So.. I had a Viva and I didn’t die.
To be entirely honest whilst it wasn’t my dream best-case scenario it was my realistic best hope – I passed with minor corrections. [Dream best case? Immediate pass & simultaneous publication/fellowship offer hahaha]

However, at this stage I am trying to get my head round what that really means.

I have a list of typos, grammatical quirks and stylistic points to correct. Its not a short list (this isn’t a surprise) but some of its features are unexpected – for example my practice of giving a full reference in the footnote the first time I used a work and author-date-page thereafter was dismissed as not obvious and messy so I will be changing it to author-date-page throughout.
What is harder to get my head round are the general comments on things they would liked more/less of vs. the comments about what would need doing before publication was a sensible option. I am trying to work out how to include the information that my examiners deem important without pushing the word count into ridiculosity.
Naturally, given the multi-disciplinary nature of the thesis, they do not entirely agree on which areas should be given precedence/offer sufficient information and the weird synthesis of being too obvious/not obvious enough is brutally clear to me. Despite some vague why haven’t you talked about this/ clarified that etc comments there is a lot of really detailed feedback which I am really grateful for – goodness only knows I’d do it differently next time!

Anyway, I don’t have my formal report yet and nor do I have a clear idea of what my satisfying these comments and resubmitting/getting approved will look like.

This is definitely a portion of the PhD process I don’t know how to approach.
Anyone else have this problem?


Just living that moment where you look at the examiner’s report and it suggests organising the material in a way you rejected at your supervisor’s suggestion 18months ago.

Edited to clarify – the way my examiner suggested was the way my thesis had been structured  *mumble mumble* years ago but was eventually fully re-assembled to fit some suggestions from supervisors.Chronological vs. thematic? A matter of taste?

Appproaching Viva

I am not facing the impending interview with the zen-like calm I would like.
I am, it would be fair to say,  lurching between being as sensible as I can in order to maintain accept the possible outcomes and to stop rampant speculation about what happens next and moments of abject terror characterised by mind-numbing panic attacks that don’t even seem to involve thoughts about the viva at all.

I am not prepared. I haven’t finished re-reading the beast. I don’t feel up-to-date on new scholarship and I haven’t even decided what to wear (yes its ridiculously small but weirdly important to my self-esteem – I swear knee-high boots got me through Uni interviews at 17).

Ah well. What could possibly go wrong?
Its not like I’ve spent the last ten years of academic life building up to these moments or anything. Its not like I have no concept of how to face failure gracefully or what to do with success. right?hahaha….

Scholarly dithering

My academic goals for this year are: the full completition of my thesis (here’s hoping the viva goes well and the revisions are minimal) and its acceptance, at least in principle, with a publisher; at least the successful delivery of the 2 conference papers I have had accepted and 2 or 3 journal articles at least under review.
However, I am at this stage horribly uncertain about which things to approach first.. my plan for the articles is to take one or two out of my thesis with moderately substantial rewriting to make them more focused [one from a specifically Cornish angle and one from a Classical Reception standpoint basically] and to make one or maybe two from the research I am doing for the conference papers (which are overlapping but not the same).

My problem is this.. do I knuckle down to first re-writes of parts of my thesis, knowing full well that real serious re-writing may be required to in fact pass my doctorate and that in beginning re-writes before I have my examiners feedback might make me less confident but knowing that the material is comparatively fresh in my mind? Or do I throw myself into new research and writing conference papers with a firm eye on the publication potential of the work and use that to fill me with fresh confidence and enthusiasm about the process of research when I have been so busy writing for so long now but risk losing the detail of the knowledge I built up in my thesis research?The truth, I guess, is that it matters almost not at all as long as I do something and don’t let my mind atrophy through the process of job applications.

Flooding and Fear

In case you hadn’t ben following it… There has been quite a lot of rain in the UK over the last week.
My parents have had power failures, the roads round my university have been rivers and I have been worried about friends. It could be worse but its not over yet.
For me other than wading through flood watr to get to the lecture, the worst I have suffered is the fact my supervisor couldn’t get to campus to photocopy an article I want to have read.

