One week until #ASECS16 in Pittsburgh, PA! (program here)

This post is a hand guide for the annual ASECS conference. First time ASECSers will find some helpful info here, and so too might the veteran conference attendee.

Tip #1

Finish your paper before you get there.

In every blog, or article, or advice column ever written about conference-going, this is always #1. For good reason.

It’s hard to write in an awkward corner of a hotel room. You’ll miss out on early panels and events. You’ll be stressed. You’ll be scrambling to figure out the hotel’s printing availability.

Write it, print it, practice it, revise it, practice it again. Print it. And bring it.

Tip #2

Presenting your paper.

This little gem has regularly gone around Twitter at MLA. I think it is a universal conference reminder:

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If you’re unfamiliar, the expected time for a paper on a regular panel is 15-20min, depending on the number of people presenting; 8-10min for a round-table participant.

And it’s always nice to aim on the short side. Jack Lynch gives this explanation:

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 8.50.12 AM

Tip #3

Meet People.

Ula Klein’s post over on Eighteenth Century Notes and Petticoats which we featured as a great blog for the Eighteenth Century Enthusiast has a great breakdown on how to have a successful ASECS that focuses on people. The people you meet at ASECS will be great collaborators, supporters, research helpers, shoulders to cry on, co-authors, friends, and more. Klein talks about how to be a friend not a fan, when to appropriately bring up research with others, and more.

Devoney Looser has an excellent piece in The Chronicle for Higher Education on “Why I Love Academic Conferences(or here). Her advice about having a professional interchange is spot on:

Have ready a brief, accessible self-description. Be prepared to share the professional stage that you’re at and what are you working on, doing so without hesitation, apologies, or self-deprecation. Your description needs to be declarative, enthusiastic, and to the point. “I’m (first and last name). I’m A.B.D. in (discipline) at (institution). I work on X area, specifically on Y, looking at Z, which matters because (argument).” Then wait for a follow-up question or ask a question of your listener. If this is especially hard for you, then practice it in front of a mirror or with a friend, but please don’t deliver it like a robot.

Grad Caucus Lunch is Friday April 1 1:00-2:30pm

Other grad students are a gold mine of info: which scholars will buy you a free drink, which ones will leave you with the bill at the end of dinner, which ones will give you feedback on your work, which ones will dance in hotel disco.

They also have amazing advisers. I was introduced to a scholar whose work I admired after meeting her advisees at the Grad Caucus Luncheon. We danced at the Masquerade Ball (circa ASECS 2014) together.

Tip #4

Find a Mentor, Gather Advice

Listen to others. Get advice and info from other scholars. You can go to:

The Doctor Is “In” (Thurs-Saturday)

  • A help desk to provide mentoring, answer questions, and more! A rotating group of scholars will be waiting to give you advice. Come with questions!

Women’s Caucus, and Lesbian & Gay Caucus

  • Two incredibly inclusive groups (of many), open to all.

Rethinking the Academic Conference round-table (Saturday April 2, 9:45-11:15am)

  • Featuring Laura Miller’s on “Removing Barriers to Junior Scholars at ASECS”

Tip #5

Eat. Gather.

Go to social activities. Go out to dinner with new friends. With old friends. With advisers. Don’t have dinner plans? Ask someone to join their dinner trip—almost everyone is just heading out for some much needed socializing and decmpressing after a day of attending panels.

Daniel O’Quinn gave this advice that I think is *excellent* (and not at all shallow, and important when you’re on a grad student budget).

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Tip #6

See the town

You’re in a new city. And how often do you really get to travel on your grad student budget? So take a break from the panels and step out to enjoy the city. Greg Spector (@GregSpector) has written up a *lovely* 18C specific post on Pittsburgh for ASECS attendees this year. Check it out here: Touring the 18C in Pittsburgh.

