We spoke with Professor Erica Fudge who is a Lecturer in English, teaching on a number of interdisciplinary option classes available to students studying a Masters programme from our School of Humanities. As well as teaching, Erica is also involved in research in the fields of Animal Studies and Renaissance Studies.
What's your Strathclyde story?
I joined Strathclyde in November 2010 after 10 years in Literary Studies at Middlesex University. Before that I’d been in the School of Historical and Cultural Studies at Bath Spa University. This shifting between History and English reflects my training: I did an integrated undergraduate degree in English and History at what was then called Newcastle Poly, and then did a D.Phil in English Literature at Sussex University, which was supervised by a historian.
What initially attracted you to Strathclyde?
I had came up to Strathclyde to give a talk a couple of years before, and I liked the people, the city – and even the Livingstone Tower. When the post was advertised it came at the ideal time for me, so I jumped at the opportunity.
What inspired you to enter your field/profession?
I am in a field called Animal Studies in the Humanities. When I did my doctorate, which was on bear-baiting in early modern England, studying the representation of animals in culture was regarded as a strange thing to be doing.
I co-organised the first ever international conference in the field in 1999 and discovered some amazing scholars working in the area across the arts, humanities and social sciences. Since then, the field has expanded beyond what any of us might have expected or hoped 20 years ago, and it continues to grow, with a pressing relevance for today’s students.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out in your field?
Listen to people from all the disciplines you possibly can. Animal Studies is at its best when it is informed by work from other areas. My own work has benefitted from conversations with anthropologists, geographers, artists, philosophers and animal welfare scientists, to name but a few. I run the British Animal Studies Network at Strathclyde where once a year a wide range of people gather to exchange ideas and reading lists. You can follow us on twitter on @BasnTweets.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career to date?
I’m going to be greedy and take two opportunities to name-drop. In 2009 I met Donna Haraway off her flight at Heathrow Airport with a copy of The Companion Species Manifesto in my hands, so she’d know it was me.
She was coming over to speak at the British Animal Studies Network; and in 2013 I was on a panel talking about industrial agriculture at the Norwegian Festival of Literature in Lillehammer with Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee. I’d been teaching his work for years, so it was a bit like meeting a legend. He said ‘call me John’, but I could only think of him as ‘Coetzee’, or – at best – ‘J.M.’
What current trends do you see influencing your field?
Current environmental concerns and the related debates about meat eating are clearly influencing what we do in Animal Studies.
What are your biggest professional challenges?
I’m currently working alongside the author and activist Mary Colwell to encourage the development of National 5 in Natural History in Scotland, along the lines of the new GCSE in Natural History that Mary, with Caroline Lucas MP, has now got into development in England and Wales. It would be exciting to see this move forward, especially since the COVID-19 lockdown has really reminded people how important the non-human natural world is to us; and as children are, perhaps, being given greater opportunities to explore the outdoors – even if only their own gardens.
Tell us about any research or projects you are currently involved in.
I have just finalised a couple of essays that will be out later this year, including one on Shakespeare’s Richard II for the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Animals in Shakespeare. I’m about to start work on a new project which is currently titled ‘Being Edible in Early Modern England’. As it’s just started, that’s about as much as I can tell you about it at the moment!
Any special thanks or shout-outs you'd like to give to colleagues who have helped or inspired you throughout your career here.
I’ve been really lucky to work alongside some fantastic colleagues in all the places I’ve worked. I’m currently co-teaching a masters class with the historian Elsa Richardson called ‘Fleshy Histories: Meat Eating and Meat Avoidance 1500 to the Present’ which is a real eye opener for both of us, as well as for the students (I hope).
If you could switch jobs with someone, who would it be?
I would like to work in ‘The Repair Shop’. I don’t have the skill, but I think I’d especially like restoring paintings.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
I knit and sew, and am currently making face masks for friends, family and for my local chemist to distribute to vulnerable customers. It’s keeping me sane (ish) in the evenings.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Salt and vinegar crisps (sadly, I don’t feel too guilty though).
In one word, describe what Strathclyde means to you.