Bolton School Former Pupils
Emma Rhatigan (1991-1998)
Lecturer in Early Modern Literature, University of Sheffield
Qualifications: BA Hons, MSt, DPhil
Career History: My favourite subjects at School were English and History. And I've never stopped studying them! I did my undergraduate degree in English Literature at St Hilda's College, Oxford and then moved to Magdalen College, Oxford where I completed a Masters (MSt) and my DPhil on John Donne's Sermons.
After graduating I had a two year lectureship at Magdalen College and was then appointed as a lecturer at Queen's University, Belfast. I started my current post at Sheffield in 2010.
My job is split between teaching and researching. I teach both undergraduate and postgraduate students, this includes one on one supervisions, seminar teaching, and lecturing to much larger groups of students. My research is focused on sixteenth and seventeenth century literature and I'm especially interested in religious writing. I'm currently editing a volume of John Donne's sermons for a new edition which is being brought out by Oxford University Press.
What/who influenced your career choice? I didn't really have a sense of being an academic as a career choice while I was at school. But from as early as I can remember I've always had a passion for reading and at School this developed into a real love of English and History. Then I got to University and found out I didn't need to stop studying!
My parents have always supported me and I'm not sure I would have made it through all the years of study without their encouragement. My undergraduate tutors at St Hilda's and my DPhil supervisor inspired my love of early modern literature and continue to be wonderful role-models as teachers and researchers.
Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job? Teaching obviously requires good communication skills. You also need to be able to inspire and enthuse students, especially when introducing them to material and subjects which can appear very daunting. My research often involves reading and assimilating a lot of different types of material and then re-working it into a coherent narrative. I also draw on a lot of subject specific skills, for example being able to read and interpret sixteenth and seventeenth century manuscripts.
What do you like most about your job? I learn something new pretty much every day and get to work with material which continues to fascinate me.
What is your biggest challenge in your current role? It can be hard juggling commitments to both teaching and research. Teaching deadlines tend to feel more urgent so it's important to be strict with yourself and make sure you keep time for longer term research projects.
What do you consider to be your greatest career achievement? Academia is fiercely competitive, especially in my area, so I'm proud to have got a post in such a strong English department. I also felt a huge sense of achievement when my first book was published.
Your advice to our pupils interested in your field of work: Lots of university events are open to the public so if you see a seminar or speaker event advertised that sparks your interest then don't be afraid to go along. And academics tend to love talking about their subject, so if you are developing a particular field of interest then don't be afraid to get in touch. The most important thing, though, is to nurture your enthusiasm for your subject, so keep reading and exploring the things that capture your imagination.