‘Pug’s Progress: PhD research leading to an exhibition’ by Stephanie Howard-Smith

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Stephanie Howard-Smith is researching her doctoral dissertation in the English Department at Queen Mary on the cultural history of the lapdog in eighteenth-century Britain. Over the last year, she has also helped to curate an exhibition related to her research entitled ‘Pug’s Progress: William Hogarth and Animals’ at Hogarth’s House museum. This blog post describes some of her experiences while curating the exhibition.

 

images-2‘Pug’s Progress: William Hogarth and Animals’ looks at animal life in early Georgian Britain as depicted in the work of the British artist William Hogarth. Hogarth is famous for his close relationship with his pets, especially a pug called Trump. Hogarth’s House is a historic house museum in Chiswick dedicated to the works of Hogarth, who used it as a country home in the last fifteen years of his life. It also has a gallery that holds temporary exhibitions on Hogarth, local history and local contemporary artists.

 

My intention with the exhibition was to take the animals out of the background of the prints and paintings, and place them in the foreground, as Hogarth did himself in his 1745 self-portrait, The Painter and his Pug. One drawback when exhibiting prints is that the casual visitor may be overwhelmed by a series of similar-sized, monochrome two-dimensional images all positioned at the same height. To break up this monotony, a graphic designer magnified images of animals from other Hogarth prints and these were arranged on the walls (a guide to the original images was also provided by the Chair of the William Hogarth Trust).

 

‘Pug’s Progress’ is divided into four sections; Hogarth’s Pugs, Animals in the Home, Animal Cruelty and Animals in the Street and Field respectively. The first section of the exhibition, which focuses on Hogarth’s relationship with his pug dogs (and the other animals owned by his family), is closely tied to my own research on the cultural history of the lapdog in the eighteenth century – my PhD thesis, ‘The Enlightenment Lapdog’, looks at the representation of lapdogs and lapdog-owners in eighteenth-century literary, visual and material culture.

The Painter and his Pug 1745 William Hogarth 1697-1764 Purchased 1824 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00112
The Painter and his Pug 1745 William Hogarth 1697-1764 Purchased 1824 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00112

220px-cruelty2Hogarth was exceptional among eighteenth-century lapdog owners (both real and fictional) for a variety of reasons. Whereas lapdogs were synonymous with a feminine obsession with luxury and fashion, Hogarth was both male and he purposefully cultivated an unpretentious persona. He was interested in satirising lifestyles associated with lapdog ownership in his prints, showing them to be excessive, luxurious and corrupting. Hogarth’s affection for his pug, Trump, is shown through one of the objects on display; Hogarth’s House was very kindly loaned a souvenir broadside Hogarth had printed with Trump’s name on it when they visited a frost fair held on the frozen Thames in 1740.

 

Hogarth is also well known for his opposition to animal cruelty, which he featured in a major print series called The Four Stages of Cruelty (1751), which argues forcefully that animal abuse leads to violence against humans. As the series was already on display in its entirety elsewhere in Hogarth’s House, we decided not to include it in the exhibition.  In organizing the exhibition, the museum hoped to attract a younger audience, and this was considered too challenging. I was concerned that omitting The Four Stages of Cruelty might be a lacuna in a consideration of Hogarth and images-1animals, as it makes such an important argument for Hogarth. His view was very influential in the late eighteenth-century, and writers discussing animal welfare frequently referred back to Hogarth’s prints. Instead, The Cockpit (1759) is on display next to a pair of eighteenth-century cockspurs. Whereas The Four Stages of Cruelty largely focuses on the cruelty inflicted on animals by poor children and workers, cockfighting was popular among all social classes and Hogarth’s print reflects this.

