Now Seeking: a Designer for The Still Point Issue 2

Applications now closed – find us on Twitter or Facebook to follow the progress of The Still Point Journal Issue 2: The Researcher’s Notebook. Continue reading

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The Secret Autobiography of my PhD #4

sinead biography

As a child, I hoped the Salmon of Knowledge would end up on my plate.

I dreamed that every horse I met would whisk me off to Tír na nÓg, giants might build me a causeway, and every swan was the lost child of a king. I wondered why some men on the news had no voice when they spoke, and why the angry man shouted ‘never!’ so much.

My mother read only the stories of ancient Ireland to me, though modern myths were everywhere. But they didn’t tell all the stories, either. Perhaps I might tell one more.


Sinéad Kennedy Krebs is a second year PhD student in the Department of English at King’s College London. Her research examines the cultural legacies of the Great War in Ireland. Follow her @sineadkk, or head to sageolympia.blogspot.com

Sounds to Accompany a PhD #4

The British Library, 96 Euston Road. Pack up your things, remember which locker your stuff’s in? Let’s get out of here before they close the gate at the main road.

Avoid the faster roads around Euston and let’s bury ourselves straight into the romance of Russell Square. The concrete melts away, notice the plane trees, the hanging baskets on the flats, the deep green of Coram’s fields. Let’s go back to the early twentieth century, we might bump into one of the Bloomsbury Group, or catch the whispers in English, French, Russian of local artists and political asylum seekers. Get the thrill of just passing the British Museum and imagining the treasures inside, the bones and feathers and fabric and stone all catalogued and ordered and ready to be consumed by thousands of eyes. Watch out for that cyclist. Continue reading

Magnificent Research Obsessions

‘Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories.’

Walter Benjamin

There seems to be an inevitable element of obsession in any research project. A PhD is a commitment to spend years studying the minute (and sometimes seemingly infinite) detail of an instinct, an idea, or a passion. We asked some PhD students to share their magnificent research obsessions with us. From the resonance of a single object, to collections of postcards, books and other treasured ephemera, these objects tell an alternative story of the PhD experience.


Penny Newell

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Objects (from top left) with thanks to all donors: framed oil print John Constable, Cloud Study (1822); framed handmade cloud print on Japanese rice paper (2011); Cloud passport holder (2015); ‘CLOUD COLLECTION KIT’ notebook (2014); cartoon cloud notebook (2014); cloud drawstring bag (2014); Casio sky blue F-91W watch (2015); cloud birthday card (modified, 2015); postcard Paul Nash, Battle of Britain (1941, acquired 2013); handmade embroidered note: ‘I’m on cloud nine because you’re cloud mine’ (2015); vintage autograph book with cloud doodles, anon. (c.1941); postcard Lizzie Spikes, Howard’s cloud classification (2015); postcard Clay Perry, Mira Schendel (1966, acquired 2015); strawberry jam miniature jar containing plasticine (2013); gold capped miniature jar containing cotton wool (2012); cloud letters (modified, 2016); black and white cloud photograph found on Deptford Market (sample of 20, acquired 2013); postcard René Magritte, The Future of Statues (1937, acquired 2012); glass shaker containing cotton wool (2014); postcard Zoë Harcourt-Kelly, cloud study (2015); postcard Andrew Logan, Andrew Logan’s Bedroom, Outfit and Flower Sculpture, 10 Denmark Street, Oxford (1969); cloud luggage tag (2015); blue shift lomography film, 35mm (2015); chocolate wrapper ‘Finding faces in the clouds’ (2013); handmade cloud mobile with steel frame and cushion clouds (2012).

Penny Newell is based at King’s College London, where she is currently working on a literary studies thesis about clouds.


Rebecca Whiteley

Obstetric Model

My thesis is on early modern images of the pregnant body. When I found this little anatomical model I knew I had to have it as my mascot. I keep it on my desk to remind me that all times and cultures have had their own ways of representing and understanding the bodily interior. And while our vision of the bodily interior is very different to the early modern, we are linked by a fascination with seeing the unseeable – the unborn child.

Rebecca Whiteley is researching her PhD in the History of Art Department at UCL. Her research focuses on images of the pregnant body published in early modern midwifery and surgical books in England and Western Europe. Her thesis uses these images to construct a ‘body history’ for the period, asking what images can tell us about how people in the early modern period understood, treated, and visualised their bodies.


Brian Wallace

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I started this collection of vintage and reproduction Victorian postcards, cigarette cards and die-cut scraps out of the desire to own a cheap, colourful little primary source on the subjects I was writing about. Trawling through Portobello Market antique stalls graduated to browsing online markets, and the collection swelled with celebrities, ads, patriotic battle paintings, politicians, ‘Wish You Were Here’ imperial scenes, P&O liners, and scraps of odd ephemera (the General Gordon Safety Match label is a highlight). It’s become like a group portrait of my work on the era, growing with my PhD and always a work in progress.

