Victoria Yuskaitis

Victoria Yuskaitis

Profile

I study English anchorites, the cells they lived in, and their varied experiences through an interdisciplinary project combining historical, literary, and archaeological approaches and diverse source materials, both archaeological and textual. 

I earned my BA in May 2014 from Lycoming College in Williamsport, PA (USA), where I studied Archaeology, Medieval Studies, and Creative Writing. After this I completed my MA in Medieval Archaeology in September 2015 at the University of Sheffield, where I was supervised by Hugh Willmott (Senior Lecturer in European Historical Archaeology at Sheffield). I started here at the University of Leeds in October 2016, and I was funded through an Arts Cross Disciplinary Research Scholarship, supported jointly by the School of History and the School of English, from 2016-2019. I was awarded the John Pagett Bursary during the final year of my PhD (2019-2020), which is awarded to postgraduate researchers carrying out historical, archaeological or natural history research on Shropshire or the immediate region. 

Research interests

My research interests include antiquarianism, medieval archaeology, medieval parish church history and archaeology, and of course anything related to anchorites.  

The central research questions for my project are:

  • What can archaeological remains of anchorite cells, particularly in Shropshire, indicate about anchoritic experience?
  • How do the archaeological record and the documentary and literary record inform each other?
  • What does this comprehensive analysis offer in terms of new ways to consider the anchoritic vocation and the lived experience of anchorites?

Archaeological experience

I have worked on various archaeological sites, either excavating or surveying, almost every summer since my first excavation in 2013:

In addition to working on these sites, I have been focusing on my own archaeological analysis of a group of parish churches in Shropshire, and have carried out research trips in April 2017, April 2018, and June 2019 for this purpose. In addition, I have analysed churches outside of Shropshire with potential comparative anchoritic archaeology, including churches in the following areas:

  • Norwich, August 2017.
  • Kent, October 2017.
  • Durham, February 2018 and January 2019.
  • Yorkshire, September 2018.
  • Surrey, April 2019. 
  • Sussex, May 2019. 

I have also coordinated research trips to the Shropshire Archives and Historic Environment Record (HER) in Shrewsbury alongside my April 2017 and 2018 archaeological research. 

Work Experience

My work experience at the University of Leeds includes: 

  • Brotherton Library and Edward Boyle Library, Weekend Customer Service Assistant (2019 – Ongoing): Maintaining the Library’s Customer Service Excellence award by assisting customers in accessing library services in a friendly, efficient, and welcoming manner. Operating library systems, including databases, and delivering services and operations such as overdues, reservation requests, till work, and more. 
  • IMS External Communications Intern (2018-19): Updated and generated website content, worked with new website platforms, and maintained a social media presence on Twitter and Facebook. 
  • IMS Website Intern (2017-18): Updated and generated website content, including events, news stories, online resources, calls for papers, and the calendar
  • IMS Promotions and Communications Intern (2016-17): Maintained the IMS email list, publicised medieval events at Leeds as well as other universities, and wrote regular newsletters.

Outreach Experience 

  • The Arts Society Public Talk (19 June 2019): I received an invitation to speak on the day to The Arts Society at The Lord Hill in Shrewsbury after a speaker had to cancel last-minute, and I delievered a similar talk with the same title (see below) to an audience of over 100 people. 
  • The Much Wenlock Civic Society Public Talk (18 June 2019): I presented a public talk titled ‘An Anchorite at Much Wenlock? The Archaeological Evidence’ at The Priory Hall in Much Wenlock, to an audience of 37 people.
  • Bedale Archaeolgy & History Society Public Talk (5 February 2019): I presented a public talk titled 'An Anchoress at All Saint's, York? Archaeological Remains of English Anchorites in Parish Churches', attended by an audience of 30 people. 
  • Outreach Event at the Shropshire Archives (28 August 2018): I presented my archaeological findings from my case study churches in Shropshire to 27 locals who have supported, encouraged, and facilitated my research in the area. The talk, titled ‘Anchorites in Shropshire: Archaeological and Archival Evidence’, was accompanied by relevant archival documents available to view and, in some cases, handle. 
  • Be Curious (2018): I created an interactive timeline about anchorites for this campus-wide festival, celebrating various types of research at Leeds and encouraging locals and their families to visit campus and explore. Received positive feedback from parents as well as children, and also helped with interactive demonstrations from medievalists nearby. 
  • Archaeology in the City (2015): I introduced archaeology to middle-school children through an interactive display of archaeological tools, and encouraged their interest in the field. 
  • Sheffield Cathedral Placement (2015): I designed a two-week project which invovled creating a web-based resource to educate visitors about the Cathedral's archaeologically preserved medieval past. This entailed significant archaeological and historical research, requiring access to private collections and the Sheffield archives. 

