There is finally some space to breathe. After several weeks of teaching lengthy texts in The Grand Remonstrance, Areopagitica, The Kings Cabinet Opened, we have two weeks’ respite with poetry. It’s good timing.
The demands of the ‘Early Modern Material Text’ seminar I am shadowing are pressing. Also, Professor Anthony Mortimer is speaking at our Doctoral Workshop next week, which has a volume of preparatory reading.
Earlier this year, he asked me about a paper I had presented at the Origins Conference in April, ‘One of the Three: Marvell’s Publication Dilemma’. This obscure title referred to the three connections I identify between Marvell and privacy, before focussing on one: publication.
Mortimer’s current work features the three elegies on Oliver Cromwell. Marvell had originally written one for a collection of three (with Sprat and Dryden), which was replaced by Edmund Waller’s before publication.
Thus, the title of my paper had been misleading. But as the workshop applies most directly to me, it is important that I make the most of it.
Submitting the first section of my PhD two weeks ago came with a boost of activity. I’ve applied for an exciting history conference at Cambridge in January, and committed myself to presenting a draft at the final Doctoral Workshop in December. No easy route to Christmas.
Teaching has continued to be important. The break to poetry should allow my students the time they need to complete a short portfolio of study skills. However, we do return to Hobbes’ De Cive, Charles I’s Eikon Basilike and Milton’s Eikonoklastes before the end of the course.
The MA Seminar I am following is time consuming, but it is directing me in new ways. With Marvell, I am suggesting an unorthodox sui generis model of authorship to encompass the private writer.
Outside of that, there are numerous administrative tasks to be done. These include maintaining the course materials, work for the department magazine, Noted, and meeting eligible students to encourage them to take part in our Study Abroad Scheme.
Facing an unknown future
Facing up to the future, as difficult and poignant as it may be, is important.
The support for the troubles this year has been overwhelming. There have been weekends where I have gone from Friday to Tuesday without leaving my apartment or speaking to a single person. The list of sacrifices to have been here in Geneva keep growing.
Last week saw a very positive step forward. Having expressed my need to leave, I had worried that the final few months would be awkward. The submitted work made something click, and Lukas came to discuss potential future options.
The quality of my work when circumstances are favourable is encouraging, and I accredit this progress to Geneva. I hope to keep ties as a student from distance, and I’m glad that my supervisor wishes to stay involved.
The question remains: where next? The obvious choices are Royal Holloway, with its supervisor and location, or Bristol, given my familiarity with the department.
Lukas asks: ‘what about joint-degrees?’ I had never contemplated the possibility of a PhD being awarded by two institutions, but it would be a dream solution. It would lessen the sense of failure at leaving, and rightly accredit Geneva’s department for the progress made in 18 months. It would keep ties open here whilst retaining Prof. Erne as a supervisor.
If a joint-arrangement were possible, the language requirement in Geneva should be covered by the certificates I acquired over the summer (which would make that hellish time worthwhile as well). The difficulty is that postgraduate regulations are often a minefield, and I’m not convinced that a UK university would agree to it.
Fleeting things, poets
Into November, and it’s time to set things in motion.
Next month, I am planning to attend a John Milton 400 conference at the British Academy. A potential new supervisor will be present, alongside a host of top mid-seventeenth-century scholars and many academic idols.
My old dissertation supervisor from Bristol, Prof. David Hopkins, is opening the bill. I could line up a collection of books to be signed.
First and foremost, I need to have made contact before this conference happens. For all the amazing possibilities that could befall, they could yet crash and burn.
The future has to be faced; steps need to be taken. I certainly needed to steady the mind here first.