Brian Wallace is a history PhD candidate studying Victorian colonial sieges at King’s College London.


Katarzyna Falęcka

Magnificent obsessions Katarzyna

My obsessive object is a 1917 photograph held at the British Library which shows two Algerian men looking though the focusing screen of a camera. It is an extremely valuable document as it shows the interaction between the colonised and the imported technology from Europe, urging us to rethink the role of the medium in colonised territories.

Katarzyna Falęcka is a first year PhD candidate at University College London, examining the role of photography in mediating the postcolonial relations between Algeria and France.


Francesca Brooks

Fran Magnificent David Jones Library

Filled with inscriptions and dedications, collected ephemera and lengthy marginal notes, the Library of David Jones (a collection of 1,500 of his personal books) promises to reveal the ‘mysterious connection between [the writer’s] reading and their own work.’ This archival work represents the foundation of my thesis: an obsessive methodology for reading with David Jones, an imagined attempt to read over his shoulder as he sits with a pencil in hand, ready to mark up the margins of his books. My magnificent research obsession is the creation of an echo-collection of a subsection of Jones’ library. I’m slowing gathering my own shadow-library, in identical editions, of the books he owned that are related to Old English literature and language, and the history of Anglo-Saxon England.

Francesca Brooks is doing her PhD with the English Department at King’s College London, her research looks at the influence of Old English on the twentieth-century poet and artist, David Jones.


Have your own magnificent research obsession? Why not tweet us a picture @stillpointLDN

#ResearchersNotebook

Fran notebook pic

The deadline for our current Call For Submissions approaches at the end of January…

For Issue #2 of The Still Point Journal, we ask contributors to imagine that their submissions are part of a collective Researcher’s Notebook in both a literal, and a broader, metaphorical sense. We want to explore the idea of the journal as a space for spontaneous discovery or self-creation/autopoeisis; whether this be through pages from an actual notebook filled with doodles, mind-maps and beautiful scrawls, or pieces which explore the researcher’s thought-process and the genesis of an idea over time.

… so to get everyone in the mood we asked Twitter folks to post pictures of their notebooks and beautiful scrawls with the hashtag #researchersnotebook to @stillpointLDN.

Here’s a flavour of the cute and the curious, kicked off by our chief editor… send in your own over the next couple of weeks and add to the collection.

A brief conversation with medieval domestic objects

A pair of thirteenth-century shoes. Access granted by Museum of London.
A pair of thirteenth-century shoes. Access granted by the Museum of London.

I don’t quite remember the first time I thought about my ‘career’; neither do I remember a pivotal moment when I realised what I wanted to ‘be’. The only thing I remember is that I always had a huge desire to talk. Yet I do recall one peculiar moment at school, when we built our own ‘medieval feud maquette’. I loved building that feud. I loved building the cardboard castle and the incredible water mill, flowing with blue jelly. I also remember the first time I ventured into my mom’s wardrobe, in the late 1990s, where I captured a golden rope watch and a blue silk Indian scarf she’d owned since the late 1980s. I loved finding those objects. I loved wearing them (still do!) and loved the idea that they were my heirlooms.

There it is: I’ve always felt fascinated by objects. Actually, I’ve always liked talking to/about objects. I appreciate things that can tell stories, things that have a past. Somehow I inexplicably managed to design my career around stories from the past, mingling narratives from my past and from this curious geography that is medieval England – what a strange combination. Continue reading

Call for Submissions Issue #2: The Researcher’s Notebook

Submissions are now closed, although we are now seeking applications from artists and illustrators to bring this printed beauty to life!
Contact editor[at]thestillpointjournal.com.

Each [notebook] was a small landscape through which it was possible to wander, and within which it was possible to get lost. […] The notebooks, taken together, represented an accidental epic poem of [the writer’s] life, or perhaps a dendrological cross-section of his mind.

Robert Macfarlane, Landmarks

For Issue #2 of The Still Point Journal, we ask contributors to imagine that their submissions are part of a collective Researcher’s Notebook in both a literal, and a broader, metaphorical sense. We want to explore the idea of the journal as a space for spontaneous discovery or self-creation/autopoeisis; whether this be through pages from an actual notebook filled with doodles, mind-maps and beautiful scrawls, or pieces which explore the researcher’s thought-process and the genesis of an idea over time.

Pages from Frida Kahlo’s notebook
Pages from Frida Kahlo’s notebook

We invite submissions of non-fiction, short fiction, poetry and visual work in all forms. Responses can be as creative and as broad as you like, and we are particularly interested in seeing work that blurs the boundaries of form and genre.

The Still Point Journal is a literary journal for Arts and Humanities researchers in London, funded by the LAHP (London Arts & Humanities Partnership) and the AHRC. The Still Point aims to be a forum for dialogue, collaboration and experimentation, and offers a space for creatively writing through ideas in original forms.

