Transfer of status: the result

Word has finally arrived back from my transfer of status viva, sorry interview. Despite my worries for the last few weeks I have passed which means I won’t have to resubmit my materials and I can happily continue with my research and i can officially call myself a DPhil candidate, rather than a Probationary Research Student (but no one calls themselves that anyway…).

This is obviously good news and I’m really relieved that my research is on track. The notification I received by email didn’t include the assessors report – I’m waiting on that coming by post – and I’ll be interested to see more detailed feedback.

In the spirit of The Plath Diaries, I’ve decided to be quite honest about my experience since the purpose of this blog is to reflect the ups and downs of the thesis journey. To that end, I’ll be honest and say that I am a little surprised that I’ve passed since I didn’t feel the interview went as well as it could have done. I was confident that the materials I handed in were of a fairly good standard – and after I’d handed them in I picked them apart so I could preempt any reservations and defend them. However, in the interview I felt a little at sea.

Part of this may have been down to nerves, although I’m not a nervous person in any other arena. The date was a difficult one for me since it was the anniversary of a recent family death, and while I didn’t think that would effect me it definitely did on the day. Aside from these things, some of the assessors’s questions were long and involved – so by the time it came to respond I felt a little confused at to what exactly they wanted me to get down to. I didn’t feel at any point that the wheels were truly coming off, but I also didn’t feel I was breezing through. Worst of all, I didn’t much feel like I’d impressed or done my research justice.

If I had the chance to do it again, I would have batted back the questions that weren’t totally clear and asked for more clarification, instead of attempting to answer and not delivering exactly. This is hopefully a valuable skill for the confirmation of status assessment, and ultimately the final viva.

I obviously didn’t do as badly as I thought too – so perhaps this is also a message about mental attitude too, which is incredibly important when doing solitary research.

Onwards and upwards.

‘an end-of-the-line sense of freedom’

I’m in the middle of one of my busiest weeks for a while.

I was in Hull yesterday for a meeting with the PG CWWN steering group. We had a tour of the venue for our September conference, and sifted the abstracts into panels over lunch. We also had a gossip and a catch up, as ever.

Larkin quote in Hull station

Larkin quote in Hull station

I had a supervision this morning – my first of this term – and we discussed various aspects of both the work I’ve done and the work I’m planning on doing. I’m losing my voice though, and my tonsils were not amused at the rate of discussion. Still nothing on the transfer of status results, though.

I’ve also done some final prep on my conference paper for tomorrow’s Oxford graduate conference. I’m looking forward to the event, but I’m really hoping my voice holds out for the 20 minute paper.

On Saturday I’m heading to Brighton for three days, which will be a welcome break and will give me some freedom from my commitments for a few days. Naturally I’ve already looked up literary landmarks to look out for. I’ll hopefully visit some Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West related addresses and the only AIDS memorial in the UK. I watched Brighton Rock (the 1947 one) last weekend too – which is a fantastic movie, and I’ll see some (less highbrow) sights from Sugar Rush!

Limbo

Time marches on, as ever. I’m fairly certain that time goes quicker when you are a PhD student though. Term here is nearly over and I always feel like I’m only half begun.

Last week was the transfer of status interview, and unlike Sophie and another Victorianist first year, I wasn’t told my result in the interview. This seems to be one of the wild discrepancies taken as normal here. This is pretty frustrating since I’m now still in the limbo between forging ahead and re-considering my whole purpose in life.

June used to be my favourite month since it meant yawning days and the end of school. This one is shaping up to be busy on a number of fronts. I’ll be visiting Hull next week to do some admin for my September conference, after that I have a supervision and then the Oxford postgrad conference. Then I’ll be in Brighton for a few days break and a friend is visiting for another few days the week after that. Add to that schedule a fairly substantial book review due by the start of July, my birthday and a magazine launch. Who says a PhD is a life of solitude?

On my own

Since the pile of library books that usually sits accusingly on my desk here has all but run dry I’ve started to think about starting into my next chapter. This may be delirium, but something has to be done. However, this chapter is going to prove a little more tricksy than the previous one.

For the first time, probably in my entire academic career, I’m feeling quite alone with my thoughts on the matter. Basically, I can find no useful criticism to go with, which as a feminist critic is probably the case and point.

I’m ever conscious that there are 11 days until my transfer of status interview. I have no real clue as to how best to prepare for this – other than re-reading the materials I submitted and considering what weaknesses they may probe.

In other study related news I have had my paper ‘ “Where is she?”: Anthologies, Binaries and Northern Irish Poetry’ accepted for the ‘Time & Space in Contemporary Women’s Writing conference (yes, which I am co-organising…). I’ve also had a commission to review a new book, which isn’t unusual in itself, but for the first time the text relates to Irish poetry and feminism.

