20 Questions for SHaCademics – Dr Lauren Wainwright

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1. What is your role within the History department?  I’m one of the two Teaching Fellows for Medieval History.

2. What are your research interests?  Broadly, I’m a medievalist interested in gender and visual culture, particularly within the Byzantine Empire.

3. Where did you study (UG, PGT, PGR etc.)?  I started my BA at Birmingham in 2009 and kept finding reasons to come back!

4. Did you always know you wanted to go to university or in to academia?  It’s pretty much the only thing I saw myself doing.

5. How long did it take and how did you manage to fund and complete your PhD?  I started initially part-time in 2013 (which seems like a very long time ago now) and I passed in December 2018.

6. What was your PhD on?  It was on Byzantine empresses – I looked at representations of these empresses (among the most well represented group of women in the medieval period) from the fourth to the fifteenth century. That’s a lot of history to cover, even in 80,000 words!

7. What are you working on at the moment?  I’m developing a project on medieval perceptions of menstruation in the eastern Mediterranean (I felt smugly hilarious when I entitled a recent paper ‘The Byzantine Period’), though I have a few things to finish up before I can get stuck into this properly.

8. What made you want to become a lecturer/academic?  So, when I was around 11 or 12, I watched The Mummy (the good one, with Brendan Fraser and Rachael Weisz). I thought that Evie was the best character ever – someone who loved to read and talk about history like I did! – and decided there and then that I wanted to be just like her when I was older. Raising ancient evils from the dead aside, I think I’m doing an alright job! I did try my hand at hieroglyphics when I came to university, but realised as I progressed through my BA that my research interests lay a bit further into the future than ancient Egypt.

9. Name three books/films/podcasts you recommend to read/watch/listen to during lockdown.  I’m not much into podcasts, I’ve already talked about a film, and my reading list at the moment largely consists of thick books on the Byzantines. But at the moment, I am replaying Final Fantasy XII on PS4, planning on getting into Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (Kassandra, obviously), and waiting for the summer so I can fully devote my time to obsessively building the perfect house on Sims 4. If life gives you lockdown, make your own friends and family?

10. What is the most historically inaccurate film or scene you have watched or read?  Obviously I will not bad-mouth The Mummy, inaccuracies notwithstanding. My major gripe is with Troy (2004), particularly the relationship between Achilles and Briseis. Anyone who has read The Illiad or even Pat Baker’s Silence of the Girls (a harrowing but vital retelling) can relate. And don’t get me started on Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016)!

11. Are you staying physically active during lockdown? If so, how, and do you suggest anything?  I started using the Couch to 5k app a few weeks ago. This is how I learned that A. I am tragically unfit and B. there’s an urban farm, complete with horses and pig, a ten minute jog from my house. Makes life a little brighter!

12. Do you have any pets? If so, what? (Pictures encouraged!) We adopted Maximus Decimus Meridius a year and half ago and he may be the light of my life but it was such an inappropriate name for him – this cat gets mocked by the birds in the garden and he hunts the kitchen sponge more than mice. But yes, we do ask him if he’s entertained every now and again. He has a weird habit of ‘splooting’ when sulking or deciding that he’s tired of playing with the humans. I’ve never seen a cat do this before, and I absolutely love it.

13. What is your favourite film or TV series?  Brooklyn 99 will never not be funny to me. I am 80% Amy and 20% Boyle.

14. Do you have a favourite band/album/genre of music? If so, what  Appropriately for a quiz for the History department, I am listening to the show Hadestown right now. It’s hauntingly beautiful.

15. Do you have any unusual links or claims to fame?  Not exactly famous but certainly unusual; my uncle somehow landed himself the job of Beast of Bodmin Moor, despite living in Yorkshire.

16. What skill would you one day like to master?  I have always wanted to play piano, but have absolutely no patience so…

17. What takes up too much of your time?  TikTok! I regret downloading it in March.

18. What songs have you completely memorized?  If anyone needs the catalogue of pop hits from the late 90s & 00s, I’m here for it.

19. What advice would you give to your younger self?  I’m trying to think of some sage advice, but I have the feeling that younger Lauren would listen politely, roll her eyes, and then make the same mistakes anyway. So: Mistakes can be a good learning opportunity?

20. Do you have any top tips for academic work/study for our students?   When studying, try and listen to music without words; lyrics tend to distract you from reading or trying to write. Movie soundtracks/gaming scores work particularly well!