Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Past Was Yours but the Future's Mine

News came through this week of the appointment of the new AHRC Director of Research. Professor Mark Llewellyn (for it is he), Professor in English Studies at the University of Strathclyde, will take over from Shearer West (Birmingham) who has moved on to be Head of Humanities at Oxford. She, in turn, had taken over from Prof Tony McEnery, who was Professor of English Language & Linguistics at Lancaster. Before them you had Chairs of the Research Committee (John Caughie, Film Studies, Glasgow and John Morrill, History, Cambridge).

So what do we know about Mark Llewellyn? And can his appointment tell us anything about current AHRC thinking? Well, a number of things strike me about his appointment:
  • firstly, he's incredibly young to be taking on a senior policy position in the major funder in the sector. Take a look at the fresh faced young prof in the photo above (looking a little like Peter Kay's young brother), and compare it to Morrill, Caughie, and even McEnery and Shearer. The AHRC is obviously backing youth.

  • secondly, his rise has been meteoric over the last five years: in 2006-07 he was still plying his trade as a postdoc researcher at Liverpool. From RA to Director of Research at the AHRC in five years: some might say his haste is unseemly. The AHRC is obviously backing ambition.

  • thirdly, he's keen on work which stretches out across disciplines. He works in 'neo-Victorianism', which is a fairly broad church (as I understand it), and is currently 'think[ing] about ways in which we still interact with and (re-)imagine the Victorian(s) across a range of discourses.' The AHRC is obviously backing interdisciplinarity.

  • finally, he has engaged with the AHRC through the Peer Review College (2007-11), and through being PI on a recent 'Connected Communities' grant. The AHRC is obviously backing engagement.
None of this, of course, is a surprise. But it does indicate that the AHRC recognises the need for energy, dynamism and fresh thinking in these difficult times. Will Llewellyn push the Council to increased interdisciplinary initiatives, and bring in more radical reform that that already suggested in their Delivery Plan? I'll watch with interest.


  1. I really want 'neo-Victorianism' to mean 'Steampunk', but expect I'll be disappointed....

  2. I had to look up Steampunk. It looks very neo-Victorian to me: fits perfectly with 'ways in which we still interact with and (re-)imagine the Victorian(s) across a range of discourses.' And his haircut screams Byronic steampunk, don't you think?