Buried alive? Vampire? FDU student presents paper on premature burial at Oxford University


FDU student Nicole Salomone visits Christ Church at University of Oxford, in England. Recognize the room? It was the inspiration for the Great Hall at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series. (Photo courtesy of Salomone)

By Kaidi Ilves

Nicole Salomone, a history student studying at Fairleigh Dickinson University through its Community College Partnership program, has just returned from a trip to Oxford, England, where she had an exclusive opportunity to present at an academic conference. The topic of the British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies’ (BSECS) 45th annual conference — Growth, Expansion, and Contraction — appealed to Salomone, who takes classes at Burlington County Community College and online at FDU.

“The experience was rather serendipitous,” says Salomone, of Collingswood, N.J. “I was fumbling around on Twitter one night, and found that BSECS had extended a call for papers. I had been doing independent research on early modern England for a few years, with a focus on the connection between 18th century medical records and 19th century vampire literature. The topic fit the theme of the conference quite well, so I decided to submit an abstract.”

Shortly thereafter, the conference coordinator reached out to Salomone to gather more information about her research and see whether the analysis was from a historical or literary point of view. “It was actually neither — I had looked at it from the medical perspective. I guess it’s considered an unusual approach,” explains Salomone, whose unique viewpoint ended up earning her an invitation to present her paper, “Back from the dead: Premature burial in early modern England.”

“The acceptance of my abstract came as a big surprise. I hadn’t even checked where the conference was taking place and now, all of a sudden, I had to figure out how to pay my way to England.” Salomone says. “I couldn’t afford the trip on my own, so I started a campaign on Go Fund Me. I’m so very grateful for everyone who supported me.”

Salomone submitted a note with her paper, stating that she is in her final year of undergraduate study at FDU, to ensure BSECS was aware of her academic level. Despite the fact that the society had accepted her to present, Salomone was wary of her lack of professional academic credentials. “I was concerned that people would look down on me because I’m only an undergraduate,” she says. That was not the case. “Everyone was so nice. It is very atypical for an undergraduate to be presenting for BSECS, and people were impressed,” Salomone continues.

Each of the presenters focused on a different aspect of the spectacle of death, such as medical theories, the concept of spirit in dealings with European royalty, and even pirate executions. Salomone says, “The other presenters were Ph. D. candidates. They used graphic words, and were so energetic and enthusiastic about their research — it’s something for me to strive for!”