CAL UGRS projects: EDACS

Here you can find out about the UG Research Scholarship projects that were offered by academics in the School of English, Drama and Creative Studies for summer 2019.


100 Years of The Sheik

Scholar's post-project blog post

Project Proposer/s: Amy Burge and Deborah Longworth

The project centres around research activity for the centenary of the publication of E. M. Hull’s The Sheik, one of the most influential popular romance novels ever published. The project is connected to a special issue and symposium in September 2019. 

It comprises three main lines of research:

  1. First, the project will explore the contemporary reception of The Sheik as represented in specialised archives. The scholarship holder will collate and research correspondence between M&B and its authors, a selection of editions of the novel, and the ways in which these were produced and publicised to gain a unique perspective of the novel’s reception by industry peers.
  2. Second, it will involve interviewing authors and editors who write contemporary sheikh romance to explore developments and new directions in romance fiction in the 21st century. The project-holder will develop interview questions, conduct the interviews, and transcribe these for inclusion in the special issue, being listed as a primary author.
  3. Third, the project-holder will co-host the September symposium, gaining valuable experience of conference organisation. 

What the researcher will do  

The undergraduate researcher will undertake the following activities:

  1. Conduct a series of interviews with authors and editors of popular romance to be transcribed and published in a special issue of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies.
  2. Examine early copies of The Sheik at the British Library. There will be a specific focus on the novel, although the UGR scholar will also be encouraged to explore other related case studies of their own interest, as materials arise.
  3. Play a significant role in editing the special issue of JPRS.
  4. Write a blog post on The Sheik: Then and Now for the Department’s Popular Fiction blog:
  5. Following the end of the scholarship period, the student will be invited to co-host the symposium on The Sheik in September 2019 and to present their work as part of a student panel.

Skills required by the Scholarship holder - emphasise any particular subject or disciplinary knowledge that the project requires and at what level (e.g. basic knowledge of...). This is particularly important if you require language skills. 

The undergraduate researcher will be expected to possess: 

  1. A strong work ethic and the ability to work independently.
  2. Excellent attention to detail in transcription.
  3. Confidence in interviewing and talking with writers and industry professionals.
  4. Excellent organizational skills.
  5. Strong command of academic English and MS Word.
  6. A lively interest in popular romance fiction. 

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder? 

This project is ideal for English Literature students intending to take either the ‘Guilty Pleasures’ or ‘Arab Muslim Women’s Popular Fiction’ special option modules in their third year, or with an interest in the romance genre, women’s writing, feminist literary criticism or the history of the book within the concept of mass market publishing.

  • The scholarship holder will gain first-hand experience of collating, transcribing, documenting, and analysing correspondence, as well as with interviewing, small conference organizing and presenting research findings. This will help them to enhance their final year study, and to support future research at UG and potentially PG level.
  • The scholarship holder will gain experience disseminating their work to different kinds of audience (the public, academics, authors, industry specialists). This is a transferable skill but might also be of particular interest to students considering a career in teaching, academia or publishing/editing.
  • The academic leads on the project will offer strong mentor support for the scholarship holder, both during the project period and over the student’s final year. We see the research for this project as collaborative, and are keen to support the particular interests that the scholarship holder themselves might bring to the project, and ideas they might have for further research. Beyond simply gaining a strong knowledge of the specific research focus, however, we hope to help the student develop transferable skills relevant to their broader academic, career and personal development. 

How will the Scholarship benefit your Project?

This work will offer important research support for the special issue and symposium, directly providing new research and teaching resources in popular romance, gender, and Orientalism. This is a unique and prestigious publication and event and collaborating with an undergraduate researcher will enhance the project in its scope and depth.

Supported from the outset by relevant training and mentorship, it offers an example of student-led research-based learning and the ways in which this can feed into teaching and support peer-learning on the module, alongside and in synergy with the production of published research and by the academic leads.

