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UOA 50 - European Studies

Bangor University

RA5a: Research environment and esteem

Introduction 

This submission differs markedly from those submitted by Bangor to the French and German panels in 2001. In every respect -- staff numbers, research students, research activity, research emphases and contemporary relevance -- we are stronger and more closely aligned with Europe's changing academic interests. Whilst the basis of our success is the recruitment of new staff (only 3 of the 9 staff in the submission were at Bangor in 2001), the driving force of change has been new leadership, a new strategic emphasis on cross-disciplinary research, and the careful development and collaboration of senior staff and dynamic early career researchers.

In 2005, the School of Modern Languages (SML) decided to develop a European Studies submission with a cultural emphasis, rather than continue with submissions in French and German. Resources were focused on creating synergies between staff working on different cultures, on working across disciplinary boundaries and on appointing new young staff with the potential to take this agenda forward. This strategic shift was further enhanced by substantial investment in the creative subjects, which saw the establishment of the National Institute for Excellence in the Creative Industries (NIECI) also in 2005. Building on previous collaborations with SML over film studies and creative writing, NIECI has employed young staff working within a European context. We now incorporate creative work in many new areas of activity, which fit closely with funding council interests and give us the capacity to make a wholly original contribution to European Studies. Our joint emphasis was greatly aided by the University's creation of a College of Arts and Humanities (CAH) and by its investment in cross-disciplinary research institutes, such as the Welsh Institute for Social and Cultural Affairs (WISCA), which supports cross-College clusters of excellence, including some in our strongest research areas. Whilst only some of these developments are as yet reflected in our RAE outputs, our research environment has been transformed by them. Our desire to collaborate externally and to contribute this particular cultural, interdisciplinary perspective to the development of European Studies is indicated by Tully's new role as a committee member of the Standing Conference of Heads of European Studies (since 2006). The creation of a European Studies submission is thus rooted in staff interests, in the strategic views of research leaders with a clear collaborative agenda and in the University's strategic commitment to internationally excellent and innovative cross-disciplinary research.

1. Research structure and staffing Policy:

Following the departure of some SML staff early in the RAE period, Tully's appointment as Head of Modern Languages in 2005 saw embryonic strategies firmly enacted. Spanish (and especially its disparate minority languages and cultures) was further developed as a new specialism alongside French, German and Italian, with an emphasis on film, contemporary culture, and growing areas such as translation studies. Interdisciplinary approaches have been particularly encouraged and dynamic new researchers have been recruited and supported - notably in Hispanic Studies (Galician and Catalan), translation, music and media (Miguélez Carballeira, Cornellà Detrell). (Abbott and Ervine, both early career researchers, are key elements of our future and are discussed below under Strategy). These are all permanent appointments. Reconfiguration has meant that senior staff like Bushell and Rorato have spent less time on management, whilst the School has prioritised research both in its administrative arrangements and in appointments. Major works - notably Tully's extensive monograph and edition - would not have been possible without such a shift.

Planning research jointly with NIECI was a natural consequence of these changes, with a foundation in existing initiatives, such as the establishment of a film studies journal by Harper and Evans in 2004 and collaborative activities involving European academics and writers, including invited speakers, writer-in-residence schemes and creative writing workshops. University investment of £1.5M in Harper's plans for NIECI has enabled the rapid expansion of the subject area, in particular practise-based research. Capacity building in new infrastructure and equipment has been supported by four staff appointments in new media, film and media and creative writing (Ensslin, with Taylor, Ba and Iwan not submitted but discussed under Strategy), together with increased investment in PhD studentships from 2007. Appointments have been made jointly (SML and NIECI) in order to ensure research compatibility.

Two clear areas of synergy were identified jointly by NIECI and SML - Intermediality and Transculturalism - which provide a focus for individual and collaborative research across both academic units. The College has a tangible commitment to the creation of a shared and substantial research culture; our rapid expansion has behind it considerable drive, resource and commitment.

