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Three major awards made to St Andrews

Three top research grants have been awarded to academics at the University of St Andrews by a major national funding body.

Professor Rhiannon Purdie of the School of English, Professor Jessica Brown of the School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies and Dr Agnès Bos, Director of Museum and Gallery Studies in the School of Art History at the University, have been recognised with Major Research Fellowships from the Leverhulme Trust.

Professor Purdie has been awarded £92,064 to write the first full-length, single-authored history of medieval Scots literature as it developed in the then-independent kingdom of Scotland.

As an extension of this, she is also working with the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to reintroduce Older Scots poetry to the Higher and Advanced Higher English curriculum, in a project informally dubbed ‘Older Scots for Modern Scots’.

This aims to redress the curious situation that most senior pupils of English in Scotland today have heard of the English poet Chaucer, but almost none could name a single poet from Scotland’s own medieval literary canon.

Professor Brown has been awarded £113,714 to investigate the moral responsibility of groups such as companies and governments.

Her starting point will be that society standardly treats such entities as morally responsible, blaming and praising them for their actions, even though they don’t seem to be moral agents in the way that individual people are.

She will ask whether we should change our concept of agency to accommodate groups, or alternatively attempt to provide an explanation of moral responsibility without agency.

Dr Bos has also been awarded £113,714 to research the French Royal Order of the Holy Spirit, which was founded in 1578 by the French king Henri III, and disbanded in 1830.

Despite being one of the major European royal orders, unlike similar orders such as the Golden Fleece and the Garter the French Royal Order of the Holy Spirit has never been the subject of a comprehensive study.

Informed by an international and multidisciplinary network of academic and museum-based experts, Dr Bos will endeavour to show how the ceremonies of the order developed, bringing together architecture, paintings, sculpture, textiles, costumes and metalwork in support of the developing French absolutism.

She will curate a major exhibition dedicated to this order, to be held at the Louvre in 2023, and will also complete a book focusing on the artistic patronage of the order.

All three awards are for a 24-month period beginning in September 2021.

The Leverhulme Trust was established by the Will of William Hesketh Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers. Since 1925 the Trust has provided grants and scholarships for research and education. Today, it is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing approximately £80m a year.


Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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