The purpose of my journalling has changed considerably over time. This marks a new beginning – into professional studenthood.
I’ve become a research Master’s student in Scotland, under the tutelage of James Loxley. The discussion that prompted my application to the University of Edinburgh was very welcoming, and I find myself in the new and privileged position of working with a scholar whose work and demeanour I had come to appreciate.
Dr. Loxley’s reputation for amiability precedes him; he attracted quite a crowd at the initiation. Amusingly, one of his previous students shared an anecdote about dressing up in period costume at a museum. Brilliant. There arose the chance to spill the whole Knightmare interest. Another tutee alongside me was familiar, and was glad to be reminded of the greater gane.
With no taught requirements, this is a distance arrangement. But it’s intense at times. Four consecutive 270-mile round trips during the initiation week of Research Methods familiarised me with the wonderful Northumbrian coastline.
The first supervision and first assessment, an annotated bibliography to be completed in 24 hours, coincided on a very long Thursday, when I swiftly grew to understand how little I know. Many strong monographs of this mid-seventeenth century consider lesser-known writers or works. Where do I begin to form the basis for a 30,000 word dissertation?
Talking through the undergraduate dissertation upon which ideas were based, a candidate soon emerged: the Royalist poet Thomas Jordan. This soon started to become an attractive idea. He’s deeply embedded in Royalist writing culture, a field that few know better than Loxley. He’s a playful, engaged, and highly capable – if inconsistent – poet, with possible links to Shakespeare and Jonson. He was also involved in the first official appearance of an actress on stage in 1660.
It’s daunting that only one study on Thomas Jordan exists – and that from over 50 years ago. It’s all far from the safety net and relative comfort zone of Andrew Marvell. It’s difficult to imagine myself as a new voice – and I suppose the year ahead is designed to develop that.
So, this space – whatever it is, wherever it is – may end up as an academic diary, encouraging me to explore ideas in the environment where they will best uncover themselves.
Often, some of the aspects of my favoured period intercept with those I concerned myself with today. How does one determine between circulating thoughts privately and publicly? Which occasions prompt a particular emphasis to write, not to write, or to write and then conceal? Modern writing culture is one which makes or breaks.
Writing one long dissertation over twelve months requires steady progress, and I’m sure white space will draw it from within.