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Institute of Advanced Study

Postgraduate Participation

One of the core aims of the Institute of Advanced Study is to encourage Durham's research postgraduate community to engage with the work sponsored by the IAS. The Institute provides research postgraduates with a unique opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with some of the most distinguished scholars from across the world and to access to a wide range of events that allows them to examine for themselves the benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary research. Postgraduates are encouraged to attend the extensive programme of IAS Fellows' seminars and Fellows' lectures.

Encouraging postgraduate involvement in the Institute's annual theme is a major ambition of the IAS. The Institute has established a small fund to support research postgraduates organising events of a multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary nature (see IAS Research Postgraduate Fund and application proforma below). Funding for 2015/16 is now fully expended; however a call funding applications will be made in 2016/17 (in early September 2016) for future applications. In addition, each year the IAS organises events focussed on academic publishing for PGRs. This has taken the format of either a lecture or specific bespoke workshop focusing on either monograph or journal article publication and is aimed at postgraduates making the transition between a thesis and a publication, considering for example the factors involved in the decision between book and article publication, reviewing and understanding the pressures of supply and demand, together with changes in the economy of print publishing and developments in digital publishing and the changing the academic publishing landscape.

The IAS's theme for 2015/16 is Evidence (see: During the course of each thematic year, the IAS can offer limited funding for a small number of postgraduate events. The lists below highlights the Institues most recent themes in 2014/15 (Emergence) and 2013/14 (Light):


  • 'Narrative and Agency”' Workshop - 22nd – 23rd September 2016. Contact Marzia Beltrami (MLAC) for further information

  • ‘Identifying Identity’Tenth Annual Medieval and Early Modern Student Association (MEMSA) Conference - 14-15 July 2016. Contact Jenine de Vries for further information

  • 'Monasticism and the challenge of the world: the western monastic experience, c. 1050-c. 1250' Conference 21-23 September 2016. Contact Stephanie Britton or Rosalind Green (History) for further information

  • Water and Religious Life in Roman and Late Antique Near East Workshop - 23 March 2016. Contact Eris Williams Reed (Classics) or Stephen Humphreys (Archaeology) for further information. For further details, and to book a place on this workshop, please visit the Events Calendar


  • The qanât: Archaeology and Environment Workshop (Archaeology) - 17th – 19th October, 2014
  • Kaleidoscope one-day symposium on the theme Emergence - 5th December 2014
  • Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient History (AMPAH 2015) - 21st March 2015
  • Abnormality and the Abnormal in the Nineteenth-Century’ - 7th May 2015


  • On the Fringes: Outsiders and Otherness in the Medieval and Early Modern World (Medieval and Early Modern Student Association) - 08 - 10 July 2014
  • The Emergence of Human Complexity (Archaeology, Anthropology, Geography) - 16 May 2014
  • Perspectives on the First Person Pronoun “I”: Looking at Metaphysics, Linguistics and Neuroscience (Philosophy) - 15/17 May 2014
    Reading through Proust (Modern Languages and Cultures) - 24 January 2014
  • Conceptualising Spaces of Light and Dark (Geography) - 14 January 2014
  • Conceptual Boundaries of Symbolism. An Archaeological and Inter-disciplinary Discussion (Archaeology) - 31 January / 01 February 2014
  • Thousand Worlds: Network Models in Archaeology (Archaeology) - 18/19 October 2013


Postgraduate Research Feedback Session

2nd March 2016, 15:00 to 17:00, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study

This event is open to research postgraduates, academics across the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

This two-hour session is the first of a series of termly meetings that aim to share good practice and promote collaboration among postgraduate research students across the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. The sessions will provide a friendly, interdisciplinary setting in which academics and research students from across the Faculty meet up to discuss and give oral feedback on work-in-progress authored by research students. Each session will discuss the work of up to two research students. After briefly introducing their work, students will take comments, suggestions and questions about their written work from those in the audience (who will have read it in advance). Each student will have a few minutes at the end to respond to comments or ask for clarifications. The length of the pieces of work to be discussed will be between 3,000 and 5,000 words. These could be an extract from a chapter of the student’s PhD thesis, a conference paper or an article (work-in-progress in all cases). Light refreshments (tea/coffee) will be served.

