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Our Mutual Research: English Grads attend Dickens Universe 2014

December 31, 2014

Every summer, the University of California at Santa Cruz hosts the Dickens Universe, a week-long event at which English scholars engage in the study of nineteenth-century literature, culture, and politics. As the only Canadian member of the Dickens Universe, Ryerson’s English Department has two graduate students and one faculty member take part. Among towering redwoods, ocean views, and the occasional mountain lion, an international community of students, faculty, and Dickens experts meet to explore and discuss one of his novels, this year’s chosen work being Our Mutual Friend.

The Dickens Universe is much more than an opportunity for the intense discussion of Dickens. As Dr. Dennis Denisoff, this year’s faculty attendee, notes, “it is a rare opportunity for students to engage with international experts on a range of topics and to gain top-level research training, as well a sense of the inspirational spirit that has led many of us chose to careers in the study of literature and culture.”

Dennis Hogan and Kristen Smith, both of whom have since graduated as M.A.s in the English Department’s Literatures of Modernity Program, were the two fortunate students chosen to take part this year, based on their applications. In addition to hearing six stellar keynote lectures, they attended daily graduate lectures and evening talks on topics ranging from the history of the Thames, to Victorian taxidermy.

Believing strongly in “the importance of building connections outside academia, and in making our work, as literary scholars, known and relevant to a nonacademic audience,” student Dennis Hogan appreciated the ways in which the Universe “opens the conversations and debates taking place within academia to a wider public outside the profession.”

Dennis and Kristen also had the experience of running their own graduate lectures, as well as attending professionalization sessions on pedagogy, dissertation writing, and submitting research for publication. For Dennis and Kristen, one of the most rewarding aspects of the experience was the opportunity to meet and engage with other students and faculty from around the world to discuss their scholarly interests. As Kristen observes, “the fact that Ryerson University can be active in this way on the global stage is a testament to the efficacy of education and strength in philology at Ryerson University.” Inspired by their work at UC-Santa Cruz, both students will be pursuing doctoral studies in the future.