I was born and raised in Larne and completed my secondary education at Garron Tower on the Antrim coast. Having a strong interest in the Middle East, I completed a degree in Assyriology at Cambridge in 1994 and then worked in archaeology and teaching in Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan for many years. After teaching in Vietnam, I decided my brain needed to start functioning again, so I started an MA in Modern History (medieval strand) at Queen’s in September 2011. I finished that with a distinction in 2012 and decided to commence a PhD on aspects of belief relating to ghosts in the early modern period.
Title: 'Realms of darkness: The legacy of the Medieval in the Early-Modern English night'
My research topic will essentially deal with how early modern people envisaged the spirit world around them and the extent to which they believed it was possible to interact with the souls of the dead. Unlike previous studies on sixteenth and seventeenth century ghosts which have focused primarily on the change in theology at the Reformation, I hope to be able to engage and deconstruct the early modern ghost through comparative anthropology and, by analysing the stories behind the ballads and chapbooks, attempt to assess the degree of continuity relating to belief in revenants, undead and the restless souls from the fifteenth century to the dawn of the nineteenth. Issues as diverse as gender, class and colonialism will be addressed. The term ‘ghosts’ is a misnomer, in ways, as it implies the marvellous, strange and grotesque for the modern reader whereas I want to be able to delve beyond the phantoms of newsprint and study the psychology behind bereavement and see how grief and loss may have played a role in forming ghosts now largely invisible in the record. Furthermore, I would like to study the extent to which ghosts, as entities, were feared in a manner we would understand today. I would also, in future research, like to be able to compare the ‘British’ model of ghosts at the Reformation and see if the same stages of rejection and rehabilitation were paralleled on the continent in Protestant and Catholic thinking.
My primary supervisor is Chris Marsh and my secondary supervisor for the medieval, James Davis.