William and Dorothy Wordsworth’s Correspondence

Scholar's post-project blog post

Project Proposer/s: Jessica Fay

Project Summary

William Wordsworth is the central literary figure of the Romantic period and his collaboration with Samuel Taylor Coleridge—focused around Lyrical Ballads (1798)—continues to receive much scholarly attention. Yet from 1803 onwards, Wordsworth developed a close personal friendship with the amateur painter, collector, and (soon-to-be) co-founder of the National Gallery, Sir George Beaumont. Wordsworth described this friendship with as ‘one of the blessings of [his] life’; from 1815 onwards, Beaumont was the dedicatee of Wordsworth’s collected poetical works and he produced various paintings that were printed as frontispieces to Wordsworth’s publications. This project will make available for the first time an archive of letters from Sir George and Lady Beaumont to William and Dorothy Wordsworth, demonstrating how this friendship grew into an important, mutually influential, collaboration between poet and painter. 

What the researcher will do

  • Working with digital copies of the manuscripts, the undergraduate scholar will check the accuracy of the transcriptions, noting any errors and flagging up inconsistencies.
  • The scholar will transcribe a small number of letters sent from Lady Beaumont to Wordsworth’s wife, Mary.
  • The scholar will work closely with The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967-1993), noting moments of cross-reference
  • The scholar will perform a small amount of research into the biographies of the artists, poets, journalists, and politicians mentioned in the letters.
  • The scholar will assist in the compilation and checking of the bibliography.   

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

  • Sharp, accurate skills in word-processing and navigating digital databases.
  • A sharp eye for identifying detail in individual texts and comparatively.
  • Some basic knowledge of early nineteenth-century (Romantic) literature would be an advantage but is not necessary. 
  • Some interest in developing skills in palaeography (deciphering handwriting).   
  • The ability to work independently and committedly within the framework of a larger project. 

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder? 

  • The scholar will learn about the decisions and processes involved in an editorial project. 
  • The scholar will gain a wide variety of detailed knowledge of early nineteenth-century literature, culture, and society – which will be of significant benefit when pursuing any Romantic-period Special Options or dissertation topics.
  • The scholar will develop skills in navigating the important digital archive of manuscripts held by the Wordsworth Trust.
  • The scholar will develop the ability to keep meticulous, comprehensive records and to produce an accurate extended bibliography – which will be vitally important when it comes to writing an undergraduate dissertation. 

War and Anti-War: theatrical responses to the First World War 1916-1932

Scholar's post-project blog post

Project Proposer/s: David Griffith

Project Summary

‘War and Anti-War’ is part of an ongoing research project exploring contemporary responses to the First World War in the British theatre. It will consider plays written during the war that express anti-war or pacifist opinion and post-war plays that present the horrors of warfare and its impact on soldiers and their families. In stark contrast to the successes of plays like Journey’s End, the plays of interest here were received with scepticism and hostility; many had short runs, some were refused licences.

Using the theatre archive in the University’s Cadbury Research Library (CRL) and the Lord Chamberlain’s Plays collection in the British Library, the scholar will work with the academic lead to improve our understanding of these (unconventional) responses to the war and its aftermath. Plays to be researched include those written for regional theatres, including the Birmingham Rep, and work by established playwrights like O’Casey and Somerset Maugham.

What the researcher will do

  • Contribute to an existing timeline of First World War subjects in commercial and non-commercial theatrical productions between 1916 and 1932
  • identify and collate relevant theatrical reviews and associated materials from CRL collections (Guidance / training on the use of archival material will be provided.)
  • identify and transcribe relevant materials from the Lord Chamberlain’s archive of dramatic texts and theatrical productions in the British Library, London
  • present research finding in appropriate formats (in line with the UGRS guidelines)

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

A demonstrable interest in WW1 literature, and/or early C20 theatre history; an ability to work independently on agreed tasks; attention to detail; highly developed organisation skills and an ability to meet deadlines; excellent written English. 

Note: the scholar will need work on campus for at least part of the project and may need to consult material in the British Library in London.

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

The Scholarship holder will:

  • acquire subject-specific knowledge relating to level H modules in EDACS, e.g. ‘Remembering WW1’
  • conduct archive work in major library collections (independently and with the academic lead)
  • gain hands-on experience of planning and developing a significant research project
  • acquire and develop specific and generic research skills, e.g. in the development of presentation / IT skills and in the use of critical and scholarly resources and materials.

