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Countervoices March Research Seminar

Thursday 4 March 2021, 4.00PM to 5 pm

Join our PG forum’s final research seminar of the spring term, part of a series of events that offer postgraduate students in the Centre for Modern Studies and beyond the opportunity to present a short piece of work to an interdisciplinary audience. 

The event consists of two invited presentations from Yaelim Nam and Emma Bryning followed by a Q&A.

Yaelim Nam


Into the Enchanted Victorian Forest: A Visionary Fairyland of Sir Joseph Noel Paton

This paper examines the works of the Scottish painter Joseph Noel Paton (1821-1902) in order to reconsider the nature of Victorian fairyland. Fairy paintings have had major reverberations within Britain from the 1830s until the latter half of the century, and Paton was considered one of the most prominent painters of the genre. As a lifelong friend of John Everett Millais, he also had close affinities with the Pre-Raphaelites. By establishing Paton’s works within a complex religio-cultural context, this research seeks to subvert the notion that the subject matter of fairyland in visual art is merely a kitsch and superficial conception of Victorian culture. By painting fairies, Paton actively engaged in discourses that undermined conventional religious and scientific wisdom on the matter of spirituality, visibility, and materiality through a radical context set forth by dissenting thinkers such as Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). I examine his works through three distinct but interconnected faculties that make up the realm of fairies: 1) religious 2) theatrical 3) erotic. Each one engages with various social agendas that created dissonances within the late Georgian and Victorian contexts.


Yaelim Nam recently finished her MA in History of Art at the University of York. During her BA in Film Studies and Art History at Concordia University and the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema in Montreal, Canada, she published her first work on Romanticism in cinema entitled “A City Symphony within a Noir: Romantic and National Ideals in Whispering City (1947).” Since then, her primary focus has been the genre of British Romantic fairy paintings. She is drawn to the religious and scientific landscapes that gave way to a unique national development of fairy lore based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Emma Bryning


‘I Was Here’: Tourist Marks to Tagging, a Consideration of Graffiti Practices as a Way to Express Personal Identity 

As a form of public mark-making, modern graffiti is usually defined by its illegality and as a form of anti-social and criminal behaviour, often regardless of the various contexts within which these marks are situated. However, definitional understandings of graffiti can vary greatly depending on the spatial, temporal and wider contexts of the marks themselves. In contrast to contemporary understandings, Juliet Fleming has argued that in early modern England, graffiti was not yet considered a vice. Meanwhile, Fiona McDonald has examined the association of graffiti practices and the Grand Tour when it was popular for individuals to leave a mark - such as an initial, name or date - when visiting historic and cultural sites. Such ‘tourist marks’ reveal the repeated desire of individuals to leave their mark for posterity and record their presence within these spaces, symbolically writing ‘I was here’: a practice which continues to the present day, albeit one which is heavily discouraged, particularly within formalised heritage settings. Such practices not only show how our relationships with historic sites have shifted over time, they also reveal a similarity between ‘tourist marks’ and the modern practice of ‘tagging’ and how both have been used to express personal identity. 


Emma Bryning is a PhD student in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. Her research project is entitled Making marks, changing values: The contemporary significance of graffiti at historic sites. The project is being undertaken in collaboration with the University of York and English Heritage, and aims to better understand the historic and contemporary significance and value of graffiti, and how this can inform heritage management and conservation practice. Emma has previously worked as a Learning & Community Officer, Visitor Experience Manager and Heritage & Community Impact Manager at the Monastery Manchester and has also worked in museums and heritage sites, predominantly in the North West of England. 

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