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Wolfville man with passion for history of magic awarded Rothermere Fellowship to study in U.K.

Samuel Gillis Hogan, the recipient of the 2018 Rothermere Fellowship, will be off to the United Kingdom in September to begin work on his PhD at the University of Exeter.
Samuel Gillis Hogan, the recipient of the 2018 Rothermere Fellowship, will be off to the United Kingdom in September to begin work on his PhD at the University of Exeter. - Submitted

WOLFVILLE, NS - With a passion for the history of magic, he has always wanted to study in the United Kingdom and has now punched his ticket with the Rothermere Fellowship.

26-year-old Samuel Gillis Hogan, the recipient of numerous academic awards, said he is “rather ecstatic” as nothing has made him as excited as being named the recipient of the 2018 Rothermere Fellowship. He was in the study area of Acadia University’s K.C. Irving Centre, a quiet area, when he got the news.

“I hurt my side because I was suppressing my jubilation to be quiet,” he said.

Gillis Hogan lived in Annapolis Royal when he was younger, attended Wolfville School after moving to Wolfville and graduated from Horton High with Honours with Distinction.

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He completed his undergraduate studies at Memorial University in Newfoundland, with an honours major in History and a general major in Medieval Studies. His honours thesis in History was called “Rituals Intended to Summon Assistant Spirits from the Greek Magical Papyri.”

“I specialize in the history of magic,” Gillis Hogan said. “It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I decided that I wanted to become someday a professor of the history of magic in Grade 11.”

He first thought that he would be a trail blazer in this regard but soon learned there is an international society of scholars who study the history of magic, the Societas Magica.

In his second year of undergraduate studies, while taking a fourth-year course called Death and the Afterlife in the Middle Ages, he wrote a paper titled “Cheating Death: An Exploration of the Relationship Between Medieval Concepts of Death and the Alchemical Aspiration for Immortality.”

It focused on the use of alchemy in the attempt to extend one’s life indefinitely and how this conflicted with the Christian focus on the afterlife. The paper won Gillis Hogan the university’s Pro Vice-Chancellor’s Prize. He said it was at that moment that he realized he could make a career in the history of magic and have it recognized in academic circles.

Gillis Hogan wrote his master’s thesis on the 27 surviving manuscripts written between 1160 and 1500 that contain instructions on how to perform chiromancy, a precursor to modern palm reading.

Samuel Gillis Hogan, the recipient of the 2018 Rothermere Fellowship, will be off to the United Kingdom in September to begin work on his PhD at the University of Exeter.
Samuel Gillis Hogan, the recipient of the 2018 Rothermere Fellowship, will be off to the United Kingdom in September to begin work on his PhD at the University of Exeter.

He said there were two things that kept him in Canada for his master’s, one being Frank Klaassen, a respected scholar of the history of magic who teaches at the University of Saskatchewan. Klaassen was also president of the Societas Magica at the time. This drew Gillis Hogan to study there and, thanks to Klassen, become better connected with some of the top names in the field.

“The other reason was because I knew there was a very slim, slim chance that if I did my master’s in Canada, I would be able to apply for the Rothermere Fellowship to do my PhD in the U.K.,” Gillis Hogan said.

In order to qualify for the fellowship, students have to do either their undergraduate or master’s at Memorial University, and the other respective degree anywhere in Canada. The fellowship fully funds the cost of tuition to any university in the United Kingdom, provides a stipend for living expenses and covers the cost of a flight home to Canada in each of the three years of PhD studies.

Gillis Hogan will be heading to England in September to begin his PhD in History at the University of Exeter, the same school where Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling studied. Gillis Hogan said there are several professors there who specialize in magic across various disciplines. He said he’s “deeply, deeply grateful” for the opportunity. Through his research – and hopefully his eventual teaching – he hopes to give back.

“It makes me want to pay back the universe in general for allowing me to be fortunate enough to do this,” Gillis Hogan said.

His PhD research will focus on the surviving late medieval and early modern manuscripts that contain instructions intended to summon fairy spirits for various purposes. The working title is “Familiar with Fairies: A Study of Late Medieval and Early Modern Fairy Conjuring Texts.” Gillis Hogan said very little has been written on fairy conjuring spells.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

Did you know?

Samuel Gillis Hogan has won numerous other academic awards, including…

  • University of Saskatchewan Graduate Teaching Fellowship, spring 2014 to spring 2016.
  • University Medal for Academic Excellence in History, spring 2014.
  • University Medal for Academic Excellence in Medieval Studies, spring 2014.
  • Brepols Book Prize in Medieval Studies, spring 2014.
  • The David and Ethel Evans Scholarship in History, spring 2014.
  • The Newfoundland St. Andrew’s Society Scholarship, spring 2014.
  • Dean’s List, Fall 2013 and 2014.
  • Pro Vice-Chancellor’s Prize, winter 2012.
  • Memorial University Endowment Fund Scholarship, June 2010.
  • Wolfville Historical Society Scholarship, June 2010.

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