Acquisition and development of these skills would hugely benefit any student considering PG research.

The English Constructicon: a new resource for teaching and learning

Project Proposer/s: Florent Perek & Amanda Patten

Project Summary

We are currently preparing for the creation of a new resource for the learning, teaching, and general description of English grammar. The English Constructicon is envisioned as a novel database that describes the building blocks of English sentences in a maximally transparent way avoiding specialist terminology, accessible via an interactive web interface. The database will be built from actual language usage (as attested by linguistic corpora) and is aimed to include full lists of the words occurring in each documented grammatical construction, with information about their meaning and context of use, and authentic examples. This large-scale project is expected to have multiple applications both in itself and for further research, and to offer a new way to describe the grammar of English that is aimed to make a mark in the field of English language teaching. 

What the researcher will do 

The undergraduate researcher will support the project by contributing data to the English Constructicon and providing administrative support to the project leads. This chiefly includes:

  • Searching corpora (i.e., linguistic databases) for examples of words used in particular constructions, and entering these examples into the database.
  • Annotating some of the data necessary to create entries for grammatical constructions, for example regarding the meaning of words used in these constructions.
  • Provide administrative support to the project, notably relating to the planning and organisation of preliminary dissemination and reach-out activities with schools and other institutions involved with English teaching, if the opportunity arises.

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

  • Basic knowledge of standard computer tools, in particular spreadsheet software.
  • Web searches and literature searches.
  • Ability to work independently, take initiatives and come up with creative solutions.

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

This project offers an opportunity to:

  • Familiarise yourself with tools and methods to search, manage and annotate linguistic data, which can be applied to other projects both in the industry and in academia
  • Practice the ability to identify patterns in the data.
  • Experience being part of a large-scale linguistic project. The undergraduate researcher will be involved as closely and actively as possible with the research that we are conducting. 

Accents in children’s audiobooks

Scholar's post-project blog post

Project Proposer/s: Dr Suganthi John

Project Summary

Extensive research exists on accents and attitudes towards accents in the field of sociolinguistics. This project investigates an under researched area of accent studies - accents in children's audiobooks. Children's audiobooks, particularly for the 5-8 year old market, is a growing market for publishers and increasing numbers of parents use audiobooks as a way to encourage children to read.

Audiobooks of children's stories often involve a number of different characters - a narrator and a number of other characters. Quite often, children's stories have 'good' characters and 'bad' characters and this study will focus on how accents are used to represent the different actors and their characteristics. A related, but important issue the project will explore is whether accent stereotypes (identified in previous research) exist in these audiobooks. 

The findings for the study will be reported in the form of a lecture and a series of seminar activities which the UG scholar will help to develop. The lecture and seminar activities will be featured in the module 'Language Acquisition and Literacy' which is being offered in the autumn semester.

What the researcher will do

The researcher will:

  • Identify suitable audiobook collections (e.g. The Roald Dahl series; The Julia Donaldson series) for investigation
  • Select a representative series of stories (within the different collections) to investigate
  • Read appropriate literature, transcribe the stories, analyse the data, highlight key findings 
  • Create a lecture (50 minutes) and a series of seminar activities for one session on the 2nd year module 'Language Acquisition and Literacy'

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

It is particularly important that the researcher is able to transcribe effectively. Having completed the module 'Sounds, structures and words' and\or English Phonetics and Phonology' will be an advantage. An interest in children's literature is also important.

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

The scholarship holder will benefit in the following ways:

  • enhance research skills: selection of appropriate data, analysis and findings
  • hone specific linguistic skills - phonetic transcription, understanding of phonology
  • preparation of an output which is related to teaching: this will enhance the student's ability to make research  accessible to a wider audience, an essential employability skill. 

