Fleur Elkerton won the DHS Student Essay Prize in the undergraduate category for her submission, ‘Staging, Stitching and Sensing: A Comparison of Medieval English Passion Narratives in Mystery Plays and Opus Anglicanum Embroidery’ Here, DHS Student Officer, Tai Cossich, speaks to Fleur about her essay.
Tai Cossich (TC): Please tell us about the topic of your essay submission. What drew your interest to medieval mystery plays and Opus Anglicanum?
Fleur Elkerton (FE): My essay suggests that through their points of commonality, medieval mystery plays and works of Opus Anglicanum were designed to be used in a performative context. They both functioned as live, embodied and observable narratives which used the senses to stimulate emotion and community cohesion in their audiences. Concluding that both mediums were designed to be ‘read’ visually, I found that analysis of these objects (inventories in the case of play design) provided an insight into how a mostly illiterate lay interacted with religion. This is why I was drawn to this topic — I like how through study of craft and material culture we can illuminate interactions with religion by those who had no access to writing or records.
TC: It's been a few weeks since you received the DHS Essay Prize in September 2019, during the DHS Annual Conference ‘The Cost of Design’. What have you been up to since receiving the prize?
FE: I have just moved back to London, and just started my MA at the Royal College of Art/V&A Museum, so I have been very busy!
TC: Do you plan to extend research in the topic of your essay during your MA in Design History? And what attracted you to Design History?
FE: I'd love to! I want to start looking from a more global perspective at narrative textiles, focusing on hybrid textiles created in early modern interactions between Christian and Islamic societies. Also, I'm fascinated by the concept of the body as a site of education, alongside our changing relationship with nature, maps and taxonomies (especially digital ones). History of Design attracted me as it is an increasingly global practice, concentrating on non-elite stories through analysis of everyday material culture. I also do theatre design work myself, and it seemed like a great way to marry my interests together.
TC: What are you reading at the moment?
FE: Mostly my reading lists! Also dipping into a little Persian poetry.
TC: You have recently been awarded a BA in History from University College London. How much Design History and Material Culture was part of your course? And what advice would you give to undergraduate students interested in Design History?
FE: Design History and Material Culture wasn't a huge part of my course — it had a more classic focus on intellectual, political and cultural histories. I loved it though and gave me a great overview of historiographical trends and methodologies. My advice would be to pay attention to these trends. I noticed how prevalent mentions of the ‘material turn’ began to be by the end of my studies, and how interdisciplinary approaches to historical arguments also became more common. As I researched more I found that these were patterns that correlated with design historical practice.
To learn more on the DHS Student Essay Prize please click here.
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