Dr Michael Alijewicz

Dr Michael AlijewiczPhD (Vanderbilt University)

I received my PhD last year from Vanderbilt University in English Literature, where I began my interdisciplinary research journey at the Robert Penn Warren Center, a cousin to the Interdisciplinary Centre for Collaborate Research. In my time here, I hope to foster existing connections between Queen’s and Vanderbilt while also navigating a link between graduate education and post-doctoral interdisciplinary methods. In achieving my doctorate, I have come to believe that interdisciplinary research is a necessary step toward making the humanities valuable to a non-academic audience in both here and in the United States. My previous experiences in an interdisciplinary environment intimate that the work we produce in the Centre and the conversations we begin here can help humanities scholars resituate the discourse around the purpose(s) of education to people who believe themselves outside the academy.

My research focuses on early modern planning as a form of narrative. I argue that provisional design, in both text and image, is a distinct form that moves through multiple probable narratives in an overlapping space and time. Plans embrace a range of outcomes rather than the straight lines they might appear to fix. In illustrating this conclusion, I connect a wide spectrum of early modern English sources, from architectural drawings and Shakespearean murder plots, to utopian cities, and Baconian experiments. In particular, my work focuses on connecting architectural images and government calculations of policy to their literary and theatrical manifestations. My method helps thinkers re-imagine the relationship between theory and empiricism by connecting material constructions, such as buildings, to their imaginative constructions—their plans. The wide early modern impact of planning in both literature and more practical endeavours such as building shows one way that practicality and imagination are bound together through provisional representation. It is a part of the history of intellectual disciplines themselves.

During my time at Queen’s, I plan to expand the scope of my work by engaging some of the earliest nation-scale designs in European history—the plantations of Ireland. This research will add a new dimension on the philosophical and historical impacts of designed space, a palpable presence in Belfast with a long and complex early modern history. This analysis can only make sense, however, with a first-hand experience of the effects and accidents resulting from the designs and plans of ages past.  A burgeoning research interest of mine that overlaps with this topic is the early settling of North America by England and others—plans that almost immediately failed but were replaced again and again by other inventions. I hope to take advantage of my dislocation to think through the linkages of the American and Irish plantations in terms of planning.

My personal strategy for the year in the Centre will be to add a completed monograph that finalizes my analysis of plans and includes my new Irish material. In addition, I plan to publish several articles based on this research and one or two new projects, incorporating ideas fostered by the interdisciplinary environment. Finally, I would also like to become a part of a conversation with graduate students at Queen’s about the potentials of interdisciplinarity currently available to them. But in a more general I want to make available my experiences as a young scholar with experiences in two different university systems and continue to think about the future of the humanities.