1.1 Research clusters

Our two research clusters share research resources, activities and plans. They provide a forum for dialogue and support for individual scholarship. In each case, experienced staff take a lead role in order to provide guidance for younger colleagues. The success of this mentoring process is evidenced by the markedly increased level of conference activity following our collaborative developments and investment, with an average of 25 conferences and academic research events per year since 2005. Bangor has hosted a series of international research conferences and workshops, and initiated or developed a variety of journals to support our research plans: Studies in European Cinema, New Writing, and the Creative Industries Journal (all edited by Harper) and Galicia 21 (Miguélez Carballeira).

Transculturalism cluster: seven researchers: Bushell (lead academic; Austria/Eastern European border cultures); Tully (German-Spanish cultural interanimation); Miguélez Carballeira and Cornellà Detrell (translation studies/Iberian linguistic and cultural identities); Iwan (film-making and the Welsh diaspora); Ervine (ethnic identities in French film); Ba and Taylor (world cinema and diaspora). This cluster builds on projects established earlier in the cycle, such as the Presence Suisse scheme, the British Academy-funded Austrian-Slovak project (both coordinated by Bushell) and Tully's substantial work on transcultural constellation research: it thus has recognised and very different expertise at its core (see esteem indicators for Bushell and Tully below).

Intermediality cluster: with five researchers: Rorato (lead academic; literary responses to art/photography in Italy); Abbott (adaptation in music and poetry in France); Saunders (monumentalisation and identity in Germany); Fisher (literature and the city); Ensslin (literature and new media); Harper (creative writing and European film). The cluster focuses on the interchange between disciplines and forms of cultural expression, exploring areas of harmony and friction in both aesthetic and socio-historical terms. In order to prepare the ground for these collaborative activities, the team is currently planning a series of specialist workshops, the first of which will be held next February on physical representations of memory. Our strategy develops both from Harper's recognised excellence in this area, from the particular skills and enthusiasm of Rorato, and Saunders, and Abbott (new researcher) who adds expertise in French music and poetry.

Staff research interests in these two clusters have been taken forward through a number of major conferences, including the annual Great Writing conference (since 1998), the inaugural European Cinema Research Forum (ECRF, 2000, due in Bangor in 2010), the conference on Nation and Notion: Performance and Nationalism (2004) and Image and Identity in Contemporary Europe (2006). In addition to attracting academics from around the world and from multiple disciplines, the more recent conferences provided platforms for collaboration between members of different Schools, and were supported by internal discussions on research strategy. This debate highlighted the significance of performance and practice-led research to both clusters. A central focus now and in the future is the interaction of academics with creative practitioners, including staff and visiting writers and performers. This builds on a long tradition. During the current cycle, we have hosted writers from a number of European countries, including: (from the Liffey Project) Anna Mitgutsch from Austria and others from Germany, Denmark, Ireland the UK, funded by the EU Commission and involving SML and Harper; (from the Presence Suisse scheme) writer-in-residence Sylvia Ricci-Lempen and others, funded by the Swiss government. This tradition continues with a new writer-in-residence scheme supported by the Galician Centre, which also funded the visit of prominent Galician writer, Xurxo Borraz s, to the Welsh National Eisteddfod 2007.

1.2 Research Support

CAH emphasises the support and development of young staff, reflecting its policy of recruiting the best early career researchers. The European Studies submission has benefited considerably from this ethos. Since 1999, the University has funded specialist Humanities research and career support, starting with support for early career staff (organised by senior academics and focussing on attaining early research excellence) and extending to the mentoring of grant applications, conferences and other forms of activity. CAH's professional development seminars are now organised by Saunders.

2. Research income

As a result of these support systems and the creation of an ambitious research environment, most staff have made successful grant applications in this RAE period. In the two Schools, grants have been awarded by European and other bodies, with junior as well as senior staff gaining postgraduate students and opportunities as a result. There have also been four successful AHRB/C Research Leave applications over the current cycle (Evans, Tully, Griffiths, Rorato), enabling the production of larger individual research projects. Support will be further enhanced through a new CAH initiative to develop larger and cross-disciplinary applications. As well as external funding, institutional support has included subventions for publications and assistance with conference and research network organisation from dedicated research support staff in CAH and research centres. Annual career planning interviews mean individuals know where they are going, know how to achieve research excellence and are wherever possible given the resources necessary to meet their aspirations. Harper has been especially successful at gaining support from creative organisations, as well as from the AHRC. This latter emphasis is embedded across our research clusters, notably in our approach to translation studies.

