Blake Connelly, a doctoral student in TU’s English language and literature program, received the Nieta M. Pinkerton Endowed Graduate Fellowship for International Research to support his archival research in England this summer. He will study archival texts and resources such as personal letters or original manuscripts.
“My research and dissertation focus on lesser-known mostly female authors, such as Charlotte Dacre, Mary Robinson, Joanna Southcott and Hannah More to name a few, who have been excluded from the conversation and scholarship of British Romanticism,” Connelly said. “The aspect of my research that most excites me is shining a light on these lesser-known works in scholarship and being able to teach them to my students.”
Connelly teaches advanced placement English literature and senior British literature at Jenks High School and was the 2012 Jenks Public School District Teacher of the Year. The content area skills he will gain through the doctoral program will allow him to be an even better literature instructor and will help him better prepare his students for college. His long-term goal is to become a college professor at a small liberal arts institution.
“My degree from TU has set me up to be successful in either arena,” he said.
Connelly chose TU for his doctorate because he knew the caliber of the program, as well as the faculty and students, were a great fit for him. The flexible schedule also allowed him to take classes while continuing to teach.
“I thought being an older and a part-time student I would be tolerated or partially accepted,” Connelly said. “However, I have been delightfully surprised about how both faculty and students in the English department have gone out of their way to make me feel a real part of the program.”
Connelly said that two of his favorite memories include reading and discussing Ulysses in Professor Sean Latham’s James Joyce seminar during his first semester and reading Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya for the first time in a seminar with Dr. Airey.
“Being in a room with one of the premiere Joycean scholars in the world in Dr. Latham and my colleagues who entered the program the same year as me who both wanted to be Modernists, is indelibly impressed in my memory,” he said. “Even though I did not ultimately become a Joycean, I felt like I had arrived.”
A discussion post about the Great Chain of Being was the inception for Connelly’s dissertation idea. Connelly’s dissertation project explores the ways in which British Romantic and Gothic authors responded to the religious, political and gendered implications of hierarchy. He is examining developments surrounding notions of hierarchy, egalitarianism and divine order as they were brought to bear on politics, gender and religion beginning with the works of William Blake and concluding with the 1826 publication of Mary Shelley’s The Last Man.
Connelly said that his research delves into how the lesser-known female authors seek to dismantle the hierarchies placed upon them by society and the philosophical framework of the Great Chain of Being.
“Examining how the egalitarian and progressive ideas of these women can provide inspiration today is fascinating as well,” he said. “By examining their works in comparison to major British Romantic authors, new light can be shed on the literary movement known as British Romanticism as well as their revolutionary ideas of egalitarianism and equality.”
Connelly said that many of the less-examined voices of this time period were united in their attempts to challenge established hierarchies in society. He also argues that reactions to the intersections of religion and literature reveal cohesion among egalitarian voices, as well as a powerful counter-movement of authors seeking to maintain the status quo.
“By examining original texts, manuscripts and primary documents from many of these authors and their contemporaries, I will gain needed insight into the subjects of my project and their cultural milieu,” Connelly said. “Many of these texts have not been examined in scholarly publications, due to their limited access and unique subject matter.”
Connelly also noted that this experience will help him develop as a researcher and contribute to my professional development as a scholar, something that is a priority in his field.
The Nieta M. Pinkerton Endowed Graduate Fellowship for International Research is one of many ways that the English Language and Literature department at TU seeks to support its students in professional development. The fellowship, which is now in its third year, gives graduate students a stipend to travel to the United Kingdom to access archives located there, with preference given to students studying topics before 1850. Connelly will be using his award to access archives at the British Library, the Bodleian Library, the British Museum and the City of Westminster Archives.