Clare Burnett is a PhD candidate in Griffith University’s School of Humanities, Languages, and Social Science. We found out about Clare’s background prior to starting her research journey and why she’s passionate about digital humanities and nineteenth-century Gothic fiction.
What path led to you undertaking your PhD?
After completing my Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and History at Trinity College Dublin, way back in 2011, I went on to become a journalist, working at independent news organisations in the UK. During my career as a journalist, however, I realised that research was my real passion. It wasn’t until I moved to Australia in 2018 that I bit the bullet and took on an Honours course at Griffith, mainly to see if I could still remember how to be an acceptable student!
Thankfully, it was still in my repertoire, and it also allowed me to indulge my other passion, which was Gothic literature. I met one of my three excellent supervisors, Dr Stephanie Green, on that course, and after roping in Dr Amanda Howell and Dr David Ellison, the trio was complete.
Can you tell us a bit about your PhD topic?
My research at its core explores popular Gothic literature in nineteenth-century Australia. As part of this, I have worked with To Be Continued: The Australian Newspaper Fiction Database, an extension of the National Library of Australia’s digitised newspaper collection, Trove, to identify texts which I could study. I found that, alongside the Australian Gothic fiction, there was a host of transnational Gothic fiction too.
Clearly, Australian readers liked their fiction weird and scary! This led me to look more closely at the international publishing networks which brought this fiction to Australia, and subsequently, the impact newspaper fiction publishing had on the development of literary cultures in Australia.
‘The amount of information we now have… means that we’re looking at how to process this historic data… It’s cutting-edge stuff in the world of literary studies and it’s amazing as an early-stage researcher to see it all unfold’
What sparked your passion for this research area?
My background is primarily in British Gothic fiction, so exploring the Gothic mode in Australia seemed the natural progression of earlier work. I’m also fascinated by the role of transnational ‘transplanted’ literature in other times and places, probably from being an import to Australia myself! The potential for digital methodologies when looking at international publishing networks also motivated my research passions.
The amount of information we now have as a result of databases like To Be Continued means that we’re looking at how to process this historic data to effectively and holistically understand the world of nineteenth-century publishing. It’s cutting-edge stuff in the world of literary studies and it’s amazing as an early-stage researcher to see it all unfold and even be a part of it.
Do you have any advice for others considering undertaking a PhD?
Finding a great supervisory team before you start is key. Their diverse set of skillsets and networks will help you see your research from new perspectives, and sometimes even help you identify opportunities for career and research growth.
I’d also advise anyone to think about what they want out of their PhD before they start—there are so many careers and opportunities which can come about as a result of undertaking a Higher Degree Research (HDR) degree, keeping an open mind and your skillset diverse is essential.
‘…there are so many careers and opportunities which can come about… keeping an open mind and your skillset diverse is essential’
Thinking of pursuing a research degree? Check out the research study web page to find out how.