Beyond Elvet Riverside: Rachel Ashcroft and ‘Renaissance Hub’

MLAC is full of researchers doing exciting things you probably don’t know about… yet! In a new series of blog posts, we’re giving these people the attention they deserve. This week we’re speaking to Rachel Ashcroft, the founder and editor of the new online magazine Renaissance Hub, to find out more about her project…

Hi Rachel, tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m currently in the third and final year of my PhD in French and Italian studies. My thesis looks at the philosophy of time in the works of 16th-century thinkers Michel de Montaigne and Giordano Bruno. When I’m not contemplating upbeat topics such as early modern attitudes towards death, I love writing, reading and going to the gym.

bio-photo

You’re the editor of Renaissance Hub – can you tell us a bit about it?

Renaissance Hub is an online monthly magazine which aims to provide articles, reviews and other features for both a specialist and non-specialist audience to enjoy. As the name suggests, we focus on producing content related to the period from around 1450-1650. We especially welcome submissions which manage to establish connections with 21st-century culture, as a way to demonstrate how studying Renaissance history, literature and philosophy is still vitally important in today’s society. I work with two other assistant editors (both fellow PhD students at Durham), as well as a team of volunteer peer reviewers across the globe(!) to produce each monthly issue of the magazine.

What made you want to set up Renaissance Hub?

It was really a combination of both personal and work-related factors. I enjoy writing but when I wanted to submit an idea to a publication outside of academia, I noticed that there aren’t many online forums that focus exclusively on Renaissance culture, let alone present it to a wider audience. So after having the word ‘impact’ drummed into me for most of my PhD, I thought this would be a fun way to a) engage with the general public through a wide range of informative content and b) give specialists a chance to write about something they know and love.

What have you covered in Renaissance Hub to date? And what do you have planned for the next edition?

At the moment we are only two issues in, but we have already published some fascinating responses to our first two themes. Our inaugural edition of Renaissance Hub looked at the political landscape of the early modern period; amongst other fascinating contributions we featured an article comparing Donald Trump’s past behaviour and modern-day rape culture to aspects of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. Furthermore, our second issue on food and drink went live last week. In it our authors discuss a wide range of issues, from the sweet-tooth tendencies of Renaissance children to Noah and how his drunken antics in the Bible were received by early modern scholars! We are still growing at the moment but have already garnered some excellent responses to our current call for submissions which is all about love, sex and relationships in the early modern period.

What has been the most fun part of the project? 

In a slightly nerdy kind of way, I have actually really enjoyed the peer review process! So far it has been very rewarding to receive submissions from specialists who come to us with great ideas, and then work alongside our very reliable peer reviewers to help produce an excellent piece of content for our site. Also the positive feedback we have received from friends and strangers doesn’t hurt either…

What advice would you give to other postgrads thinking of starting a similar project?

This advice will probably sound familiar to research students, but make sure you are truly passionate about your idea before devoting time to it. Renaissance Hub is currently a very small website (attracting new followers every day!), but even between a team of hard-working editors and peer reviewers, there can actually be a lot of things to stay on top of. If you don’t like the idea of devoting a certain amount of your free time to a similar project then I wouldn’t bother. However, if you have a great idea that you really believe in then just go for it – Renaissance Hub helped to maintain my enthusiasm for my own research area and has exposed me to aspects of this period in history that I would never have learnt about otherwise.

Interested in contributing to Renaissance Hub?  Click here to find out how to get involved with the third edition, looking at love, sex and relationships in the Renaissance. 

Front page image Credit: By Sandro Botticelli – Adjusted levels from File:Sandro Botticelli – La nascita di Venere – Google Art Project.jpg, originally from Google Art Project. Compression Photoshop level 9., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22507491

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