 

img_3172Hogarth’s focus on animal cruelty was rather radical during his lifetime, but so too was the manner in which he approached animals in his work generally. He was mocked for positioning Trump in front of his self-portrait-within-a-self-portrait in The Painter and his Pug. Hogarth was perhaps the first British artist to really interest himself in animals – Stubbs only published his first horse anatomy drawings a few years after Hogarth’s death. I hoped that the exhibition would satisfy visitors who find animal history interesting, as well as others who might be surprised how tracing the lives of dairy cattle, pet monkeys or dancing bears in eighteenth-century Britain could shine a light on aspects of Hogarth’s art and its historical context.

 

The exhibition is open until Sunday the 16th of October. Entry is free.

For more information visit: http://www.hounslow.info/arts-culture/historic-houses-museums/hogarth-house

All images are copyright of the rights owner and are used here for educational purposes only.

Being Human Festival 2016 Programme Announced

The full programme for Being Human Festival led by University of London’s School of Advanced Study has been announced and is available to peruse to your heart’s content here.

We’ve picked out a few events that caught our eye and feature some of our School of English and Drama connections:

 

 

queen-mary-university-of-london-no-feedbackNo Feedback

People’s Palace Projects is a partner on this one…

Saturday 19 November | 18.00–19.30

No Feedback is a theatrical event highlighting the gentle pull of discrimination that tears at the fabric of everyday life. Giving an insight into human nature, it is set against the backdrop of catastrophes both historic and contemporary. By taking Genocide Watch’s groundbreaking research as the backbone of the production, No Feedback intelligently and sensitively asks audiences to consider their own place on the spectrum of how we relate to one another. Come and play your part in this new kind of theatre experience.

More info and book online here

 

 

queen-mary-university-of-london-spitalfields-winter-1892_a-guided-walkSpitalfields, winter 1892: a guided walk

Led by SED’s Dr Nadia Valman

Sunday 20 November | 16:00–17:45

Novels have a particular power to conjure the past life of a place and to make us alert to the traces of the past that are still visible all around us. See Spitalfields in a new light through the eyes of bestselling Victorian writer Israel Zangwill and his closely observed novel Children of the Ghetto. Explore the neighbourhood with the ‘Zangwill’s Spitalfields’ walking tour app created by Dr Nadia Valman with the Jewish Museum, London and Soda Ltd. This app brings together archive sources including photographs, documents and digitised objects from the Jewish Museum to create an immersive experience of the lively and fraught milieu of Jewish immigrant life in Victorian Spitalfields. Hear about the making of the app and sample its content on the streets of east London in this guided walk.

More info and book online here

 

 

queen-mary-the-museum-of-the-normalThe museum of the normal

Includes SED’s Dr Tiffany Watt Smith is presenting a talk entitled: ‘Blending in: The Lost Art of Disappearing’

Thursday 24 November | 18.00–21.00

From angst-ridden teenage letters to agony aunts to concerned posts in online parenting forums, it’s clear that as a society we are haunted by a fear of being labelled abnormal. But who gets to define what’s normal? Is it really something to aspire to? And is worrying about ‘being normal’ normal? At this drop-in late event at Bart’s Pathology Museum, led by the Queen Mary Centre for the History of the Emotions, visitors will enter the ‘land of the abnormal’: a pop-up museum of games, talks and performances addressing different aspects of the history of normality. Expect lost emotions, historical psychometric tests, themed refreshments, history of medicine talks and guided tours of the ‘museum of the normal’.

More info and book online here

 

 

See the full programme here

or why not read the curator’s highlights here

#NationalPoetryDay – Win a Place in SED History

Today, Thursday 6th October is National Poetry Day and we’re celebrating the literary form with a competition on Twitter that could make your words part of SED history.

Simply tweet us a poem with the hashtag #SEDrhymetime and your poem could be printed, framed and put somewhere special in the School.

