitioners regarding the use of imagery in the classroom, which will be conducive to my current studies.
Attending presentations in an international conference also helped me to obtain up-to-date, latest research ideas. I saw some current trends in research, such as the importance of conducting transnational research and the use of psychology in applied linguistics. Listening to some of the presentations also generated new ideas for future research and helped me to re-discover my interests in the humanistic aspects of language education. I found myself very interested in empowering language students’ psychological well-being. The whole conferencing experience has undoubtedly served as an intellectual challenge and stimulation for me, building my confidence as a novice researcher.
Doctoral candidate in English literature
Dickens Conference in London & Paris, February 2012
‘Dickens and the Idea of “The Dickensian”: A Tale of Four Cities’ was a travelling conference held from February 2 to 8, 2012, to celebrate the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’s birth, which fell on February 7, by examining some of the most crucial aspects of his work at the four places which were pivotal to his work and art. Funded by the School of English, I attended the Paris and the London sessions of the international conference.
My paper was delivered at the London session under the theme, ‘The Global Meaning of Dickens and “Dickensian” Today’. It was co-organised by the University of Leicester, the Charles Dickens Museum and the Museum of London.
It examined the way in which Dickens’s manipulation of space and place was translated and adapted for early twentieth-century Chinese readership, and how this process of cross-cultural transfer had unsettled, or even subverted the sense of ‘Englishness’ that Dickens’s works purportedly inscribe. Not only did I have the opportunity to exchange ideas with the participants who were interested in going beyond the confines of national boundaries by examining Dickens’s works against different historical and cultural contexts, I also had the chance to listen to two fascinating papers by fellow panellists, Professor Lydia Wevers of the Victoria University of Wellington and Dr Ewa Lukawsla-Lis of the Institute of Neophilology at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, who looked into the reception of Dickens’s works in New Zealand and Poland in the contexts of postcolonialism and communism respectively.
The London conference was held just a day after the bicentenary of Dickens’s birth and was set against the backdrop of a surging interest in the Victorian author in the light of the various television adaptations, news reports, as well as releases of new critical works that were often featured in some of the most prominent places in the bookshops around Britain. Coupled with the physical location of the conference – as it was held at the Museum of London where an exhibition on ‘Dickens and London’ took place, I think it provided an occasion for us to reflect on how and why Dickens still emerged as a cultural phenomenon not only in the UK but also around the world 200 years after his birth, and how Dickens as an author and a celebrity has been constantly in the making.
With Paris’ association with the 1789 Revolution looming large in the background, A Tale of Two Cities emerged as one of the most popular texts that were being examined at the Paris session of the conference under the theme ‘Dickens and the idea of the “Dickensian” city’, which was organised by the University of Paris-Diderot. The revolutionary Paris, as explored by some of the speakers who sought to untangle the historical and theoretical underpinnings of Dickens’s description, stood in a sharp contrast to the labyrinthine London which some other speakers examined through looking into the author’s depiction of the underworld and the nightmarish urban scenes in the unwanted hours in Victorian London. The Dickensian city was further examined by Professor Juliet John of the Royal Holloway, University of London, who in her plenary lecture explored Dickens’s modernity; and Professor Jeremy Tambling of the University of Manchester, who in another plenary lecture situated Dickens’s portrayal of the city within the theoretical framework of Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project.Dickens’s imaginary power, as expounded on by conference participants through their examinations of his representation of space and place, was cast into another light during our short walk around the ‘revolutionary’ areas of Paris that formed part of the conference programme, as we were told to think about the ‘absence’ of what Dickens wrote about instead of the ‘presence’ - that is, those buildings or areas which Dickens might have never visited or those of which were no longer in existence when Dickens wrote his famous work.
Doctoral candidate in applied linguistics
American Association of Applied Linguistics Conference in Boston, March 2012
What were your anticipated benefits?
Presenting a paper at this prestigious conference provided me opportunities to receive direct feedback from prominent scholars and professionals with different perspectives in linguistics. The conference also allowed me to keep up to date with the latest developments in the field, and I gained more in-depth understanding of how my findings fit in with the wider research fields. In addition, attending the conference provided me with opportunities to make connections with linguists and educators from all over the world. This helped me feel more integrated with the academic community, moving from studentship to in-group membership of academia.
In relation to the following skills areas, what were the most important things you gained from receiving the Prize?
- research management
Listening to the presentations in this great conference helped me to learn about how other researchers managed their projects, and I further developed a broader understanding of research contextualisation and effective project management.
- personal effectiveness
By preparing the presentation, I developed strategic project- and time-management skills. I also learned to recognise the boundaries of my own knowledge, skills, and expertise, and to draw upon outside sources for support when appropriate. Attending this conference helped me increase my knowledge of how to see gaps and opportunities in research plans and evaluate necessary changes.
In the conference, I was able to develop my communication skills by appropriately giving and responding feedback, advice, and critical appraisals. I also learned the ways of delivering a successful conference paper.
