This project will see the creation of the Agnes Owens Archive which contains previously unpublished plays, poems and short stories. Owens’ champions point to her class, gender, and age in explaining her neglect; her work is frequently read against her biography. This project will absorb and supersede these contexts in its collation and critical appraisal of Owens’ full literary output, leading to a variety of public-facing events marking the centenary of her birth in 2026.
A first-class or upper-second Honours degree, or overseas equivalent. In addition, the AHRC also expects that applicants to PhD programmes will hold, or be studying towards, a Masters qualification in a relevant discipline; or have relevant professional experience to provide evidence of your ability to undertake independent research. Please ensure you provide details of your academic and professional experience in your application letter.
Alasdair Gray has described Agnes Owens as ‘the most unfairly neglected of all living Scottish authors’. While her work has widely been acknowledged as culturally and artistically important (she appears, for example, in Calum Colvin’s famous painting of the ‘The Kelvingrove Eight’), there is a lack of supporting materials for in-depth study of her writings. Owens, however, was a prolific writer and had extensive correspondence with fellow writers Liz Lochhead and Alasdair Gray, in which they often commented on and mutually supported each other’s work. At times they also published together (Lean Tales (1985)). Coming from a West of Scotland working-class background, and as a mother of seven children, Owens only began her writing career in her early fifties and continually shunned any literary limelight. Her literary project was taken up with the same forms of marginalisation. Douglas Gifford described her characters as ‘outsiders, down-and-outs... and no-hopers', and as such, they were always imagined through all of the labours of living: as one belonging to a family (or not), as a worker, or a friend, an alienated subject, or simply a body in need of sustenance; a mind in need of distraction. Drawing on her archives recently donated to the Alasdair Gray Archive (AGA), this will be the first study of the complete writings of Agnes Owens, restoring the importance of her literature of the marginalised, within its West of Scotland setting, to Scottish literary culture, and beyond.
The PhD will focus on three key areas
In order to deepen understanding of the context of Owens’ work, a central aspect of the project will be to build upon the existing archival materials through the addition of a strand of oral history interviews (with fellow writers, friends and family members). Many of Owens’ short stories first appeared in small literary magazines and writers’ group publications. She was first ‘discovered’ by Liz Lochhead when she tutored at her writers’ group in the Vale of Leven. These interconnections will be further explored through interviewing magazine editors and writers’ group participants/ organisers. Opening out the cultural and historical context of Owens’ work in this way will also be vital to understanding the broader literary and cultural context of Scotland at this time. Many of the interviewees are elderly and there is an urgency and time-sensitivity to this project. The interview recordings and transcriptions will be stored jointly between the AGA and the Scottish Oral History Centre (SOHC) at Strathclyde, where they will be publicly available resources.
One of the main contexts of the thesis will be a sustained critical analysis of marginalisation and alienated subjectivities throughout Owens’ work. This will involve comparative studies of Owens’ narrative strategies in different works, forms, and periods: focussing on formal features like ironic distance, frame narratives, implied audiences, blind-spots, and black humour. This will place Owens’ work in its wider literary historical context and extend critical appreciation of late-20th-century working-class experimentalism in Scottish literature and the arts more broadly.
The student will be based at the University of Strathclyde, though will have access to research facilities and networks at the University of Glasgow.
At the AGA the student will receive hands-on training from Dallas in working with material objects and archives, online and physical exhibition design and development, and outreach activities working with local communities. This training will focus on best practice for handling archives, ethics of material use and data protection.
In addition, the student will benefit from extensive oral history training from the Scottish Oral History Centre at Strathclyde (SOHC). Through SOHC, and its strong research culture within the School, they will have access to on-going formal training in oral history theory and methodology.
Home fees & student stipend at standard SGSAH rates & travel costs for field study/research trips etc. International applications are welcomed but if successful, would need to fund the difference between Home & International fees per annum for the duration of study.
Primary Supervisor: Dr Eleanor Bell (University of Strathclyde)
Additional Supervisor/s: Second supervisor Dr Corey Gibson (University of Glasgow), partner supervisor Sorcha Dallas (AGA).
Informal inquiries may be directed to Dr Eleanor Bell (email@example.com).
|Funding for:||UK Students, EU Students, International Students|
|Funding amount:||Home fee, Stipend|
|Placed On:||25th May 2023|
|Closes:||19th June 2023|
Type / Role:
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