21/4/14 – 28/4/14 – Kristina West

This week’s curator is… erm… me! As the founders of We the Humanities, we thought it would be good to let you know a little about us and our interests, bugbears, studies, etc, and it’s my turn first.Hope you enjoy it as much as I expect to. Here goes…

 

Hi, I’m Krissie and I’m one of your We the Humanities founders – along with the lovely and talented Jess Sage, who came up with the idea in the first place – and for this week, I am also your curator. It’s both odd and exciting to be on the other side of the fence, and I’ve spent some time wondering what I’m going to talk to you about.

The best place to start would be my current research – I’m a third year part-time PhD student at the University of Reading, and I’m researching constructions of childhood in Transcendentalist literature. Apologies if I’m preaching to the knowledgeable but for those of you not up on your nineteenth century American literature/history, Transcendentalism was primarily an intellectual movement based in New England from the 1830s. Its best known writers are Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, although I’m spending much of my time at the moment researching Bronson Alcott, father of the better-known Louisa May.

I love my work because it encompasses so many disciplines – literature, philosophy, religion, education and social reform, to name but a few. I’m also particularly interested in how a movement with such a strong oral tradition translates to the page and the tension between written and oral; writings of biography as related to children; and I love my critical theory – Judith Butler, Freud and Jacqueline Rose and many others.

I’m a mature student – I combine my studies with looking after my two lovely children, helping to run this account, working with The Story Consultancy on their fascinating approach to storytelling in a business context, the last vestiges of my 16-year career in journalism and writing the odd book review. I think it’s safe to say that I’m rarely bored.

But my interests range far beyond this. For example, I’m interested in what feminism means for women today. I’m an academic, so I’m probably reasonably clever (in that sense at least) but I wear make-up and I like nice shoes. And I have thought these things through; it wasn’t just a senseless non-decision as some people assume. Does that have to be incompatible with my bedrock belief in gender equality in all its forms? The no make-up selfie was a particularly interesting case in point: positioned as it was as something both frightening and desirable. Are we more ‘real’ without make-up as that which covers us up? If so, why stop there? After all, how nude is nude and where can we site that so-called reality?

I’m also fascinated by those crossover points, where different aspects of the humanities come together to meet or maybe clash, and where the humanities touch the sciences, business and everyday life. What do the humanities mean to those people who don’t work in our fields? Are they a waste of time and money? The stuff of life? Not something that people even think about or are aware of; a non-subject?

I look forward to discussing all this and more with you. Probably over a biscuit and a really good coffee.

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