More details on Twitter here

 

Here’s 3 more ways you can engage with the day:

  1. Check out Time Out’s guide to #NationalPoetryDay events today.
  2. Visit the Poetry Library in the Southbank Centre.
  3. Search for what’s happening near you on the National Poetry Day website here

 

We teach a variety of Poetry modules within these programmes:

3 Book Launches Coming Up including Star Trek: The Human Frontier

Here’s a quick round up of some of the book launches coming up in autumn 2016 within our School and beyond…

Star Trek: The Human Frontier by Michele Barrett & Duncan Barrett

Thursday 8 September – Charterhouse Square, London EC1

RSVP here

Our very own Professor Michèle Barrett with her son Duncan Barrett is launching an updated version of Star Trek: The Human Frontier a study of humanity through the lens of the popular TV and film series.

 

‘Star Trek has been subject to a lot of scrutiny by literary and cultural critics … The bad conscience that many have about serious discussion of popular culture means that Star Trek can still be read simplistically, as a stalking-horse for denouncing the modernity of the American century. The Barretts are more subtle. A television series is a product of a variety of creators and so, inevitably, a rich complex of signs, hints and idealisms. There is no final reading of Star Trek, just an endless journey.’

–          Book of the Day, The Independent

Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion by Professor Gareth Stedman Jones

Tuesday 4 October from 6.30pm – ArtsTwo Lecture Theatre, QMUL Mile End Campus

Book a free ticket here

Our friends in the School of History are hosting a book launch with their tutor Professor Stedman Jones’ (author of this new Marx biography) joining Dr Tristram Hunt MP (author of a recent biography of Friedrich Engels) to debate around the issues raised in the book.

 

Urban Music and Entrepreneurship: Beats, Rhymes and Young People’s Enterprise by Joy White

Wednesday 19 October – Bow Arts Centre

Book a free ticket here

A local launch of a key study in grime music and its related enterprise as a key component of the urban music economy at the lovely Bow Arts Centre.

 

Did we miss a book launch? Please drop us an email and we’ll add in.

English Professor Isabel Rivers elected a fellow of the prestigious Ecclesiastical History Society

Isabel Rivers, Professor of Eighteenth-Century English Literature and Culture in the School of English and Drama, has been elected a Fellow of the Ecclesiastical History Society.

The Society’s aims are to foster interest in, and to advance the study of, all areas of the history of the Christian Churches. The number of Fellows is strictly limited to twenty-five of the world’s leading experts in the field. Professor Rivers has been recognised by the Society for her energetic commitment to eighteenth-century religious history throughout her career.

Professor Rivers has worked at Queen Mary for 12 years and recently helped to establish The Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature in English.

She said:

‘It is a great honour to have been elected a member of the Society, alongside world-famous theologians and religious historians including Peter Brown (Princeton), Diarmaid MacCulloch (Oxford), and Rowan Williams (Cambridge). My research is interdisciplinary, and focuses on literature and religion, intellectual and religious history, and the history of the book in the long eighteenth century.’

Find out more about Isabel’s research

George Oliver Readshaw from QMTC on Monkhouse at the Edinburgh Fringe

Monkhouse is one of four shows on its way to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with the Queen Mary Theatre Company.

We caught up with George Oliver Readshaw to talk about creating the show and the build up to the festival thus far…

If you’re not up at the fringe be sure to reserve a ticket for the preview happening on Friday 5 August at 7pm.


Tell us about Monkhouse the show you’re taking up to the Edinburgh Fringe for 2016? What will an audience experience?

Monkhouse is a one-room-whodunnit-thriller-black-comedy-1960s-period-piece-theatrical-slap-in-the-face. It follows six horrible cockney kids hiding from an unknown gunman in their school gym.

While writing the script and compiling ideas it was incredibly important to me that this was a one hour show squeezed into 45 minutes. Our slot at the Edinburgh Fringe is exactly one hour, and they are very strict, so that includes getting the audience (hopefully in their thousands) seated, getting all the props and set ready after the previous show, and then vice versa. So really we have 45 minutes tops to get a show done. That’s not very long. So it’s vital that the audience can laugh, cry and generally live every moment as much as they can and as quickly as they can. So an audience can expect a super-charged, high tempo assault on their senses. That said, I’m a big fan of the theatrical ‘pause’, so we’ve made time for a few of those too.

