Undergraduate research doesn’t seem like an ideal fit for an English Major. In fact, it’s a field that hadn’t been pursued in nearly six years before Margaret Shelton came to Furman. Proving that summer fellowships aren’t just for science majors, the senior spent her time researching the social implications of status in 19th-Century England.

“I wanted to see how Victorians code class status or aspirations in their dress, especially in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House,” Shelton said.

Cross-referencing cartoons and pieces from the British newspaper archive with Dickens’ fictional work, Shelton sought a connection between the fashion of a character and the reality of its implications.

Ultimately, her research revealed two patterns within society: one in which the lower class dressed up to impress the upper, and the other in which members of the upper class disguised their status by dressing like the lower class.

"I asked myself, ‘what is the motive behind these characters’ fashion choices?’ “They used their clothing to try to be someone else-be that someone higher or lower than their ascribed status as a way of either standing out or blending in.”

Shelton credits Dr. Gretchen Braun, associate professor of English, with introducing her to the field. Braun studies the social patterns of Victorian Literature.

“I took two Victorian literature classes at Furman and was very interested in blurring prescribed boundaries of gender or social,” Shelton said. “Dr. Braun pointed me toward Dickens as an area that might be of interest to my research.”

In addition, Braun oversaw Shelton’s research, establishing firm deadlines but allowing creative freedom to enhance her work.

Shelton believes this flexibility, while daunting at first, was ultimately refreshing, allowing for a sense of personal accountability which she believes will be applicable in the working world.

“I don’t know if I’d want to pursue this research as a long-term career,” Shelton said. “However, the skills I picked up in time management and research will be invaluable no matter what I end up doing.”​​​

Connect with Admission

Furman is one of the nation's premier liberal arts and sciences universities. We offer our students The Furman Advantage—an over-arching approach to education that promises every student a four-year personalized pathway, a team of advisors and mentors, and the opportunity for an engaged learning experience that is tracked and integrated with the students' academic and professional goals.

Want more information about the admission process at Furman?

Contact us

Once you see our campus, making the right college decision will be so much easier.

Plan a visit

Undergraduate Evening Studies provides adults the opportunity to receive an education from one of the premier liberal arts universities in the nation.

Whether you are starting or continuing your education, or have been away from the classroom for a few months or several years, our program provides many services to assist you with accomplishing your educational and professional goals.

Apply now

Our graduate studies program is designed for the professional educator.

We know the challenges teachers and administrators face every day, and we are committed to helping you become a leader within your school system or district.

Apply now
  • Furman University