You Are More Than Just A Graduate Student: Some Thoughts About That Elusive “Work-Life Balance”

Upon suffering a concussion, I found myself in the hospital and attempted to convince the nurse that I was perfectly alright by holding up the copy of Pride and Prejudice that was in my bag and reciting dramatically, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Apparently, recitation of dear Jane is not evidence of a functioning brain (I had a grade two concussion after all). But the point is that even during a moderately traumatic event, literature was one of the first things to pop into my addled head.

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Interview with Atesede Makonnen


Atesede Makonnen is the winner of the 2017 NASSR Graduate Student Paper Prize. She is starting her second year as an English PhD student at Johns Hopkins University (MA in Shakespeare Studies, King’s College London, BA, Dartmouth College). Her research examines performance and race. Her winning paper will be published in the conference issue of European Romantic Review.

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Statements of Interest (2017 Co-Chair Elections)


Madison Chapman (University of Chicago)

I am Madison Chapman, a second year English Literature PhD student at the University of Chicago. I work on British Romanticism (with a focus on poetry) and I also have an interest in the Gothic. My research questions most often emerge from gender and sexuality studies, queer theory and the history of medicine. My decision to become a Romanticist was shaped in part by my experience as an undergrad at NASSR’s 2014 annual conference in Bethesda so now I am interested in expanding my involvement with NASSR. I was overwhelmed by the vivacity of conversations emerging from panel discussions and I was moved to pursue graduate school in order to involve myself in such exciting scholarship.

I believe I am well qualified to serve as a co-chair given my history of maintaining responsibilities through long term academic service commitments. As an undergraduate, I served on multiple departmental committees over two years, and at the University of Chicago I am the Humanities Division Graduate Representative on the Library Student Advisory Council. I currently serve as the co-chair of social activities for my department, I am co-coordinating our 2017 graduate student conference, and I am a regular participant at UChicago’s Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Cultures Workshop. In addition to my specifically academic experiences, I can bring website and event planning skills to this job. I have freelanced for my hometown newspaper for seven years and worked on multiple web and blog-based projects. In my gap year before graduate school, I worked full time in the Career Center at American University where I helped develop marketing plans and maintain web communication for professionalization events. These past experiences will inform my ability to plan the pub night, assist with the NGSC web presence, coordinate the professional roundtable, and liaise with graduate students and faculty mentors. As co-chair, I hope to balance interests in promoting scholarly development for graduate students alongside publicizing professionalization opportunities. NASSR has already played an important role in my own academic journey and I would be thrilled to take on this active role in cultivating a strong graduate student community.

Stephanie Edwards (McMaster University)

My name is Stephanie and I am a first-year PhD student in the department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University. Under the supervision of Dr. David Clark, I completed my MA in English at McMaster as well, writing a thesis that investigates the ways in which Mary Shelley’s final novel, Falkner, engages with the figure of the palimpsest in regards to other texts in Shelley’s oeuvre, within the diegetic of the text itself, and towards larger social and political concerns of women creators in the nineteenth century. I plan to continue my work on the palimpsest during my PhD, using my dissertation to explore how the palimpsest, as a methodology, can create a more generative space to think of, talk about, and listen to the visible minorities of Romanticism. If elected as co-chair, I would like to extend my passion for participating in and supporting open, inclusive spaces to the NGSC and to continue the work of the co-chairs before me of making the NGSC a diverse space to lift up, showcase, and challenge the important work being done by graduate students in our field and beyond.

As a member of the McMaster Graduate Professionalization Committee I have knowledge of what graduate students are interested in learning about, both within and outside of the academy, as well as experience in promoting and running successful professionalization workshops. I have also been a blogger for the NGSC blog for the past year, which I believe shows my commitment and growing interest in the dissemination of our research and pedagogy, and how they relate to and complicate the world we live in today. Additionally, I believe that my background in social media and brand management — while completing my BA at Lakehead University, I worked for three years in the Marketing and Communications department — makes me a unique candidate for this position and would enable me to enhance and increase the NGSC’s online presence. Overall, I am incredibly passionate about engaging with and supporting fellow graduate students and it would be a wonderful experience to be elected as NGSC co-chair and be able to turn that passion into action.