Other Chaucers: The intertextual Canterbury Tales

Scholar's post-project blog post

Project Proposer/s: Dr Olivia (Liv) Robinson

Project Summary 

This project supports and enhances the delivery of the Undergraduate 2nd Year Histories Module The Canterbury Tales by investigating the ways in which some key Tales were reimagined and recreated, both during Chaucer’s own lifetime and in the present day.  You’ll have the opportunity to explore how and why particular Tales have been retold – poetically, but also on film and on the stage - and you’ll work with Liv to produce a set of resources to guide future second-year students on the Canterbury Tales module through your research questions, processes and findings.  (The format of these resources will be designed collaboratively between you and Liv.)   You’ll choose at least one of the Tales you focus on, so that you can build on your own interests. You’ll develop your own research plan (with Liv’s support); and you’ll also undertake some independent archival work at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.  

What the researcher will do

The material to be researched will fall into three areas:

1)    Other medieval Canterbury Tales.  Starting with the Wife of Bath’s Tale, you’ll read and research some different medieval retellings of the particular stories told by two of Chaucer’s pilgrims, thinking about what differences and similarities you notice and why they might be important. (One of the two narratives will be the Wife of Bath’s Tale and you may choose the other if you wish; Liv will guide you with some bibliography).

2)    The BBC Canterbury Tales (2003)You’ll watch footage of relevant adaptations undertaken by the BBC and you’ll compare the retellings with Chaucer’s versions, in order to create a list of key moments in the adaptations, and core critical questions around those moments.   (You can choose, if you like, to focus on the same two tales that you covered for point 1.)

3)    The RSC Canterbury Tales (2005-6).  You’ll search for the available archival material on the 2006 RSC stage production of the Canterbury Tales, and you’ll visit the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust archive to investigate this material (which might include costume logs, images, rehearsal or performance footage, prompt books, scripts…). Again, you’ll be asking yourself how the RSC stage adaptation creatively reworked Chaucer’s version of the Tales, and what key critical questions it raised through that process. 

The final phase of the project will be to create one or more teaching resources using the material you have uncovered, to help future students on the module to explore these questions. 

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

  • Essential: The scholarship holder EITHER needs to have completed (and enjoyed!) the Canterbury Tales Histories module, OR to have some prior familiarity with Middle English literature in the original language via a different module: some prior experience of reading texts in Middle English is essential for this project.  
  • Essential: Enthusiasm for and interest in medieval literature and culture, esp. Chaucer.
  • Essential: Teamwork and communication skills
  • Essential: Care and precision in taking notes and writing research up
  • Essential: Good communication skills: clear and precise written prose; good oral communication skills
  • Desirable: An interest in film and/or theatre
  • Desirable: An interest in creative writing

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder

  • You’ll be able to take your existing interest in Chaucer further, choosing at least one Tale of your own to specialise in.
  • You’ll have the opportunity to undertake independent and guided archival research in The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust: this project would especially benefit someone interested in library and information management, archival work and heritage work, as well as academic research.
  • You’ll have the opportunity to work with Liv to design a teaching resource for your peers and future students: this project would, therefore, also be of especial interest to someone considering a career in teaching, or public engagement/communication in (e.g.) the museums or heritage sector. 
  • There is also potential for this work to feed into an eventual dissertation project.

Classifying Interpretations of Metaphor

Scholar's post-project blog post

Project Proposer/s: Jeannette Littlemore

Project Summary 

I am conducting a range of studies at involve participants writing their responses to various forms of metaphor that are used creatively within advertisements or in more decontextualized situations.

My ultimate aim is to explore how factors such as cultural background and expert knowledge interact with metaphor type (e.g. verbal versus visual) to influence people’s interpretations.

The work is being done in collaboration with scholars in Spain, Germany and Hong Kong and with local advertising agencies. 

What the researcher will do

  • Code the responses according to a scheme developed by Jeannette Littlemore
  • Help Prof Littlemore to develop the categories used in the coding scheme through an iterative process
  • Help identify key themes in the data set
  • Help to prepare PPT presentations highlighting the key findings

Skills required by the Scholarship holder

  • Basic knowledge of Word and Excel
  • Basic knowledge of metaphor

How will your Project benefit the Scholarship holder?

It will provide them with the opportunity to work on a live research project that is being conducted with international scholars and advertising agencies.

It will provide them with experience of working within a team and meeting project deadlines.



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