1st Conference of the season: INCS!

This weekend I’m away in Asheville, NC, for INCS, and really looking forward to a few days discussing the nineteenth century.

INCS is a little different from other conferences I’ve been to in terms of its format for sessions. Instead of reading my paper, I uploaded my 8-10 page document for my fellow panel members, and those thinking of attending my panel, to read in advance. Then, at my session on Sunday morning (I do hope some people show up…) I just present a 5-7 minute summary of the paper. This leaves a lot more time in the session for discussion which, if people really have read the papers, should be of a high quality. Or at least I guess that’s the plan. I wonder slightly whether this is a better format for smaller, more focused conferences, but I’ll be interested to see how it works here anyway. So far it feels like it’s been more preparation than I normally end up doing for a conference, but I’ve really enjoyed reading the papers in advance.

The theme this year is ‘natural and unnatural histories’. I’m presenting  on Sunday morning (Panel 10D Re-reading religion) as part of a panel exploring Victorian religious understandings of history; my paper focuses on how women missionaries could understand themselves as significant historical actors – more about this another time.

I’m also looking forward to facilitating a panel on Friday, discussing Victorians’ responses to Darwinism (Panel 3B After/Against Darwin). Should be really great.

I’ll try to live-tweet when I can – follow me on twitter if you don’t already – details on the right.

 

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Post-doctoral

I never know what to call myself. It’s been over a year since my PhD was awarded and, like most of my peers, I’m not yet settled in a ‘proper’ academic job. In fact, just after I finished my thesis corrections, I moved to the States where my husband had got a job in an education non-profit, and where it proved far more difficult than I’d imagined to get permission to work and find a job. As a result, apart from some tutoring, I’m not teaching at the moment. I’m also not currently carrying out any research for anyone. So I’m not a PhD student anymore, not a fully-fledged ‘academic’ yet, not a research assistant, teacher or adjunct. I have to come down on ‘independent scholar’, which I hate for its obvious lack of affiliation with any status-giving institution, but perhaps should learn to love for its comparative freedom.

Anyway, it’s been over a year since I finished my PhD. It’s also been over a year since I last published on this blog.

This last year has been tough at times. Leaving London for me meant the loss of my scholarly community and peer group. I’ve also really missed the British Library and Senate House. I hadn’t fully realised how important these things are for helping ward off self-doubt and inspiring new ideas.

But this year has also been exciting. In May last year I presented at the triennial Big Berks conference on the History of Women, where I felt almost like I was being initiated into their amazing, international, academic (feminist) community. I also had papers accepted at the British Women Writers Conference (held in Binghampton NY) and the Victorians Institute Conference (held in Charlotte NC). I also made six applications last year for grants of various kinds – and got one! So in the next couple of weeks I’m heading to the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin to look at the papers of Charlotte Brontë’s friend Ellen Nussey.

This blog was mainly started as a promotional tool for various conferences I was involved in. While I probably will still use it to promote events and publications, I hope to also use it to curate interesting work on women, religion and writing, and to share my experiences of postdoctoral life and research activities. I’ve found that I far prefer following and reading fellow-researchers’ blogs than scouring Twitter for interesting snippets – maybe for the same reasons that I prefer novels to poetry? – so I’m hoping to discover new and interesting blogs or websites out there in my field.

Even after four years of study, and even a year on from my PhD, I still find myself fascinated by how women writers in the nineteenth century expressed, represented and wrestled with their faith. Religion was part of their emotional as well as intellectual experience, and this can explain why women writers don’t always say what we think they should, or why their characters behave in ways we don’t understand. In the nineteenth century the emotional and subjective experience of being a woman was different from what it is now. This seems like an obvious thing to say, but the ways in which Victorian women’s experiences differed from ours, especially where religious faith was concerned, is still only just being explored. I hope my work contributes to this exploration, and that even this blog in its own small way can be useful to those finding their way through research questions, PhD courses and the postdoctoral experience.