English and Scottish Literature

Student reading group grows into funded collaboration on literature and philosophy

We talk to the OverLAP team about their journey from kitchen conversation to international conference.

Banner image for OverLAP

A reading group started by PhD students in the School of Literature, Languages and Cultures (LLC) has grown into a funded research collaboration currently preparing to hold its first international conference.

OverLAP brings together a core team of six postgraduate students in LLC with readers interested in the intersections of literature and philosophy, meeting every Tuesday evening during term time, and now working towards the ‘Forms of Knowledge’ conference on 7th-8th November.

What started earlier this year as a discussion in the PhD kitchen over the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, has become a platform to discuss a range of philosophical texts, from Plato’s ‘Republic’ to Julia Kristeva’s 'Is There a Feminine Genius?'.

In ‘Forms of Knowledge’, which has Sandra Laugier as its keynote speaker, the group will focus, in particular, on questions of truth and knowledge.

Seeking funding with the support of staff members

From the outset of OverLAP, which was originally known simply as the LLC-Philosophy Reading Group, the six students - Adam Clay, Anahit Behrooz, Angus Sutherland, Bridget Moynihan, Louise McCray and Richard Elliott - have shared the various responsibilities associated with keeping a reading group interesting, accessible and lively, including answering emails and maintaining a website and Facebook page.

Having “tossed about some ideas” for a conference, they decided to apply for funding from two sources: the University of Edinburgh’s ‘Innovation Initiative Grants’, which promote new initiatives in teaching, research and the student experience; and ‘Cohort Development Funding’ from the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities (SGSAH).

Working together on the funding applications, the team drew on the "invaluable help and support" of various staff members from English Literature, the Department of European Languages and Cultures (DELC), and the Research team within the LLC School Office, as well as SGSAH Panel Chairs, and fellow PhD students who had run similar initiatives.

It was through DELC, for example, (where Adam also teaches French, in addition to his PhD studies), that OverLAP was able to arrange a conference partnership with the French Institute, Institut Français Écosse, and accommodation support from the French Consulate.

Expanding the learning to a research poster workshop

In advance of the conference, and drawing on both an Innovation Initiative Grant and SGSAH funding, OverLAP is running a research poster workshop for postgraduate students in the Humanities, hosted by the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Academic Development on Tuesday 24th October 2017.

Open to postgraduate students across all Scottish universities, the event was partly inspired by Adam’s part-time summer job as a Course Assistant in the Centre for Open Learning, where he helped students in the STEM fields create their own research posters.

Speaking about organising both events simultaneously, Adam says “As the projects are taking shape, more and more needs to be done, and we are taking on more and more responsibilities. It's quite a challenge to have to juggle so many different things, even as part of a team (I don't think I've ever had to manage something as multi-faceted), so I've learnt a lot about myself in doing so, but I'm confident that this effort will pay off.

I hope that we will set a precedent and that both our interdisciplinary conference and our poster workshop will be successful and will continue in the long run - taken up, hopefully, by new and equally enthusiastic PhD students. Our team is a mix of second and third year PhD students, so if new recruits do join us, we should be able to pass OverLAP on to others - and with it what we've learnt from this experience”.

The Call for Papers for OverLAP’s first conference, Forms of Knowledge, is now open. The deadline for submissions is Friday 8th September 2017.

Find out more on the OverLAP website

Applications for the postgraduate research poster workshop are also open, with a deadline of Friday 6th October 2017.

Find out more on the OverLAP website

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Related links


University of Edinburgh | Innovation Initiative Grants (next deadline 26th October 2017)

Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities

Institute for Academic Development