 

What’s been the biggest thing you’ve learned so far in preparing for the Edinburgh fringe?

Research. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Be it promotional material, costume design, voice, lexicon, where one wears one’s trousers, the past is a different country and details are vital. We’ve played fast and loose with a couple of things, but we are really trying to create an authentic 1960s London aesthetic. The world of the play has to be compelling and true as well as sexy and cool, and the research side, as tedious as it can be, is so so important to any piece.

 

How do you think being in the QMTC helps your future career?

Immeasurably. I’m lucky enough to be continuing my studies at drama school this September and I know I would never be anywhere near that were it not for the opportunities offered by QMTC. Our university has a deservedly well renowned reputation for its drama department, and the plethora of performance styles that you are exposed to here is just phenomenal. I’ve seen my friends doing all sorts on stage, and the talent that lies here at QM is pretty inspiring. I’ve been involved in plays by Terrence Rattigan, Edward Albee, Sondheim, Shakespeare and most importantly some supremely talented writers and directors who are students just like me. This is kind of what it’s about really. Making plays with your mates. I would say that QMTC has put me exactly where I want to be.

 

Tell us about your time at Queen Mary and how you came to study with us. What have been your highlights so far studying drama at Queen Mary?

Well I am actually an English student but in honesty have spent the vast majority of my university life in the Pinter Studio. Basically all of it. I should pay rent there. But my highlights have been my experiences at the Edinburgh Fringe. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in two really interesting and funny fringe shows, both with fantastic people, all of whom are big friends of mine still. It’s such a great thing that QM offers, you get to take something that you have made and show it to the wider world at the biggest arts festival on the planet. Plus it’s the biggest party on the planet.

 

Find out how to book tickets for the Monkhouse London preview

Find out more about the Queen Mary Theatre Company

‘A Tempest in Rio’ Documentary is now on BBC iPlayer

English Professor Jerry Brotton has written and presented a BBC documentary about Shakespeare in Brazil in the run up to the Rio Olympics this year.

 

Listen online here

 

or Watch a Preview…

 

Here’s the blurb from the BBC iPlayer Page:

 

On the eve of the Olympics, Shakespeare’s mix of sex, politics and intrigue plays out in Rio. 400 years after Shakespeare’s death, his plays have come to Brazil and are being played to packed houses in front of enthralled audiences who respond instinctively to their passionate mix of political corruption, violence, sex, death and the supernatural.

This summer, a unique collaboration between international directors, academics and Brazilian actors has brought one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, The Tempest – in which he writes about the ‘brave new world’ of the Americas – to Rio de Janeiro.

This programme hears from Suellen Carvalho, who will play Miranda in The Tempest. High in the hills overlooking Copacabana she explains how she turned her back on the drug gangs to take up Shakespearean acting. Her brother was killed in gang warfare and so her family has suffered from the violence that plagues the city of Rio. It was Shakespeare that helped her escape. “I thought the language of Shakespeare was very difficult at first”, she says, “But when I heard Shakespeare being spoken by black actors from the favelas (shanty towns) of Rio then it’s another language. I thought, I can do that too.”

For Suellen it has been an extraordinary journey. As a black actress she had no hope of playing the part that she saw as exclusively for white performers. “When I was told I would play Miranda I was amazed! Black actors in Brazil are normally given the roles of the house servant, prostitute or drug dealer.”

Photos from SED Graduation 2016

Here’s a quick message from our head of School Markman Ellis on our Graduation day 2016:

And now some candid pics from graduation…

Graduation 2016

Tweet us @QMULsed or email sed-web@qmul.ac.uk and we’ll add your ones to the album.

