And here I am at the end of my second full week and it’s been a week where I’ve done a lot of reading. Probably as much reading as I’d do in a month or so I think. I’ve worked my way through three and a half book, following up on my supervisors’ advice to immerse myself in the literature and see what chimes. I think the one lesson I’ve learned (beyond all that resultant knowledge floating around in my head) is that I do have the focus I need to do this kind of study – sitting for 6hrs in the library on Monday reading solidly pretty much showed me that. I am a little surprised how tiring it is mentally just reading though, but on the other hand I’m already surprised how much I’m actually enjoying cracking the books. I’ve found a good half-dozen or so themes that are going to be worth considering delving into further to enrich my research, and that is promising.
I also devised a neat little approach to writing up each book I read, so that I can dive back into it at a later date when I get going on the serious literature review some months down the line. Combination of technology and hard copy!
“Working towards a PhD is a long and lonely road” is a quote that seems true to me so far, given the effective total anonymity I have when I walk onto Clifton campus. However, this week that anonymity was reduced a little bit with the start of my two Research Practice Course modules – excitingly titled A and B, which is where the quote comes from. Okay they’ve got longer names than that, but for now they’re broken down in my head into A: Techniques and Principles and B: Philosophy.
Yeah, that one was a bit of a shock as I appear to be doing a year-long crash course on philosophy, not something I ever thought I’d be doing. To date my knowledge of philosophy largely comes from two places – Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben Parker and Monty Python. Thus as our teacher asked the question “Has anyone heard of Schopenhauer?” my only thought was of The Meaning Of Life (1983)…
Thankfully the rest of the class (bar two ex-philosophy students at the back) looked as blank and as regularly confuddled as I did. But that didn’t stop the teacher continuing on a whirlwind tour of the history of philosophical thought and key names pausing only to ask periodically “Has anyone heard of Knat/Nietzsche/Plato…” etc periodically. Actually, with Plato I had heard of him – I mean who doesn’t know the inventor of the plate!…
“The Earl of Sandwich invented the sandwich. Samuel Morse invented the Morse Code. Plato invented the plate … and now I, Holly, have invented the Holly Hop Drive.”
That said as it’s a subject I’ve never really dealt with before, it was rather interesting if a bit confusing to be confronted with so near the start of the degree. Each week it looks like we’re studying one key philosopher and their school of thought – although having heard a snippet about Vitalism, I’ve already decided that Henri Bergson is going to be full of crap (speaking as a former scientist!). On the plus side though the result of the philosophy talk was a tweet to Mr Simon Mayo which got read out across the land that evening – so I guess I can say that’s the first bit of media coverage I’ve got out of my PhD studies so far! Even if he called me “The Llama” not “Llord Llama” – disgraceful, only my intimates may address me without my honorific!!! 😉
Module A was a bit more straight forward, and while a bit chaotic in terms of starting due to overseas students seemingly unaware that a 1pm start doesn’t mean “Pick any time between 1-2pm and wander in”. We had to be recorded speaking about our research aims, which pretty quickly demonstrated that some people are already cursed by that academic disease of being unable to summarise their work in brief digestible sentences to non-specialists. I guess I have an advantage on that as I’m a bit more mature, highly accustomed to public speaking, working in the field of communications and have a bit of media training behind me. The tutor noticeably got VERY excited about my research topic announcing “Oh that is so good, someone needed to do that work. I want to come and work for you!”. Nice to have that kind of positive reaction as right now the work still seems a bit distant from the background reading.
I supposed the only other event this week was getting used to the home/office split. Two days on campus and three at home this week. I was going to go in on Friday, until I concluded there was no desperate need and I’d be able to crack on with working easier at home. Although, as our house drops to around 17 degrees and a bit lower during the day I end up sitting around in two jumpers, a hat and gloves. It’s just like being an undergrad all over again…only with chickens in the background and a much nicer place of residence.
In my next post, I’ll talk a little about just what I’ve been reading so far – as a result of a conversation or two on twitter I’ve had some very interesting leads to follow-up – so probably worth sharing here as well!