- team working and networking
The conference attracted a large number of leading scholars and publishers from all over the world and therefore provides a great opportunity to establish important contacts. I found it particularly exciting to meet many scholars working on similar research areas and talk about our studies.
- career management
I met a number of leading figures from Taiwan at the conference. This opportunity provided me with the chance to start a link with Taiwanese scholars and institutes, and this is also a good chance to demonstrate my research interests and enthusiasm for teaching. I think this has also opened up further opportunities for collaboration in future research and publications, as well as my career progression.
How do you think you will put this learning into practice in the future?
The conference offered various types of hands-on, product-oriented workshops, which were benefit to my own current research. They would also interest others within the Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics. I will share all the materials I received with the research group members. In addition, I received a lot of positive feedback from the participants at my presentation, and I also appreciated the questions and suggestions raised by them. I will consider carefully these ideas, do some more literature review and discuss with my supervisors in order to improve the quality of my research.
In all, after the conference I feel more integrated with the academic community and more confident with my research. Although I was slightly worried about my presentation beforehand, it was finally worth doing.
Doctoral candidate in English
7th LAEL Postgraduate Conference, Lancaster, July 2012
Attending and presenting at the 7th LAEL postgraduate conference in Lancaster has been an enriching experience from many points of view.
Firstly, it gave me a concrete idea of the current researching trends in the field of linguistics and applied linguistics. The wide variety of topics touched by the presenters, from UK and international universities, represented a sample of the actual development of the discipline, especially that rising from the studies of new researchers.
Contrary to what I expected, there was very little work in corpus linguistics. My presentation was the only representative of this field, while few other researches included the approach only peripherally. Instead, my specific approach, which combines corpus stylistics and translation studies, was totally unique and represented a novelty, at least in the context of the conference. This confirmed me the cutting-edge value of my research, which is trying to contribute in a field still almost totally unexplored.
Nevertheless, this did not prevent me from receiving useful feedback and suggestions. Despite the fact that my presentation was included in a panel very distant from my subfield, I received many engaging questions that led to an actual debate interrupted because of time limitations but resumed during the following break.
Summing up, I received two main criticisms. The first was about the contextualisation of the comparison between translations I analyse in my research. According to this argument, contextualising the terms of the translations comparison in the ambit of their socio-historical uses would eventually lead to different results. The second criticism was about the Italian equivalents I chose to be compared with the English originals. In this case, I was criticised of not taking into consideration a wider range of translating possibilities, not limited to those terms I used.
Both criticisms were answered with the same strategy, based on explaining more clearly what I did not include in my presentation. In the first case, I explained that my entire research is focused on the context of the source text analysed and of its Italian translations. Consequently, all comparisons and investigations are limited to the local use of the analysed terms in their textual context, independently from their standard usage in general language contexts: I am interested in studying the relations between source and target texts, and not those between translated language and general language. In the second case, I limited myself to explain that the terms taken into consideration are not a partial range I selected, but all those used in the translations.
I realised that my presentation lacked of clarity in some aspects. These criticisms could be avoided simply addressing these points and explaining clearly not only the results of my preliminary analysis but also the general context of my research.
The final confirmation for this suggestion was provided by the closing plenary speech, whose focus was also on the transparency of all steps of any research. Showing clearly the context in which the results have been obtained, all the interventions of the analyst, and also the limits of the research would make an argument much stronger.
Doctoral candidate in English literature
Shakespeare Association of America, Boston, USA, April 2012
I was invited to submit a paper for the seminar ‘Shakespeare in Place’ at The Shakespeare Association of America 2012 in Boston. This is a prestigious international forum in which I could test my research and through this act as an ambassador for the University of Nottingham. The keynote speakers and the seminar sessions in Boston allowed me to keep on top of the most recent advances in the field of Shakespearean Studies. I felt that attending the ‘Shakespeare in Place’ seminar would allow me to keep abreast with the current theoretical advancements on ‘space’ and ‘place’. Attending the Seminar would also ensure that the events which we are coordinating at Nottingham through groups such as the Landscape Space Place research group continue to be positioned at the cutting edge of this emerging multidisciplinary field.
The seminar which I was invited to attend in Boston was uniquely placed at the intersection of my research interests. It was both early modern and it also concerned issues arising out of cultural geography which is central to my AHRC funded PhD ‘The Use and Abuse of the Thames, 1550-1650’. The seminar considered key issues which I have been tackling in my work. The other participants in the seminar included the key current thinkers in the field. This was a good opportunity to position my work within this forum and to allow my writing and research to be peer reviewed by the academics who participated in the seminar.
The conference taught me a lot about communication at a high profile international event. It provided a productive forum which allowed me to gain confidence in terms of how to communicate my ideas and reflect upon my research. It also helped me to develop key skills such as how to communicate my research effectively and with clarity in a high profile setting and how to explain and position my research within the field. The SAA conference provided an excellent networking opportunity.
