Amy Pollard, Master of Arts by Research student, recaps the Spring Symposium for postgraduate Humanities students.
3 min read.
On Saturday 8th May 2021, I joined my fellow students and researchers at the Spring Symposium for the Schools of History, Philosophy and Culture, and English and Modern Languages. The talks were extremely varied in topic, but each was very interesting, and joining in myself was a great experience to help improve my presentation skills!
The group was incredibly supportive to us presenters – a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere was present from the start. Despite being separated, at a time where COVID-19 keeps us out of the university, I have felt a great level of support and encouragement from students and staff every time my fellow research students and I have met over Zoom, for everything from study sessions to conferences. We are all aware that we are conducting our research in a strange time, but we continue to keep our own and each others’ spirits high!
After quick introductions, the symposium began with Sarah Slator’s discussion of the Anglo-American responses to the Rivonia trial in South Africa, which took place from October 1963 to June 1964 and led to the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela, among others. My area of expertise is not history, so it was exciting to be introduced to a topic that I was vaguely aware of but had no understanding of. The most exciting fact was learning that one of the key defence lawyers for President Mandela was Lord Joel Joffe, a long-time Swindon resident with a building named after himself on our very own Oxford Brookes Swindon campus!
Fabien Dezeque continued the symposium with a presentation on well-being comparisons in individuals and ‘the evolutionary blanket’. Fabien’s work was eye-opening, discussing how individuals may often be biased in how they perceive others’ or their own past experiences, based on their current state of mind and life. To me, Fabien’s research did not promote patronising sympathy for people’s experiences that may be seen as inherently ‘bad’, but encouraged a patience with and desire to understand those around us who experience states of living that we do not. As my own research focuses in part on empathy, not with real people but with fictional characters, I found this approach refreshing and enlightening.
Lastly came my own presentation, which proved to be a valuable experience and great practice for any presentations I may conduct in the future, in academia or otherwise. My research focuses on fanfiction – stories that are based on and written by fans of a pre-existing piece of literature or other media. There are many strands to the research, so condensing them and expressing them to an audience in a 20-minute presentation was a great challenge. I also really appreciated the chance to answer questions on the topic, as others had great input on key terms and examples that fit brilliantly with my research!
I find discussing my research with other academics so valuable, from the confidence it builds, to the interesting conversations that emerged from each of our topics. I now plan to continue my work with a refreshed sense of excitement and pride in my research!
Papers featured in the Symposium:
Fabien Dezeque – Well-being comparisons and the evolutionary blanket.
Amy Pollard – As a transgressive and dialogic literary form, what role does fanfiction play in challenging storytelling conventions and trends, with regard to representation, empathy, and authorship?