a couple of months ago, my best friend Ed told me that the cure to work block was to read something you were interested in, but that wasn’t directly related to what you’re working on. that’s mildly difficult for me, given that my thesis seems to go in about five different directions at once (catch me applying for conference panels not limited to: embodied emotion, the state, law, bureaucracy, early modern performance styles, spectatorship…).
of course, my research methodology has sprung out of what seems to me to be obvious and default, by dint of what I’ve been interested in over the last five-ish years. but as a result, it’s a bizarre hodgepodge of most of the things I like the most. and while it works (just about) as a methodology, it’s neither fish nor fowl and it’s sometimes a bit confusing to know where to start.
the last fortnight I’ve been scraping away at domestic tragedies with a distinct sense that there’s something I was missing, but no idea what it was.
the last two days, however, dear old Ed was proved right. I love conferences because you get to hear about a load of things you’d never have even thought about. I’ve now suddenly discovered a desire to see town plans from early modern London, Faversham and York in my period, on the one hand because it’ll be incredibly helpful for thinking about private and public space on the stage and in local government, but also because I weirdly love town planning, and because Vanessa Harding gave a truly fabulous keynote on early modern housing. Thanks to another PhD candidate, I want to go look at all the gates in the walled cities of Europe and all the instances of blushing ever in early modern drama. and I want to think a lot more about all the dead bodies in my plays, and that has nothing to do with all the murders I’ve just staged in The White Devil.
it’s also really good to have a bunch of people your age, and some supportive established academics in a room together, to ask you questions after a paper that you’re not so sure of. I’d tested my paper once before, at a research seminar in Oxford, but doing it to a room of strangers who asked completely different questions to anything I’d been asked before – invaluable. I was more nervous about this paper than any other I’ve previously given, because this is an actual chunk of my DPhil, and it’s terrifying to think that people might not like it.
the other thing is to see so many top-notch PhDs and think to yourself: yes, it’s time to gear up again. I’m happy with my progress so far this year – I passed transfer!!!!! – but I want to be even happier with it. so now that the White Devil is over – a post to come about that particular odyssey of candlelight and murder – it’s time to oil up, as Ainsley would say, and get cracking at an even higher level. and I’m excited about that.