A successful launch event for GOTH

On Thursday 24th October, GOTH held its official launch event at Walton Hall. The event celebrated the foundation of GOTH with an afternoon of dramatic performances followed by a wine reception.

Peg Katritzky welcomes attendees to the GOTH Launch.

The GOTH Launch opened with comments from GOTH Director Peg Katritzky, who talked about her experiences throughout her career of being inspired by the funding successes of others and wanting to pursue such opportunities to support her own interests. She particularly noted the recent great work of the Baron Thyssen Centre for the Study of Ancient Material Religion, another OU research centre established in 2018 that proved motivational for Peg when setting up GOTH. It was great to hear about how GOTH got started, and we’re all grateful to Peg for her hard work in seeking and securing funding for the research centre!

After this, we watched the first of two performances. The first performance was of an extract from The Orestes Project by By Jove Theatre Company. The performance was introduced by Christine Plastow, GOTH Committee Member and Associate Director of By Jove, who spoke about the company’s work with myths and stories from the canon and their interest in themes of gender and otherness in presenting new versions of these stories. She then introduced the audience to The Orestes Project, an ongoing collaboration with Nancy Rabinowitz from Hamilton College, NY. From the GOTH Launch programme:

The project explores the relationships among the children of the house of Atreus: Orestes, Electra, and Iphigenia, exploring how the traumas of their shared history play out after the mythic narrative is over. In particular, the project explores queer relationships: Orestes’ male ‘companion’ Pylades becomes his lover, Iphigenia explores her desire for her goddess rescuer Artemis, and Electra navigates her relationship with herself and her mother’s legacy. The performance is a work in progress, written and devised by the company, and combining text, music, movement, and other theatrical forms.

Performers from By Jove Theatre Company.

The afternoon’s second performance was presented by Pavel Drábek and student actors from the University of Hull. Prof Drábek introduced the performance, The Amazonians, which was an extract from Aphra Behn’s The Young King, or The Mistake presenting tragicomic scenes of female warriors and mistaken identities. From the GOTH Launch programme:

Pavel Drábek introduces the performance.

A selection of scenes adapted from Aphra Behn’s The Young King, or The Mistake (c1679), a Fletcherian tragicomedy inspired by La Calprenède’s Cléopâtre (1646), Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata (1581), and Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s La vida es sueño (c1631). For this performance we have worked with Janet Todd’s edition from The Works of Aphra Behn (vol. 7; London: William Pickering, 1996). A longer version of this play will be performed at the University of Hull on 1–2 November 2019 by first year students as part of the Gulbenkian Careers and Employability Festival and as an outcome of the Approaches to Theatre 1 module.

Attendees commented on how much they enjoyed both performances: the first was comtemplative and intimate, while the second was funny and fast-paced. All the performers did a fantastic job with the material, especially in a small and unconventional performance space.

Performers from the University of Hull.

After the performances, we were visited by Ian Fribbance, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, who congratulated all involved on the launch of GOTH and commented on the necessity of research in the important areas of gender and otherness, particularly at the Open University with its large and diverse student and staff body. We then all enjoyed a celebratory drinks reception, and raised a glass to the success of GOTH!

Members of the GOTH Committee and Advisory Board with Ian Fribbance.

Thanks to all who attended the GOTH Launch. You can view the full programme from the event here.

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Call for applications: The Open University PhD Studentship in Gender and Otherness in the Humanities

We are delighted to invite applications for an Open University PhD Studentship in Gender and Otherness in the Humanities.

Applicants are invited to propose a research project which relates to any area of gender and/or otherness in the humanities, but preference will be given to those working on topics that can be supervised by a team from The Open University Research Centre for Gender and Otherness in the Humanities. You can find a summary of our research interests on the GOTH website.

Applications to the English Department, relating to Drama 1500-1800 are particularly encouraged. However, applications relating to any area of gender and/or otherness in the humanities, submitted to any Department of the School, will be considered.

The award covers all tuition fees and an enhanced maintenance of £20,000 p.a. for the full 3-year study period.

The Open University is internationally recognized for innovative research across the Arts and Humanities.  In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework well over half of the School’s research was classified as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, rising to more than three quarters in Art and Design, English, History and Music. We host a number of AHRC and ESRC funded research projects and have a strong commitment to public engagement both nationally and internationally.