In this first session, two students from the School of Modern Languages and Cultures (French Studies in both cases) will present work from their PhD thesis. Titles and short abstracts of the work will be available nearer the time. Catherine Ellis's thesis is entitled 'Libertine Digestion: Ingestion and Digestion in Eighteenth Century Libertine and Erotic Fiction’. Niall Oddy’s thesis is entitled ‘Ideas of Europe in Sixteenth Century France’. Work for this session will be circulated by email by Monday 22nd February for those who register for the event.
Capacity at this event is limited to 30, and registration is essential. To register follow this link.


  1. Catherine Ellis

‘sera-ce le contre-poison de la fatale Justine?’: Textual antidotes, edible prostitutes and cannibal monks in Rétif de la Bretonne’s l’Anti-Justine (1798)

In the introduction to his 1798 novel L’Anti-Justine,Rétif de la Bretonne acknowledges the dangerous ambivalence of his pornographic tale of romanticised incest, intended as a rebuttal to the violence and cruelty of the Marquis de Sade. He tells the reader: ‘I am not so senseless as to think that l’Anti-Justine is not a poison, but [...] could it be antidote to the fatal Justine?’ However, while most of the sexual pleasure depicted in L’Anti-Justine is not ‘fatal’, one scene surpasses Justine in its visceral horror: the violent rape, evisceration, cooking, and eating of a syphilitic prostitute at the hands of a depraved monk, who is then poisoned by her corrupted body.
While gruesome eating and cannibalism is a well-worn theme of Sade scholarship, critical appraisals of l’Anti-Justine have foundered in the face of this incongruous scene, approaching it either as a parodic critique of Sadean violence, or even a sign of the author’s senility. In this paper, I offer an alternative explanation for this peculiar episode. By marrying the metaphorical poison/antidote alluded to in Rétif’s epilogue with a close reading of the literal consumption of the prostitute’s body and the circumstances in which this occurs, I suggest that this lethal meal neatly encapsulates Rétif’s belief in the simultaneous poisonous and curative potential of consuming pornography (literally, ‘writing about prostitutes’). By focusing on Rétif’s understanding of eating, drinking, and reading, I reveal the internal logic that makes this much-maligned cannibalistic scene one of l’Anti-Justine’s most curious, yet most coherent moments.

Contact for more information about this event.

IAS Research Postgraduate Fund

The Institute has a small fund available to support the activities outlined above. In addition the IAS can provide seminar space for research postgraduate groups who have a multi-disciplinary remit (i.e. comprises researchers from more than one department) and small sums of funding for postgraduate researchers who are organising multi-disciplinary events such as conferences or workshops. (see below). To apply to this fund, please complete the this online form and submit no later than 30 October 2015. Applications after this date will not be considered. If you have any questions please contact Linda Crowe.



In 2007/08, under the auspices of the IAS, the online postgraduate interdisciplinary journal called Kaleidoscope.was established. The journal is designed to foster communication between postgraduates in different disciplines and to promote excellence in interdisciplinary research. Since 2013 the journal is jointly supported by Ustinov College, Durham's exclusive postgraduate college. The latest issue within volume five was published in November 2013 (see: current issue).

IAS-badged seminars as part of the Ustinov seminar series

Once a term the IAS sponsors a Ustinov Seminar, which takes the Institute's annual theme as the focus for its papers. This year's seminars will take place as follows:

  • tbc

Contact or

IAS Research Postgraduate Group

Working within the IAS is a postgraduate research group that meets regularly , to hold discussions about topics that interest them and will benefit from multi-disciplinary perspectives. The group is an excellent opportunity to engage with the leading edge research of the IAS, and to network constructively with other postgraduates approaching similar ideas from different disciplinary angles. The group also receives invitations to the weekly in-house IAS Fellows' seminars, as well as advance notice of IAS lectures and future IAS activities.

How to Engage with the Activities at the IAS

To participate in the IAS-badged Ustinov seminar, email:

To participate in the IAS Research Postgraduate Group, email Pauline Edmondson with a request to be added to the group's mailing list.

If you are interested in attending one of the IAS Fellows' seminars email Pauline Edmondson to reserve your place (see current seminar schedule)

To submit a paper to Kaleidoscope, email the Chief Editor at:

If you are a member of a multi-disciplinary research group that would like access to the seminar room at the IAS to hold a seminar or meeting, email Pauline Edmondson with your request.

The IAS is a space and resource to explore ideas. If you are a postgraduate researcher keen to explore ideas through a interdisciplinary lens with other postgraduate researchers at Durham then make contact with the IAS.

2015-16 Annual Programme: Evidence

A number of additional events have been added to this year's programme. There are also a small number of date or time changes. Please review the comprehensive Events Calendar for all current details.