Sarah Faulkner (University of Washington)

Hi everyone, my name is Sarah Faulkner, I’m a fourth-year Ph.D. Candidate in English with a certificate in Textual and Digital Studies at the University of Washington. I’m currently working on a dissertation on Romantic women writers (specifically Jane Porter, alongside Lady Morgan, Maria Edgeworth, Christian Isobel Johnstone, and Susan Ferrier), print culture, and the national-historical novel entitled:  “Authorship and Authenticity: Jane Porter and the Romantic National-Historical Novel.” Building off of the amazing work by NASSR Grads thus far, my hope is to encourage further connection through social media and through connecting interested grads in small cross-university communities to share resources for teaching, conferences, publishing, and the ever-dreaded job market. Possibly even a cohort trivia competition at NASSR next year?

In addition to my studies, I’m the Lead Coordinator of the 18/19C Graduate Research Cluster at the UW, the Organizer of JaneFest 2017, new NASSR Blogger, the out-going Executive Officer of the English Graduate Student Organization, UW in the High School Liaison, Project Coordinator for Rare Books at UW, and the Coordinator for the Mentorship Program for the Second World Congress of Scottish Literature, in addition to teaching 200 level classes at UW. I am passionate about service, connection, and innovation within our field. I enjoy organizing, both social events and hairy logistics, and like wheedling people to come to the things I plan. I hope to serve as a point of connection in a larger web of support for all the incredible Romanticist grads, and to selfishly enjoy meeting all of you.

 Travis Lau (University of Pennsylvania)

I am currently a PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania working at the intersections of the 18th and 19th-century British literature and culture, the history of medicine, and disability studies. My diss project is a literary and cultural history of immunity and vaccination in relation to the rise of the security state and population health. As such, my research and teaching have always been interested in thinking across disciplinary and period lines, and I hope to be able to foster such conversations during my term as co-chair. I think these conversations, especially given our turbulent political climate, need to happen in ways that make our scholarship not only more public but accessible. As a community, NASSR can facilitate this in conference spaces (conference theme, panel design, papers selected and given) but also through digital forums and non-traditional forms of publishing, as well as mentorship among grads and between grads and scholars at different stages of their career.

In the past, I have served as the organizer of Penn’s Restoration-Victorian reading group. I am currently the co-chair of ASECS’ Disability Caucus. Beyond these organizational positions, I serve in a number of editorial roles with publications like The Review of Disability Studies and frequently write for publications geared toward public scholarship like the very recent Medical and Health Humanities organized by one of our, Arden Hegele. I hope to be able to share these kinds of experiences with the NASSR grad student community and work to expand grad voices in the field and beyond.

Caroline Winter (University of Victoria)

As an NGSC Co-Chair, I would help strengthen our community through social media and liaise with the NASSR board to ensure graduate students’ concerns are heard and addressed. I am a PhD Candidate in the English Department at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. My dissertation investigates Romantic Gothic literature in its economic contexts; my other research interests include women’s writing, print culture and book history, and digital humanities. I am starting my second year as the Managing Editor of the NGSC blog, and wrote regularly for the blog for a year before that. I also helped organize and chair the professional development panel at the NASSR conference in Ottawa this past August.


BARS 2017: Romantic Improvement Recap

For this week’s blog post I thought I’d give a recap of our friends at BARS’s annual conference this past July. The theme of the 15th International Conference was “Romantic Improvement,” and was hosted at the gorgeous King’s Manor in York, July 27-30th. Plenary speakers included Catherine Hall, Jane Rendall, Nigel Leask, and Jon Klancher.

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A New Year of Blogging!

Welcome, readers, to a new year of blogging from the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus!