3. Postgraduate study

We have committed resource and time to the fostering of a vibrant and increasingly shared postgraduate culture, and are already seeing benefits from this and from the collective postgraduate support and training activities of CAH. Since September 2006, we have only appointed language assistants if they have the capacity to work on and complete PhD theses, with a substantial and positive impact on PhD numbers. Through its interest in knowledge transfer, the Transculturalism cluster devised PhD projects which gained competitive funding from the Welsh funding council and the European Social Fund (both 2006). NIECI has also gained Welsh Assembly PhD and MIND funding, and in addition has funded postgraduate scholarships and a research fellow (Ba). There are 6 Masters programmes across both academic units, including a new MA in European Studies and the launch in 2007 of an MA in Translation Studies. Postgraduate researchers benefit from a range of support beyond specialist supervision with dedicated facilities available within SML. A growing number have two supervisors, drawn from within a research cluster rather than from the admitting School. Students play an active role in School and College research seminars with slots dedicated to postgraduate papers. This major expansion in postgraduate provision has happened quickly, and a considerable increase over the position in 2001.

In addition to internal support, research and MA students participate in a strongly supportive College research network. There are shared research and library inductions and dedicated and well-equipped core research facilities (supplemented by research centre resources). Students benefit from a Graduate training programme (supplied through the newly refocused Academic Development Unit) and an annual UKGRAD event. Following the establishment of CAH, a Graduate School has been created and a Director appointed along with a dedicated PG officer. The College has been very successful at gaining AHRC postgraduate training awards (25% of specialist/regional PG awards went to Bangor in 2006).

4. Research strategy

The 2001 strategic plans for French and German have been replaced by different priorities. Our new strategy combines the development of individual early career researchers who show evidence of both early and exceptionally promising publications, with their participation in ambitious research teams working across disciplines and with key research leaders from other Schools.

In addition 5 early career staff have been appointed with longer-term strategic considerations: they have good fit and great research potential (Abbott, Ba, Ervine, Iwan, Taylor) but do not yet have the profiles for us to submit them. Abbott, Ervine and Taylor have only recently completed or are in the final stages of completing their PhDs., Taylor has a book forthcoming on the impact of Francophone cultures in Asia, a chapter on gender in WWII recently published, and an article forthcoming in Studies in French Cinema. Ervine and Abbott are in a similar position with articles and book proposals now accepted by major jounrals and publishers. Abbott's work embraces text and music; Ervine focuses on filmic representations of racial exclusion in France. We are actively working to combine these interests with those of staff with interests in diaspora and performance. Ba - who works on Francophone visual and aural culture in West Africa - works closely with research networks incorporating performance and already has forthcoming publications on rap for the journal French Cultural Studies and on other less studied subjects. Iwan is a prize-winning documentary film maker working on the Welsh diaspora, who is developing publications which reflect on that process with Harper as his mentor.

Our broader research strategy already involves larger projects, including the ongoing development of a major, interdisciplinary Words and Music Research Project (with the Schools of Music and English). As part of the strategy of our intermediality cluster this will also be taken forward through an AHRC research network application (Abbott). This will parallel individual projects by Tully. Work on her monograph has led to a project proposal, 'Mapping the Canon', with Dr Patricia Odber de Baubeta, University of Birmingham, which aims to explore the role of German and English nineteenth-century Hispanists in the dissemination of Spanish and Portuguese poetry in nineteenth-century Europe through literary periodicals and anthologies.

Our transnational cluster are developing projects focussed on elective heritage and belonging within transcultural environments. They are part of an institution-wide strategy for Minority Cultures (developed by WISCA and to be led by Tully and Harper) which will involve collaboration with colleagues from beyond the Humanities. The venture, highly pertinent in a Welsh context, has aspirations beyond the Humanities and involves collaboration with WISCA and the 5* School of Welsh, our ESRC funded Bilingualism Research Centre, together with colleagues from History, Law and Sociology. Three strands have been identified for exploration: bilingualism; language/cultural contact; linguistic policy.Key to this and future projects is the Centre for Galician Studies in Wales, which is based within SML (and which parallels Cornellà Detrall's research on Catalonia). Founded under the directorship of Miguélez Carballeira in 2006, and funded by the Galician Government, it is already attracting a high calibre of visiting speakers, writers and musicians. We are also developing networks of cross-disciplinary researchers in transculturalism (Saunders).