How to apply

  • Download the full Further Particulars here.
  • For general enquiries concerning doctoral study at The Open University, please contact FASS-PhD-Applications@open.ac.uk.
  • If you would like to discuss your application and proposal informally, please do not hesitate to contact the Centre’s Director, Peg Katritzky: m.a.katritzky@open.ac.uk
  • Completed application forms, together with a Research Proposal and a covering letter indicating your suitability and reasons for applying must be sent to FASS-PhD-Applications@open.ac.uk
  • Application forms are available here.
  • The closing date for applications is noon GMT on Wednesday 08th January 2020. The interview date range will be advertised in late 2019. Interviews will take place in Milton Keynes.

We promote diversity in employment and welcome applications from all sections of the community.

Equal Opportunity is University policy.

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Hardwick Hall – the inaugural GOTH away day

On 15th May 2019, a group of GOTH members visited Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire for the first GOTH away day. Hardwick Hall is a distinctive Elizabethan country house created by Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, usually known as Bess of Hardwick, one of the richest and best-connected women of the time. There are actually two halls on the site: the Old Hall, now ruined, was begun in 1587, and the New Hall in 1590, before the Old Hall was completed. Both halls were architecturally innovative when they were built, and they have remained some of the finest examples of Elizabethan building in the country.

Looking through the window of the Old Hall.

We arrived at Hardwick on a sunny morning, and began our visit in the Old Hall. We were lucky enough to have the Open University’s Susie West, Senior Lecturer in Art History, with our group, who has worked extensively on the site and even wrote the English  Heritage guidebook for it! Susie started us off with an overview of Bess and her work on the hall, highlighting her shrewdness and knowledge of her own worth, as well as her love of architecture. Bess brought in a professional architect for the New Hall, but designed the Old Hall herself; she clearly knew what she was doing in this regard, and must have been exposed to the latest humanist culture at the court of Queen Elizabeth the First.

Front view of the New Hall.

Susie told us about the design of the Old Hall, which was more functional than artistic: the house is not particularly well situated in its gardens from the back. But the arrangement of the chimneys on the inner walls provided attractive façades, flat roofs offered the opportunity to walk on the leads after dinner, and Bess’s modelling of the house on an Italian villa was innovative, one of the first of its kind in Britain. Nevertheless, the house doesn’t quite convey Bess’s status as much as the New Hall: the Old Hall’s windows are small, and it doesn’t have a gatehouse. We walked around as much of the Old Hall as we could, though it was under renovation at the time, and also viewed the exhibition that Susie curated, which pulled together interesting information and objects from the site.

The wall hanging showing Lucretia, flanked by two Virtues.

After lunch and a GOTH brainstorming session, we moved on to look at the New Hall. Here we were particularly keen to see the set of cutwork wall hangings designed by Bess and variously called ‘Virtuous Women’, ‘Heroines and Virtues’ or ‘Noble Women of the Ancient World’. GOTH Director Peg Katritzky has worked on the importance of these pieces as Bess’s homage to women as textile producers, and she was able to tell us a lot about the specific resonances of each scene. The pieces were a collaboration with Mary, Queen of Scots, and involved the two women sharing their knowledge of English and European embroidery techniques. They depict Penelope, Lucretia, Zenobia, and Artemisia, and a lost fifth hanging showed Cleopatra.

Bess’s bedchamber – with a bizarrely modern pillow!

From here we moved to Bess’ bedchamber, where Gemma Allen spoke to us about Bess’s literacy and particularly her letter-writing. Bess left over 200 letters from over the course of her life, and Gemma noted that she didn’t quote famous writers in them much, which was the fashion at the time. Gemma suggested that perhaps Bess didn’t feel she needed this added authority, and indeed, over the years, the tone of Bess’s letters becomes less and less deferential. Questions have been raised about the 1601 inventory of the property, which listed only 6 books in Bess’s possession; these were all religious books, and so perhaps Bess wanted to draw attention only to these.

At the end of the day, we advocated reinscribing Bess as a woman of writing if not a woman of letters – she was no ‘dim squire’s daughter’ (M. Girouard, Hardwick Hall (1989) p.6). We saw evidence of her architectural knowledge, design expertise, planning, and knowledge of the Humanities. Hardwick was also playing host to an exhibition at the time of our visit called We Are Bess, which placed photographic portraits of modern women amongst the portraits in the long gallery in the New Hall, alongside texts written by these women about ways in which their own lives mirrored Bess’s. It’s clear that Bess of Hardwick has an incredible legacy, not just in the creation of the amazing Hardwick Hall, but in her distinctive character and artistic production during the Elizabethan era.

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Welcome to GOTH!

Welcome to the Gender and Otherness in the Humanities Research Centre blog! This page will be updated with news, events, and discussion from the members and activities of GOTH. Check back regularly for updates!

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