March 16th saw participants from Durham and from as far afield as Glasgow and York gather in Newcastle to discuss the acquisition and sharpening of language skills for researchers in early modern studies.
A collaboration between Newcastle University Humanities Research Institute and Dr Peter Auger‘s British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award project, National Boundaries in Early Modern Literary Studies, the afternoon workshop provoked lively discussion amongst the twenty or so participants, many of them postgraduates and early career scholars.
The event focussed on the challenges facing individual researchers and how institutions and networks can promote language skills, with particular attention on opportunities and challenges in the North East of England.
Participants agreed that one of the most significant difficulties they faced was in navigating both historical languages and contemporary languages: reading for research and speaking at international conferences and archives are two very different skills that need to be approached differently. Postgraduate training ought to take this into account.
There was a fruitful discussion of how the participants themselves could be proactive in sharing specialisms, developing expertise and promoting exchange across disciplinary and institutional boundaries.
Dr Elizabeth Andersen of Newcastle University’s School of Modern Languages gave an impassioned defence of the importance of language study and highlighted the range of language-learning tools and opportunities available to researchers. Newcastle’s Laura Leonardo then outlined a pilot scheme in online language teaching for postgraduate researchers which is soon to be introduced by the Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership at the universities of Newcastle, Durham and Queen’s University Belfast. The pilot offers an exciting example of how language learning can be pursued across institutions and with the use of modern technology.
One outcome of the discussions and the presentations by Elizabeth and Laura has been a list of twenty ways to promote language skills and exchange. It can be viewed here.
You may also be interested in a list of resources for early modern studies. This evolving guide includes links to the most valuable websites for pursuing work across a range of languages, including Latin, Greek and the vernaculars. It is available here on the website of the National Boundaries in Early Modern Literary Studies project.
Any future initiatives and projects that arise from the project will be recorded here on the MLAC blog. In the meantime you can follow National Boundaries in Early Modern Literary Studies on Twitter.