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Margaret Watson Centenary Travelling Fellowship

The Margaret Watson Centenary Travelling Fellowship is in memory of Margaret Watson and is to recognise and celebrate the achievements of young female graduates. The ‘centenary’ refers to Miss Watson being required to leave the job that she loved as a teacher at University High School because she was to marry – a practice that continued until 1962 in Victoria, Australia. In the photo above, we see Margaret – mother, graduate and, by then, university tutor – with her son, who later graduated with a degree in medicine from The University of Melbourne.

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Margaret Watson

Margaret Watson trained as a Primary School Teacher and was appointed as a foundation staff member of University High in Melbourne in 1910 after completing the new two year Diploma of Education, which had been introduced as the qualification for Secondary School teachers, and included some subjects towards an Arts degree.

While teaching at University High, Margaret completed the extra subjects to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in 1915. On marrying, as was the requirement of that era, Margaret left her teaching position in 1915 and became a tutor in Classics at The University of Melbourne.

Alice Hoy, who taught with Margaret, wrote in the 1960 history of University High: “Miss Watson looked, as she certainly was, a friendly, jolly person“.

She was described as a vigorous teacher with a robust sense of humor who could make Latin as well as Geography interesting. Miss Watson was said to have a very warm heart and when she left the school late in 1915 to be married she took many lasting friendships with her. For many of her former pupils and staff colleagues her house in Elwood, the friendly doors of which were always open, became a real home for them too.



Parisa Shiran

Miss Shiran has a Bachelor (2010) and Master (2012) degrees in English Literature from the University of Isfahan, Iran. Her doctoral research, at the time of this Fellowship, being undertaken in the School of Culture and Communication, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne, was an interdisciplinary study of culturally different women writers within a comparative dialogue for arriving at a philosophy of women’s literature.

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You see things; you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream of things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?”, George Bernard Shaw thus said, reflecting the hope which has always been blazing in my heart with which I fought through my life and climbed up the ladder of success.

Though deaths and pains were not my choices, to live was a decision I made early in my life when I found myself deprived of the unparalleled love and welfare that the presence of my parents could have guaranteed.

No more than five years old, I lost my father in an accident. My mother, however, died another death when she abandoned me to time, destiny and my grandparents whose affectionate nurturing assured my growth and progress.

The desire to unfetter myself from the chains of a marginalized social status as an orphan encouraged me to become educated. Literature, stories and their deep entwinement with life and reality enthralled me and made me determined to write the story of my life the way I wanted.

Parisa kindly contributed this opening extract, and the content that ensues is from an interview between Parisa and Tina Hasiotis, our Graduate House roving reporter.

Born in Isfahan, Iran, Parisa Shiran lost her parents at the age of 5 and was raised by her grandparents. From the time she started learning and reading her grandfather began to instill in her an appreciation and interest in literature by letting her read poems to him. “He loved poems and had a story-telling nature, and loved telling stories of his life and his past, and stories that he had heard,” said Parisa.

Greatly inspired by her grandfather, Parisa started learning English when she was 9 as her Grandad was always emphasising that English is an international language and it needs to be learned as it can open more promising pathways of success in the future. Parisa’s Grandad also always had a strong emphasis on education, “he always emphasised that no matter what happens in life you have to put education as the most basic activity in your life. These ideas are the most prominent ideas in my mind and they still shape how I think and how I go through life,” said Parisa.

With this powerful influence from her Grandfather, Parisa then decided that this would be her pathway for education. When Parisa commenced her tertiary education, she sat for a Bachelor of English Language and Literature at the University of Isfahan in Iran. Throughout her four-year study, Parisa remained a top student and was then awarded a Master of Arts (MA) of English literature at her university.

During her MA, Parisa continued studying English language and literature while simultaneously working as a freelance translator for university students working in various fields and required translation from English to Persian. Parisa was then immersed in literature and English language, confidence in her craft, building.

“During the MA, I also tried to attend workshops and conferences. At one conference at The University of Tehran I presented my work, and a couple of faculty members from another university who had attended my presentation, approached me and asked me to start teaching at their English department,” enthused Parisa.

Parisa’s teaching career then flourished: she commenced teaching English literature at Shahrekord University (an hour’s distance from Isfahan). She also started teaching at an Institute of Higher Education in Isfahan. She taught English prose, poetry, and developed curriculum around core readings including a wide variety of figures from 18th Century literature to 20th Century figures such as T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf.

These activities propelled Parisa’s interest in further research, as during this time she was also working on a research project that she wanted to do for her PhD and decided to apply to an overseas university. “I applied to Melbourne and got a scholarship which enabled me to come here. I received the International Postgraduate Research Scholarship (IPRS) and Australian Postgraduate Award (APA). Today I am completing my PhD in English and Theatre Studies, in the School of Culture and Communication,” said Parisa.

Her research project is a feminist philosophical study of a group of women writers and is examining women’s literature from a feminist philosophical perspective. “I would like to arrive at a theoretical account of women’s literature – I want to see whether I can come to a theory or a philosophy that would show how gender, sexuality and culture form the literature of women,” said Parisa.

Her work is proving successful as on July 15th, she passed her PhD confirmation (converts PhD student to PhD candidate) and she will soon commence tutoring in English and Theatre studies. “I am excited about tutoring this semester and I will also target conferences at the University of New South Wales (modernist studies). I am also aiming to go to the University of Maryland to seek out unpublished papers and manuscripts by one of the female writers I am researching,” said Parisa.

While Parisa has only been at Graduate House since July last year, she has developed a certain fondness for Graduate House. “I like it here! At dinner I can sit with people from all over the world and different cultures – it’s very exciting,” enthused Parisa.

Miss Shiran brings an important and much needed perspective and influence on literature of importance for both women and men globally. This academic and research excellence has been recognised by the Australian government which has given her an International Postgraduate Research Scholarship, as well as an Australian Postgraduate Award. Also in recognition of her initiative, professionalism and research/academic excellence, Miss Shiran was presented with the prestigious Graduate House Research Acknowledgment Award in May 2015. Following this, in December 2015, she was presented with this inaugural Margaret Watson Centenary Travelling Fellowship to support her undertaking coursework and research in comparative literature at the University of Maryland, where she will also be visiting the archive of a woman writer she is researching as part of her PhD project.

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