New Scholars Roundtable — Treasures and Tea @UVicLib

The UVic Special Collections “Treasures and Tea” series gave me the opportunity to convene a “New Scholars Roundtable.” Today, I had the privilege of moderating a session highlighting the work of emerging scholars with material from Special Collections. The speakers were: Michelle Spelay on Thomas Heywood’s Gynaikaeion, Emily Hector on The Wrongs of Woman, Alyssa Currie on William Blake prints, Nadia Timperio on the Pocket Books phenomenon, and Elyse Mitchell on the fortunes of Sono Nis Press. I reproduce below the text of my introduction to the event and my introductions of each presenter. We’ll be posting their work to the new Special Collections blog in due course.


I’m very pleased to be showcasing the work of new scholars today, all of whom took English 500 in Fall 2014. English 500, or “Textual Studies and Methods of Research,” is the only course in our graduate program that all students must take. The challenge of the course is to turn obligation into opportunity. Holding the class meetings right here, in this room, means that we are surrounded by the wonderful opportunities afforded by our Special Collections and University Archives.

My colleague, Dr. Erin Kelly, says that she feels like a matchmaker when she teaches English 500. She does a wonderful speed-dating exercise where students get to spend a few minutes meeting a series of rare books and materials from our literary archives. Students rank their books and arrange a second date if they wish. This year, with the fortuitous appointment of Heather Dean as Associate Director of SCUA, I felt that we could be more ambitious. To extend the metaphor, we hoped to spark a love affair between books and graduate students that would lead to a long-term relationship with the material forms of literary transmission.

Setting aside the potential jokes about getting into bed with a book – which is one of the many things not allowed in SCUA – we did have two additional objectives. The first was to provide students with opportunities to make new discoveries that might lead to original research projects. The second was to learn more about our collections. And so Heather and I matched each one of the 26 students with manuscripts, rare books, prints, archival holdings, and other SCUA materials that spoke directly to their research interests. Each student had a unique assignment, which the student and I co-created in the SCUA Reading Room with the materials in front of us. The one requirement common to all the assignments was that the student contribute something back to the library – in the form of a finding aid, an update to the catalogue metadata, a complete signature collation, a blog post, a conservation proposal, or an acquisition proposal.

The results were wonderful … and this work is now filtering into the Library system. For several students, the bibliographic love affair is bearing fruit in the form of the Master’s Essay. For others, it will be a valuable line on their CVs. For the library and future users, we now have several more invaluable finding aids, including a list of poems and stories in an important journal in the Transgender Archive, which makes visible a hitherto hidden collection.

So why these five new scholars today? Certainly, their presentations in December were excellent. To be fair to the other members of the class, I must say that there were many excellent presentations – which tends to be the outcome when students get excited about a project. But these particular five presentations, taken together, will give us a good sense both of the range of materials in SCUA and of the kinds of questions that new scholars can ask – and answer – within the limited time frame of English 500. As you’ll hear and see, our speakers today have done first-rate scholarly work. They truly are “scholars.”


Michelle Spelay

Michelle recently graduated from the English Honours program at UVic where she pursued research interests in early English drama and book history. This led her to the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia where she is working towards a dual degree in both library and archival studies. At UBC, Michelle is combining her interests in rare books and digital librarianship by working at the UBC Library’s Digitization Centre. Her current project is digitizing the Uno Langmann BC Historical Photograph Collection that features photographs dating back to the 1850s. Michelle’s discussion today will focus on Thomas Heywood’s Gynaikeion, a 17th century encyclopedia of women.-

Emily Hector

Emily Hector is a first-year Masters student in UVic’s English department. She graduated with a BA Honours in English from the University of Manitoba and is a 2014 SSHRC recipient. Emily’s research interests lie in Victorian literature, with special focus on working-class women, literacy, and Christianity. Today, she will be presenting on Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna, a Victorian Evangelical who wrote to improve safety conditions for factory workers.

Alyssa Currie

Alyssa completed her undergraduate degree from the University of Northern British Columbia with a joint English and History Major. She is currently completing her Masters of English, studying the works of William Blake and other Romantic Era artists. Alyssa serves on the board of the English Graduate Student Society and recently presented at University of Victoria Ideafest. Today, she will be discussing how things are not always what they seem in Special Collections.

Nadia Timperio

Nadia Timperio is a Masters student in the English department at the University of Victoria. She completed a Bachelor of Arts and Science in English and Biology in 2014 at the University of Windsor. There, she co-authored the piece, “Narrative and Numbers: Tony Judt, Edward Bellamy, and the Problem of Inequality,” which was presented at the Canadian Association for American Studies annual conference and is currently under review. Her research interests lie in American drama and the construction of identity through social and cultural spaces. Today, her presentation looks at an early publication of American playwright Edward Albee’s most notable work, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Elyse Mitchell

Elyse attended UVic for her undergrad, where her research interests led her to focus on modernist poetry and contemporary Canadian gothic fiction. After spending several years as a high school English teacher in Vancouver, she has returned to academia, where she is focusing on the changing face of Canadian publishing and how Canadian literature reflects and constructs Canadian identity. Her Masters essay examines Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach and considers the limits of Gothic narrative tropes for critical examinations of literature from a postcolonial perspective. Her discussion today focuses on the changing face of publication in Canada.