VIU graduate Elizabeth Bassett has won a major scholarship to pursue her Master’s degree studies in English at UVic beginning in September.

August 12, 2014 - 12:15pm

Vancouver Island University (VIU) graduate Elizabeth Bassett plans to take a fresh look at a classic Victorian novel when she begins her Master of Arts degree at the University of Victoria in September.

The Nanaimo resident, who graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree with an English major and Psychology minor, will begin the next phase of her studies not only excited to continue a project she began at VIU, but with significant financial support from a major research scholarship.

Bassett won a $17,500 scholarship from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada to begin her Master’s studies at UVic, based upon her application to pursue a project based on the novel Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë.

“I’m really excited to focus my work – it started with a project I did at VIU,” Bassett said.

Working with a small group of students under the guidance of Dr. Sandra Hagan, professor in the English department, Bassett analyzed the classic “governess” novel first published in 1847.
“What really strikes me about the novel is that it has a kind of tension between the protagonist’s individual self and her public working self,” she said. “I think it’s a tension that’s still really relevant today.”

Bassett plans to use autobiographical theory to examine “how interior lives can be expressed or suppressed by narrative forms.”

During her group’s directed studies on the works of the Brontë sisters, Bassett made a presentation on Agnes Grey that encouraged her interest in pursuing a Master’s degree.

 “I got a lot of support from Sandra and other faculty members in the English department. Sandra really helped me with my focus and was very encouraging towards me doing my graduate studies,” she said.

Dr. Hagan said she was pleased to support Bassett’s application to graduate school, and to recommend her for the SSHRC scholarship.

“Elizabeth is the most promising student I’ve worked with in my 10 years of undergraduate teaching,” she said. “She combines first-rate academic skills with an excitement for research and a scholarly steadiness that make her exceptional.”

Bassett added that her idea to examine issues of women’s private and public identities in a celebrated fictional work resulted in part from a diversity of studies taken for her undergrad degree.

“At the same time I was taking the Victorian directed study I was taking a Social Psychology course with Caroline Burnley,” she said. “We were studying private selves and public selves in Social Psychology, so that really informed my project. It wasn’t deliberate, but I think that’s one of the great things about your undergrad, you can make so many different subjects relevant to each other.”

Working this summer as a skating teacher for the City of Nanaimo’s Parks & Recreation department, and as a piano teacher, Bassett is preparing for her move to Victoria to begin studies at UVic.

The SSHRC scholarship has provided not only the financial support for graduate studies, but also a boost for the next stage of her academic career.

“It’s definitely given me more confidence going into graduate studies,” she said. “And it confirmed that my interests are relevant.”

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