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Some thoughts and a minor existential crisis over online courses/OERs

By on May 31, 2012 in Blog, DPhil | 1 comment

I’d like to say I discovered this video when researching the use of digital media in learning or something, but really, I stumbled across it in between watching that stray dog that completed a 1700km road race, and watching some Japanese women make cartoon characters from rice and seaweed. (Procrastination is a very large part of my creative process, I believe). Back to the education video, blog readers. I’m in favour of making education resources available online since it democratizes education (which is getting more and more expensive), and it encourages life-long learning. I even work for a literary themed online educational resources project (which now has a development site in beta!). My first arts project offered free recordings of poets reading their own work, and I like to think that throughout my career I can have a positive effect on learners both within and...

#phdadvice in the news… and some #lecturingadvice

By on May 24, 2012 in Blog, DPhil | 0 comments

In a bizarre turn of events only possible in the twilight zone that is the Internet, I am quoted in today’s issue of Times Higher Education. This follows on from my earlier blog post on the hashtag academic community.  For those of you who can access a print copy, the article is on pages 22-23. It can be read in full on their website too, which is nice. Last week I asked those following the #phdadvice tag for their advice before I delivered my first lecture as part of the Developing Learning and Teaching programme. The lecture was aimed at first year undergraduates doing a ‘Doing English’ module, and we were lucky enough to have complete freedom on our topic and content. I chose to cover ‘Modern Poetry: Form and Function’ since learning to decipher the links between the two was something of a watershed in my own undergraduate study. Super Woman Nadine is...

Making (up) Your Name

By on May 23, 2012 in Blog, DPhil | 0 comments

One of the challenges of my PhD topic comes from its contemporariness. There are various things to tackle, from a lack of critical material and a lack of awareness of this poetry in the academy, to the seemingly shifting contexts of the work I’m attempting to criticise (new poems published and so on). The following isn’t a serious issue, more a bug bear often encountered. It is is this – people, with all the best intentions, get the poets’s names completely wrong. I’ve met people who familiar with the work of O’Morrissey, or once heard Letitia Flynn read. Particularly withering was an email exchange with a (nameless) MA student who was writing a dissertation on Collette, rather than Colette, Bryce. All things considered, though, I’m lucky to get to work on such current writers, and in many ways the challenges of the poetry’s modernity is...

The Hashtag Academic Community (#phdadvice)

By on May 16, 2012 in Blog, DPhil | 2 comments

Within days of beginning my first term as a graduate student in October 2009, I was told by peers and mentors that being a graduate student was isolating. I hadn’t really considered this before – I certainly hadn’t found any aspect of my undergraduate study isolating. Even a few months later, as I started to submit PhD applications, there were well meaning friends and advisors telling me that doing a PhD would be lonely. By this time, the chorus of voices was joined by some nagging doubts of my own. The main thing that worried me wasn’t necessarily being alone per se – I was well aware that individual work is central to literary study. I didn’t worry about not having friends because I was lucky enough to have besties behind me. Obviously there were lots of niggling concerns like if I had the ability, if my topic was ‘good’ enough, if I...

Symposium Retrospective: ‘Sister Earth: Global Relationships in Contemporary Women’s Writing’

By on Apr 27, 2012 in Blog, DPhil | 0 comments

Clearly conference season is in full swing, with this being my third event retrospective in a row. This will be my last for a while, as term gets going here and I feel more pressure to knuckle down to the proper business of doctoral study. ‘Sister Earth’ was arranged by PG CWWN with the support of the Goldsmiths English and Comparative Literature Department, and it was held on the 26th April. The event wasn’t really in my subject area as it attracted papers with a more post-colonial focus. I attended since I’m on the steering group of the PG CWWN, and because being knowingly ignorant and a little outside your comfort zone is good. The panels included papers on Egyptian women writers and their relationship with the West and Islam, the romance narrative in African novels, Doris Lessing and positionality, Latino-American memoirs and fiction and hybridity in myth,...