Tip #7


You’ll find us Tweeting @asecsgrad, and so will @ASECSWomen and many more. ASECS has a big group of participants that live-tweet panels. Two great panels at the same time? Ask someone else to tweet the one you can’t get to! I’ve made some great connections with people at ASECS conferences after we shared a panel tweet-storm.
This year you’ll find ASECS related tweets under #ASECS16 .

Tip #8 (a silly one)

Shoe Game.

There are plenty of articles out there on what to wear at an academic conference. Each conference has it’s own personality.

In her Chronicle article (above) Devoney Looser notes this on fashion at conferences in general:

Dress aspirationally. There will be a range of attire at any academic conference, although there will also probably be a de facto uniform. Want to know how to dress? Look at photos from past conferences, or ask a trusted mentor for advice. Some people make a name for themselves by dressing ultra smartly or ultra casually. Maybe that’s you, and you’re most comfortable that way. Fine.

But if it’s not, and you are struggling with how to present yourself, then dress aspirationally. Are you a graduate student? Dress like a new assistant professor. Are you a new assistant professor? Dress like the person going up for tenure. It can’t hurt to have others envision you as already in the next professional stage or rank that you’d like to achieve.

On an ASECS specific note I’ll include a few personal observations:

It varies. There are people in suits. There are people in jeans with a blazer. I wear a dress (with pockets!) most days. Nobody to my knowledge has ever commented negatively on fashion. You’ll see a lot of black, but not in a snobby way.
But what you will see is some kick-ass shoe game.
As Cassie Childs so aptly noted a few weeks ago, “Shoe game is high at ASECS”. Kit Kincade always shows up with some fantastic footwear, and I am sure it will be THE place to look for these in action:
Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 9.57.00 AM

Image from Official Dr. Martin’s website here.



On a final note, one shared by everyone who commented on the Facebook thread over at Eighteenth-Century Quick Questions page (you should join), everyone noted that ASECS (and it’s regional daughters ) is just plain a friendly, welcoming conference. Can’t wait to see you (and your shoes) there next week!


Blogs for the Eighteenth Century Enthusiast

Do you read blogs? (I hope so! You’re reading this one!). Blogs are a great way to stay up on conversations in a field, or about a topic. They are also a great way to experience a conference or exhibit second-hand, or get quick tastes of information.

This post is about blogs devoted to the eighteenth century. The following blogroll is not exhaustive, or in any specific order, but hopes to serve as a good place to start your internet eighteenth-century reading.

C18 Loving Blogs

Enfilade is the blog home for Historians of Eighteenth-Century Art & Architecture. This blog is an excellent resource for Calls for Papers and announcements of new publications in the field.

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ABO Public is the interactive online salon connected to the fantastic journal, ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830. With sections like ‘The Eighteenth Century in Popular Culture’ and ‘Public and Digital Pedagogy’, the blog speaks to a wide audience. They’ve also been known to host posts by graduate student researchers. It’s a fantastic place to go for the latest work on women writers, and to get to know the work of scholars interested in public outreach scholarship.

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The Long 18-th Century is a blog by eighteenth-century scholars, for eighteenth-century scholars. It grew out of interdisciplinary discussions on the C18-L listerv, and regularly posts responses to new research or conversations in the field. It also posts CFPs. Check it out!

The Voltaire Foundation blog features regular posts about the Enlightenment. This blog is especially good at representing a global eighteenth century. Posts on printing history, new scholarly publications, and eighteenth-century art are especially great on this blog.

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18th-Century Commons Gazette always has their finger on the pulse of the latest conferences, exhibits, publications, and events of interest to those who love eighteenth-century studies.

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The Lady’s Magazine Project blog has regular posts from three team-members working on the project (which is out of the University of Kent). The posts discuss original research, offer peeks into the eighteenth-century magazine publication, and even inspire reader participation! Blog posts on embroidery patterns in the magazine has led to a project called the “Great Stitch Off”– encouraging participants worldwide to take to the needle, and create textiles with eighteenth-century patterns! AND (yes, there is more) you can see these lovely pieces at Chawton House Library’s Exhibition: 200th Anniversary of Jane Austen’s Emma!