Humans of the SED: Bridget Escolme, Part I – Authenticity in Early Modern Drama

I am constantly surprised at how old-fashioned some newspaper reviewers are. I’ve done a few cuts of Shakespeare texts, as a dramaturg, and with Hamlet it’s great because there are different versions of it printed in Shakespeare’s time, so you can use 400 year old editions of the play to help you cut it. One of Hamlet’s soliloquies is only there in one text, and because the director I was working with wanted a shorter version, that was one of the easy ones to cut. The Daily Telegraph reviewer was outraged! But given one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries thought it was all right one soliloquy down, I thought we could cut it if we liked! (And Shakespeare’s dead, so he won’t know…)

Bridget Escolme

Quite a lot of reviewers have a strictly realist idea of what theatre should be like. The idea that you can’t have in early modern performances people of different racial backgrounds, different ages, different sexes, seems daft to me. If you want to be really literal, you’d have to have to cast Measure for Measure with Viennese actors only. Those plays were made for an all male company, and no one cried: “What’s that young man doing playing that young woman?”. The actors told the story; women weren’t allowed on stage, so you told the story using men. Each casting is going to produce different meanings, and that’s fascinating.

The only claim for authenticity that I would make for cross-casting is that the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries were created for what we might now think of as highly meta-theatrical spaces. They weren’t made for theatres in which you sat in the dark and shut up apart from the odd laugh, and peered into a space that was pretending to be real. These were spaces where everyone could see each other, whether by daylight or candlelight, and the actor could just turn around and talk to the audience. So the idea that somehow the actor would erase his presence as an actor is quite silly; at the Globe reconstruction today, too, if an actor were to talk to him or herself for too long, it would seem odd and dull – , because the audience are palpably there.

Humans of the SED: Martha (BA Drama), Part 2

Humans of the SED (HotSED) is our new series of interviews with the School’s students, alums, and staff. Here’s part two of our interview with BA Drama finalist, Martha.  Click here to read part one.

Best in Bow

It’s really clichéd, but having the wealth of stuff and people and culture at my fingertips has been really valuable. But also I honestly feel like I’ve grown up so much since coming to uni, thanks to being in London.

Roman Road is my all-time favourite place in the world. I don’t think I’ll ever leave Bow. I think I’ve found my place to live now. I actually love it. It’s at the start of its regeneration process, but it’s still really, really rough and ready.

There’s a lot of locals, and a lot of OAPs, which is actually really refreshing to see, and they’re just going about their daily lives. But then you can be sitting in a nice coffee shop eating non-gluten cake on your Mac, and you look outside and there’s local people going about their daily life, which is really nice. I don’t think you get that in London any more. I feel I live in a real place. And whenever I walk down Roman Road, there’s a real sense of community, because people have lived there all their lives.

I don’t want to move from there, but it’s only going to get more expensive.

I think Bow could have a more village-y vibe than Dalston. There’s a lot of cafes popping up, and funny little gift shops. Which I’m a little bit opposed to, but I also shop in them, so I can’t be that opposed to them.

Martha RumneyFuture

I’m definitely going to do a Masters. It was last year, I just realised – as soon as we had a break, like Christmas or Summer – I realised that I feel a bit lost without academia. I just quite like learning.

I don’t know if I’d do a Masters in Drama; I’m thinking I might do a Masters in Anthropology, like Social Anthropology. Because I think people are really interesting.

I’d love to do work in the theatrical environment, but with communities that are underprivileged. I want to make theatre a little more accessible, which sounds like a really huge aim, but I think by taking theatre out into communities and not branding it so much as ‘theatre’, we can do a lot. And by doing a Social Anthropology Masters I feel like I’d be more well-rounded to do that.

If I do a Masters or a PhD, I’d be interested in going to Goldsmiths, or maybe a different uni, to get a different identity. Because I think if you stay at the same university forever, you become a Queen Mary person, or you become a wherever person.

I do love it here; I’d either do my Masters here, then do a PhD somewhere else, or do a Masters somewhere else then come back here.

