Month: November 2015

Week in Review – November 20

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L0058782 Velvet ribbon votive offering, Isle of Man, 1880-1916
Credit: Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images
This blue velvet ribbon was found tied to rushes growing around St Maughold’s Holy Well on the Isle of Man. Named after St Maughold (d. 498 CE), the well is said to have healing properties.


This wonderful post on the history of votives by Jessica Hughes (including the above velvet ribbon votive offering). 

The CFP for Edinburgh University’s Nineteenth-Century Research Seminars 2016.

This series of podcasts on The History of Glasgow.

Joanne Begiato’s post on ‘Doll’s houses as emotional artefacts‘.

This episode of In Our Time, examining Jane Austen’s Emma.

Notches Blog’s series on the role of sex and sexuality within Asia and among the Asian diaspora, particularly this post by Aiko Takeuchi-Demirci on ‘Rape and the Sexual Politics of Homosociality: The U.S. Military Occupation of Okinawa, 1955-56‘.

The Soane Museum’s exhibition Death and Memory: Soane and the Architecture of Legacy.

CFP: ‘To show a foreigner England’: Englishness and the Edwardian Landscape.

CFP: Resistance and Empire: New Approaches and Comparisons (Lisbon, 26-29 June 2016)

CONF: (Re)Politicizing discourses on photography (Paris, 7 Dec 15)

Finally, I want to draw your attention to the petition to Save Ashgate Publishing. Whilst a potentially a fruitless endeavour, I feel strongly that is important to record and express our displeasure at what constitutes a major loss for many disciplines, and to academic publishing in general, in the closing of an important source of diverse and exemplary scholarship. Sign the petition here


Review of Jean-Etienne Liotard for BSECS Criticks

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My review of the Scottish National Gallery’s recent exhibition, Jean-Étienne Liotard, has gone live on the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies ‘Criticks’ page. Find the review here.

N.B. the Royal Academy leg of the exhibition is on until 31 January, 2016.

The Viva

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I’m excited to announce that I passed my viva with minor corrections on Thursday. Despite several sleepless nights and countless hours of worrying, the event itself was fine. In fact, it was an enjoyable and conversational discussion of my research, during which I benefitted from the keen critique and probing questions of my two examiners.

However, the process wouldn’t have been nearly as smooth had I not received advice from a number of colleagues and friends. Particular thanks must go to my two supervisors, as well as Dr. Natalie LusseyDr. Isabella Streffen, Dr. Ellie Mackin, Heather Carroll, Elisabeth Gernerd, Dr. Sally Holloway, and Vicky Holmes, each of whom shared links and sage words prior to the event. In that spirit, I wanted to write a quick post documenting the blog posts, podcasts, and videos that I used as part of my own preparations, in the hope that others might find them similarly useful.

1. Top 40 Potential Viva Questions

I consulted several such lists whilst preparing for my viva. Whilst not many of these questions actually came up, preparing and practicing the answers I would give to them, provided my viva prep with a focus, encouraged me to think critically about my thesis, and helped to soothe my nerves.

2. PhD Surgery: how do I prepare for a PhD oral examination (viva)?

Vicky Holmes recommended Tara Brabazon’s excellent PhD Surgery video series to me. Prof. Brabazon is deeply invested in postgraduate development, and has written and made a number of informative podcasts, videos, and articles on the topic of the viva. Her podcast, ‘Ten Tips for a PhD oral examination’ is here, and her ‘Practice Questions for a PhD oral examination’ is available here.

3. Viva Survivors Podcast 

The final source I’m going to recommend is the Viva Survivors podcast, which is run by Nathan Ryder, and asks people ‘about their research, their PhD, what they did […] how they prepared for their viva and what happened on the day’. The podcasts record the range of experiences that the viva can encompass, providing essential nuance to a narrative that is often dominated by horror stories. The podcast archive is available here.

