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Rose's PhD Diaries 3

I know it's often said that time flies when you are having fun (well and maybe a little bit stressed too) but I cannot believe that I am now approaching the eleventh month of my doctorate. This time last year I was anxiously awaiting my interview, hoping I would be accepted onto my course and now I have written my first chapter, undertaken two research trips and so much more. So, today I thought I would share my favourite moments of the past year and the things I am looking forward to most in the next few months!

My PhD had the best start as in my first few weeks I went on my first research trip to Haworth to visit the archive at the Brontë Parsonage Museum. I wrote more about this in my last entry, but this was truly a trip I will never forget, but perhaps the most special moment for me was looking through Branwell’s poetry notebook. It was such an honour to hold and read what must have been such a personal item for him.

Another opportunity for which I am extremely grateful is becoming a regular reviewer in the past year for Brontë Studies, the journal of the Brontë Society. As a long-time reader of the journal, I feel very fortunate to be able to add my voice to the Brontë family legacy. I wrote the inaugural event review for the journal and have since covered more events, as well as reviewing new editions of the sisters’ novels. I have more work coming soon in the journal so keep your eyes peeled for future reviews and articles!

In September I attended two exciting Brontë events, the first being the 2023 Brontë Society Conference. For this event I had a whirlwind 24 hour stay in Leeds, but it was so great to chat to so many Brontë academics from across the country (and world!) 

The second exciting event coincided with another research trip, as I was fortunate enough to spend a week in Haworth volunteering at the Brontë Festival of Women’s Writing. During this week I again returned to the Parsonage archive and got to see lots more exciting items from the collection, including a signed Daphne du Maurier letter, from when she was conducting her own Branwell research! By far the highlight of this week though was commemorating the 175th anniversary of Branwell’s death, which was made particularly special by a church volunteer called Colin, who played ‘Abide with Me’ on the organ as myself and others took flowers to the Brontë grave.

After all these exciting trips to Yorkshire, the writing began! Across last autumn I was busy writing my first draft of my first full chapter, exploring Branwell’s juvenilia and the impact of hero-worship on his writing. My goal was to complete the first full draft by Christmas and return to it in the new year, ahead of my first annual review. After what felt like smooth sailing composing the first draft, I then spent all of January and February reworking my writing, ahead of my review in March. This was a long (and at times difficult) process, but it is a great relief to have both my first chapter and review completed … for now!

As for current projects, I am now working on my next full chapter draft, which is due to be submitted in the summer. This explores the genre of Victorian biography and looks at early depictions of Branwell, as seen through texts such as Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë and Daphne du Maurier’s The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë. I am also preparing to deliver my first conference papers, one at the 2024 Newstead Abbey Byron Conference and the second at ‘Phantasmagoria’, a postgraduate conference that I am co-organising at the University of Suffolk. I am both equally excited and nervous for both opportunities, but I am looking forward to meeting like-minded academics with whom to discuss my research.

As I begin the second year of my PhD, I am preparing for another very exciting event. On the 13th of June I am giving a talk at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, entitled ‘Branwell and the Anti-hero’. I am giving this talk online, at 7:30pm that evening and I would be delighted for any readers to listen in. Tickets are available here through the Brontë website. I hope to see you (virtually) there and I cannot wait to write about the experience in a future issue of BookTalk.

Rose Gant


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