Employment

I have a real issue with the gender pay gap, which actually started in a module at uni, with Julia Bardsley – I did research into the pay gaps in lots of different industries, and also in university environments, especially the University of London, which was very eye-opening.

I think the main thing for me, as I’m on the cusp of going into the real world: the thought of not being paid as much because I’m a woman when I’m doing the same job as someone else makes me really, really angry. I think that’s such an injustice, and one that’s incredibly current.

Of course, women’s rights have really improved, but it’s one thing letting women have careers, but it’s another thing not paying them enough to support their families and to be able to live the same life as a man. I don’t understand how it’s okay.

In theory, I wouldn’t work for an employer who paid women less than men. But in practice, how do you find that out? Because wages are confidential. But if I did find out, I’d certainly have something to say about it.

Humans of the SED: Martha (BA Drama), Part I

Humans of the SED (HotSED) is our new series of interviews with the School’s students, alums, and staff. First up BA Drama finalist, Martha.  

First memories of QM

Probably arriving into Albert Stern, which is where I lived in first year, and it was a massive house. It’s really different from every other hall, and just the sheer amount of people that would say hi to you.

You’d get the same three questions every time: “Hi, what’s your name?, what do you study?, and where do you come from?” it was really boring. And by the end of it, do you know what, I was making things up.

I loved Albert Stern. All my best friends are from there now, loved it.

Dogs of War Theatre Company

I founded – with David Loumgair – the Dogs of War Theatre Company. It’s going really well. We did an Othello adaptation called Not What I Am: Iago was a woman. Then we did a community thing in Stanley Halls in Croydon, where we got verbatim bits from the community.

We set it up so we could have more vocational skills that we developed ourselves, and because I’m interested in providing opportunities for young people.

It is a massive challenge. Because we do all the logistical stuff ourselves, which you don’t learn at uni.

Now we’ve been R&D-ing our new show, pencilled in with VAULT in November. We recently applied to Arts Council England, but unfortunately didn’t get the money; but we’ve given ourselves enough time to reapply. We’ve had some fantastic advice from the Arts Council: we’ve found them so, so helpful.

We had a rehearsed reading two nights ago, and one of the girls who was reading for a part met a very famous scientologist who’s friends with Tom Cruise. And he said “Do you want a sponsor?” ‘Cos their billionaires. So we’re like “Yes”.

We may be converted to scientology. Is it worth it for my craft?
Martha (BA Drama)

Sunglasses

I always wear sunglasses on my head, and people always say it’s really stupid. It also helps push my hair back, but I argue it’s only just September, and everyone’s saying we’re going to have an Indian Summer, so basically, I’m being prepared. For life.

I’m not a fashionista. Definitely not. Absolutely no. I’ve been asked this recently by someone.  I’m not anything. I’m definitely not a hipster. I think I’m just…I don’t know. Does one have to put a label on oneself?

Video: Digital Humanities Lecture – Jonathan Hope, ‘Books in space: hyper-dimensional reading’

On April 29th 2015, Professor Jonathan Hope (Strathclyde) delivered our Annual Digital Humanities Lecture on ‘Books in space: hyper-dimensional reading’. The lecture can be watched in full below:

Digital tools allow us to ‘read’ vastly more text than any human could manage in a lifetime. They also allow us to make comparisons between texts, genres, and periods based on projections of those books into multi-dimensional spaces. Some have hailed the advent of ‘culturomics’ – but what kind of ‘reading’ is this, and how can we ‘read’ spaces which are beyond the imaginative capacity of human minds? I’ll consider the promise, and the opportunities, of digital methods applied to large collections of texts – and I’ll also consider how these tools and methods might change the nature of our object of study. Most of my examples will be drawn from Shakespeare and the Early Modern period.

Jonathan Hope is Professor of Literary Linguistics at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. His research has consistently attempted to bring insights and techniques from linguistics to bear on literature. He has published Shakespeare’s Grammar, a systematic descriptive grammar of Shakespeare’s language, aimed at editors and literary scholars, and Shakespeare and Language, which represents the next step in this process, as it attempts to historicise concepts of language (now and in Shakespeare’s time).

