So it’s been a while since I updated-a month in fact. Busy time, but you may be glad to know I’m a lot happier since the last time I posted.
I survived the Mphil viva, so now am officially on the second stage of the PhD journey (how many stages there are I think is an open ended question if ever there was one.) The viva itself was a very positive experience-that is the actual hour I was in there talking about it. Despite all the frustrations and my worries and concerns about reactions to my research or potential problems around it the discussion was supportive and constructive. I came out of the session with a clear idea of what I’d done and where I was going. I also felt that I had held my own and knew what I was talking about it and (say it very quietly) was in fact on the road to really being an expert in this area. One day.
Following this all the PhD students were asked to give a short talk in the School research seminars. Now frankly I’d rather have done the viva again. There is something incredibly intimidating about talking to your department colleagues in such detail about your research. The PhD research is much like, for those who write, like constantly working on a first draft-it’s incredibly messy, very personal and often you’re not sure what’s going on: and it’s not something you’d really want to show to the rest of the world. Also being one of the youngest in the department in both age and experience and laying out why you think what you’re doing is important and more importantly that you actually know what you’re talking about is frankly a terrifying experience.
Ultimately I’m told both were a success-I made some bad jokes in the latter, I also was very frank for once about my research: I have mentioned how frustrated I get with the idea that I have to hide or sugar coat my research, saying in that room ‘What I’m talking about is Gay men and AIDS’ in those frank terms is one of the most liberating things I’ve done in a while. Even if it did lead to the question (thankfully in private) ‘Is it really ok to write a PhD about the gays and lesbians’. Yes well, least said about that comment the better.
I have also been doing finally what feels like some ‘real’ research, running away to the National Theatre archives last week. After months of running in circles, writing chapters and preparing the viva and not taking any forward steps to get my hands dirty (as it were) in the archives was better than a holiday for me (well that and I got a weekend in London out of it…) I took an assistant with me (a friend who like me thinks a day in the archives is a fun day out, yes there’s more than one of us!) and that too really helped my work-to have another set of eyes and asking all the questions that I’m too close to the plays and the topic to ask was brilliant.
So the PhD feels like it’s coming slowly to life again, that things are beginning to move and to quote one of my texts:
‘The world only spins forward’
So onwards at last!