Event Retrospective: New Voices in Irish Criticism 2012, ‘Legitimate Ireland’

By on Apr 25, 2012 in Blog, DPhil | 0 comments

This was the mighty fourteenth conference in the ‘New Voices in Irish Criticism’ series, hosted by Queen’s University, Belfast. The theme was ‘Legitimate Ireland’, and there were papers on various aspects of legitimacy in the humanities. I presented a paper which subverted readings of canonicity and exclusion in the work of Colette Bryce on day one. Thankfully, this timing left me free to enjoy the other postgraduate and early career papers, the various wine receptions, the conference dinner – and of course the keynotes. Lots of the papers were stimulating, although the ones which I could link to my own work were most provoking. Joanna Etchart (Sorbonne) on Belfast’s ‘ambiguous desire to be a “boom” city’ reflected on the effects of flagship development programmes such as the Titanic Quarter and public sculpture. The...

Event Retrospective: New Perspectives on Irish Women and the Diaspora

By on Apr 24, 2012 in Blog, DPhil | 5 comments

This has rapidly become a more retro-retrospective than I intended. I attended ‘New Perspectives on Irish Women and the Diaspora’, a one day conference at Bath Spa University, on the 24th March 2012. I wasn’t presenting a paper (for my sins, I missed the CFP deadline), so I was free to relax and reflect on the other research. This topic of diaspora interests me not only because one of my thesis poets moved from Derry to England, but because I also moved from Northern Ireland at 18. What was quite new for me at this event was a sociological approach to the topic. In many ways, it was a revelation that diaspora studies is an entirely autonomous field. I was familiar with the ‘Generation Emigration‘ series the Irish Times are running, but I hadn’t given much thought into provision for vulnerable Irish abroad, or how the cultural, economic and legal...

Symposium Retrospective: ‘Sisters in Verse’

By on Mar 16, 2012 in Blog, DPhil | 0 comments

This time last week we were heading into parallel panels of postgraduate papers at the PG CWWN ‘Sisters in Verse: Contemporary Women’s Poetry’ symposium in Oxford. In running this event, I sought to redress the imbalance between fiction and poetry papers at most literary conferences (which I’ve mentioned here before), and give my postgraduate peers working on women’s writing a space to consider how far we’ve come in recent years in the light of developments including the appointment of the first female poet laureate in 2009. The day began with a poetry reading from two of our keynote speakers, Sophie Mayer and Jane Yeh. These readings were not only a pleasant post-lunch listening, but they began to engage with some of the political issues often prevalent in writing by women. We then went into panels, and I was pleased that we managed to fit 10 papers...

Sisters in Verse

By on Mar 8, 2012 in Blog, DPhil | 0 comments

I’ve been preparing over the past weeks for the half-day symposium I’m running tomorrow here in Oxford. The title is ‘Sisters in Verse: Contemporary Women’s Poetry’, which also seemed like a good title for a blog post on International Women’s Day. With the notion of sisterhood in mind, I’d like to draw your attention to Tal al-Mallouhi, a Syrian blogger and poet who is two years younger than me. She was arrested in 2009 and has been in prison ever since. You can read more about her from English PEN, and I’m re-posting one of her poems here in the hope that you will take some form of action, like me.   You will remain an example by Tal al-Mallouhi I will walk with all walking people And no I will not stand still Just to watch the passers by This is my Homeland In which I have A palm tree A drop in a cloud And a grave to protect me...

Upside-down

By on Feb 16, 2012 in Blog, DPhil | 1 comment

Last weekend, I jumped out of a plane to raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. I’m not kidding – this is actually me. So far, I’ve raised £695.00, but you can still sponsor me. I can’t say it was a wholly pleasant experience. There was a shutter on the side of the plane which reminded me of the school tuck shop opening, but there were no sweeties. I was then dangled from the door for a while and when finally set loose, there was quite a bit of tumbling (looking back up at an aircraft getting smaller is quite distressing). Before the canopy was deployed, my face was flapping about at 120mph in freefall and it was very, very cold. When the parachute was released it was much more agreeable, and the view across the frozen fields was stunning. I could talk at length about how doing a thesis is like doing a a skydive, but frankly it is Thursday and I’ve...