The Georgian Era blog is a fun read. Penned by two historians and their guests, this blog features short highlights of the Georgian period. It is especially strong in posts about fashion, material culture, and trends in the periodical press. If you love Georgian caricatures, or a conversation about headdresses, this is the blog for you!

Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide to the 18th-Century is like meeting up with your ASECS friends and gossiping about the eighteenth century in a wonderfully nerdy way—only it’s online! The posts are about the juiciest bits of eighteenth-century knowledge: mysteries, rumors, new discoveries, scandalous individuals,  and controversies.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 2.17.21 PMEighteenth-Century Notes and Petticoats is the wonderful blog of Ula Klein. The archives of this blog offer a great resources of conference roundups, and discussions about women in the eighteenth-century.

A Covent Garden Gilfurt’s Guide to Life is a great resource for getting to know the streets, shops, and places from the eighteenth-century. It has round-ups on  figures or events from the period. Catherine Curzon has a post on just about everyone and every big moment from the period, plus her Twitter feed is like getting a daily C18 Fact.

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Reveries Under the Sign of Austen, TWO. Don’t be fooled by the title of this blog. While there are tons of posts on Austen, there are also lots of posts on Austen’s world, women in the eighteenth century, art, geography, and more. Ellen Moody writes about everything from conferences she attends, to reviewing film adaptations of eighteenth-century works, and weighing in on new scholarship.


If you like following blogs, and getting regular updates about their posts, you have several options. You can follow blogs via a blog-roll (like blogger.com), sign up for emails, or follow them via social media. What eighteenth-century topic blogs do you follow? Tweet at us at @asecsgrad, or post to our Facebook page.

Preparing for your Dissertation Defense

I recently defended my dissertation and, having heard horror stories about hostile committees playing “stump the candidate,” surprised myself by exclaiming how exciting the defense was and how much I enjoyed the conversation and the celebration of the defense.

Being heralded as a celebratory event does not diminish the level of anxiety that a dissertation defense can induce upon even the most prepared doctoral candidate. During the week prior to my defense, I regularly had dreams of walking into the room and being asked to produce some final chapter that I was unaware I was supposed to write, or that my committee of once-supportive faculty members suddenly turned against my project, or that my voice could not be heard (I did end up defending while recovering from laryngitis, so there was perhaps some truth in that nightmare).

But when the day of my defense dawned, all anxieties had vanished: I was ready to do this thing! I was confident in my knowledge (after all, despite my junior-scholar status, I was the reigning expert in the room on the topic of eighteenth-century footnotes) and I was confident in my ability to convey my knowledge.

I have identified three concrete steps that I took in preparing for my defense that led to my readiness and the empowerment that the defense occasioned. These steps range from preparations one year (or more) in advance, to one week, or even one day, before the defense.

  • Talk early and talk often about your dissertation—even when it is not yet fully written.

For the past year before my defense, I embraced every opportunity to talk about my writing and to do so with people of varying familiarity with my project: I thought aloud with my adviser, I discussed theoretical problems with members of my writing group, I learned ways of describing the research to those not in academia, and I practiced my “elevator pitch” with interested colleagues at ASECS and other conferences.

This process of vocalizing my thoughts and theorizations allowed me to rehearse what would eventually become the discourse of the dissertation defense: my topic, my methodology, and my intervention in or contribution to the field. Granted, in the early stages of drafting the dissertation, most conversations consisted largely of mushfaking. But the very act of vocalizing my ideas led to more productive writing sessions; using these conversations to pitch my ideas actually allowed me to formalize my ideas in the midst of the writing process. And then using this familiarity with talking about my dissertation, the writing, and the process of it all made the defense feel almost like second nature.

