9-16 March, Verity Burke

This week, we welcome the lovely (because we know her) Verity Burke, a fellow post-grad at the University of Reading with whom Jess and I share a cupboard (pretending to be an office) and copious amounts of sugar-based treats. Verity will be sharing with you her thoughts on her collections-based research, focusing on 19th-century readings of the body, and her experiences the fine line we all tread as post-grads between the work we want to do and the work we have to do to survive.

Hello there! My name is Verity Burke (I tweet at @dicksnensian, do stop by and say hi) and I’m excited to be curating We The Humanities this week. I’m a collections-based literature PhD student at the University of Reading (@uniofreading, @UniRdg_English and @UniRdg_SpecColl), UK. Like many doctoral students, I balance the delights of research with teaching, mentoring, and other breadcrust-earning jobs (while wondering whether Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” actually applies to any career these days https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaERHs8Q93E).

My thesis utilizes collections-based research to explore the epistemology of anatomy in the nineteenth-century popular imagination, through examining the intersections between science, medicine and literature. What this really means is that I analyse the representation of the anatomical body in a myriad of texts from my chosen collection, the Cole Library of Early Medicine and Zoology – from the fabulously named Holmes Cootes’s The Homologies of the Human Skeleton (1849) to Claude Bernard’s Introduction to Experimental Medicine (1865) – alongside popular nineteenth-century literature, such as H.G. Wells’ “Triumph of a Taxidermist” (1894) to draw out issues of “reading” the body. I’m currently working on a chapter that considers taxidermy, the anthropomorphized body and “articulation” as epistemological pathways in Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, after re-reading it for the Our Mutual Friend twitter project (see @DickensOMF and #omftweets).

I’m looking forward to discussing the use of collections, and the intersections between science and medicine, art and literature (my research centres on the nineteenth century, but I’d love to hear about research in other areas too). Perhaps we’ll drop into a bit of gory Victorian crime, and chinwag about living the research experience more generally, over a nice slice of cake and a digital cuppa.

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