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.

Free Public Event • 6 December 2016, Cardiff University
Design and Photography: Rhys Tranter
Design and Photography: Rhys Tranter

This year, Professor Diana Wallace (University of South Wales) will be presenting the Assuming Gender Annual Lecture at Cardiff University. The lecture will explore a tradition of Gothic historical fictions stretching from Sophia Lee in the eighteenth century to Sarah Waters in the twenty-first century. Conscious that women have often been left out of traditional historical narratives, Wallace suggests that Gothic historical fiction offers a mode of writing which can both reinsert women into history and symbolise their exclusion. (more…)

Jennifer Dawn Whitney (DCRC) traces the history of our anxieties about robot technology

1950s-robot-toy

In contemporary Western culture, we often trace our relationship with automation and robotics to the Industrial Revolution – or, more recently – to a kind of American futurism rooted in the 1950s. Wedged between these two moments of modernity we find the word ‘robot’, which came into usage in the 1920s.

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Catherine Belsey to deliver this year’s Assuming Gender Public Lecture
Catherine Belsey, 'Women in White'. Poster Design: Rhys Tranter
Catherine Belsey, ‘Women in White’. Poster Design: Rhys Tranter
On 2 December 2015, Professor Catherine Belsey will be delivering this year’s Assuming Gender Public Lecture at Cardiff University. The talk, which is entitled ‘Women in White’, will explore the connections between ghosts, storytelling, and gender history. Through a discussion of ghost stories, fiction, and cultural history, the event will focus on the gender politics of apparitions.

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