Taten Shirley ‘22 (Ph.D.) writes nonfiction works on the Brontë sisters
Taten Shirley ’22 (Ph.D.) always had a strong passion for the humanities, and this passion led her through years of higher education with the culmination of a doctorate in humanities from Salve Regina.
Shirley has recently published a book based on her dissertation exploring the famous Brontë sisters and women’s rights. She also has another Brontë-inspired anthology she’s editing on the horizon.
Close connections in the Ph.D. humanities program
Shirley received a bachelor’s in English from Auburn University and a master’s in humanities with a concentration in literature from Faulkner University.
With research interests including the Brontë sisters, the Industrial Revolution, the Victorian Age and technology, Shirley was excited by Salve Regina’s Ph.D. humanities program — as the main student objective of Salve’s program is to understand what it means to be a human in an age of advanced technology. The program is also formatted as a low residency program where students take classes on campus for one week each semester.
While visiting campus, Shirley worked on her dissertation and enjoyed taking in the beautiful ocean views in Salve’s backyard. She also sharpened many skills, which have helped her both professionally and personally.
“I think a lot of the skills I developed at Salve were around the ability to advocate for humanities as a discipline,” Shirley reflected. “I enjoyed a lot of readings that were focused on why the sciences need humanities — as well as why we need to look at the philosophical and humanities lenses when considering technology.”
When writing her dissertation, Shirley combined the academic subjects of philosophy, religion, history, art and music to broaden these topics more to focus on the technological aspect of humanities.
The face-to-face component with professors and classmates during the residencies stood out to Shirley, as it allowed her to form close relationships with classmates, and she keeps in close contact with many of her Salve cohort members. Her two favorite professors were Dr. Sean O’Callaghan and Dr. Troy Catterson, director and associate director of the doctorate humanities program.
“Dr. Catterson had this great way of controlling the class discussion to where people were still expressing their opinions while he was teaching,” Taten stated. “Dr. O’Callaghan … was always incredibly supportive, reassuring and helpful in gathering resources.”
Exploring the Brontë sisters
Lexington Books published Shirley’s book in March of 2023, which is based on her dissertation. The book is called “The Industrial Brontës: Advocates for Women’s Equality in a Turbulent Age,” and it examines the interaction of humanities and technology through the eyes of the Brontë sisters during the Industrial Revolution.
“What I argue in my book is that the Brontë sisters took advantage of the many changes happening in the Industrial Revolution,” Shirley explained. “They argued for women’s rights.”
The books historically contextualizes all seven novels that the Brontë sisters wrote, including better known works like “Jane Eyre” and “Wuthering Heights,” alongside lesser-known pieces like “Agnes Grey” and “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.” Throughout her book, Shirley examines the ways the Brontë sisters challenged traditional ideas of marriage, called for equality in education and explored the worth of all human beings despite class differences. It also shows how important work was to women in creating better opportunities for them.
Shirley looks to further explore Anne, the youngest Brontë sister, in an essay that will be part of an anthology she’s editing — which she hopes will be sold on shelves in 2024. The anthology will be focusing on artistry in the life and work of Anne, an often overlooked Brontë sister who achieved much during her lifetime worthy of celebration. Shirley has also written many other nonfiction pieces over her career.
Shirley has been working at Faulkner University for around 12 years in various teaching and director roles — but after Shirley graduated from Salve’s doctoral humanities program, she was promoted to be Faulker University’s director of interdisciplinary studies in January of 2022. She later became an associate professor, where she continues her academic passion of humanities education.
Wherever her future leads, Shirley is proud of the work she did while in Salve Regina’s Ph.D. program and will remember the lessons she learned.
“Salve’s integration of research with more comprehensive human condition disciplines have helped prepare me for my current job,” concluded Shirley. “Salve’s mercy mission is emphasized in my teaching and research at Faulkner University, and I try to implement mercy into the services I offer my students both in and outside the classroom.”
Salve Spotlights is a series of people-centered stories periodically featured on SALVEtoday. Check out the tag Salve Spotlights for more stories.