Upcoming Public Talks

  • IMS/School of History Medieval History Seminar (4 December 2019): I will present ‘Anchoresses, Anchorites, and Anchorite-Priests: Re-evaluating Lived Experience through the Archaeology of Anchorite Cells’ at the University of Leeds. 
  • Yorkshire Archaeological & Historical Society Public Talk (8 February 2020): I will present ‘Anchorites, Archaeology, and Antiquarians: A New Archaeological Approach in Anchorite Studies’ at the Swarthmore Centre in Leeds. 
  • Morley Medieval Public Talk (27 March 2020): I will present ‘An Anchorite Cell at Chester-le-Street: An Archaeological Perspective’ at Morley College in London.
  • Wrekin Historical Group Public Talk (1 October 2020): This talk is part of my funding agreement for the John Pagett Bursary and will be hosted in Telford. 

Teaching Experience

  • Education Outreach Fellow (2017 – Ongoing): Involved going to schools throughout England and teaching Year 12 students about various aspects of research, from the definition and avoidance of plagiarism to strategies for taking notes, to skills workshops such as interview skills and time management. Focus on developing and delivering interactive workshops to support students undertaking an Extended Project (EPQ/IB/Pre-U). 
  • MA Class Teaching (November 2018): Co-taught a two-hour, discussion-based University of Leeds MA class, MEDV 5295, titled 'Religious Communities and the Individual Experience of Religion, 1200-1500'. 

Conference experience

My graduate conference experience includes presenting, organising panels, and working in various capacities: 