Stand out words of advice from various sources were to relax, to breathe, and to write down the questions posed by your examiners before answering, as well as to ask to take a break if you feel it to be necessary. Perhaps the most useful advice I received, however, was not to over-prepare. Despite the temptation to prepare set answers to a set list of questions, it’s important to answer the question you’ve been asked, not what you wish you’d been asked.

With a mind to my post from earlier this month then, you might be wondering how my AcWriMo is going. Whilst I am definitely behind in terms of ‘academic writing’ in the strictest sense, preparing for my viva encouraged reflection on the strengths and weaknesses of my thesis, its key contributions, and its central argument, whilst the viva itself was an exercise that helped to crystallise plans and strategies for turning the thesis into ‘the book’. Whilst AcWriMo stresses the importance of writing, preparing for my viva has emphasised the equivalent importance of prolonged periods of thinking, a strategy I will take forward into the final stages of the month of November and into ‘DecWriMo’.

Event: Colonial knowledge production: Margaret Tytler’s collection of Indian models, 1815-1821

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I thought I’d share the information about the National Museum of Scotland’s forthcoming lecture on Margaret Tytler’s fascinating yet little known collection of ebony models.  For details, see the flyer below.
Margaret Tytlers Indian models -page-001

Some thoughts on #AcWriMo

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I had meant to publish this on November 1 but essay marking got in the way. Which, I guess, is appropriate for a post about struggling to find the time to write.

I’m almost ashamed to admit that I have yet to enjoy a successful AcWriMo. Far from managing the vast swathes of academic writing that many seem to achieve during the month of November, I have succumbed to the realities of what I have perceived to be as more pressing commitments. I fear this year will be no different. With a looming viva voce examination, a conference two weeks later, and several job applications due, my chances of a highly productive November dedicated to producing reams of academic writing seem limited. Accordingly, it was with some trepidation that I signed up for this year’s AcWriMo, which began on Sunday.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of AcWriMo. For the last two years I have enjoyed and benefitted from the sense of community that the event fosters. Furthermore, the opportunity presented by AcWriMo for learning about the task and craft of academic writing is also unparalleled. Nowhere else will you find people talking so often and at such length about #acwri as during this month. As a historian of process, this renders AcWriMo particularly seductive.

So why have I consistently failed to reach my AcWriMo targets?

Crucially, I feel that my approach to AcWriMo has just been wrong. My Novembers have not been uncharacteristically busy. Yet I have gotten it into my head that for reasons x and y, my November has no time for AcWriMo. However, it would be the same for any other month of the year. Very few academics have the luxury of putting aside November to only write. Many, like myself, will have important pedagogical and administrative commitments that all too often get in the way of academic writing. And that is the very point. AcWriMo, in my opinion, isn’t really about producing the 50,000 words that participants in NaNoWriMo aspire to write. Instead, the month is about breaking and changing habits, making time for academic writing, no matter how few words, or how short a period of time you can dedicate to it.

Accordingly, for this year’s AcWriMo I have decided to lower my expectations. Unlike last year, I don’t have a detailed plan for how I will write a draft of a book and two journal articles, all the whilst marking essays, preparing for my viva, and writing a conference paper. What I do have, however, is something much simpler: the desire to get into a habit of writing everyday. No specific word-count to aim for, just a shift in my working habits to make some time for daily writing. I will let you know how I get on with this in a few months.

I’m lucky that my December is actually (relatively) open. Whilst I will presumably be dealing with thesis corrections and completing several job applications, teaching will have finished and I will have much more time for acwri. I’m hoping to capitalise on the good habits I began in November, so that (what-some-call) DecWriMo can be the ambitious month of academic writing that I’ve been waiting for. But it will be those good habits that I started in November that will be the key to success in this. Not every month will be December: many more will look like November. And that is where my successes with this year’s AcWriMo will be most crucial.

For more information on AcWriMo and how to sign up, see PhD2Published: