I confess - I’ve never read anything by Antonia White (b. 1899) or Dodie Smith (b. 1896). I really enjoyed reading their autobiographies though - very interesting, and more differences and similarities emerging between the experiences of different only children.
Autobiography-reading is chugging along nicely, and I should hopefully reach at least the statistically-okay number of thirty from people born in the nineteenth century (as opposed to people who actually write in the nineteenth century, as we’re talking people born after about 1850 here!). Physical illness seems to be a recurring theme, with 14/20 autobiographers so far talking about it in some form. This is interesting, partly from the contemporary/near-contemporary view that only children were less healthy, but also from the vague idea I’ve picked up regarding Victorian/Edwardian fetishisation of illness - I’ve done no reading whatsoever on the subject, but do wonder if illness is such a noticeable feature of autobiographies of those who had siblings, and whether those without siblings really were more fragile, had more anxious parents, or were onlies _because _their illnesses had put their parents off having further children.
Last week I happened across this tweet, asking whether we see ourselves as doctoral students or doctoral researchers. I found it a very interesting question to ponder!Thus far, I’ve automatically referred to myself as a student whenever the occasion to provide my occupation has arisen. In much the same way, I automatically tick ‘Miss’, even though my sensibilities say my marital status is nothing to do with anything - a hangover from youth, possibly (and I get to avoid the whole ‘Miss/Ms’ thing when I become a doctor, yay!). And in some ways, I am a student. The big one is that I’m producing a piece of work, someone’s judgment on which will or won’t result in a qualification. I have a student ID, get student discount and take am automatically a member of the Student Union, whose events I partake in. I socalise with the student body rather than the staff, and were I to become a department committee member, I would be representing students. Any grants I apply for are designated for ‘students’, and I can take advantage of conferences and events aimed specifically at ‘students’.
The reading of Victorians’ autobiographies so far has been a very male-centred activity. There’s no mystery as to why - men got to do more interesting things than women, and were probably more likely to think their experiences were worth writing about, too. This week, I got to read the autobiographies of two only-child actresses - Julia Neilson (1868-1957) and Nancy Price (1880-1970). Despite the twelve-year age gap (and the almost identical gap between the publication of their autobiographies), it’s pretty likely that they crossed paths as they moved in the same circles, though I can’t find any conclusive evidence to back that up. They had in common that rare thing - being allowed to continue working on the stage after marriage - and that’s probably how they amassed enough experiences to write autobiographies.
This week, I went on the GRADSchool course - three intensive days of team activities and discovering what I’m suited to, what I’m good at, and how I work in a team. This post reflects on my experiences and emphasises the importance (in my view) of grad students going on courses such as this.
I say ‘Autobiographies of Victorians’ because while the events the authors describe happened in Victorian times, they actually wrote them down in the 1920s/30s. This is a hazard of concentrating on people BORN between 1850 and 1945ish, and whether I’ll need to amend that so I can include autobiographies actually written in Victorian times I don’t know yet. I’ve certainly seen some features that were common in the nineteenth century; the authors talk about their ancestors and pick out things in their early lives that they think were important in determining what they would do and how they would be as adults. I’ve also noticed, curiously, that the married autobiographers have said very little about their wives (everyone I’ve read has been male so far) - they’re just not important to their life stories for whatever reason. But today I’m going to reproduce a few bits of autobiographies I found funny.
Had my second supervisory board yesterday. Not as plain-sailing as the first one, but there weren’t any shocks either.
I couldn’t think what to write about this week, as I haven’t really done much of note lately. I’ve been recovering from all the writing, practicing my talk, going to the BL and discovering Ann Oakley (the feminist sociologist, not the shooter), who is my new favourite person - not only interesting and entertaining in her writing, but useful for my thesis too! So I decided to try to do a Q&A. I got two responses, which was two more than I expected, and one of them contained multiple questions. So yay!