We have an exciting year planned, with some returning bloggers and some new, as well as a number of guest posts. Be sure to check here often for new content and to keep in touch via social media.

NASSR 2017 Daily Recap: Sunday, Aug. 13

Storify Recap

Stephanie Edwards’s Recap

Day four of the conference was, undoubtedly, the most exciting for me since it was the day of my own panel. Before my mid-morning panel, I heard some interesting and unique papers at “The Life of Things.” Brianna Beehler’s paper, “Frankenstein’s Doll: Production Narratives, Animation, and the Novel,” offered a really cool and fresh approach to reading Frankenstein as a doll narrative, with the Creature moving from doll to doll player. As a huge fan of Frankenstein, I was very excited to think about my beloved text in a new way.

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NASSR 2017 Daily Recap: Saturday, Aug. 12

Storify Recap

Stephanie Edwards’ Recap

Day three of the NASSR conference, for me, signaled the beginning of a shift in my conference-going interests. On Friday, I attended the roundtable on Romanticism after Black Lives Matter, a roundtable that I plan to discuss at length in my conference postmortem blog post. What is important in the context of day three, however, is how that roundtable influenced what panels I attended today. I decided this morning that I would attend all (possible) panels that featured a paper on a writer of colour or that dealt with issues of race. This decision not only enriched my overall conference experience but brought forth some of the most engaging papers and Q&A discussions of the week.

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NASSR 2017 Daily Recap: Friday, Aug. 11

Storify Recap

Caroline Winter’s Recap

I started the day by chairing a wonderful panel on Affect and Economics. I was especially excited about this since I’m working on Romantic economics myself. It was lovely to hear about the work that others are doing in this area, and it made me wonder what became of New Economic Criticism? I’ve heard a lot of this kind of criticism pop up in various contexts throughout the conference, but we don’t seem to see it as a coherent strand of criticism, and I’m not sure why.

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NASSR 2017 Daily Recap: Thursday, Aug. 10

Every day during this year’s conference, one or more NASSR grads will post a recap of the day’s events. Many delegates are livetweeting, so we’re also using Storify to capture each day’s highlights.

Storify Recap

Stephanie Edwards’ Recap

As a NASSR conference newbie, my first day of this year’s conference was a haze of drinking coffee, attempting to subtly read nametags, and writing feverishly in my notebook. Above all, though, today provided me with an overwhelming amount of generative and invigorating scholarship and a chance to listen to the exciting new work being done by many Romantic critics who I have admired for a long time. From this morning’s panel, “Plant Love and Vital Sparks: Materialism, Vitalism, and Erasmus Darwin,” in which paper topics ranged from the ambiguity of electricity in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the sexual politics of Blake’s amaryllis, to the panel that closed out my day, “Feeling/Less/Life,” where David Clark, Lubabah R. Chowdhury, and Jonathan C. Williams provided an absolutely fascinating discussion on the aesthetics of death, each panel I attended either increased my interest in an already-familiar branch of scholarship or alerted me to new areas and ideas that left me wanting to spend the night getting cozy with the MLA Bibliography.

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Romanticism’s Microcosms

The Pickering MS, from the

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour”

These opening lines of William Blake’s ‘Auguries of Innocence’ are perhaps the best-known example of the microcosm in Romantic literature. The poem comes from one of Blake’s notebooks, The Pickering Manuscript, where it appears without line breaks (however, these lines are often published as a separate quatrain). It expresses the idea that the beauty, mystery, and totality of the miniature is characteristic of the whole.

The Romantic poets had a special interest in the ordinary for its microcosmic and representational roles in poetry. In his Biographia Literaria, S.T. Coleridge describes poetry as a special kind of composition set apart from works of science by its metric and phonetic structures and designed for the purpose of pleasure. On the whole, poetry produces delight compatible with the gratification produced by each component part, which harmonizes with the other essentials.

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Resources for Graduate Students of Romanticism