Grad Studies: To England Seeking Brontë

A grant fostered this PhD candidate's research in Victorian narrative
Outside of the Brontë Parsonage Library and Museum
Melissa Merte is a doctoral candidate in English literature who received Graduate Research Partnership Program support this past summer to do research for her dissertation, currently titled "Formally Entangled: Plotting Economic and Romantic Desire in Victorian Narrative."
Headshot of Melissa Merte

Because of the GRPP grant, I was able to travel to London and then north to Haworth, England to conduct research for my third and fourth dissertation chapters. I focused on materials related to two texts: Charlotte Brontë’s Villette and Emily Westmeath’s A Narrative of the Case of the Marchioness of Westmeath. Both act as case studies for my broader project about the intersection of literary form and romantic-economic desire.

In London, I visited the British Library and spent many hours poring over the microfilm slides of the autograph fair copy of Villette, which has innumerable handwritten annotations and revisions. (An autograph fair copy is a legible manuscript of the author's work in their own hand that tends to represent a final or near final version prior to publication.) I analyzed these handwritten notes to consider Brontë’s revision process and discrepancies between the textual versions. At the Baring Archive, I examined a collection of correspondence pertaining to Emily Westmeath.

I then took several trains to Haworth to visit the Brontë Parsonage Library and Museum [pictured above]. At the library, the curator worked with me to find directly relevant materials. This visit was particularly productive because I examined original manuscript fragments and letters, both of which shaped the argument of my third chapter.

This preliminary research allowed me to finish writing my third chapter, and will continue to shape my writing as I look ahead to my fourth chapter. These chapters will provide material for future conference papers and publications. The research funding also allowed me to focus on revisions for an article based on my first chapter, which has now been accepted for publication in Texas Studies in Literature and Language

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