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

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By the Way: Research on the Roadside

Elsa Court image

It was not always clear why I, a non-driver in my late twenties, had chosen to research the road and its architectural landscape. My PhD studied representations of the American roadside and its commercial structures – the motel, the gas station, the highway service area in its various denominations, the roadside café, the toilet cubicle, and, occasionally, the roadside sign – as global icons of modern America. This liminal spot between land and road, capitalised upon to ease the fluidity of motorised motion, seemed especially meaningful in the American landscape, where the land is vast and roads cut through desert and empty prairies.

The roadside as space spoke to my sense of the road as a passive traveller and reader of literature. As a representational space, I thought, the roadside is often paradoxically a dead-end: an embodiment of indirection and loss. Continue reading

Notes to self: draft one

what is beowulf

THIS IS WHAT I\M DOING RIGHT NOW

This feels too big. I think because really I
can’t decide what it is exactly that I am trying to say// what it is I’m
trying to do here.
What ARe we dealing with here? Thinking alot about latour. The SOCIAL. SOCIAL SOCIAL STORIES
COMMUNITY YES.

What about words… ?

UNDERSTANDNG OF WHERE THE MIND IS. existing vs occurring.
this is why I’m
struggling.

‘storied knowledge, then is
neither classificatory nor networked. It is

meshworked’[1],, so how to describe or explore it linearly without
it coming out like utter fluff? aRGH THIS

THIS THIS. The ethnographic FRAGMENT, ‘that which can
be lifted and
taken away’.[2] SEE PAGE 19!!!
He includes a map. Map! Illustration!

THIS IS GOOD: WHAT DISCURSIVE STRATEGIES?
something to be said about the perceived
continuity that exists across time?
sHE’S
SAID IT ALREADY!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHATARE YOU DOING TO ME

Find a nice storytelling quote please, and
do what he does here. Or some sort of performance
quote. Talk here about martin carver, GIllian overing
and tim… importantimportant this is

THE SITE, THE STORY,,,

NOTE HERE WHAT THE description says,. LOLOLOLol
there is no more work for me to do. She’s
now looking at everything
since 1939… p. 55-6.
don’t even think about _writing this yet ok.

[1] tim ingold, being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and description (London: Routledge, 2001)

[2] Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage (fiND PLACE?: University of California Press, 1998)


Fran researches Anglo-Saxon texts and objects, and contemporary cultural and creative practices. She has conversations with her notes, but is usually careful to make sure these are confined to DRaft_sutton_Hoo_1.doc or some other appropriately named and carefully filed away document. This is a collection of notes-to-self from a very early essay draft, in the order they appear, edited only for layout.

The Secret Autobiography of my PhD #3

Sound has always filled my house.

charbookcasesmallWind whistles through the old doors and windows, stairs creak  and floorboards groan. Every genre of music has issued from multiple instruments and iPods. My house has never been silent.

I am a dreamer for what could be and what might have been. I am a lover of fantasy. Find me a literature student my age who didn’t grow up with Harry Potter? I read my horoscope. I am interested in the nature of dreams. I am absorbed by a good story.

Medieval literature, particularly the dream visions, ticks all my boxes.


Charlotte Rudman is a second year PhD student in the Department of English at King’s College London, researching sound and sound representations in medieval dream vision poetry, @charrud.

Your PhD, Your Brain, and Your B-Movies

Your brain – big, buxom, full of neurons, and a pineal gland, and an amygdala, and a basal ganglia, and then some – is what is doing your PhD. It reads your stuff, it writes your stuff, and it decides which Sainsbury’s korma to microwave whilst you email your supervisor to postpone your stuff.

“Everyone has a hidden emotional motive behind their PhD,” my friend always says, “what is yours?” Day to day, I write about connections between contemporary French philosophy, cinema and neuroscience, so I like to think that I was always aware of the brain. Since undergoing an out-of-the-blue Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy this Christmas due to a rogue blockage in one of my brain’s water tanks, however, I could not be more aware of it.

I have realised more than ever that I owe it to my brain to figure out who it is and what it does. So as well as using it to think about other brain-workings in French philosophy and cinema, I have decided to get to know my own much better. I have decided that I’m going to treat this throbbing alien in my skull with the respect it deserves – like the true Genovian princess it really is – and that this journey might as well be a voluptuous, bawdy experience, and needn’t necessarily start with the MRI scanner.  