I had known that talking with a variety of people in a variety of ways about the contributions of my dissertation as it takes shape would aid in the composition process as well as in various stages of the job market. However, I had not anticipated the benefit it would lend in the defense until the defense itself when I realized how natural it was to talk for minutes on end about my work—to humbly brag about the ground I was breaking in the scholarship.

  • Think about how to tell your dissertation’s “life story.”

About one week before the defense, I started freewriting daily about my dissertation, beginning with a personal—even sentimental—reflection on the “life story” of the manuscript: how the ideas were born; how each chapter came into existence with a different writing process; what specific moments in the process stand out most vividly in my memory. From there, my freewriting moved into more formal discussion of the dissertation, writing about it as though I were compiling an annotated bibliography or a literature review: the dissertation’s contribution, methods, strengths, and limitations (similar to the elevator pitch I had been rehearsing). I then concluded the freewriting by talking about what would come next with the project: revisions into a book, other related (and unrelated) projects that I might pursue, and how I have grown as a scholar throughout the dissertation process.

I distilled my freewriting down into a single page of bullet points that, with the permission of my committee, I carried with me to the defense:

  • Process
  • Argument
  • Contribution
  • Limitations
  • What’s next

At the defense itself, this sheet served more as a security blanket than a prompt; the act of writing out the concepts and then distilling the main ideas and rewriting them was beneficial in placing these ideas at the forefront of my mind. Moreover, placing myself within the writing process—indulging in the sentiment of recalling the various “aha!” moments or the satisfaction of writing those few brilliant, pithy sentences—allowed me to accept the authority of my scholarship. It also served as a reminder that no scholarship exists in a vacuum and that the celebratory occasion of the dissertation defense is also a celebration of the intellectual community that my dissertation had helped to construct.

  • Imagine the defense within a familiar context.

Having only a vague recollection of the defense for my MA, I was unsure what to expect from the even higher stakes of the dissertation defense—the department’s language about my institution’s defense process was vague, labeling it a celebratory event but encouraging advisers to undercut their student’s arguments. Much like mastering the unique genre of writing the dissertation, I needed to master a setting or context for the defense.

So, at the prompting of my adviser, I imagined two different intellectual settings with which I was familiar—even comfortable: conference panels and book clubs.

At my defense, I mentally cast myself in a hybrid of these settings: I was here to engage in rigorous, intellectual discourse and to redirect challenging or unclear questions (á la the Q/A of a conference panel). And, I was sitting in a room with people who devoted their time to talk in depth about their favorite and least favorite moments in a book, my dissertation manuscript.

The morning of my defense, I allowed my mind to transport me into these imagined settings. Doing so allowed me to focus on engaging others with my work rather than fixating on the high stakes of the defense, to relax and speak with confidence and ease—much as I would at a conference or at a book club—and to be empowered by the critical and supportive attention given to my scholarship.


I can stake no claim to universal and guaranteed success when following these pieces of advice. One aspect of the success of my defense which was not part of my active preparation process was the composition of my committee: each member had been supportive, communicative, and adaptable, actively demonstrating their belief in and commitment to my project from its initial conception.

What else might you do or what might you do differently to prepare for your dissertation defense? Share your comments below.

Ruth Knezevich is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Missouri. She recently defended her dissertation on footnotes in 18th-century novels and poetry. The post is expressly her opinion, and does not represent the views of ASECS, nor the University of Missouri.

What Your Ph.D. Can Do For You

This is what professoring is like.

This is what being a professor looks like.

After so many years in graduate school, I couldn’t quite believe it when I walked into my new department and saw my name outside the door of my new office. The surprise wasn’t having windows, though that was a delightful discovery. It was realizing that I’d finally and officially moved on from graduate student to professor mode.

I have an office!

That isn’t to say that I hadn’t been preparing for this move all along. As a graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin, I had great mentors who taught me to understand myself as a professional. They showed me how to develop courses, how to interact with students and introduce assignments, how to apply for grants and conferences to support a research agenda, as well as how to publish articles, apply for jobs, and—more generally—how to survive grad school. But there’s a difference between the theory and the practice. Here’s the advice I can give you from what practice I’ve had so far.

