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Barbara Bodichon's Epistolary Bildung

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BBEB (Barbara Bodichon's Epistolary Bildung)

Período documentado: 2017-09-01 hasta 2019-08-31

My research-based study of Bildung, entitled ‘Barbara Bodichon’s Epistolary Bildung’, has had as its main objective to contribute to Bildungstheorie from the perspective of the History of Education, at the crossroads of Women’s History and Epistolary Studies. The approach has consisted of reading letters through the lens of the educational term Bildung. Hence, I have explored personal correspondence as educational instruments in the life of English feminist, artist and philanthropist Barbara Bodichon (1827-1891). My argument is that the daily ‘feminine’ gesture of letter-writing, an apparently anodyne habit, became a source of education for Barbara Bodichon – education understood in the sense of Bildung: self-development. Persuaded of its potential as a thinking tool despite its classist and masculinist bias, reading letters through the lens of Bildung has proved to be an original way of exploring epistles as sources of informal education for literate women in nineteenth-century England and an alternative path to review and nuance our understanding of this already studied historical figure. My two deliverables are the publication of a monograph and passing the C1 exam in German.
At the Faculty of Humanities, Roehampton University, I have carried out the literature reading and the data analysis under the mentorship of Dr. Katharina Rowold – who has conducted research on female engagements with the German educational term Bildung. As a two-way knowledge transfer scheme, the Department of Humanities has given me the opportunity to set up my own seminar series (‘Education and Life Writing: Interdisciplinary Narrative Research’), which I have run in collaboration with Espai Hibrid – an action-research unit based in the teacher-training section of the Department of Education, Lleida University (Spain), led by Professor Glòria Jové.
As an interdisciplinary project, at Roehampton I have also discussed my research with colleagues at the School of Education. In this sense, I have set up, in collaboration with Dr. Amy Palmer, a reading group – History of Education Reading Group – that has gathered researchers interested in sharing knowledge on the history of (women’s) education.
In order to improve my German and hence engage with Bildungstheorie, at the Goethe Institut London I have taken courses throughout my Fellowship. In addition, I have done a 3-month secondment at the Department of Education, Frankfurt University (23 September - 21 December 2018). This secondment has permitted, on the one hand, to improve my German (I have taken intensive courses at the Goethe Institute Frankfurt) and discuss my on-going research with Bildung specialist Professor Christiane Thompson.
As an MC Fellow I have written my first book-length publication: Barbara Bodichon’s Epistolary Education: Unfolding Feminism. I signed a contract with Palgrave Macmillan and I am in the latest stages of editing my manuscript. It will be out in 2020, before the end of REF 2021. It is the only study of the Bildung-like dimensions of letters undertaken so far and it will be of interest to historians and philosophers of education, to specialists in Narrative Inquiry/Epistolary Research and to scholars in the field of Women’s/Gender History. For its simultaneously a history and methodology book.
Having taken courses up to the B2 level in German, I am also preparing for the C1 exam, which I expect to take early 2020.
Throughout my MC Fellowship I have produced the following outcomes:
- Book chapter: ‘Des/unions de gènere i raça en la història del moviment sufragista als Estats Units’, in Sufragisme i sufragistes: reivindicant la ciutadania política de les dones, edited by Susanna Tavera and Josep Lluís Martín Berbois (2019).
- Edited book/translation: Barbara Bodichon: Oeuvres, Classiques Garnier (Paris).
- Encyclopaedia entry: ‘Barbara Bodichon’, The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Victorian Women’s Writing, edited by Lesa Scholl.
- Book review: Biographical Misrepresentations of British Women Writers, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, edited by Brenda Ayres in Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly.
- The History of Education Society UK invited me to take over the co-editorship of its History of Education Researcher.
- The International Auto/Biography Association (European Chapter) invited me to join the editorial board of its European Journal of Life Writing.

As part of my dissemination scheme, I have run a WordPress blog, Epistolarity (
To academic audiences I have presented my work-in-progress at conferences and in public institutions in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Argentina and Brazil.
"During the second year of my research-based project I have carried out my praxis-based impact scheme, which I have developed in collaboration with Professor Glòria Jové and her team at Espai Hibrid and which we have entitled ‘Epistolary Education: The Intersubjective and Collaborative Production of Knowledge’. The scheme consists of extrapolating a Victorian epistolary education phenomenon to the context of 21st century classrooms, both in schools and at university. My impact activity consists of exploring how this History of Education study can inform a Teacher Training BA program and a primary school pedagogy. The aim is to offer an interdisciplinary teaching method that (1) makes students reflect upon research methods in the study of autobiographical documents; (2) make students and pupils active and responsible agents of their own education (like Bodichon was in the framework of her epistolary education) and, (3) inform school educational policy-making.
The success of this workshop has caught the attention of scholars from Argentina and Brazil, who have invited me to present it both to academic and general audiences:
- Museo Estevez, Rosario (Argentina):
- Department of Education, Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina (Spring 2020)

During my MC Fellowship I have been invited to participate in the following publications:

- Simon-Martin, Meritxell, ‘La educacion epistolary de Barbara Bodichon: la producción dialogica y cooperativa del conocimiento’, in special issue ‘História da educação: sensibilidade, arquivos pessoais e cultura escrita"", edited by Luciane Sgarbi S. Grazziotin, Revista De história da educação (Brazil) – forthcoming 2020.
- Simon-Martin, Meritxell, ‘Barbara Bodichon’s Archive: Silences that Speak’, in special issue ‘Who ‘speaks’ and for whom? approaches to (and along) working with autobiographical materials in history of education research’, edited by Karen Lillie, Lisbeth and Lilli, Paedagogica Historica (currently under evaluation).
- Simon-Martin, Meritxell, ‘The American Travel Diary of Barbara Bodichon (1827-1891): self-development at the interface of emotions and embodiment’, in special issue ‘Dear Diary, Dear Body: Personal Reports on Health and Illness in a Transnational Context’, edited by Ernestine Hoegen, Leonieke Vermeer and Babs Boter, Biography: A Quarterly Journal (currently under evaluation)
- Simon-Martin, Meritxell, and Jové, Glòria, Educación Epistolar: la producción dialogica y colaborativa de la producción del conocimiento, Revista Interuniversitaria Historia de la Educación (to be submitted in 2020)."