In all of these areas, the engagement by practice and academic work is an element of our strategy.

Indicators of Esteem:

Our collaborative and developmental work outlined above is complemented by sustained support for individual scholarship. Individual excellence is the bedrock of our collective efforts, and evidence of this is noted below. Staff within the submission fall into three categories (Established; Developing; Early Career). All staff regularly contribute reviews to a range of journals, are active in subject associations, and in organising conferences and events.

Category 1- Bushell, Harper, Rorato, Tully

Bushell is one of the foremost scholars on post-1945 Austrian culture. This is acknowledged in the UK and further afield, and underlined by the fact that he was invited by the Austrian Foreign Office to be keynote British speaker at the conference to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Staatsvertrag and also chosen by the University of Innsbruck to be the external assessor of the first accumulative Habilitationsschrift submitted under Austria's new regulations (2005). He has played a key role in the academic dialogue between Austria and her near neighbours and was appointed Academic Advisor to the Ministry of Education, Slovakia and the Slovak Academy of Sciences on international research projects in the field of German studies in 2004. He is founder and Co-Chair of the Anglo-Slovakian Research Group for Contemporary Austrian Literature, supported by the British Academy, which has recently produced a volume on Austrian-Slovak identities (2007), funded in part by the Austrian Cultural Forum. Bushell has recently been awarded a British Academy Small Research grant to continue work in this field and is hosting an international, interdisciplinary conference in 2007 with the Ingeborg Bachmann Centre at the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, London, thus maintaining SML's long tradition of working with this major research institute. He is also an independent assessor for the AHRC.

Harper has been a member of two AHRC Peer Panels (one connected with Creative Writing and the other with Media and the Visual Arts), as well as a member of the AHRC Peer Review College. He is also a member of the seven-person AHRC national Steering Committee on Practice-Led Research. During the census period, he has given keynote addresses at conferences in the UK, Australia and the USA, and been a member of the EU Commission's Education and Culture Panel of Experts for Media+. He has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) and of Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and been the Foundation Chair of the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) Higher Education Group. He is also an elected member of the RSA Committee for Wales and of the NAWE Executive. In 2006 he was awarded the title of Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of Bedfordshire for his international work in Creative Writing research. Since 2001, he has been a collaborator in c. £1M of research in Creative Writing and Film Studies, examined doctorates and advised research councils in the UK, Ireland and Australia and directed nearly three dozen research conferences and events. He is co-founder of the international European Cinema Research Forum (ECRF) and founder of the International Centre for Creative Writing Research (ICCWR), editor of New Writing: the International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing (MLM), co-Editor of Studies in European Cinema (Intellect) and associate editor of the Creative Industries Journal (Intellect).

Rorato is recognised as one the key UK-based scholars of modern and contemporary Italian culture, with an international publication record in the USA, Italy, France and the UK. She has recently been awarded an AHRC Research Leave grant to write a monograph on the modern literary and filmic reception of Carravaggio. She is the British coordinator of the International Association of Professors of Italian, Brussels and recently hosted the 2007 bi-annual conference of the Society for Italian Studies, of which she is an executive panel member. She is particularly active in conference organisation, including La forma del passato. Questioni di identità in opere letterarie e cinematografiche a partire dagli anni ottanta, Université Libre de Bruxelles (2004), Image and Identity in Contemporary Europe (2006; co-organiser with Tully) and Gianni Celati, Leicester (2007). She has built up an international profile as a speaker at conferences in the UK, Europe and the USA.