  • Diversify your interests.

You may come into graduate school expecting to spend as much time as possible on your research and getting published. And that’s not a bad idea: publications do help you get jobs. But the academic job market is tough, and looks to only get tougher. It’s important to have a diverse CV to prepare you for both academic jobs, #altac gigs, and other kinds of employment.

When doing academic interviews, I found myself talking as much about the multimedia assignments I’d designed while working the Digital Writing and Research Lab and the blogging I’d done for viz. as the research fellowships I’d taken or the dissertation itself. Likewise, when I applied for non-academic positions, my cover letters stressed my administrative experience working as the Assistant Director for the English department’s Sophomore Literature program and the skills I’d learned working as a Writing Consultant for the Undergraduate Writing Center.

Graduate students are expected to wear a lot of hats. Sometimes you might feel like the stuff that isn’t your coursework and writing is a distraction. But value that work: it may turn out to be what gets you a paycheck.

  • Practice self-care

There’s a culture in many universities that prizes busyness. Have you ever gotten into a conversation with your colleagues where you competed to see who stayed up the latest working on their reading for a class, or finishing a paper? Whoever sacrifices the most, wins? But by the time you get into writing your dissertation, you need time away from the project to let it develop. You need time to renew your energy and your enthusiasm after a long writing session. Also, it’s just plain bad for your health.

Your self-care will change depending on your interests, but taking time for yourself to relax and to pursue your own interests away from graduate school is not only how you’ll make it through, but also how you’ll be able to sustain working in an academic job.

  • Manage your time wisely.

In order to have time to practice self-care, you need to make your work time productive. In graduate school, balancing your activities, your coursework, and your dissertation is hard. Learning to meet self-imposed deadlines is difficult, especially when academic culture tends to be extremely lax about them. And the professor’s life can have even more demands than the graduate student’s: committee meetings, department meetings, professional development meetings, your classes, office hours, and endless replying to student emails can eat up an entire week. Limiting the time you spend in certain areas will help you find the 15 minutes a day you need to get your writing done.

  • Teach broadly.

I won’t go in-depth here because Victoria said it so well, but teaching different kinds of classes and student populations was incredibly valuable. When interviewing for my current job, I was able to talk confidently about my classroom practices and my ability to adapt to a new environment because I’d already done that as an instructor. I taught freshman rhetoric and writing as well as topics-based rhetoric coursework. I taught undergraduate studies courses alongside introductory major English courses. Teaching all kinds of different majors prepared me to move into teaching at a primarily STEM school much better than just teaching English majors ever could have.


So: while it’s great if you can teach a specialist eighteenth-century course, you’ll still be able to make a great claim for being able to teach it if you’ve designed many other courses. But so many of the jobs you may end up taking won’t have space for you to specialize so closely, either.

  • Present your work to lots of different people.

Going to ASECS has been very helpful for my professional development, as I’ve interacted with great scholars and got feedback on my dissertation research as I was writing it. ASECS was also a great place to practice my elevator talk, as I explained my topic there. But it’s also important to know how to present your research to non-specialist audiences, since most of the people interviewing you will fall in that category.

Going to generalist conferences like the Midwest Modern Language Association and the Society for Textual Scholarship helped me make great contacts with professors from other research areas as well as practice thinking about my research questions for literary studies more broadly. Joining a dissertation writing group full of rhetoric scholars also forced me to think about my project from different angles. I believe these experiences made it so much easier to talk about my research when I applied for library research fellowships.

So: that’s my advice. If you want to ask me any followups or exchange ideas, message me on Twitter!

Thanks to Cate Blouke, Kathryn Dolan, and Dustin Stewart, who all helped me brainstorm ideas for this post.

