Skip to main content

Why?

The question I get asked most often is ‘why’

That is ‘why do a PhD’ and ‘why study that’ so at the risk of sounding like an academic paper, these questions I will attempt to address here.

Why do a PhD? Well I first remember hearing of a PhD when I was in Sixth Form and one quick cocky individual (he was, there’s no other way to put it) declared that’s what he was going to do. Well anything you can do as they say... Also learning, education is the only thing I’ve ever been really good at so as I continued to work my way through the education system it became apparent I wasn’t going to be happy until I’d gone ‘all the way’. 

Just being quite good at studying, and rather linking learning however isn’t really justification or motivation for a PhD, some of that comes from the topic which I’ll come on to, but it comes from other things too. I tried to like other careers-well I say careers, I had several temp jobs ranging from a ‘dresser’ in the theatre (best job ever, highlight dressing a male chorus as Roman Soldiers, then priests, then slaves) I was a Civil Servant (I lack the discipline and lack of personality) a receptionist (lack the sucking up skills) and a secretary at a Higher Education Institute not a million miles away from here (academics love me, secretaries hate me, clearly this was a sign) Finally I trained as a Secondary School History teacher (least said about that the better).  So I tried, I really tried to find something else I was good at. 

But that doesn’t answer why. A PhD isn’t about being clever in fact I’d argue a good memory and observation skills outweigh the need for a high IQ. What a PhD does is catalogue information, collect it, and use it. And that is why I love it. I’ve been doing that for years doing what my Mum calls ‘going into things’ I call it ‘Endless capacity for useless information’. For as long as I can remember if something interests me it’s not enough just to like it I need to know as much as humanly possible about it. I affectionately call it being geeky, some might call it obsession. But what is a PhD other than a three year obsession with a topic? So to turn my useless skill and obsessive tendencies and use them for good instead of evil (or to put it another way to gain something from boring people to death) 

There’s another thing on the general ‘why’ something that those who treated me with such hostility when I said I didn’t want to teach Secondary School (it’s one of the most deadly sins you know, to say you don’t like being a teacher) is that I didn’t like teaching SECONDARY SCHOOL. I do love, almost as much as my PhD itself, teaching.  I get to talk about things I love, with people who (mostly) want to be there. I learn from my students all the time-often they know more than I do about a given book or subject. And they inspire me. But that deserves a blog post of their own.  
So that’s the ‘Why’ overall. So why this? Why HIV/AIDS? To be honest I don’t know, and I feel like I should know. There’s two strands I can pin it to; firstly I’m a child of the 1980s I grew up terrified of AIDS- I was convinced for a good portion of my childhood AIDS was going to kill me and I wasn’t even sure what it was. I blame John Hurt and the tombstone adverts.

The second part is more simplistic, and a general act of serendipity,   I discovered two plays that inspired me and that have become central to my research at the same time. I was living in Canada, it was a long winter and my flatmate (sorry ‘roommate’) suggested we rent ‘Angels in America’ her words I believe were ‘It’s about people with AIDS but it’s supposed to be good’ and my oh my it was. At the same time the musicals geek in me finally discovered Rent, and lightning bolts went off in my head. Simply two pieces of amazing theatre coming into my life at the same time and things started to fall into place. I did work on both for the end of my Undergraduate degree and then for my Masters. So far it’s been 6 years since that discovery and I still have more I want to know. So I suppose that’s why.  The chance to do what you love, to think about something you love every day. It doesn’t get much better does it?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Theatre Fangirls (here we go again)

There's some arguments that come around and you think 'really? we're still talking about this?' but also you're not really surprised.

So when it was annoucned Tom Hiddleston was teaming up with Kenneth Brannagh for a production of Hamlet, it was inevitable that the cries of  'Silly fangirls' began. Once again we're confronted with comments that girls 'Only want to see it because he's in it' and 'Aren't interested in the play'.

And because I am a woman, therefore incapable of thinking of him other than in terms of his looks....here he above with a cat looking cute.

But just like Mr H there is both petting a cat, reading a newspaper and looking brooding, I'd like to point out that it's entierly possible to be interested in more than one aspect of a thing at the same time. And secondly I say so what the audience is just there to look at his cheekbones?

I don't have a horse in this race. I think Hiddles is a damn good ac…

Why Elliott & Harper is the company I've been waiting for

I can never resist a good (bad) pun in a title. As the first production from Elliott & Harper opens its doors for previews tonight, it’s worth pausing to think what this new production company means and why indeed we need more like it. Something of a ‘power house’ company formed of Marianne Elliott and Chris Harper. Both coming from the National Theatre- as Director and Producer respectively- there’s a real understanding of both the craft of theatre and the audiences that do- and don’t- come to it there. And theatre made by and produced by theatre people, in the commercial realm. That’s potentially very exciting.








Firstly, the act of two theatre people who really love theatre, really understand theatre both from an audience point of view and an artistic point of view. Secondly, one of the UK’s best directors striking out on her own to make theatre on her own terms. Thirdly, and you bet it’s an important factor, a woman artistic director. It’s all exciting, and has the potential, …

Angels at the National (a reflection before the review)

I had to do a Kushner and give this post a long subtitle.

When I called my PhD thesis "Angels at the National" (I write terrible titles I know) I never thought I'd be able to say it again. Of course, the Gods like to have a laugh at my expense so mere months after I bound the copy, Rufus Norris and Marianne Elliot got together and decided that I clearly hadn't had enough to write about. 


But how does it feel to have the thing that has lived in your head for so long, back, brought to life in front of you? As much as I love the plays, I'm also conditioned to be hyper critical. I know every line (I amazed/freaked out Elliot herself with my ability to know exact quotations on demand). And of course, I have my own expectations about how it should be. How then would it feel to go back? 



At the end of Part 1 I found myself leaning on the railings by the Thames, trying to compose myself and my thoughts enough to move. At the end of Part 2, I'm sure I had forgotten how …