Spotlight on Students: Laura Wright, University College

by Laura Jane Wright


My memories of Oxford as an undergraduate are of busy days spent reading in Worcester College library. I continued my studies at Yale, where the range of seminars I attended sowed the seeds of my interest in sound studies. I’m currently at University College, writing my doctoral thesis on sound effects on the early modern stage (1580 – 1625), under the supervision (and unwavering support) of Professor Emma Smith. Sound effects are difficult to trace, and I spend a lot of time speculating as to the meaning of stage directions, but they are integral to performance and should not be overlooked.

My research into sound has been a lot of noisy fun. Between the rich resources of Oxford’s libraries and the enthusiastic, experimental performances of its drama scene, there is always a fresh idea waiting around the corner. It has been a delight to try out new theories about sound, whether at conferences or in conversations with friends over coffee. In term time, the Early Modern English Literature Seminar brings engaging and illustrious speakers to present their new work; and, equally importantly, provides time to talk with speakers, faculty, post-docs, and other graduate students afterwards at drinks. On alternate weeks, the Early Modern Graduate Forum (of which I was co-convenor last year), allows MSt and DPhil students to share their own ideas and get some invaluable feedback from their peers. This spirit of collaboration and conversation has really marked my time as a DPhil here.

I’m always happy to spend a long day in the library (or reading in one of Oxford’s many cafes with a big cup of tea), but I’ve really appreciated the opportunities that the English faculty has provided, which have allowed me to experience other aspects of academic life. During my second year, I was the English Faculty’s Teaching and Careers Officer, a job which involved organising fortnightly seminars for graduates on a range of training opportunities. Speakers have shared ideas about public engagement, presenting at conferences, sending in work to journals, and, over lunch, have given their own advice about starting work as an early career researcher. As part of this job, I also chaired the Oxford English Faculty Conference, this year on the theme of ‘Omission’. My involvement in the faculty has been a really important part of my time here. I’ve met many friends and learned a great deal.

As I enter third year, I am delighted to be writing and teaching. Oxford’s Humanities Division offers an intensive term of training (Developing Learning and Teaching) which requires a written portfolio of teaching practices; I was thrilled to pass in January, and felt better equipped to start teaching. The Teaching Mentoring Scheme pairs graduate students with faculty mentors, and I’ve had a lot of fun learning (and borrowing ideas) from Professor Lynn Robson in her classes on Shakespeare, and from Lynn and Dr Margaret Kean in their classes on Early Modern Criminality. Now that I’m teaching undergraduates myself, it is great to have this support system within the faculty. As the new term approaches, I can’t wait to get started!

Laura Jayne Wright, 3rd year DPhil student

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