PhD Stuff

I had my PhD induction yesterday. It was so cool! I have been a bit freaked out lately about the amount of learning I’m going to have to do, coming from an English/Religous Studies background; the huge gap between MA and PhD work; my general intelligence levels and the like. So I was a bit nervous about the induction. Turns out I shouldn’t have worried though! Only two out of eight students have a cultural studies background. The rest come from areas like English, politics and history. So we’re all pretty much in the same boat when it comes to learning new things. Paul, our postgrad director, is also lovely – really chilled out and he has a sense of humour! Given he’s teaching most of our theory modules over the next semester I think that’s going to be a good thing.

There is a lot of work involved. The assesment for the theory module is a short presentation on how we will use the theory that is most relevant to our PhD project (plus submission of handouts and/or presentation notes) and a 3,000 word essay on the same topic. That’ll be due someime in December. The topics we’re going to cover are:

Semiotics
Encoding/Decoding
Gramsci
Althusser
Orientalism
Foucault
Habermas
Discourse Theory
Postcolonialism
Deconstruction

And I think semiotics is going to be one of the main theories I’ll be using. I’m going to be in the States for the Orientalism and Foucault seminars (wonder if there’s anyone in the States who can fill me in on Foucault?!) and at the vampires conference for the Discourse Theory seminar, but reading will be posted to our online learning centre and I’m planning on doing a lot of extra reading around the theories anyway.

The methods module is our second semester module, and that covers (funnily enough) methods of research. The assessment for that will be similar to the assessment for the theory module, so that’s ok. At the end of the first year we also have to submit a 10,000 word essay covering pretty much what we’ve done in the first two assessments, plus a bit extra, and do a presentation to the department on the same thing. I’ll have done one, probably two and maybe even three conferences by then though, so hopefully I can manage that!

Speaking of conferences, we also get a £400 conference budget so I’m applying to that to get some money towards the conferences I’m presenting at. I also got given a cheque for tuition fees, which I need to put in the bank.

So I’m feeling pretty good about the work. I’m still hoping I win the lottery so I can quit my day job, but my supervisor has said he’s going to try and get me as many teaching hours as possible in the second and third years, and the current teaching is being reviewed and revised to allow all those who want to teach the chance to do so, so that’s good.

My fellow students seem really nice too. The topics are incredible varied, though there is another girl looking at fandom who seems really cool! We spent ages talking about feminism/gender and the like; I rabbited on about TXF and she filled me in on Supernatural, which I’m going to have to start watching. We’ve exchanged email addresses too and are sending each other our proposals. I think we’ll end up working closely on a few things. My supervisor, Matt Hills, also seems really nice. There was a wine and crisps thing after the induction where we got the chance to meet other PhD students and lecturers, so I spent a lot of that time talking to Matt. He seems pretty cool and I think we’ll get on well. I have my first proper meeting with him a week Friday, and I’m hoping he’ll tell me that the conferences I’m attending and the papers I’m writing will be enough to not be given additional work (like lit reviews!). We’ll see. I’m also meeting one of the current PhD students who’s looking at fanfic for a coffee and am really looking forward to that. A friend of mine from the MA knows another recently-finished PhD student who seems really nice, so I’m meeting her next week as well. Yay for meeting people and making friends!

I’ve got a training event a week Friday on starting out on a PhD, which is organised by the grad centre and is free. They run loads of training events for PhD students, all of which are free and all of which seem really useful, so I’ve got a few of those that I’d like to go on.

All in all I’m really excited now. I’m looking forward to starting my research properly and getting into seminars properly and generally being a proper PhD student. Yay!

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