“I was a voracious reader as a child to the point where my parents would tell me to go outside and play because, left to my own devices, I would just sit inside and read books all day. I’ve always loved reading and did very well in school, especially in English.”
After finishing a Psychology degree and deciding to become a brain surgeon, Stephanie Schierhuber returned to University to boost her GPA for entry into a medicine degree, only to discover a degree where she could read and analyse books. After her first English Literature class she was hooked, which has since led to the completion of a Bachelor of Arts in English and the start of her PhD in English Literature. Her PhD topic is on narrative perforation in Edmund Spenser’s epic poem ‘The Faerie Queene’, which was first published in 1590.
“The poem makes up seven books, and Spenser states that its aim was to ‘fashion a gentleman’. Every book features a different knight, each which represents a moral virtue, such as holiness, chastity, and temperance. They go on extremely allegorical adventures and eventually defeat antagonists such as ‘Despair’, and eventually slay the Dragon of Revelation.”
“Spenser also touches on a huge variety of cultural issues, such as Queen Elizabeth I’s reign and England’s colonisation of Ireland. He also relies on a massive range of sources from classical mythology to the Italian poets, as well as pretty much everybody who came before him.”
Stephanie will treat all seven books as a whole text, adding a new dimension to previous research done on Spenser, which has mostly focused on either a single book or a few stanzas. She believes that even though the poem was published in the 1500s, there are still lessons to be learnt or ideas in the text which can provide us with philosophies that end up being novel in today’s society.
“Texts, poems, and novels don’t exist in a vaccum – they’re created in a certain space and time. They serve as a bit of a snapshot in history, culture, and society, and the time periods they were created in have the power to influence later history and social changes. I really love this idea and believe that literature can provide a space where you’re free to explore ideas of certain events that other mediums don’t allow, especially if they’re controversial.”
Ultimately, Stephanie hopes her research will lead to a career in teaching and academia, where she can share her ideas with likeminded bookworms.
“I’m doing my PhD because I love analysing text and working with literature. For me, I’m almost doing it just for the knowledge itself. Apart from simply gaining knowledge, I love sharing it and exploring it with other people, so I think a tutoring or lecturing role is something I’d really enjoy.”
Stephanie is being supervised by Associate Professor Richard Lansdown and Professor Michael Ackland. She is expected to complete her PhD in 2020.