Dr Laura Hartnell awarded the 2022 Mollie Holman Award and Faculty of Arts Prize for Outstanding PhD Thesis

Dr Laura Hartnell has been awarded the 2022 Mollie Holman Award for her thesis titled “Writing affect and trauma: Performative writing as the felt sense of women's trauma”. Awarded to a maximum of ten doctoral students, the Mollie Holman award is among the highest academic honours the University bestows, marking recipients as researchers of the highest order. Congratulations also to Dr Niccolò Negro for receiving the Vice-Chancellor’s Commendation for Thesis Excellence (PhD) and to Dr Geraldine Fela for receiving the Faculty of Arts PhD Thesis High Commendation.

Dr Laura Hartnell with the 2022 Mollie Holman Award.

Dr Hartnell has also been awarded the Faculty of Arts Prize for Outstanding PhD Thesis. The $5,000 Faculty of Arts Prize for Outstanding PhD Thesis is endowed by Emeritus Professor John Rickard, a long-standing and generous philanthropic supporter and bequestor to Monash University and former member of the Historical Studies at Monash.

We recently caught up with Dr Hartnell to find out more about her PhD journey.  Read the full interview below.

Tell us about yourself?
I have been a writer, performer, director, and worked in various communications and facilitation jobs in just about every industry. I grew up in Latrobe Valley, Victoria, and didn't even know what a PhD was until I was doing one. Currently, I'm studying psychotherapy and group facilitation and hope to continue to research and write, as well as continue my commitment to fostering community care through a combination of therapeutic techniques and the arts. 

Why were you drawn to the PhD topic?
It grew pretty organically as my candidature progressed. My own experiences of trauma played a role, along with zeitgeist of women's trauma arising in public spaces with things like the #MeToo movement. Performative writing is something I have always been interested in, though didn't have a name for it until I started studying my PhD, but I've always been fascinated and moved by writing that you can feel in your body, and used this style throughout my thesis. 

How would you describe your PhD experience at Monash Arts?
Fundamentally, the PhD experience is a profoundly deep personal journey. You have to navigate new parts of yourself, develop skills quickly, manage relationships, and grow in all directions all at once. It's harrowing at times, but deeply rewarding. 

What advice would you give future PhD students looking to conduct their research?
Go gently with yourself, and remember the PhD is as much a deep personal development journey as a research project. Remember why you wanted to do it in the first place, and stay aware of how your 'why' changes throughout the process. Remember that it's normal for there to be soaring highs and crashing lows, that you're not broken if you're struggling, and that no degree is worth losing your mental or physical health. Surround yourself with a strong community and learn early how to articulate your needs and ask for help when you need it - from friends, family, therapists, supervisors, MGA, and anyone else offering it.

Discover more

Visit Monash Arts Graduate Research to find out more about our PhD students' experiences, and about the research opportunities we offer.