Rachel Schneider is an Assistant Teaching Professor of English and Technical Communication at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The post is expressly her opinion, and does not represent the views of ASECS, nor Missouri University of Science and Technology.

The Diversified Pedagogical Portfolio and the Market

The Diversified Pedagogical Portfolio and the Market

PhD Comics

PhD Comics

Hello fellow ASECS grad students! This is my first post in the history of posting and I am eager to share with you a genuine concern that I have about the….job market (cue the shadows, fear, and stark feelings of ineptitude).

What is the benefit of having what has been generously named the “diversified pedagogical portfolio?” This is what happens when you, dedicated grad student, are teaching or TAing in a field that is not your own. For example, I teach business writing in the Business School, but I happen to study eighteenth-century transatlantic literature. This is even true if you are studying History and you teach Rhetoric and Composition—close but not quite.

So, what is the benefit? In the end, does teaching outside your field hinder or benefit you when you go on the market? What is the verdict?

The fact of the matter is, from what I have heard from a number of reputably and recently tenured-tracked professors, is that it is up to you and how you spin it in your cover letter once you go on the market. Below is a list of benefits and consequences (for lack of more eloquent phrasing) to consider when teaching as a graduate student outside of your field and will be getting a job once you’re PhDone.

The Benefits:

  1. The Alt-Ac Career

Those who espouse the diverse pedagogical portfolio will argue that it may be considered a great way to move into an alt-ac career, as mentioned in this post by Inside Higher Ed. When you are teaching a topic that is outside of your field, you now have the doubled opportunity to discuss the broad scope of both your hard skills (software programs, Excel) and soft skills (team player).

  1. Teaching Experience

Even though you are teaching or TAing outside of your field, you’re still teaching! There are some graduate students who go throughout their entire graduate career without having that opportunity. When you go on the market, you will undoubtedly be asked about your teaching experience. A weird thing happens when teaching outside of your field. It enables you to really look at teaching as an art and practice. Because you are truly outside of the content, the focus then becomes how you can really hone in on your pedagogy. You may even argue that it makes you a better educator.[i] And that’s something you can say during your job interview!

  1. Getting that Job through the Back Door

One of the benefits of having teaching experience in another discipline is that, should you get hired for a tenure-track/adjunct position based upon your teaching experience, you may be able to slip into that course that you’ve desperately wanted to teach since your first year of coursework. So, if you do get hired as an instructor for Rhetoric and Composition, you may just be able to ask if there is anyone teaching a course on “Empire and The Novel.”

  1. You’re more Likely to get a Job. Period. And You Could Love it.

The Chronicle released an article about the fringe benefits of having the “Plan B” when a graduate student in the academy. They recommend that being an “entrepreneur” outside of your discipline may actually make you more competitive—maybe just not in the Humanities. This link has a number of tips of the trade of graduate student entrepreneurship.

The Consequences:

  1. The Competition

One of the questions that you may get asked is: “Why haven’t you taught any classes in [your discipline]? And since you haven’t, what makes you think that you can teach them now?” This fryer-pan-to-the-face question may seem unanswerable in the moment when you have an interview group staring at you with raised eyebrows. It could also be the case that the person interviewing after you does have that experience in your field. The competition is going to be tough.

  1. Not having that Specific Experience

Each class that we, as grad students, have the pleasure of teaching is unique in its own way. The “Writing in the Sciences” composition course is vastly different from the “English 101” course designed for first-year students. Even though you have gained essential knowledge in teaching courses from outside your discipline, it’s simply not the same. There is a kind of specificity required for teaching each of your courses related to content, assignments, writing activities and the like. Though some skills are transferable across the academy, a lot are not.

The Bottom Line (for me):

This is just my opinion, but after thinking through this blog post, I genuinely feel much better about teaching in the Business School. However, I still think that in order for me to be market-competitive, I will NEED to teach in my discipline. The market is this foggy, frightening, and chilling place (at least that is how it’s presented by many other bewildered grad students I bump into down the hallways of different conference venues). We must all be as ready as possible, for winter (aka the job hunt) is coming.