An Academic Date

It has arrived, ominously, in my inbox. That is – the time and date of my transfer of status interview. I also now know who my assessors will be and have been sizing them up from their departmental profiles (which taught me precisely nothing useful).

So, there we have it. In 16 days it will be nearly over.

Other than that, this week I’ve been preparing for another, unrelated, interview. I’ve also been putting together the PG CWWN newsletter, and reading Flann O’Brien who is my new interest. I like this photo of him very much too.

The Red Pen Day

Today is the day I took a red pen to a hard copy of the document titled ‘final-final-draft.doc’. I oddly quite like this process because it feels like I am marking my own work and since I, generally, like it very much I imagine for brief moments that the examiners will find no faults whatsoever.

I like nothing more than a good end-of-essay wordle – so here it is!

So, I’m off to hand it in and then enjoy a good, long, bank holiday. Like a working person.

The Deadline Cometh!

I’m now back on the side of the Irish Sea I need to be on to hand in the material for the transfer of status. Thanks to the crazy bank holiday situation the deadline is now next Tuesday, but in order to enjoy the crazy bank holiday situation I’m hoping to get it handed in on the Thursday before the crazy…

I deliberately didn’t look much at the draft after I received feedback last term, preferring easter eggs and my new PS3 to productivity. I’m glad I gave it some time to breathe, because getting back to it today has been entertaining. Yes, at one stage I made a ludicrous claim that all poetry is democratic because it all comes from the same (mysterious and unspecified) place. This is a hoot, but has been deleted. Phew.

So, the deadline cometh like a bogeyman stumbling upon the village that poetry and criticism co-habit in. [This is no stranger than the mad bit of The Anxiety of Influence].

Cometh the hour, cometh the feminist critic?

Supervisory Celebrations

Today was the special day in the diary of this DPhil student when I go to perch on the sofa and hear the verdict on my latest bit of research. There were three kinds of good news: 1.) my work doesn’t need substantial revision, just a few little tweaks, before hand in for the transfer of status; 2.) my supervisor isn’t retiring in September after all, in fact, he’ll be here for basically the rest of my thesis; 3.) He has a new grandson. Celebration all round.

My supervisor asked some poignant questions I’ll be mulling over, although they won’t necessarily fit into my thesis. One is why Louis MacNeice seems to be the presiding influence on much contemporary Northern Irish poetry, as opposed to, say, Yeats or Clarke. Another is why Paul Muldoon is so popular with the younger poets. My wooly attempts at responses in the session were something along the lines of perceived ‘cool-ness’, although that seems a very strange term to use for poetry.

One thing I’ve always said that sets research apart from most other ‘real jobs’ is that the thesis never sleeps. I had a rousing reminder of this today when I read a book review and had an epiphany along the lines of ‘He did say that. Wait – she has a poem about that. And she reviewed a book of his too!’

Fingers crossed there are no epiphanies of a critical nature in the pub tonight.

‘Time off’ – A period when a PhD student waits for feedback.

So, something has been sent to my supervisor for feedback. For a short period yesterday I felt like my eyes had retreated into my skull – eye strain is no joke kids. Either way I’ve met the deadline I set myself and can look forward to receiving feedback on Tuesday.

10000 / 10000 words. 100% done!

I have practically a small compost heap worth of used tea bags in my bin. My bookshelves are out of order. I have red pen on my hands. I have some mild RSI (RSI *not* STI, thank you). I have only communicated with the outside world via Skype all week. I still think cous cous is instant food developed by higher life forms.

Now I can remove myself  from my laptop I shall go for coffee, get some food in (not cous cous), wash up the mug collection on my desk and otherwise recharge for a bit. Oh, and maybe go to the library… no?

Welcome to the ‘Big Society’

In the time that I’ve managed to tear myself from the Guardian live blog on the Arts Council funding decisions (and the emotional rollercoaster that is the #artsfunding tag on Twitter) I’ve made some headway with the sample of writing for transfer.

The National Portfolio decisions are being portrayed as winners and losers, but ultimately these decisions mean that more broadly we will all be worse off for at least the next three years. One of the organisations I’m a Trustee of has received bad news today, despite valiant work. Others for which I work on a freelance basis have maintained and even in some cases increased on their funding bids. Today has been a game-changing day, that is for sure.

Of course, cuts will also have an incredible impact on how the higher education sector develops in the coming years. The other big funding story in my little world was the accusation by The Obersver at the weekend that the AHRC are to prioritise research into the Big Society. The AHRC are denying it though. I’m starting to wish I’d just become a banker.

More positively, in the short term, I’m now not far off 3/4 of this work done. Funny how re-thinking the introduction in a notebook at midnight can change the pace so drastically. An article from The Thesis Whisperer on ‘How to write 1000 words a day (and not go bat shit crazy)‘ is timely this week – although it might be too late on the bat shit crazy front.

7021 / 10000 words. 70% done!

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