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Rachel Egloff was born in the UK and grew up in Switzerland. She joined Oxford Brookes as a research student in 2015 and her thesis title is ‘A Study of the Life and Works of Baroness Blaze de Bury: A Counter-narrative of Women’s Involvement in Nineteenth Century European International Politics’.
When I moved to Oxford a few years ago I was looking for somewhere to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in English and Psychology. Both departments on the Oxford Brookes website looked very welcoming and after talking to the heads of each, I was convinced that Brookes was the right place for me. My first impressions of Oxford Brookes, online, on the phone, and then in person, were of a straightforward, warm, and welcoming atmosphere.
It was the excellent and inspiring academic staff at Brookes that encouraged me to further pursue research. Once, I had decided to apply for a PhD in English, naturally, I wanted to stay at Brookes because of the excellent research environment, brilliant supervisors, and because of the unique access to resources both at the Brookes library as well as the Bodleian.
Before I came to Oxford Brookes I was studying English Linguistics and Literature (with minors Psychology and Management & Economics) at the University of Zurich, and was also working in human resources for an international airline and a cyber security company. Also, I tutored English as a foreign language to Swiss students.
The academic and administrative teams at Oxford Brookes made it very easy to settle into the research environment. Departmental seminars provided a great insight into staff and student’s current research. Faculty and Graduate College training days covered relevant topics and widened my understanding of research going on at the University as a whole. Furthermore, the Graduate College organises social events for research students, so that you get to know other PhD students beyond your own department. Also, the library support team, and other support structures, both academic and administrative made the transition from a taught course to a research degree easy. Not least, the research students’ social society, of which I am now a committee member, encouraged me to get to know other PhD students across all faculties and disciplines and offered the opportunity to exchange ideas, talk about shared PhD student worries, and simply have fun with intelligent and interesting people.
My thesis presents evidence of female participation in the nineteenth-century discourses on (trans)national identity in the context of European international politics using the case study of the under-researched writer Baroness Marie Pauline Rose Blaze de Bury (1813-1894). The aim is to provide a counter-narrative of women’s political engagement in the nineteenth century based on a female recuperative analysis of both Blaze de Bury’s life and works. Her negotiations with the dominant hegemonic gender ideology of the time are examined through both textual and exploratory archival approaches. Blaze de Bury wrote about European politics in a variety of genres. However, the line between her fiction (novels and short stories) and non-fiction (travel writing, memoirs, and newspapers and journal articles) is sometimes blurred. Therefore, the dissemination of her political agenda in these sometimes hybrid literary genres is inspected. These fiction and non-fiction texts are framed by historical literary and non-literary contexts that describe the European political atmosphere. Her textual negotiations with the gender ideology of the time are examined comparatively with that of other political, predominantly women writers. The Victorian era was a time of distinct gender spheres as well as a Europe-wide continuous rise in ideologies of nationalism. For these reasons, particular focus lies on evaluating perceived sex and nationality of authorship based on pseudonymous publication and its potential for transgender and transnational alteration. This political agency as a writer is then linked to her first-hand political agency through archival work. Blaze is an important figure to study, not only as a writer written out of the canon but also as a female writer of ‘unfeminine’ international politics.
The best thing about being a research student is having the freedom to pursue my interests. I cannot imagine anything better than spending my time reading and writing about something I am passionate about. Besides my own research, I greatly enjoy the exchange with my supervisors and fellow PhD students. It is amazing to feel part of a vibrant research community within and across the faculty.
Research training, whether offered by the department, the library staff, the faculty, careers team, or the Graduate College is very useful. The variety of seminars, workshops, and training days on offer is fantastic. Not only do they provide invaluable information but also enable one to think beyond one’s own current research. They offer a nice space in which to meet and exchange with other researchers at the University.
To be honest, I am enjoying this PhD so much right now that all I want to do in the future is to continue researching. I would love to stay at university in a researcher’s and/or lecturer’s capacity. There is so much more to learn, research, and disseminate.