Leverhulme collections 1

The Leverhulme Trust: "Collections" Scholarships

The Leverhulme Trust: "Collections" Scholarships

Collections: an Enlightenment Pedagogy for the 21st Century

It is well known that in the three hundred years since the Enlightenment, knowledge worldwide has made giant steps – but that at the same time, this knowledge has become compartmentalised. Increasingly narrow specialisms deliver insight and technological advances - at a price. Knowledge reflects depth, but rarely, a breadth of understanding. All too easily, the various disciplines of the modern academy lose touch with each other, when there remains much that they might share. Clinicians, scientists, historians, criminologists, curators and literary scholars, should and could share knowledge, insight and methodology. The need for a holistic vision for the academy is all the more pressing now, as researchers confront an environment where advances in digitization and an accelerating global connectivity has further increased the complexity and sheer number of accessible collections, whether these are artefacts, data or other kinds of ‘collected’ material. In this context, what for example, might a clinician learn from a criminologist or an art historian about the ethics of provenance and questions of consent? Or how best do we use network theory in relation to collections of literary novels? By drawing on the extensive resources of the University of Glasgow, the City of Glasgow and established national and international networks, Collections presents a re-imagining of the Enlightenment ambition. Working in close collaboration with one another, the Collections students will explore historical and contemporary collections using quantitative and qualitative techniques derived from Science, the Arts and Humanities; methodologies emerging from Big Data; and analysis from within medical disciplines.

In session 2017-18 there will be 5 PhD projects, each attracting a doctoral scholarship providing maintenance (c. £14,500 in session 2017-18) and fees (Home/EU rate only) at Research Council rates :

Counting the Forks:

 A quantitative approach to the development of a literary genre

This project aims to investigate ways of bringing together publicly-available large-scale online resources, in this case Google Books, and the unique and distinctive collections of the University, in this case Special Collections’s rare holding of around 80 early Victorian novels of fashion and high society. The University of Glasgow’s collection represents a large proportion of the total output of novels in a genre called ‘silver fork’ fiction. A nineteenth-century publishing phenomenon something akin to the ‘sex and shopping’ novels of the 1980s, ‘silver fork’ fiction was named in recognition of its fetishisation of luxury household goods. Silver fork fiction depended heavily on its claim to capture the most up-to-date in conversation, ‘brands’, social behaviour and fashionable knowledge: each silver fork novel is thus a kind of mini-collection, a shop-window – or now, a museum display – for its time. The genre also had a short lifespan and is thus reasonably delimitable.

The project has three stages. First, the silver fork collection will be digitised; the project will then use these digitised texts to produce a computational comparison of every possible group of 4 contiguous words in each novel with every possible group of 4 contiguous words in three collections of already-available digitised texts: (a) a collection of core ‘culture’ texts of English literature, including the King James Bible and the plays of Shakespeare, (b) a collection of newspaper and periodical writing contemporary with the silver fork novels, and (c) a collection of non-silver fork novels of the same period. These three collections will be derived in large part from Google Books and from other corpus resources held at Glasgow. This comparison will be aided by statistical methods which will determine those phrases which occur significantly more frequently in the silver fork novels when compared to the three other collections. Finally, these comparisons will be used to generate a set of network maps exploring the ways in which silver fork fiction borrowed from other kinds of writing, cannibalised its own earlier texts, and generated its own distinctive expressions. The project will draw on, and seek to develop and extend, techniques under development by the Literary Lab at Stanford and by digital humanities scholars such as Franco Moretti (Stanford), Matt Jockers (Nebraska-Lincoln), and Daniel J. Cohen (Digital Public Library of America), and which will be extensible to a wide range of literary and other text-based research contexts.

The objectives of the research will be – amongst others – to:

  • Explore the use of quantitative methods in tracing the history of a genre of popular literature
  • Develop our detailed understanding of the ways in which literary influences affected the development of early nineteenth-century fiction
  • Contribute to the current rapid growth in the application of network theory methods to innovative literary analysis.

Applications are welcome from students with interests in various areas, including English Literature, English Language, or cognate subjects in the Arts or Humanities, or from students in Statistics or Data Analysis. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree (2:1 or better), and a Masters degree in a relevant subject. For applicants from the arts or humanities, experience of quantitative methods would be extremely beneficial but is not absolutely essential; for students from statistics or data analysis, a demonstrable interest in literature is extremely beneficial but not absolutely essential.

This project belongs to the Conceptual thematic cluster. The successful candidate will be supervised by Prof Alice Jenkins (English Literature) and Prof Marc Alexander (English Language and Linguistics).

Candidates interested in applying for funded PhD study on this project are encouraged to make informal contact with the Supervisor(s) in the first instance.

Candidates wishing to submit an application should prepare and submit the following documentation:

  • The application form which includes a personal statement in which you should detail the particular attributes and/or achievements which make you a suitable candidate to undertake the proposed project
  • Your CV
  • Your degree transcripts
  • Two letters of reference in support of your application

The closing date for receipt of completed applications is Friday, 30 June 2017. Applications should be emailed to Brooke Gordon, Postgraduate Administrator.

Leverhulme Collections Scholarship application form