31: Joel Virgen

Department

History

Program and year of study

PhD, 4th year

Previous degrees and colleges

BA History, CSU Stanislaus

MA History, CSU Stanislaus

Where did you grow up?

I was born in the small town of Patterson in the Central Valley but I grew up in Modesto, CA.

Where do you live now?

West Sacramento, CA

What's your favorite spot in Davis?

Tres Hermanas during happy hour…or better yet, the bike paths in South Davis, where my dogs and I used to waste time sniffing and enjoying nature

How do you relax?

(Ponders painfully) Working out is great when I do it but mostly cleaning, which brings me a sense of purpose and accomplishment when I feel inert. Making time for my husband also helps to refocus my attention away from my work.

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. It was one of his books I kept skipping over but my good friend Heather implored me to read it since it revolves around a magical underground London and dovetails nicely with my research. Wait, does that make it research? What’s your definition of reading for pleasure?

What TV show are you currently binge-watching?

Miranda, a British show starring comedian Miranda Hart. Also, Kommisar Rex, an Austrian television show about a German Shepard that helps solve crimes, like murders of elderly women. It has an odd tone but it helps to practice German.   

Research interests

My research currently looks at women as they entered into the architectural field at the beginning of the twentieth century in the UK and the many accommodations required of them. Initially, single women were preferred by employers and my research looks into why single women were preferred. This division between single and married women is reflected in housing advocacy groups that although networked with one another, aligned and advocated for rights independently based on their marital status. 

Dissertation title or topic

Forthcoming in late 2017 or early 2018

Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research

Probably that many of the arguments used against the social, political, and financial emancipation of women a hundred years ago in the UK are the same as those being used today, almost verbatim. The current claims that women receive special treatment began as early as 1886 with the work of E. Belfort Bax, a staunch proponent of men’s rights. At that time, women still did not have the right to vote and only a few years earlier Britain had legally ended coverture, but men were already complaining about women having too many ‘special rights’. We’re the worst.

Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?

Dr. Katherine Royer has done the most to inspire me and look beyond the work of a BA.  

Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?

Oh, where to begin. J.G.A Pocock’s The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law: A Study of English Historical Thought in the Seventeenth Century is incredible and something I could never create. Also, Stephen Greenblatt’s Renaissance Self-Fashioning is always a favorite. Judith Walkowitz’s City of Dreadful Delights always inspires me even if I only read a few pages and John Boswell’s Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, which I found as a high-school freshman and changed so many facets of my life.

Which other researchers at UC Davis are doing work that particularly interests you?

I am endlessly fascinated by Edward Dickinson’s work on modern dance and the intellectual trends behind its inception and the cultural reach it had. Currently, I am excited to read the work of Jillian Azevedo, whose latest book is about food in Britain in the early modern period. 

What’s the best thing about being a grad student?

All the places I get to go. Grad school has given me the opportunity to travel to countries and cities that I would probably never have the chance to go to if I were not working towards a PhD. 

What's the worst?

Honestly, all the hustling for money. But grant applications have their place. They provide constant motivation and opportunity for refining your written work and your arguments.

If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?

Either teaching elementary school or doing some sort of behind-the-scenes theater work. 

Finally, please ask yourself a question

What’s your favorite cookie?

My own homemade chocolate chip cookies. A close second are McVitie’s Dark Chocolate Hobnobs. I have only been able to find them in Britain. I also found these wonderful cookies in Vienna called Bahlsen Contessa Lebkuchen, ugh, so good. Also, surprisingly, Safeway has an amazing Oatmeal Cranberry cookie that is so full of cinnamon and so soft. When I am feeling unhealthy but need a dose of chocolate chips I make a 3-ingredient cookie that consists of bananas, oatmeal, and chocolate chips that are amazing. Also… 

 

—December 2017

 

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