PhD Comics

PhD Comics

 If you want to be market-competitive:

  1. If you’re not teaching something, find an opportunity to do so.
  1. If you’re teaching outside your field, talk with your DGS about having one semester in your department.
  1. If you’re teaching inside your field, develop your pedagogy and flexibility by switching with another grad student who is teaching outside your field (win/win for everyone).

We are a wonderful and vibrant community of well-educated scholars. We should all be given the opportunity to teach both in and out of what we study.

Victoria Barnett-Woods is a graduate student at The George Washington University. The post is expressly her opinion, and does not represent the views of ASECS, nor The George Washington University.

Questions? Comments?

[i] Thanks to Erin Vander Wall for brainstorming with me on this great thought.

Research Fellowships: Planning, Expectations, and Surprises

Hey ASECS-ers. Your friendly webmaster here launching the Grad Caucus blog’s inaugural post. This month I’m laying down some advice and resources about applying to research fellowships, and what you’ll find when you get there.

I spent a month this summer as a visiting research fellow at Chawton House Library. Chawton’s collection specializes in materials by and about women writers 1600-1830. I got some great work done there for my dissertation, and really enjoyed my stay. The staff there was so generous with their time, and were incredible professional resources. I’m already wondering how soon I can get back….

I received a lot of great advice that helped me in the process of applying for the fellowship, and what to do once I go there.  The experience still wasn’t what I expected, so I’ve got some reflection on that too.

Chawton Stables: Home of visiting fellows Photo by Megan Peiser

1 Finding the right collection to work with/at

First and foremost is choosing a collection that will really help your work, and that gets you the most “bang for your buck”. Different collections focus on different periods, people, or types of materials. If you are working on material culture or images Yale’s Lewis Walpole Library is a great place for you. Since my research is on women writers at the end of the 18th/early 19th C, Chawton was a right fit for me. I didn’t come on this decision all on my own, however.

  • Look at the CVs of others who do work similar to yours or that you admire to see where they’ve done their scholarship. If they’re further along in their career than you are, then they’ll likely know more about these libraries or collections. Take advantage of that.
  • Ask around at ASECS. Talk to people after papers, and listen carefully to HOW and WHERE they collected their research. Ask scholars you respect, and ask other grads.
  • Ask for sample documents. In general I think scholars want to help each other. It helps all of us to encourage the work of our colleagues. I asked to see the documents by others who had successfully received funding I was applying to. 100% of the people I talked to were supportive and encouraging. It’s hard to make something you’ve never seen before. Don’t. Don’t make it harder for yourself.
  • Find the *perfect* place. I needed to look at lots of late 18th-, early 19th- century novels. Sure, I could bounce between the British Library, the Bodleian, the Huntington, Walpole, and the Clark. These are all really great collections, and I look forward to doing work at them one day. But I needed my hard-earned grad-student-dollars to do a lot of work for me. I could look at 90% of the material I needed from these libraries at Chawton, plus see Chawton’s unique items, plus Chawton had its own fellowship that would allow me a whole month to work with their collection. I was a good fit for them, but they were also a good fit for me.

2. Contact the librarian.

Librarians know their stuff. They know what is sitting on the shelves. They know what isn’t listed in online catalogs. They know what nobody else has looked at. They have the power to photograph things for you before you get there, or point you to another library/librarian to get you further with your work. The librarian at Chawton House, Darren Bevin, is fantastic. He is a wealth of knowledge, is a funny guy, and genuinely loves helping people use the collection he manages. Really. He helped me sort through things once I got there, but also answered questions I sent him via email about best ways to use the library’s online search catalog to find what I was looking for.

3. Planning, and then unplanning

Plan ahead. After you contacted the librarian, make that “I absolutely must look at these things” list.  Your top-priorities(note: I included parts of this list in my application to show how serious I was about what I needed to look at. It obviously worked).

