The Critical Field

One of the things I’ve found most difficult about working on an unusually contemporary area of literature is the feeling that I’m alone. If you work on a major author – Joyce, Auden, Eliot or anyone else who no longer requires a forename – there is a strong chance that you will find someone in your institution or nearby who works on them. There may be a seminar series, conferences, even whole journals dedicated to the critical field. I’ve been feeling like my field is empty.

I don’t really dislike this – I love my area and the feeling of starting a dialogue. My work does also participate in lots of wider critical dialogues – with others working on contemporary poetry, modern Irish writing, women’s writing, feminism and so on. So my field does neighbour some others. Finding them can be a little difficult though, but I have some good news on that front.

I’ve just received a grant from my college to cover my membership fees of three of the research associations which relate most closely to my area. I’m joining the British Association of Irish Studies, the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association and the Contemporary Women’s Writing Association.

I suppose the Contemporary Northern Irish Women’s Poetry Association is a bit much to hope for right now.

Thia is intended to illustrate academics hanging out in a critical field.

2 thoughts on “The Critical Field

  1. I hear what you are saying. The sort of area that I am proposing to do PhD research in is quite disparate at the moment. It has wider relevance to a lot of different discussions but when it comes to the core of my research question is a relatively untended field.

    Do you find this can really drag down your motivation some days because it’s a lot of hard work to try and constantly be breaking new ground?

    Great news about your grant though – I bet that was a bit of a ‘pick me up’.

    • The grant is pretty small, but free money is always good.

      I think at their heart all PhDs *should* be untended ground – or at least something newly fertile (to carry this ridiculous metaphor even further). However, I find that with super contemporary stuff (like mine is nearly all post-1995, which is practically space age in literature) you are largely alone.

      It isn’t disheartening as such – but my networks are mainly outside of academia, which is unusual. You really shouldn’t permit a PhD to get you down any more than you should let a job get you down. Otherwise it’ll be a hard three years!

      How are the applications going?

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