  • IMC (International Medieval Congress) 2020 (6-9 July): Held at the University of Leeds. Organising two panels in a session sponsored by the International Anchoritic Society titled ‘Enclosed for Life: The Rigidity – or Permeability – of Anchoritic Borders’. 
  • British Archaeological Association (BAA) Annual Conference 2019. Medieval Art, Architecture and Archaeology in Shrewsbury and Mid-Shropshire (15-19 July): Held in Shrewsbury. Presented a 20-minute paper titled ‘Anchorites, Antiquarians, and Archaeology: The Material Remains of Shropshire Anchorites in Parish Churches’. 
    • Received Student Scholarship. 
    • Delivered short on-site presentations at two churches with anchorite cells (Ruyton and Much Wenlock). 
  • IMC (International Medieval Congress) 2019 (1-4 July): Held at the University of Leeds. Presented a 20-minute paper titled ‘Anchorites’ Cells and Lepers’ Squints: Medieval or Modern Materialities?’
    • Worked as an Interviewer for delegate video interviews and Social Media Coordinator with the other IMS interns, which involved updating Twitter and Instagram regularly to promote the IMC.
  • IMS Workshop: Contesting Medieval Masculinities (17 May 2019): Held at the University of Leeds. Presented a 20-minute paper titled ‘Male Anchorite-Priests: Medieval or Modern Masculinity?’
  • IMS Workshop: ‘Borders’  (3 April 2019): Held at the University of Leeds. Presented a 5-minute paper talk titled ‘A Welsh Grave Slab in a Shropshire Anchorite Cell: Border Perceptions, Medieval and Modern’. Participated in the group discussion following a series of short papers. 
  • IMC (International Medieval Congress) 2018 (2-5 July): Held at the University of Leeds. Co-organised a session titled 'Memory and Methodology: Anchoritic Legacies and Historical Reconstruction' with Alicia Smith (The Queen's College, University of Oxford). The session was held on Thursday, 5 July from 14:15-15:45, and was sponsored by the International Anchoritic Society. Presented 'Archaeology and Anchoritism: A New Methodology' in this session.
    • Post-Congress Tour: The Wars of the Roses - Medieval Castles and Battlefields of the Midlands (6-9 July, part of IMC 2018 programming): I worked as an Excursions Assistant on this tour, which entailed organising the details of the trip and managing any issues or concerns raised by the tour guides, delegates, hotel staff, or bus driver. 
  • International Anchoritic Society Conference (28-30 June, 2018): Held at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. Presented 'The Materiality of Anchoritic Cells'.
  • Future of Medieval Studies (31 May-1 July 2018): Held at the University of Leeds. On the concluding panel.
  • Revealing Records IX (Ninth Annual Conference Series) (25 May 2018): Held at King's College London. Presented 'Archaeology and Antiquarianism: Interactions Between Medieval Material Culture and Post-Medieval Discourse'. 
  • IMC (International Medieval Congress) 2017 (3-6 July): Attendee, and also worked as an Excursions Assistant and Interviewer for delegate video interviews.
  • Re-evaluating the Religious: Recent Approaches to Monastic Archaeology (19-20 May 2017): Held at and sponsored by the University of Sheffield. Presented 'Anchorites and the Medieval Church: An Archaeological Perspective', and involved in organising and promoting the conference.

Publications

My academic publication record is as follows: 

  • Upcoming article in Studies in Medievalism, titled 'Archaeology and Medievalism in Julian of Norwich's Anchorite Cell'. Forthcoming Spring 2020. 
  • Upcoming article in Sussex Archaeological Collections, titled ‘Performative Anchorite Grave at St. Anne’s, Lewes, Sussex’. Forthcoming Autumn 2020. 

In addition, I have been invited to contribute to three conference transactions: 

Other Academic Experience

  • IMS Student-Staff Forum Member (2016-19): Served as a representative for International students and expressed concerns, issues, and comments on behalf of these students at regular meetings. Brainstormed with other forum members about how to address issues and concerns. Also participated in Research and PGR Committee meetings when appropriate.
  • Leeds University Union (LUU) Medieval Society Secretary (2018-19): The LUU Medieval Society seeks to reach out to all members of the Leeds University and wider community. My role involved providing input determining events and trips, and helping to facilitate and prepare for meetings. 
  • Medieval Group Steering Committee (2018-19): A member of the committee determining upcoming events and speakers for the IMS Medieval Group. Organised a talk given by Dr John Moreland, a prominent archaeologist, and also chaired and set up events.
  •  Work-in-Progress Coordinator (2018-19): Co-ordinated the Pizza and Peer Support PhD Work-in-Progress meetings, designed to offer a supportive and student-led environment to discuss research, practice conference papers, or ask for advice. 
  • International/EU Student Support Group (2019): Co-ordinated support group for History PhD students as a response to the unique pressures faced by International and EU students. Focus on creating a space for peers to share knowledge and support. 
  • PhD Workshop Coordinator (February 2019): Co-coordinated this workshop, designed to bring modernist and medievalist historians into dialogue on theme of marginalisation and inclusivity. Also helped plan a follow-up event in May 2019. 
  • Track Changes (2014-15): Trained as a peer review editor for the Postgraduate Journal of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Sheffield. Provided helpful but critical feedback and was asked to provide further feedback due to thorough remarks. 

Academic Organisations

I am a member of multiple academic organisations, including: 

 

Qualifications

  • BA in Medieval Studies, Archaeology, and Creative Writing from Lycoming College (USA)
  • MA in Medieval Archaeology from the University of Sheffield (UK)