Know the photography policy before making this list, because the ability to photograph for later reference may change what you want to see and/or how long you want to spend with it.

And then plan some unplanned time. Time to look at things you didn’t know you’d find (there will be lots of this). Time to look at things you just plain want to call up (Jane Austen’s ms of Charles Grandison, anyone?). Time to go over and over an item that is confusing or important. Time to write up notes. This is another reason the length of the Chawton fellowship was especially great.

Lindsey Eckert and Megan Peiser with more materials pulled from storage than they could ever possibly look at.

Megan Peiser and Lindsey Eckert with more materials pulled from storage than they could ever possibly look at. Photo by Megan Peiser

4. $$ Dollars $$
It is almost impossible to fund a research trip in one swoop. Another amazing perk of the Chawton fellowship is that it removes a huge chunk of financial strain—housing. And its a BEAUTIFUL place to live and work for a month:

Chawton House Library and St Nicholas Church. Taken from the gardens. Photo by Megan Peiser

Chawton House Library and St Nicholas Church. Taken from the gardens.
Photo by Megan Peiser

There are a lot of resources for applying for funding.

  • Your department. Small amounts add up. My department has a travel award especially for travel to England. Ask other grads in your department.
  • Student organizations on your campus. Many, especially those for graduate students, have funding set aside to dole out for conference and research travel. A lot of times they are under-applied-for. Graduate Professional Council (GPC), Graduate Student Association (GSA), Student Government Association (SGA), and English Graduate Student Association (EGSA) are just a few.
  • Your institution. Check out the Graduate School, Alumni Associations, The Provost’s office.
  • Professional memberships. ASECS travel grants. Regional conferences or affiliated societies also offer travel or research related grants.
  • The library itself. Many libraries now have travel and research grants designated by the library for work on their collections. The Newberry has some great ones. So does the Harry Ransom Center, and the American Antiquarian Society.
  • Dissertation fellowships. Sometimes this money is flexible enough to fund your travel and research. Here are some biggies: Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, Melon/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships.

5. Actual FELLOW-ship.
The other people that will be there doing work at the same time as you. This surprised me the most. I didn’t think about it or plan it at all, and it was such a wonderful “gift” from Chawton. I was housed with three other brilliant scholars. I learned from them. I had three people in the reading room to ask questions of. To say “hey, what does this word in this ms say?” or “How do you think this was printed?” I had a built-in writing group to bounce ideas off of. To review work with. To inspire me. To say “hey I called this up, but really it fits your work better”. Part of this was the luck of being at Chawton with such fantastic women. But part of it was being open to the “networking” involved, or rather the fellowship, the unity of all working toward the same general goal of learning more and furthering scholarship. It sounds fluffy, but perhaps that’s also just the magic of Chawton.

May 2015 Fellows in front of Chawton Stables: Aran Ruth, Helen Williams, Lindsey Eckert, Megan Peiser Photo by Megan Peiser

May 2015 Fellows in front of Chawton Stables:
Aran Ruth, Helen Williams, Lindsey Eckert, Megan Peiser
Photo by Megan Peiser

6. Finding more projects than you could ever do in one lifetime

Archives are amazing. They’re so full of stuff. This is a hard balance–finding and examining what you need for your current work, the reason you’re there, taking notes on and squirreling away stuff for your “next” project, or your “next-next” project, and just letting things go. Someone will find them. You can always come back to them.

You can read more about the Chawton House Library visiting research fellowships here. Check back with the ASECS Grad Caucus blog later this fall for a follow-up post on being a Chawton House Library visiting research fellow.

Every month we’ll have a new post rolling up here. What else would you like to see on this blog? Post a comment and let me know!


Welcome to the HOMEPAGE for the ASECS Grad Caucus. We are an organized group representing all graduate students in the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies.

Are you a grad student ASECS member, or registered for an ASECS conference? Then you’re one of us!