Tully has recently been made a member of the AHRC Peer Review College and is also a panel member of the Association of Modern German Studies (for whom she coordinates the Gisela Shaw Postgraduate Prize/Bursary Scheme). She is a committee member of the Standing Conference of Heads of European Studies (since 2006). She has completed a major monograph and edition this cycle (supported by both the British Academy and the AHRC) which has established her as the key scholar in the UK working on German-Spanish cultural interanimation in the nineteenth century. She is regularly invited to talk, both in the UK and further afield. Recent work has led to two significant invitations, one to work as part of an editorial team on a volume in the Brothers Grimm correspondence which will centre on their connections with British and American scholars, the other by the executor of the poet's estate to undertake the editing of Franz Baermann Steiner's correspondence. She has been responsible since 2002 for the chapter 'The Romantic Age' in the Germanic Studies section of the Year's Work in Modern Language Studies, published by the Modern Humanities Research Association and is a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement.

Category 2 - Ensslin, Miguélez Carballeira, Fisher, Saunders

These developing staff include those invited to contribute to subject associations and to the editing of journals. They are researchers who have established, and are building on, reputations in their fields. They are already notable contributors to the development of research networks, symposia and conferences and have gained recognition with subject-specific awards.

Ensslin (first post in 2007) is developing a strong, and already recognised, research profile in hypertext, particularly in German and English. She has been an invited guest-editor of dichtung-digital, a journal for digital literature and aesthetics (2007 special issue) and given invited talks in the UK and further afield (ONE EG). Her doctoral thesis was shortlisted for Heidelberg University's Ruprecht Karl's Award 2006 for outstanding scholarly and scientific research. In October 2006 she was awarded the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft/German Research Council) travelling scholarship for the 'Wissenstransfer' conference at Göttingen University, Germany.

Miguélez Carballeira (first post in 2005) is an early career researcher, but is contributing greatly above this level. She has notable expertise in Galician Studies and Translation Studies and is a respected commentator on interdisciplinary exchange. In 2006, and with the help of the university, she established the Centre for Galician Studies in Wales, funded by the Galician Regional Government, which will form the core of the School's future research plans in the area of minority languages and cultures. She is co-founder with Dr Craig Patterson (Stirling) of an on-line Galician Studies journal, Galicia 21, and has been awarded the inaugural Dorothy Sherman-Severin Fellowship to carry out work on cultural production and Galician women writers. Her work in Translation Studies resulted in an invitation to deliver a seminar on the asymmetrical interdisciplinary exchange between Translation Studies and Hispanism at the University of Manchester in March 2006 and this work has resulted in a feature article in the Hispanic Research Journal.

Saunders (first post 2005) has quickly established herself as a respected scholar in German Studies with a willingness to serve the academic community, something demonstrated by her role as IT coordinator for both Women in German Studies and Association of Modern German Studies and regular panel convenership for the Conference of University Teachers of German. Her work on GDR Studies resulted in the award of a British Academy Small Research Grant for a study of monumentalisation and memory in Berlin, which involved interviews with sculptors and also archival research. Building on this, she is planning an application for a cross-disciplinary AHRC Research network to develop the research field. She has been invited to give papers at a variety of research fora and to contribute to a major study of the post-Wende period, edited by Professors Paul Cooke and Stuart Taberner (Leeds).

Fisher was not submitted in 2001 as he was coordinator of teaching and language technology developments in SML. Since that time, through publication and conference activity, he has built on his earlier work on Jarry, which had already established him as an authority on French avant-garde literature, notably in France itself. This has resulted in invitations to contribute to specialist international publications in the USA and France, including an invited contribution to a special issue of La Licorne. He has been invited as a panellist at the 2007 event to commemorate the death of Alfred Jarry, Institut Fran ais, London. He is also part of the team (with Abbott) which will host the Society of Dix-neuvièmistes conference at Bangor in 2010 and has been an independent assessor for the AHRC.

Category 3 -Cornellà Detrell

Cornellà Detrell has established and maintained links with academics in Catalonia where he was a member from 1999-2005 of a research group funded by the DGCIC (Ministry of Education and Science) and the DGR (Direcc o General de Recerca) devoted to sociolinguistics and the history of language. He publishes regularly in Catalonia and Italy and now, also, in the UK. With Miguélez Carballeira, he significantly reinforces the University's expertise in minority languages and cultures, and gives us a platform for wider research activity.