In TU’s nationally recognized graduate English programs, students train as teachers, scholars and writers to advance in existing careers and to become professors and research writers in specific literary fields. Megan Gibson is a doctoral student studying English literature. Gibson’s passion for the arts and literature led her to research celebrity culture through the 18th century for her dissertation.
I’ve long been interested in looking at the themes of theatre and theatricality in 18th-century British literature. While taking a class from Prof. Jennifer Airey on 18th-century celebrity culture, I discovered a series of poems written about a famous actress of the period: Sarah Siddons. This moment of discovery has become the impetus of my dissertation project, in which I explore the development of celebrity culture throughout the long eighteenth century, looking closely at the intersections between religious and secular forms of devotion among fans of theatrical, ecclesiastical, criminal and fictional celebrities. I am interested in the ways in which celebrity and devotion were defined and intermingled across various contexts throughout the period, in analyzing the creative and largely unexplored, activities of fans of eighteenth-century celebrities. In addition to archival research, which consistently brings additional delightful moments of discovery, working on my dissertation has also prompted new and unexpected, but exciting, interests in affect theory and emotion studies, history of Methodism, criminal studies and digital humanities.
Where are you presented?
• “Fandom: Enthusiastic Devotion, Religious and Theatrical Celebrity.” American Society for EighteenthCentury Studies. Minneapolis, Minnesota. March-April 2017.
• “Susanna Centlivre’s A Bold Stroke for a Wife: Disguise and Mobile Identity in the Social Spaces of London.” South Central Society for EighteenthCentury Studies. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. February 2016.
• “‘Siddons! Bright subject for a poet’s page!’: Promoting the English Stage through Tragedy, Morality, and Celebrity.” Southeastern American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Gainesville, Florida. February 2015.
• “Pathetically Pleasing or Perfectly Practical: Contrasting Views of Women’s Education in the Eighteenth Century.” English Graduate Student Conference, The University of Tulsa, April 2014.
• “Lydia’s Seduction: Reinterpreting Female Sexual Agency in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.” Southeastern American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Knoxville, TN. February-March 2014
• “‘A Spoiled Actress’: Exploring the Theatricality of Lady Delacour in Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda.” Aphra Behn Society. Tulsa, OK. October 2013.
• “Jane Austen and the Carnivalesque.” Research Day. Northwestern State University, April 2010.
Why did you choose TU for graduate studies?
I initially found out about TU’s English doctoral program through a friend of mine who was in the program and suggested I apply. Upon researching the university and department, and eventually getting to know them firsthand
through a campus visit, I was impressed by the 18th century faculty, their welcome and encouragement and their range of expertise in my areas of interest, as well as the kind of attention students received from faculty by virtue of
having a smaller program. I was also drawn to the range of opportunities offered to graduate students including not only teaching but also working on a journal such as Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature. With the academic opportunities
afforded me and the congenial and supportive welcome from graduate students and professors, I knew that TU was the place I wanted to pursue my doctoral studies
Your TU experience
I have made lifelong friends here. Our tight English graduate student community is brought together through not only our collective portfolio grading struggles but also movie nights, volunteering, bowling games, class discussion,
conference experiences, the dread of deadlines, love of literature and hanging out with golden retriever puppies during finals week.
What are your future career plans?
My current academic plans involve researching, writing and plugging away on the dissertation (that small, final hurdle towards my degree!). I had the opportunity last summer to take a research trip to the UK to look at archives
pertaining to my dissertation topic. I visited the British Library, National Library of Scotland, a regional archive in Bedfordshire, and the Bath archives to look at theater ephemera, personal correspondence, diaries and journals,
and Lord Byron’s fan letters. Related to the topic of archives, I will also be co-directing an English graduate student conference here at TU with fellow doctoral candidate Amy Pezzelle. Eventually, I plan to apply for positions as an
assistant professor or post-doc.
Ph.D. candidate, English Literature, The University of Tulsa (expected 2019)
M.A., with merit, EighteenthCentury Studies, University of Southampton (UK), 2011
B.A., summa cum laude, Liberal Arts with a concentration in Humanities and Social Thought, Louisiana Scholars’ College at Northwestern StateUniversity of Louisiana, 2010
Minor: Music performance