Through participation in the workshop I saw the ways in which the collective work of the seminar was facilitated by Professor Julie Sanders and Professor Susan Bennett. I hope at some point in the future to be able to run a seminar in this sort of context and this experience gave me great insight into the most productive ways in which to coordinate this mode of academic dialogue. I hope that this experience has helped me to develop skills which I can make use of at future events and in my future career.
Doctoral candidate in English
Pain and Paranoia Conference in Liverpool, March 2012
Blake’s depiction of Paranoia in his poetry, specifically his long work of Jerusalem
Mark explained the fact that there are two depictions of paranoia in this work. One has been referred to in other discussions as the 'paranoidic' (which is the paranoia of the power hungry) and the 'paranoic' (which is the paranoia of the creative mind). Essentially, the two kinds of paranoia are represented as being in conflict in Blake's poem and provide one structure for understanding this complex work.
I found the conference to be stimulating as it covered a wide range of subject areas but also involved a general concern with how to fuse the disciplines of psychological theory and literature. The conference allowed me to meet keynote speakers on the subject of pain and led to an invitation by a keynote speaker from another university to give talks on Blake. Such papers included recent research on the biological factors underlying pain and fear which has prompted me to consider psycho-physiology and how this has been made manifest in Romantic literature.
A wide range of modern literature was covered and Lacanian psychoanalysis was a feature, which gave me some further insights that I had not considered concerning disturbed cognition in Blake's poetry. Of particular interest was a paper on the works of Charles Le Brun, whose theories of physiognomy had a profound influence on eighteenth century thinking in the circles of art theory and psychology.
The conference also made me more aware of the current work being accomplished in the field of medical humanities and the interrogation of pain, trauma and cognition in the humanities. I have attended other conferences of this kind and now have a more developed awareness of what is taking place in other fields in relation to the study of literature, and how each informs the other. The organisers of the conference wish to publish certain articles in a book as a chapter and also inviting articles for publication in The International Journal of Literature and Psychology which was recently launched in April and will be published bi-annually. The journal is of interest to me as it examines the fields of literature and mental health studies and will allow me to advance my own findings in this field.
Attendees of the Pain and Paranoia Conference in Liverpool, March 2012
Doctoral candidate in English
The Wordsworth Summer Conference in Grasmere, Cumbria, July-August 2012
With the assistance of the School Travel Prize, I was able to attend the Wordsworth Summer Conference 2012, Grasmere, Cumbria. This is a prestigious annual international conference of scholars of Romantic literature. Many of the delegates are leading names in their fields.
My paper, entitled From Loon and Cythna to The Revolt of Islam: A Consideration of
Shelley's Revisions in Context, which comes out of a chapter of my thesis, received very positive feedback from delegates. I received helpful suggestions that will undoubtedly aid in finishing the latter stages of my PhD. The conference scheduling certainly aided in this regard, as we were given a slot to ourselves rather than shared as a group of three. We received 25 minutes of question and discussion time for each paper which is unusually generous for a conference. In addition, without there being parallel sessions, all delegates attended every paper. This not only meant that I had a large audience for my paper, but also meant that connections could be drawn to other papers at the conference knowing that the audience had attended the papers referenced.
The Wordsworth Conference is particularly good for networking. Because of its
length and the fact that there are many long walks and excursions make it easy to strike up conversations and friendships with other delegates. Not only has my attendance at the conference enabled me to forge new relationships with academics and scholars from the US, Europe and elsewhere, but since this was the second year I have attended meant I was able to reinforce existing relationships with scholars that has already proven very fruitful. I have already been asked to write a book review for a prestigious journal and my paper was one of the few selected for inclusion in the conference proceedings volume appearing later this year. I have already received permission to reuse parts of this piece — which is still a work in progress — for an article in a more prestigious, peer-reviewed journal. It is my intention to follow through with this, and work on this article has already begun. In addition, I have also completed another article for submission to a peer-reviewed journal inspired by the conference and have planned a third.
The feedback I received for my own paper was very helpful but it was also enlightening to hear the research of other scholars. The standard of the papers was generally excellent. Since the conference has a certain emphasis on Wordsworth, it was particularly interesting and rewarding to hear papers on this important poet that reminded me of the influence of Wordsworth's work on Percy Bysshe Shelley. Listening to the different methodologies and approaches of the papers has also helped me reflect on my own methodology and how to situate myself within the competing approaches of the academic Romantic literature community. In particular, the prevalence of careful and nuanced formalist papers has made me think a little harder about taking a slightly more formalist approach in my own work. Even if I find much to praise, the flaws I perceive in formalist approaches to literature would prevent me from subscribing wholeheartedly to its philosophy and I therefore remain confident in my own current approach as a scholar.
The Wordsworth Conference 2012 was a valuable, worthwhile and fruitful experience
and I am very grateful for the financial support I received in enabling me to attend it. I am confident that this has benefitted my future career.