Halfway, and a New Beginning

By on Feb 10, 2012 in Blog, DPhil | 0 comments

This week marks the halfway point in my three year DPhil programme. Yes, I know it may take more than three years, but my funding stops after three years, which means halfway does count for something. So, this week has been a time for reflection and planning. The planning has been for my third chapter, which has a structure but needs some filling out with close reading. Close reading is one of my favourite parts of research, but it can be mentally exhausting. In terms of reflection, I’ve been thinking back to all the research I did in my first year. My supervisor didn’t encourage me to do too much writing at that stage, which initially did make me nervous. Now, though, I am feeling the benefits of that background knowledge and reading, and I’m starting to pull it into my chapter plans and to supplement it with new reading which is more targeted to the areas I’m...

Why Contemporary? – Part 2, or, Get ‘em While They’re Hot

By on Jan 29, 2012 in Blog, DPhil | 0 comments

A quote from Tessa Hadley in yesterday’s Guardian caught my eye as summing up quite succinctly some of the reasons I find the study of contemporary literature so fascinating and poignant. ‘A reader’s relationship is quite different to a living writer. Because you’re alive in the same moment, breathing the same air in the same world, reading a great contemporary feels like finding yourself inside the forge where the book is being made. The writer in working at the edge of what’s understood, shaping the inchoate present into sentences, revealing it for the first time’. Tessa Hadley, ‘My Hero: Nadine Gordimer’, Guardian, 28 January 2012, Review, p. 5. This issue of ‘why contemporary’ – which I also thought about in an earlier blog post – continues to fascinate me, as it rightly should. It constantly comes up in...

Pavlov’s Inbox and Other Social Experiments

By on Jan 24, 2012 in Blog, DPhil | 0 comments

Some days, I feel like the opposite of ‘thesis’ is ‘admin’. Today is definitely one of those days. Among the many things they don’t tell you about PhD research is that there is a bewilderingly high level of admin involved in academic life. Research? What research? There is the stereotype of graduate students working away alone, barely speaking to anyone and barely able to if the scenario arose. I do work alone, most of the time, and sometimes I like to be away from distractions (and possibly in my PJs, maybe eating instant noodles). However, alone does not equal lonely. Research networks and associations, mailing lists, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, emails about faculty admin, training and teaching, emails about conferences and seminars, emails about organising your own conference or seminar, notes from your supervisor, emails about university club/society...

Creativity and Wellbeing

By on Jan 10, 2012 in Blog, DPhil | 0 comments

Way back in November I attended an afternoon of discussion in Nottingham facilitated by my old funders Ignite!. Everyone there shared an interest in exploring the links between creativity and wellbeing, although our backgrounds were quite different; arts professionals, students, scientists, designers and people with an interest in social media. I meant to blog about this after the discussion since there was loads of ground covered which I found relevant to the role of the researcher. I’m pleased to say that Rick Hall has kindly summarized points from our discussion at Play’s The Thing. Some points that stick with me are the links between creative thinking and genius/madness, thoughts on working alone and resilience. I increasingly view academic research as a highly creative endeavor in its own right – especially so in literary studies where conclusions are based on an...

CFP: Sisters in Verse: Contemporary Women’s Poetry

By on Jan 3, 2012 in Blog, DPhil | 0 comments

Sisters in Verse: Contemporary Women’s Poetry A half day symposium at the University of Oxford Friday 9th March 2012 Keynote Panel Discussion: Kate Clanchy, Sophie Mayer & Jane Yeh Adrienne Rich once stated that ‘the connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet’. This symposium aims to interrogate what these connections between women make possible in contemporary poetry. Given that a woman currently holds the British laureateship, we have clearly come some distance from deriding the ‘poetess’; this event seeks to evaluate recent transformations. From sisterhood and solidarity between recent generations of poets, to flat refusals to call one’s self a ‘woman poet’, there are many themes to discuss at this half day symposium. Topics may include (but are not limited to):  Feminist poetics and...