Saturday, 26 July 2008

PhDs and sunshine

sunny day in Cambourne
Originally uploaded by LindyB28
With so few days of sunshine each year in the UK, the idea of remaining indoors working instead of soaking up some vitamin D is not appealing. So the bookchair, the laptop and I have come outside to sit in the garden while making sense of Lydgate.

You can make your own mind up about whether it's aiding my concentration; if you're really kind, you'll ignore the fact that typing a blog entry and playing with PhotoBooth do not count as work.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008


Originally uploaded by LindyB28
i tried blogging a photo last week. I wrote a very long thoughtful post. But it got lost somewhere between Flickr and here.
Maybe this will work.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Got hope?

According to a poll published in yesterday's Guardian, Britain's backing Obama
Leaving aside the fact that I wear my Obama 2008 T shirt with pride (if I'd been polled, I'd have certainly been one of the 53% "voting" Obama), this article interested me because I think it reflects the current state of politics in this country.

It's depressing.

With economy drooping, inflation rising, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, MP expense claims subjected to intense scrutiny, detention for 42 days without charge, the farcical by-election forced by David Davis, the farcical selection of a Labour candidate for the by-election in Glasgow East, general bewilderment that Boris Johnson has actually become the second most powerful politician in the country, Cameron failing to capitalise on the incredibly bad Labour position, the farce of the "knife carriers visit casualty departments" announcement at the weekends, there's very little sense that the situation here is going to change for the better. There's no election due, no sense of regeneration in the Labour party, and a bunch of Old Etonians as the official opposition.

So instead we're getting our hope vicariously, through the possibility of Dubya being replaced by Barack. Even if his voting record has been angering true liberals in the US, he still looks better than our lot.

Monday, 14 July 2008

What's wrong?

Away from the Cambridge bubble yesterday, I encountered people whose lives centre more on going-to-work than going-to-the-library. So, while everyone's attitude to me was relatively benign, I received the usual set of 'but what are you going to do when you've finished?' questions. The response 'I hope to carry on researching and teaching in a university' leads to blank stares.
One man, when I'd outlined my topic to him, told me that the problem he has with PhDs is 'everyone picks something so specialised that no one can tell them they are wrong'.
On one level he's correct: you can't have a multiple choice literature examination; subjectivity is crucial to the effective critical response to a text (and just as a point of comparison, trainee vets and medics sit multiple-choice exams throughout their course).1 But we are working from primary texts and everything must return to them. If a critic creates an argument which depends more on imagination than on the text discussed, there are plenty of other critics willing to tell him so. I did suggest that this man come to the 'question time' after a seminar or a conference paper.
Sometimes people are only too happy to tell other scholars that they are wrong

1. The GRE subject test in literature is the exception that proves the rule. It is the single most ridiculous exam I've ever taken. Apparently my score placed me in a high percentile and all I had to do to prepare for this exam was glean 'cocktail party knowledge' on any authors I hadn't already covered during my degree. It only took about 20 minutes to complete after which I left the exam hall to have a nice coffee and a chat with my mum. A physics student sitting his subject GRE in the same room as me was worried that I'd had a disastrous experience but the two tests were so entirely different: he actually needed to work things out; for the lit test, you either know the answer or you don't. If you didn't, sitting there looking at the paper for another 2 hours wouldn't help.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


When a friend set up her blog the other day, it prompted me to think about my presence in blogland. I write fairly regularly over at livejournal safe in the knowledge that my posts there are "friends only" and so (in theory at least) I know who's reading them. Over on LJ, I talk about The Personal. And while I enjoy writing about that and discussing life with my LJ friends, I'd be horrified to think such posts would be accessible if someone were to google me. Being nosy myself, I know how tempting it is to search for a new student or teacher or colleague on the interweb.

But there are things that I would like to write in another space.

I recently resurrected a nice pink LindyB place as a knitting blog but even I'm aware that there is only so much one can say about a pinwheel sweater. Sample posts tend to say 'look! here's a picture of a cardigan/hat/bag/poodle; I've just knitted it. Snaps to me!' Other knitters may share my joy at wool-related creation but that space was originally (over 3 years ago now) somewhere I used (pretentiously) to ramble about academic things. And the mixture of baby surprise jackets and PhD reflections is a step into eccentricity too far, even for me.

Perhaps... if I have yet another online place to go, I may think of something interesting to say.