‘The still point’ reflects our experience of being new researchers and represents those moments when we take time out of our days for deep thinking and reflection: when the world gets quiet but our minds are still racing. The journal’s particular focus is on non-fiction writing, related – however tangentially – to our research and the kind of rich thinking and exploration we do during the course of this research.

Submission Guidelines:

  • Non-fiction pieces should be between 1,000 and 3,000 words
  • Short stories should be no more than 2,000 words in length
  • Please send between 1 and 3 poems
  • For all visual submissions please send us a high quality digital file.

Deadline: Please send any questions or submissions to submissions@thestillpointjournal.com by the 31st January 2016.

If you want to discuss an idea with us before you make a submission, please drop us a line: editor@thestillpointjournal.com. Contributors should be currently affiliated with a research institution, although we are also interested in hearing from artists, designers and illustrators who would like to collaborate with researchers on their pieces.

The aim of the journal is to encourage conversation and exchange between researchers from disciplines across the Arts & Humanities and in the thriving academic community of London. We hope that The Still Point Journal will engage readers and writers in new conversations and open up the narrow niches of our research to different disciplines and new audiences.

An evening of poetry, prose and music

The research experience is often imagined to be impersonal and isolated: anxiety-ridden scholars reading alone at their desks. Last Sunday, the launch of the journal’s first print issue proved this to be far from the truth. Researchers, writers, and friends came together to share their own peculiar experiences and to enjoy the curious connections between our work. It was with this aim in mind that we created The Still Point Journal, and pushed for it to be published in print, as well as online.

launch 2

launch 5The event took place at the beautifully lit Gallery Café in Bethnal Green and featured live readings from our contributors and music from The Interiors. Over good wine and great music, people were put in dialogue with one another in an informal, relaxed setting. Hearing the stories and poetry read aloud introduced a new tone and rhythm to the words, helping to continue conversations and start new ones, as well as put faces to pages. It was a showcase of everything we had hoped to achieve.

launch 3The evening was also a celebration for us personally: a culmination of twelve month’s worth of planning. We have thought about, written about, and talked about The Still Point Journal in various ways. There were initial emails asking if anyone was interested in setting up a new literary journal that would offer space to explore our research creatively. There were conversations in coffee shops, corridors, and wine bars, where we argued the pros and cons for keeping the word ‘The’ in the title. There were submission deadlines, all-day proofing sessions, and design meetings. There were ‘Still Point’ events: afternoon poetry readings and evening art exhibitions.

Now, finally, it’s officially launched as a print journal. It is, in fact, so official that it has it’s own ISSN number and a copy will be kept in the British Library.

launch 6

A brief round of thanks: to The Gallery Café for letting us take over; to The Interiors for providing the soundtrack to the evening; to sound engineer Natan for stepping in last minute; to the designers and contributors; and to all who came to celebrate with us.

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Photos by Christopher Webb, view them all on our Facebook page.

Write up by Briony Wickes, a second year PhD student in English Literature at King’s College London. Follow Briony @brionyjoy

The Currency of Fieldwork

Interviews, receipts, recordings. This is the currency of fieldwork.

Sam Miles image

I interview gay men who use the digital apps Grindr and Scruff to understand how technology affects people’s everyday practice in London.

I knew my interviews would be fascinating – sex, after all, is fascinating. But what I was unprepared for is how rich the stories would be. Young or old, shy or outspoken: the men I interview pour out their stories. They talk and talk.

I understand for the first time what it means to be an active listener. I hear their stories and wind them into a bigger narrative: a narrative which presents their experience to audiences who might not normally listen.

Sam is a second year Geography PhD student at Queen Mary, University of London. His research combines sexuality and space studies with digital technology to understand the impact of GPS media on queer space-making practices. @sammiles87

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Writing in the sunshine and looking out over the Huntington gardens, I have a secret to confess. Something that I have been hiding from the books I’ve been researching for the past year, I am the person they are trying so desperately hard to discount and philosophically disarm. I am an Epicurean.

Some might wonder what exactly a research student of eighteenth-century British poetry is doing in Southern California. Yet, by some turns of a revolution and some serial book collecting by an American railroad millionaire, my research is just as at home in San Marino as it is in London.

I share my above confession with one of the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the same in a letter of 1819. Having moved to his country, I find myself asking who couldn’t help but be one when working in a veritable research paradise? A place that has Jefferson’s reverberating political statement to serve the unalienable right of ‘the Pursuit of Happiness’ as one of its treasures on display. Here I have access to the first editions of my texts, reading the very same warnings against the dangers of Epicureanism my eighteenth-century readers would have been, in amongst a garden where a conversion to such a philosophy is all but inevitable.

life liberty

The Huntington Library, set within its vast botanical gardens, is a unique experience for any researcher, and for me has become my own Epicurean garden. If we are to believe William Temple writing on the Gardens of Epicurus, or, of gardening in the year of 1685, ‘no other sort of abode seems to contribute so much, to both the tranquillity of mind, and indolence of body’ as a garden. Continue reading