French Revolutionary doctoral workshop (1789-1830), June 2014

Clare Siviter, one of the project team, organised an extremely successful doctoral training day on Wednesday. In the morning, 9 PhD students from French studies to History of Art to Music presented their doctoral research. A number of themes and issues emerged as common to the different projects. The interaction of the public and the private, and of aesthetics and politics are two potentially rich avenues to explore further. The role of education at the time was another common area of interest. Some thorny issues students are grappling with include the nature of Romanticism, the changing concept of work (from a vocation to a trade), the status of the text and the role of memory.

In the afternoon, academic colleagues from around the country ran skills sessions on using archives.

Dr Jessica Wardhaugh (University of Warwick) gave an introductory overview in her ‘Archives: a user guide’. She encouraged the doctoral students to reflect on why they might want to use archives and how they might be used to strengthen the originality of the thesis. Her key tip was to make sure you go into the archive with research questions, even if you refine and revise those once you start looking at material!

Dr Sabine Chaouche then offered reflections on how to use archival research creatively for theatre projects and the methodological issues that arise when you use the archives. She gave some great examples from her own work of the importance of tracking your research topic through a variety of approaches. She talked through the benefits of a chronological study of texts on your topic (which allows you to identify plagiarism, or borrowings by later writers) and of comparative study (looking at developments in costume in England and France for instance it is clear to see that costume development developed first in England). She reminded us of the importance of linking material conditions (stage architecture, entrance points on the stage etc) with the texts.

Dr Tom Stammers explored the archival turn in the humanities in recent years, a return to empirical research, and the mapping of institutions rather than ideas. The range of sources has been enlarged recently through the incorporation of ephemera as valid archival material. He reminded us that the archive is always incomplete and that it has been created by political institutions, something which necessarily affects what material was preserved and how it was categorised. His tips included searching for manuscript sources through CCFr (http://ccfr.bnf.fr/portailccfr/jsp/index.jsp ) and CALAMES (http://www.calames.abes.fr/Pub/). He also reminded us that collections such as De Vinck’s collection of prints are not representative of what was being produced at any one period between 1770 and 1870 but reflect the interest of the private collectors assembling the material (so the BNf’s Revolutionary prints are disproportionately Parisian and of the court).

The day concluded with a discussion of future directions for the group and possible events for next year.


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