Leading Stories

By William Watson
Staff Writer

Students in Kelly Bushnell’s “Topics in Victorian Literature” course brought a taste of  the Victorian era to a symposium on April 25.

The theme of the Victorian Ecocriticism Symposium was the natural world and Victorian literature ranging from 1837-1901. The hour-long symposium displayed the final research projects done by the students.

“The theme of our course has been the relationship between Victorian literature and the natural world, so all of the projects explore this in different ways,” said Bushnell, superadjunct instructor of English. “All of these students have also written critical essays on these topics, so their projects for the symposium, such as songs, food, maps and more, are a fun but still rigorous way for us English folks to think a bit differently about how we express our ideas.”

Some of the projects were foods from the Victorian era such as quiche, apple batter pudding, blueberry scones, cucumber sandwiches, and freshly-brewed tea with sugar cubes on the side.

In addition to the era-appropriate food projects, period music was played on guitar, and other students gave presentations. Raven Harvey, senior English major, used a PowerPoint to speak about “The Case of Bertha Rochester” and “The Natural State of Madness.” The presentation represented how Jane Eyre viewed the character of Bertha Rochester and how society had viewed her as very different as a result of her background as well as being crazy.

Harvey said, “I picked this because I thought it would be seen in that era. I had to delve into the research on that case. It is a strange topic to try and talk about if you don’t know what it means. It is definitely worth reading into.”

Another project was titled “Far from the Maddening Crowd” where there were various connections between the author, chapters, characters, and the novel to desserts on a table based on a ghost dog. The cake was based off a legendary dog known as Gytrash. This dog would haunt or help strangers who were in the nearby area within northern England. The dog could appear to guide one out of the forest, or guide the stranger further into the woods to become lost.

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A project by Kristen Yuhasz as she brings together J.K. Rowling's "Fantastic Beasts" with the Bronte novels "Jane Eyre" and "Withering Heights" in an attempt to show people how the creatures of Victorian era lore look in a similar fashion to the beasts from Rowling's book. (Photo by William Watson)

“Women of Color and Literature” was the project of Kayley Steadman, junior psychology major. Her project was an illustration that represented Victorian literature. “The painting itself was on Turner’s slave ship, and it was critiqued on slavery and the position of abolitionists during that time,” Steadman said. “There is a leg that is shackled, and it looks female. The picture contains wonderful colors and things that are going on. It emphasizes on women of color in literature and slavery in general at the time.”

Sydney Stone, junior English literature major, illustrated the important flora and fauna of “Wuthering Heights.” “The biggest focus was of the main three settings in the novel,” Stone said. “I basically wanted to bring the novel to life and focus on those specifically. I got inspiration on actual locations.”

Kristen Yuhasz, senior English and creative writing major, featured a project centered on J.K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” along with Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” and Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights.” Yuhasz said, “The best way to model those creatures would be like ‘Fantastic Beasts’ – the Victorian Fantastic Beasts. Both beasts were back in the Victorian and Roman era, so it was an interesting way to see the creatures of their world.”

The last speaker was Bowie Lauzon, junior English and creative writing major, who spoke about the phoenix and the idea of rising from the ashes. Lauzon’s topic was chosen from the readings of Jane Eyre and relating it to the concepts that seemed similar to how the legend of the phoenix came to be.

Hannah Trevino, second year graduate English major, was the assistant at the symposium. “I think it was successful and entertaining,” Trevino said. “It was beautiful to see students come together for a certain time of literature.”

The English department held a similar event in the fall semester, when David Baulch hosted a Romanticism Symposium.

“Our students are doing such exciting things,” Bushnell said. “We want to share it.”

For more on the Department of English, visit the website.