Interview with Emily Rowe

Our next seminar will be taken by Emily Rowe on 10 December 2018. The seminar will be starting at 18:00 with tea and coffee from 5:40. Below we talked to Emily about the materiality of language, ale, and nunneries .

Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from?

I have always moved around a lot, but I usually tell people I am from Lincolnshire where I lived as a teen. I spent three years in Aberystwyth, on the coast of Wales, completing my undergraduate degree, before moving to York for my MA in Renaissance literature. I now live in Newcastle upon Tyne, and am now in my second year of a PhD in English literature and linguistics.

What brought you to the Northeast?

Funding aside… Newcastle is a beautiful and vibrant city, and I was excited to work with two such compelling and supportive supervisors on a project that had been unfurling in my mind since my MA. I have met so many like-minded and welcoming people both at Newcastle and Durham, and ale is good and cheap here.

What is your favourite thing about the medieval/early modern period?

It has become a bit passé in our field to talk about our periods as moments of monumental change or decisive shifts in human subjectivity, with many historians laying claim to the latter as a marker of their period. But throughout my literary studies, I have always felt a noticeable shift in how identity is understood and how that is conveyed in literature in the early modern period. Seeing how literature interacts with and mediates the changes in print, social mobility, national identity, and science has always been an especially exciting aspect of working on this period for me.

What does your research focus on?

My research is on the materiality of language in early modern culture – the way words are understood, described, and experienced as material objects. We use plenty of material metaphors for language now, we eat our words, coin new phrases, but as both the English lexicon and the presence of material objects boomed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, so did the appearance of material language. This is in part responding to the so-called ‘material turn’ in early modern studies (and humanities), which has in recent years relished the simple tangibility of ‘everyday’ objects as routes to the early modern self and culture. My research instead explores how words were objects and part of early modern material culture, working within the contexts of historical sociolinguistics and early modern literary, rhetorical, and metallurgical culture.

What do you plan to focus on in your seminar?

I will be talking about the first chapter of my thesis, which focuses on the works of Thomas Nashe. Whilst working with Nashe I picked up on many distinctly metallurgical metaphors for language – distilling gold from ink, the pen mining the ‘extemporal vein’ for literary substance – and realised that the variety and malleability of metal made it an ideal objects for exploring language materiality in the period. I will be discussing Nashe’s role in the Inkhorn Controversy and how he draws on cultures of alchemy, metalworking, and coinage to figure himself as a literary metalworker, able to mould and purify language to create ‘stuff’ of literary value.

If you were not in academia, what would you be doing?

Before venturing into academia, some of my childhood ‘dream’ jobs were screenwriter, novelist, singer, ballerina, and I hear a PhD gives you just as good a shot at any of those jobs as staying in academia. But should I not succeed in academia I will take the proper and expected route and retreat to a nunnery.

Do you have a favourite medieval/early modern text?

Thomas Tomkis’ academic drama Lingua is fun, that and Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost were both pretty inspirational for my PhD project. But in my spare time I’m a big fan of Ye Olde Netflixe.


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