Some reflections, three years after gaining a PhD

Three years ago today, I passed my viva voce examination for a PhD in English Literature. It was one of the most exciting, thrilling, and exhausting experiences of my life. My wife, Jennifer Dawn Whitney, had recently gained a PhD in Critical and Cultural Theory, and we graduated together in the same ceremony at Cardiff University in the UK.

Since that time, my wife and I have been extremely lucky. We were both offered part-time, fixed-term contracts that allowed us to teach the next generation of literary critics, journalists, philosophers, and informed citizens. It’s been incredibly fun and rewarding, but insecure in its very nature. Now, we are at a point where our contracts are ending simultaneously, and so we are both looking for full-time posts where we can develop our own teaching and research initiatives.

Getting this far has not been easy. It has required hard work, discipline, persistence, and a generous helping of sheer luck. My wife and I were both the first people in our immediate families to go to university and achieve a college degree. As people from working-class backgrounds, we have seen how difficult it is to get a foothold on the institutional ladder. Many of our peers have access to financial support or are independently wealthy, enabling them to research and publish in their own time without needing to worry about keeping a roof over their heads or put food on the table. This financial security can allow some to live comfortably on a part-time fixed-term contract, or to pursue volunteer work or internships that will enhance their academic resume. Without this kind of safety net, pursuing an academic career can be daunting. But we are not letting that deter us.

As our contracts come to an end, we are looking to work at institutions that support the same kinds of values and ideals that attracted us to academia in the first place. We celebrate the university as an inclusive space that recognises diversity and debate. We seek to think critically about our own cultural assumptions and histories, and to reflect on what it means to lead a meaningful and fulfilling life. We also seek to prioritise teaching as a crucial part of an academic’s day-to-day life, not just to share knowledge but as an opportunity to inspire and generate discussion on the issues that matter most in contemporary culture. Wish us luck.

An exclusive glimpse inside a new online archive, cataloguing the Nobel laureate’s personal reading habits and artistic influences
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Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon, Samuel Beckett’s Library

The Beckett Digital Library (BDL) is a digital reconstruction of Samuel Beckett’s personal library, based on the volumes preserved at his apartment in Paris, in archives (Beckett International Foundation) and private collections (James and Elizabeth Knowlson Collection, Anne Atik, Noga Arikha, Terrence Killeen,…). It currently houses 757 extant volumes, as well as 248 virtual entries for which no physical copy has been retrieved.

The BDL module is a part of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project and contains scans of book covers, title pages, all pages with reading traces, flyleaves, colophons, tables of contents, indexes and inserts of various kinds. In addition to facsimiles, the BDL also offers transcriptions of readings traces and links to Beckett’s manuscripts.

The BDL is accompanied by a monograph (Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon, Samuel Beckett’s Library, Cambridge UP, 2013)

What follows is an exclusive preview of the Beckett Digital Library (BDL), with quotations excerpted from Van Hulle’s and Nixon’s companion book. Each image presents an actual edition owned by the writer himself. (more…)

As director of Faber & Faber, T.S. Eliot rejected George Orwell’s now-classic Animal Farm explaining “we have no conviction … that this is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation.” Source: Harriet: The Blog.

From the Letters section of The Guardian.

A one-day conference at Birkbeck College invites proposals of previously unpublished papers

Literary Networks and Cultural Collaborations:
From 19th Century to the Present Day

One-day conference
Birkbeck College, University of London on
29 October 2016

The event seeks to inspire new, creative ideas and discussion about ways in which we imagine, understand and position the network in relation to literature and other forms of cultural production. (more…)

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Design: Rhys Tranter

The London Beckett Seminar at the Institute of English Studies will bring together national and international scholars, researchers and postgraduates to discuss issues arising from the prose, theatre and poetry of Samuel Beckett that pertain to aspects of literary, philosophical and historical analysis with particular attention to translation studies, performance and practice, digital humanities and visual cultures. Inherently interdisciplinary in approach, the seminar will establish a vibrant research network for postgraduate students, early-career researchers, and established academics on a national and international level. (more…)