Summer research project gives insight to writing history and culture

Bachelor of Arts student Elisabeth Willmott researched 19th century writing in France with lecturer Dr Yuri Cerqueira dos Anjos from the School of Languages and Cultures during her Summer Research Scholarship.

A poster depicting the work saw her take out the Humanities, Business, and Law category in the Summer Gold awards, which celebrate the research completed by University students as part of a Summer Research Scholarship. The aim of their project was for Elisabeth and Dr Cerqueira dos Anjos to build an extensive bibliography of resources related to handwriting and manuscripts from 19th Century France which then could be used in further detailed research.

“I was interested in 19th Century literature, history, and culture from completing FREN 331: 19th and 20th Century French Literature, and I was intrigued by the research process,” explains Elisabeth. “I wanted to find out more about how to ‘do’ research in the humanities.”

Elisabeth’s project had her filtering through pages of search results, determining themes and patterns found in 19th century works and developing a method for the bibliography.

“After building this list of documents, we were able to identify some main trends with a substantial amount of materials for analysis,” says Dr Cerqueira dos Anjos, Elisabeth’s supervisor. “Themes such as writing education, the science of writing, and the visual representations of handwriting emerged from the corpus.

“This list can now serve as a basis for research on the history and culture of writing not only in that country, but in western culture as a whole.”

Elisabeth found the opportunity to complete an entire project rewarding.

“I became really engaged in the texts and learned a lot,” she says.

“I was surprised by things that were shocking, such as a school test that included a question on why the white race was superior, and by texts that were insightful, such as the one stating that if teachers wanted their pupils to like them, first of all, they had to like their pupils and to make schoolwork a game so their pupils would work without becoming tired,” says Elisabeth.

For Dr Cerqueira dos Anjos, who is new to the University, the Summer Research Scholarship was an opportunity to supervise a student and share the research process.

“One of my favourite things about academic life is to work closely with students and help them find their own intellectual interests,” he says.

Dr Cerqueira dos Anjos is planning to further interpret the themes using the documents identified in this summer research project and hopes to obtain a grant to do so.