In the final few weeks of my PhD I began to view my thesis through a Lord of the Rings metaphor – I was Frodo, carrying the Ring into Mordor. This thing I had carried so far was both a burden I was desperate to be rid of, but also something I cared deeply about and would struggle to let go. Submitting the thesis in July 2018, I expected to feel a sense of completion or triumph, but the thesis is never really complete. Instead, what I mainly felt was relief. The fourth and final year of my PhD was unfunded and I was juggling two part-time jobs alongside my final efforts to get the thesis done. Once it was submitted I was content to fade into the west and forget about academia until the Viva. During these next couple of months my 9-5 job provided a welcome structure to my now unstructured post-PhD life. The Viva examination arrived three months later in October. The Viva itself was a very enjoyable experience. And to be completely honest, I was really looking forward to it. I mean, this was my project and I knew it inside out. With a few minor corrections submitted, Graduation followed in December. Then, after what was perhaps my most relaxing Christmas break ever, I arrived in 2019 as Dr Johnson and the question that naturally presented itself was, so, what next?
I really enjoyed my PhD experience. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone (after all, if you aren’t convinced yourself that you’re ready to take on a PhD, you probably shouldn’t being basing that decision on other people), but I did love my research, even when I hated it. It was mine, and I loved the work and creativity that I put into it. The time I had away from writing once it was finished was needed and deeply appreciated, but once I’d had time to recuperate from those harrowing final weeks of thesis writing I found that I missed the absorption and obsession of a research project. I had a few projects to keep me occupied over the Christmas break. Towards the end of the year I’d been contacted with my first opportunity to act as a peer-reviewer for one of my favourite journals, and I was excited to take part in this process. I also took on my first book review, writing a review of ‘Future Remains: a cabinet of curiosities for the anthropocene’, edited by Gregg Mitman, Marco Armiero and Robert S. Emmett, for the journal Green Letters. However, I also wanted to continue working on my own research, especially now I was balancing my research time with part-time employment at the University of Nottingham.
This blog is therefore my attempt to make an ongoing commitment to my future research. I hope to keep it populated with recently-read books, conference reports, publications, and my very own ‘ecodystopian timeline’. I have a few projects lined up for 2019, including the Utopian Studies Society conference in Prato, re-visiting and revising my thesis and a chapter for the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Nineteen Eighty-Four.
“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.”— J.R.R. Tolkein