Hello and greetings, citizens of the internet. After hiatus, and experiments with various other platforms, I return to WordPress, thanks in no small part to the initiative of Ms Kiera in getting this blog up. This intro post is quite a bit wordier than hers, but then, I am the chatterbox out of the two of us.
And who might you be? Academically speaking, I’m a PhD candidate and assistante doctorante in Medieval English lit at the University of Geneva. My SRS Departmental Profile is here, I’m on academia.edu here, and neither of those tell you anything terribly much, because I’m only just getting my feet underneath me after packing up and moving across the globe to Geneva. I’m one year into a 4-5 year PhD program, with my preliminary assessment due to take place in October 2015.
What do you think you’re doing on an Aus Medievalists blog? By virtue of being Australian, having two degrees from the University of Sydney, and having spent enough time (as an MPhil student) tutoring and lecturing there that I have some great connections with former colleagues and students which seem to have stood up under the strain of relocation (so far). I care about the humanities in Australia. Kind of a lot.
I’m a first-gen university student (assuming generations are assessed by direct descent for this purpose? All credit to my Uncle R, who graduated his bachelor about a year before I finished mine), a big sister, and a mother-hen type who put a lot of energy into her Sydney students and will sit here in Europe shaking her fist angrily at the way higher education is going in Australia. I want my family, my students, and students I’ve never met, to be able to make the same kind of brazen ‘sure I can do that’ decisions that saw me isolate the University of Sydney as my chosen undergrad institution for its academic reptuation, neo-gothic snobbery, and the variety of obscure and apparently ‘useless’ things I could study there.
Did you say useless? Apparently useless (at the time of enrollment). Since undergrad I’ve become a champion of the notion that obscure humanities subjects, if done right, actually give you very useful skills. For all that, a few breaks from uni lead me to the conclusion I liked studying too much. And then that I liked teaching most of all. I hold a CELTA certificate in teaching ESL, which is super fun to do, and also quite good pedagogy training. I enjoy teaching writing skills and critical literacy as much as I care about my specific medieval subjects, so I’m pretty confident that I’ve assembled a set of useful skills that also make me happy.
What about that obscure PhD of yours then? Obscure topic of choice is opposite-sex friendship in Middle English (and Anglo-Norman?? Details pending!) literature. My recurring interests are gender and sexuality, but I seem to like picking projects that work along the edges or slightly tangential to that field. My MPhil was on homosocial relationships, and I was particularly interested in the way same-sex friendship intersects with marriage in Chrétien de Troyes’ work. Here, I’m looking at something similar with respect to opposite-sex friendship, but I’m casting a wide net and rarely working with a full-length text: more often, small exerpts and subplots within bigger tales. I do keep bumping into the spectres of homosexuality, rape, and ‘the individual’, but I find it most fascinating to deal with those ideas by pursuing an adjacent thread. I think that leads me to a more complex picture of the horizon of possibilities available to storytellers of the period.
And, within the limitations of the form (rare is the PhD that is earth-shatteringly interesting outside of its own field), I reckon opposite-sex friendship is not so obscure. Or rather, I reckon it ought not to be. There is only one (1!) psychological or sociological study on modern opposite-sex friendship, by Michael Monsour. There’s one pop-sociology book, by Lisa Gee, which is interesting in parts but doesn’t cut it as a critial work. There’s not even much work on opposite-sex sibling relationships. In medieval history and literary criticism, opposite-sex friendship is a bit better attested than women’s same-sex friendship, but both the source record and the historiography are almost entirely focused on monastic tradition. There is work on how male friendship intersects with political power and kinship, but very little on how and where opposite-sex friendship might intersect on those same axes. That all being so, my PhD project is not just working in a gap in medievalist scholarship, but a multidisciplinary gap which seems to be consistent across the study of most periods of western society.
Make it easier for us to stalk you on the internet, Amy: Well, first of all, I am she who once blogged as The Naked Philologist. I started that blog during undergrad, sporadically updated it during the MPhil, and have no desire to resurrect it. I want something more collaborative: the personalised blog project got too much for me when all my research narrowed down to one masters thesis.
What’s your favourite kind of cake? Oh, oh but I love cake so much. How can I choose? There are so many great cakes in Europe, too…
My English visitor recently repaired a hand-me-down blender for me, so I can make real banana cake again – I use the recipe for Banana and Walnut Cake from In the Kitchen by Campion & Curtis (which is my big go-too cookbook for all purposes, and quite possibly the heaviest thing I had shipped from Australia). Right now, though, my favourite cake is the chocolate and macadamia brownies at Café Boreal.
Café Boreal is a godsend for the expat Australian: started by an American, of all things, but one who’d worked in Australia. Upon arrival in Geneva, this munificent soul realised that all the Australians and New Zealanders here are pining for lack of flat whites, and indeed for any sort of good coffee. They sell flat whites and long blacks, the cake cabinet is stocked with chocolate and macadamia brownies, and there’s wi-fi. I have trouble convincing myself that I need to spend time in the office, when this is the alternative.
Anything else you want to say? Hey hey, me and a colleague from Boston College are putting together a panel for Leeds! You totally want to send me an abstract! Details are on my dreamwidth because I didn’t have this blog when we put out the CFP.