Last week I met up for coffee (well, hot chocolate - if I liked coffee my life would be A LOT easier and my stomach probably less rotted from sugar-free Red Bull) with one of my PhD colleagues. The conversation turned to how we hate the question ‘how’s the PhD going?’ and how the answer is always along the lines if ‘urgh, alright, I suppose’. We all know PhDs are really hard, and they wouldn’t be worth very much if anyone could do one. But there is this culture that, even if it’s going amazingly, you have to tone it down. You can’t look like you’re having too much fun (unless you’re trying to sell the PhD at an open evening). It’s like you’re somehow ‘letting the team down’ if things are going reasonably well. There are really hard times and, being of a realistic (some say pessimistic) nature, I often find it hard to be positive about the PhD myself. So, this post, I’m deliberately going to write about the parts of my PhD that are going quite well at the moment, actually. I’m not saying everyone is having an objectively nice time, of course - just finding things in my experience that I sometimes lose sight of!
A few months ago, I had one of those dreaded conversations with a taxi driver about what I research, which segued into the research interests of my fellow PhD students. To paraphrase:
A bit of a break from my normal blog routine this week as I went to the abovementioned conference on Saturday but also want to post a book review on Friday. I didn’t speak at the conference as I couldn’t think of a non-tortured way to get my research to fit the theme, but I found a lot to interest me, but it was lovely to be able to enjoy the conference and not have to worry about giving a paper. As usual, all the papers were interesting, but I’ll talk about the ones that really stood out to me personally to avoid a massive post (also, there were parallel sessions so I naturally only saw half the papers anyway!). It was a very interdisciplinary conference, so I felt like my brain was given a good workout!
And so, back to writing - this time, a draft chapter on only children’s personalities. It makes uses of different sources, it busts stereotypes, it’s interesting (in my opinion anyway) - but I think it may be a bit bloated.
This week, I’m very much back on the writing - specifically, about how only children described the their personalities as children (spoiler: they didn’t fit the stereotypes and there was a lot more to determining someone’s personality than just being an only child!). Before I got to write about the only children themselves, though, I had to unpack the ideas of ‘self’ and ‘personality’ to set the scene. This sent me into the realms of psychology and philosophy. Again.
Call for papers for the conference I’m co-organising has gone live! Please read, register, submit abstracts and share!
I’ve only just got into Charles Dickens. Of course, I knew the stories everyone knows from films (admittedly the Muppet and musical versions respectively). I’m probably quite late in doing so at 26, but then again, having taken them up of my own accord rather than been forced to study them at school, I feel like I can enjoy them. I was initially attracted by repeated assertions that family relationships and the treatment of children crop up a lot in Dickens’ novels, and stuck with the books because they were timeless, very readable, with strong characterisation and subtle (and unsubtle) humour. So far, I’ve read Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, and David Copperfield. Something that struck me about all three novels was the proliferation of only children in them - they seemed to be far more prevalent than they really were in the period. Although Dickens’ time barely overlapped with the formation of only-child stereotypes, I reckon he had a better grip on only children than the emerging child guidance writers. While some of his only-child characters display what might be termed ‘typical’ only-child traits and experiences, others are kind, well-adjusted and successful, reflecting my own findings about variety within only children.
There are two questions I commonly get asked. The first, unsurprisingly, is: ‘are you an only child?’, the answer to which is ‘yes’. Another, less frequent but nonetheless pertinent one is ‘how will you avoid putting your own spin on things in your thesis?’ I don’t see it as too much of a problem myself, but I can see why it might be a concern.