This week I am nearly done…  Checking my cross-references and making sure certain articles are correct…
But, I am living in terror. Fear of finishing, fear of what I need to do and fear of failure.

I am frightened of making this work, but more afraid of what happens if I don’t or can’t finish…..

So near and yet so far…

I can almost see the end.. and yet its not quite there.

I could scream.

I think I have the number of footnotes I need to sort don to single figures… I think I am at the stage of very seriously sorting my internal page refs… I think I could consider having this bound next week…
But I am waiting on refs from small independent libraries for obscure archival holdings, I trust my own ability to footnote and cross reference like I trust a salmon to swim across the sahara and I don’t know if I have the guts to let it go.

Bloody thesis


Dear Baby PhD Students,

Learn from my mistakes: No matter how tempting it is to just write down the book or authors, no matter how rigorous you are about creating your bibliography or putting references in EndNote (or whatever equivalent system you have)  – Do Not forget to put page nos. with any specific ideas.

I am currently checking pages for literally hundreds of references. Now don’t get me wrong I was (I thought) meticulous in my note-taking and most of my key texts are easy to find and neatly organised but all of those little assertions I threw in to flesh the argument out with ideas from years of research – aaargh!!

Nearly There!

On Beginnings & Endings

As my thesis suffers in its death throes I am drawn back to thinking about its conception, gestation and birth.

I don’t remember the moment the idea of my topic came to me. Somewhere near the very beginning of my Masters dissertation I knew that an MA would never do the ideas justice. I don’t remember choosing the topic of that dissertation or even writing it (what can I say I was working a 40+ hr week and not really rocking the sanity).
But I knew.. I knew it was a PhD and I knew I was the only person to write it.

What I didn’t know was whether I could get a PhD, whether I was good enough. I got a 2.i in my BA, failed to get funding for my MA (hence the full-time job). I didn’t apply for a PhD until after I got the results of my masters, I only applied to one university and I didn’t applying for funding.
It was take the hard route or don’t do it all. In the absence of guidance from my previous department, I knew of no funding opportunities except AHRC or my proposed university. I didn’t have the confidence (or in my mind the grades) for the AHRC and most funding support appeared to be tied to departmental teaching, something I had no experience of and knew I couldn’t commit to because I wanted to stay living with W.

It was surprisingly easy.
I sent an email with a general overview of my research proposal to my potential supervisors; one of whom offered me a few suggestions. I filled in the application form and three months later I was accepted. No grilling, no debate.
I went down met my primary supervisor ran a chapter plan passed him and then fell of the face of the world for a few years..
Methodology classes were attended, Research was done and writing begun, I even jumped through the annual monitoring review hoops and passed my upgrade requirements but I mostly I pootled into the world of my own devising. I haven’t even really changed my research topic – though it is of course more tightly defined and didn’t extend to some of the areas I had originally wanted to explore.

Now, post-interruption and with 2 different supervisors to those I started with, 5 years later the beast is nearly complete and I look back and wonder whether I was lucky that the initial process was so straightforward or whether I would have been more ambitious if I had fought for it. Mostly this has been quite an expensive way of reading a lot of books and journals in order to write my own. Though I am aware that my tone and style has tightened through the years and that my supervisors have pushed me to become better at summarising and putting myself forward I have no clear notion of ways that I am a better scholar or researcher…

Only time will tell what the legacy is.

Definitely not Thesis-related..

Currently finding it extremely difficult to think of anything to write about that isn’t my research… or more specifically the delights of editing my thesis.

I am doing non-PhD stuff. I go to work (and take my computer so I can still do editing); I have done some drinking.. I sleep, I have sex, I eat – those are all good non-thesis related activities right? [I also appear to read blogs and burble incoherently online – these I think are less good non-thesis activities]
I don’t think I have any way of explaining to those outside of academia how this can take over your life. I owe it to the people who care about me to continue with my daily tasks: working, making packed lunches, doing the laundry.. but everything that I do outside of staring at my own words on a screen feels like procrastination and I feel the chances of me submitting this month slipping away from me. It seems so hopeless.

So I must think happy thoughts. Currently about sleep, which, if done right, is a non-thesis related activity