Alumni

Alumni profile - Evie Lewis

My current research is very much informed by and carries on from my MA dissertation. Following on from my research into literary linguistic and formal experimentalism, I am now exploring the limits of discourse and language, and am interested in novels that have silences, gaps, or absences at the centre of their narrative – the expressive potential of this but also its limitations.

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Why did you choose to study your English MA at Queen Mary?

I chose to study at Queen Mary because the Postcolonial and Global Literature pathway looked the best out of any university I’d seen when I was researching where to go. Whilst I was looking at where to do my MA, I came across Dr. Rachael Gilmour’s project, ‘Multilingualism in the Classroom’, which I thought looked incredibly interesting and as Rachael is the Head of English, it made me want to study at Queen Mary even more. Also, my family live in London so studying in London made sense for me as it meant I could live at home while I studied.

Can you tell us about the modules you chose to study as part of your MA and what you wrote your dissertation on?

In my first term I chose to do ‘Reading the Middle East’ and in term two, I chose ‘Imagining South Asia and its Diaspora’. These were alongside the two compulsory modules, one called ‘Peripheral Modernities’ and the other called ‘What is World Literature?’.

The process of researching, reading, and writing that we went through when putting together our dissertations prepared me for the process of research that happens over a much longer period of time at PhD level.

The title of my dissertation was ‘Mapping Peripherality: Writing the City through the (De)construction of Language and Form’. It looked at four writers; two writing about London and two about Glasgow, all exploring what I viewed as positions of marginality. I was looking at the way in which writing using experimental language and form can be an empowering tool to disrupt and subvert existing literary norms, but also the ways in which literary linguistic and formal experimentation might be limited.

What did you enjoy most about the MA in English Literature?

What I enjoyed most about my course at Queen Mary were my peers. We were a small group with only 8 or 9 of us on the pathway, which meant the discussions we had in our seminars were always very lively and engaging. I also feel like the quality of teaching in the English department at Queen Mary is extremely high; all of the lecturers I had were brilliant and so passionate about their subject area. The atmosphere of the department is also extremely friendly and supportive.

Were there any academics that had a strong influence on shaping your time and studies at Queen Mary?

Dr. Rachael Gilmour shaped my time at Queen Mary a lot, as I mentioned, I was aware of her work before I started and she was then my dissertation supervisor, which meant I worked closely with her towards the end of my studies. Dr. Nadia Atia was also a big influence on me, and her research interest in refugee narratives has gone on to shape my current research interests at the beginning of my PhD.

What were some of the best things about studying in London?

Studying in London for my MA was very convenient as I lived here at the time. Also, having the British Library and Senate House library close by provided me both with great resources and spaces in which to work.

You’ve now started your PhD at the University of Leeds, and you’re working as a first year Postgraduate Researcher at the university. What are you exploring in your current research?

My current research is very much informed by and carries on from my MA dissertation. Following on from my research into literary linguistic and formal experimentalism, I am now exploring the limits of discourse and language, and am interested in novels that have silences, gaps, or absences at the centre of their narrative – the expressive potential of this but also its limitations. I am looking closely at a novel called Harare North by Brian Chikwava, which I will in time analyse alongside other contemporary postcolonial novels. I am currently interested in the way that through his highly unreliable narrator, Chikwava highlights the deep flaws of the UK asylum system that places an unjust burden on arrivals to narrate themselves to a place of safety.

What does a typical day look like for you now?

A typical day involves me sitting at my desk and depending what stage of putting together a piece of writing I am at, I will either be researching what resources I need, reading critical works or making notes and starting to write a draft.

How did studying for your MA prepare you for further study?

My MA prepared me well for further study, as it was an intensive year of researching and writing. The research interests of all of my lecturers at Queen Mary had a lot of influence on me, and the year I spent studying postcolonial literature meant that I wanted to go on and study this area further. The process of researching, reading, and writing that we went through when putting together our dissertations prepared me for the process of research that happens over a much longer period of time at PhD level. The process of working closely with a supervisor on one piece of work and the supportive environment that provided also prepared me well for the relationship I now have with my PhD supervisor.

Is there any advice you would give to current students or recent graduates interested in purusing an MA in English?

If you have a sense of an area that you are interested in, I found it’s really good to go for a specific pathway as you get such an in-depth understanding of things you might have only touched on at undergraduate level. So, if you find somewhere that specializes in what you are interested in, apply there. Don’t feel stressed if you feel you are behind on reading during your MA, everyone feels the same, and there is always more reading that could be done but it is more important to take care and look after yourself! Just go for it – it feels like an intense year at points but overall, it’s fun and so worthwhile!

This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Nathalie Grey. If you would like to get in touch with Evie or engage her in your work, please contact Nathalie at n.grey@qmul.ac.uk.