Brackenridge Fellowship: Learning From My Cohort

In my Brackenrdige cohort, the discussion surrounding how to pursue different research interests has flowed through our conversations. How can I choose just one interest in my research? How do we know if our topic is too broad? Too narrow?

In these first four weeks of the fellowship, I have found myself thinking about how I may approach these questions in my own work. During my time here at Pitt, I have grown an interest in researching differences in viewing and how it impacts the world around us, but the contexts in which I approach this subject have been ever-changing. From looking at power dynamics under colonialism in early modern plays to my current research project concerning female spectatorship in the Renaissance, I have found myself pulled in different directions.

In learning how to broach this topic of diverging interests, I have come to appreciate more and more the time I have been able to spend among my peers in my cohort and the opportunity to hear from guest speakers during the Brackenridge Fellowship. Fellow members of my cohort have spent time discussing the ebb and flow of their varying research interests no matter their discipline and the difficulty of making sure to not be tackling too broad of a question. One fellow member in the fellowship shared that in the past, their work was a bit broad, but as they began their readings, they allowed themselves to be naturally guided to a more narrow topic of interest, which is something the rest of us can do if we find ourselves in too large of a topic. Furthermore, hearing from members of the University Honors College who have discussed their backgrounds has been a tremendous help in thinking of how to broach my own interests. Many of our guest speakers have discussed having a diverse background of work, research, and educational interests that they have pursued throughout their careers that didn’t need to be separated but instead complimented each other.

In addition, the members of my cohort have provided me with different ways of viewing my specific project for the fellowship. One member of my cohort is studying the Northern Irish Troubles, and in her project, she is delving into the impact of having paramilitary members living in the same areas as victims and their families post-conflict. Listening to her discuss her research and the way the conflict merged with the everyday lives of those in Northern Ireland post-conflict, even if not explicitly acknowledged, made me think of one aspect of my research I had trouble approaching. When thinking of the interactions between the fiction of the plays I am studying and the outside world, I had trouble broaching how the two would merge. However, after listening to her discuss her research on the Troubles, I began to think of the actors and the writers who made the play, those who would be connected to both the play and the reality outside of it as the point of connection between the two realms. While we are studying two very different topics, listening to a fellow member of my cohort helped me to rethink the way I approached my own work.

As I continue to move forward in the fellowship, I look forward to having the time to hear more about my peers’ projects as well as their paths before the fellowship, which may provide some guidance on my research journey.

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