The Ring

Newcomer to Victoria embraces Victorian literature

Wed, 2013-05-29 13:17

Taylor. Photo: Mitch Wright
Taylor. Photo: Mitch Wright

Lieutenant Governor’s Silver Medal (top master’s other than thesis, all faculties):
Adam Taylor, English

Adam Taylor, who is receiving the Lieutenant Governor’s Silver Medal in June 2013 as the top master's student for program achievement, is moving away from Victoria after convocation but is taking his passion for Victorian literature back home to Portland, Oregon.
 
Taylor was drawn to UVic after attending Marylhurst University, a liberal arts institution 15 km south of Portland, due to how “remarkably affordable” it is to study in Canada. He was initially interested in UVic's interdisciplinary program in cultural, social and political thought after focusing on philosophy as an undergraduate, and it seemed to him that UBC did not have as strong a theoretical program as UVic’s.

A full-year teaching-assistant position and supplemental fellowship “sealed the deal. I came here thinking I would work with theory at the graduate level but then found I needed a more tangible focus, [and this came from] Victorian serial periodicals.”
 
“The library has an amazing collection of Victoria periodicals and I was lucky enough to get in there [before it was transferred to University Archives and Special Collections]. So I could just go upstairs to the shelves, and browse.”  
 
It captivated him, and he immersed himself in archival research which brought him in touch with material traces of Victorian culture. He attained an 8.0 GPA in graduate work, and his very original essay on Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Aurora Floyd demonstrates how the 1860s marked a period of transition in stereotypes about disabilities and the human body.

The first edition of Braddon's novel was a whodunnit; she then changed her novel to suit theatre audiences of the Victorian era. Taylor shows how audiences preferred to clearly see a villain's guilt and then boo the character off the stage. He concludes that Braddon initially challenged readers of her novel not to judge people by physical appearance, yet her stage melodrama did just that—reinforcing stereotypical associations with one character who had a hunchback.
 
Taylor appreciates tangibility in literature studies, but his passion for palpability does not extend only to text: he is also an enthusiast of all things palatable, as an amateur chef. The first in his family to earn a degree, he earned his way through university as a research and a teaching assistant, writing tutor and video store clerk and including an administrative stint on the UVic 50th anniversary team.
 
He calls himself a “food tourist” but says he can be a “bit of a cheapskate” (for good reason) in searching for grocery bargains and inexpensive food. He especially enjoys preparing Mexican and Indian cuisine, with fish tacos and homemade paneer being two favourites. However, in the weeks before convocation, he and his wife were not spending much time in the kitchen beyond boxing up their pots and pans before a return to their hometown.
 
He says he had originally intended to pursue a PhD in North America and had even written a statement of intent. “Then I did some soul-searching” and decided he would rather not invest the time because “I really love teaching.” He adds that a doctorate would have put him “in a nation-wide market” but he would rather stay in Portland, where many higher-education teaching jobs are at community colleges.
 
Given Taylor himself worked his way to excellence after first being inspired by community college teachers, it is understandable he cannot wait to return—this time at the front, not just the head, of the class.