In the Digital Humanities, he has been working since 2003 collaboratively with Michael Witmore and researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in experimenting with the use of a computerised text analysis program, Docuscope, on Shakespeare’s texts. In 2012, he was invited by the Folger Shakespeare Library to direct a Summer Institute in Digital Humanities, funded by the NEH. The Institute brought together 20 Renaissance scholars, at varying stages of their careers, and with varying amounts of digital humanities experience, to the Folger for three weeks, to work with an outstanding group of visiting faculty on the practicalities and, most importantly, the theorisation of digital humanities in research into the Renaissance. The second iteration of this Institute will take place summer 2015.

His project, Visualising English Print brings together computer scientists and literary scholars as partners. It will break new ground in computational science, developing new techniques that better support humanist thinking. They aim to innovate in the literary sphere, showing how the introduction of computational thinking and the new tools they develop for applying it can be used to lead to new understandings of literature, language, and their development.

Tips from Prize-Winners

We are delighted to announce that three of our academics have recently been recognised in the QMSU’s Teaching Awards. Dr Natalie Pollard won the Postgraduate Teaching Award (for her teaching on the MA module ‘Forms of Modernism’); Professor Julia Boffey won the Postgraduate Research Supervisor of the Year Award; and Dr Sam McBean won the Assessment and Feedback Champion Award.

Here, the three prize winners give their top tips for success:

Dr Natalie Pollard (on what makes for an effective MA class)

  • Interpretation, critique and dialogue as live interaction – not lonely brow-scratching! Complex ideas are read together as part of everyday life, and the social stakes of what we say and do. ​
  • A space of intellectual and creative risk-taking – of ‘serious play!’ – where learning is mutual and surprising.
  • Most important of all is the good – the really good – conversation.

Dr Sam McBean (on what makes good feedback)

  • Point to the strengths

I always try to start my feedback by summarizing for the student what I got from their piece – what the argument was, what points were made. I think it is important to let students know what stands out about their work and what they’ve managed to most clearly convey to their reader. Sometimes we might think of feedback as constructive criticism but it is just as important to outline what a piece of writing has achieved. From my experience, students respond to reading what it is that was successful about their writing and this helps them to model their future assignments on what has worked in the past.

  • There’s always room for improvement

No assignment is perfect! And it shouldn’t be. Students who score a 2:2 should get clear feedback on what they need to do to reach that 2:1; students who score a 2:1 should be able to understand what they need to do to get that 1st; and students who get a 1st should get feedback on how to edge their work into MA level or even towards publication. In my feedback I always try to give clear pointers on how a piece’s strengths might be brought out. For example, while I try to explain what might not have worked as well, I also often tell students where certain parts of their writing edged into a higher grade point. This gives them clear direction on not only what was less successful but also examples from their own work of what could be developed into stronger future work.

  • The feedback is in the detail

Students are always told to “evidence” their claims in their work – close reading, close reading, close reading! I think the same applies to lecturers when it comes to feedback. I always try to evidence my feedback by pointing to particular examples in students’ work, being clear about what I think works or where improvements could be made. Just like I tell my students to avoid vague language in their work, I try to aim for clarity in my feedback. It is through attention to detail that I think students can really achieve an understanding of their grade and the ability to work towards improving their critical writing skills.

Professor Julia Boffey (on what makes an effective PGR Supervisor)

  • Work *with* students to find and shape a worthwhile topic that will interest both them and you, and will enable them to play to their strengths
  • Keep in touch with them, even (perhaps especially?) during periods when they may not be producing written work for discussion
  • Keep them thinking about life beyond the PhD, as well as about completing it (what will they want to do next? how best can they be preparing for this during the PhD? what kinds of contacts/activities/training will help them prepare for what comes next?)

You can read more about the QMSU Teaching awards on their website.