An unforeseen delight which has emmerged from my research – between libraries and hospitals and cinemas – has been the brain B-Movie. B for Brain, if you can stomach that degree of tweeness. Whatever your own reason for wanting to explore the brain writing your PhD, here are three gloriously campy places to start:

The Brain from Planet Arous

This 1957 favourite, directed by Nathan H. Juran, does exactly what it says on the tin. A brain-shaped alien by the name of Gor descends to earth and takes over the body of a young scientist, using his powers to destroy the planet bit by bit. Meanwhile, another of the brain-shaped race also descends to earth, explaining that Gor is a wanted terrorist on their own planet. It is found that Gor’s weak spot is his Fissure of Rolando, or the central sulcus: a line that separates the parietal lobe from the frontal lobe in the brain. Continue reading

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

unnamed

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

IMG-20160201-WA0000

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

Learning to eat my vegetables: food and the PhD experience

The following post was published on Pubs and Publications, a blog curating musings on the PhD experience. We enjoyed it so much we wanted to share it, thank you to the Pubs and Pubs team and Laura for letting us do so! Based at the University of Edinburgh, they are always looking for contributions from across the UK and beyond.

There’s been more than one occasion where I’ve looked on, often in despair, at other PhD students’ lunches. I look down at my somewhat deflated looking sandwiches whilst they are happily heating up what looks to be something ridiculously healthy. There’s green stuff in it. Green. I try and hide my Wotsits, or whatever other kind of junk I’ve felt like polluting my body with this week. Judging my lunches next to theirs’, I feel like I’m still in secondary school, somehow. When did people ‘grow up’ and start eating so well?

Erich O. Krueger 'So klappt es besser!', Ferienplatz Schloßpark Charlottenburg in Berlin 1947.
Erich O. Krueger
‘So klappt es besser!,
Ferienplatz Schloßpark Charlottenburg’, 1947.

I Google “PhD students eating” because I’m a lazy researcher at heart. Aside from some of the usually surreal stock photos that pop up (there’s pizza, obviously), numerous articles pop up on how to eat healthily as a grad student. There are the usual tips that seem to litter advice articles like this: buy seasonal, check out discounts, cook at home. This isn’t an advice article. I’m not here to tell you how to eat properly, because I don’t. I know plenty of PhD students who find time to cook, eat well, and manage a thousand other things, too. You really should ask them, because I’m only just beginning to learn how to not eat like a devil-may-care teenager who lives on a diet of Doritos and toast. Continue reading

The Pub That Wouldn’t Die: A Case of Architectural Resilience

When I was a teenage drinker in mid-90s Manchester, we used to go to a certain pub – the Old Wellington Inn, a.k.a. the Old Shambles, or just the Welly – that had, and would continue to have, a very peculiar history. Twenty years on, having devoted much of the intervening period to studying philosophy, conserving historic buildings, and/or (as in my present research) applying the former activity to the latter, the place is often in my mind. If anything got me started down my current path, perhaps it was this.

Old Welly 1

Old Welly 2

Built around the year 1550 in what was then a nondescript south-Lancashire market town, the Old Wellington was the very last of Manchester’s half-timbered vernacular buildings to survive the city’s stupendous nineteenth-century growth. Modified, extended, re-fenestrated, it clung to its little patch of ground among the tottering brick piles of the Victorian Cottonopolis, accommodating a wine merchant, an oculist, a fishing tackle shop and a series of squalid tenements. It narrowly escaped annihilation in the 1940 Christmas Blitz, but post-war rebuilding left it stranded on a traffic island, and comprehensive redevelopment in the 1970s saw it placed on a concrete raft and jacked several feet up into the air, ultimately to grace a rather bleak little plaza round the back of Marks & Spencer’s. Continue reading

Getting Started: the PhD thing

Getting Started illustration 12.32.49

So. It’s the 21st of December, which means I’ve been ‘doing this PhD thing’, as my housemates put it, for almost three months now.

I’ve just about pinned down my question into a neat sentence: ‘how do Anglo-Saxon things perform social, cultural, or political work today?’. I’ve scribbled that question on post it notes, each time with slightly different wording, and stuck them around my room, used them to save pages in my library books, and dreamt about them. I have the question, but what next? Continue reading