All entries for October 2009

October 11, 2009

1 year to go…

Well, there wasn't much to report on here over the summer. After speaking at the conference I wrote about I spent a few weeks buried away writing Chapter 4, so that I could complete it before going on a much-needed break to Cornwall. After that, September passed in a bit of a blur- it's amazing how much time and energy moving house takes, and the next thing I knew it was October and the start of my final year- eeek!!!

Chapter 4 turned out to be a long one, with a huge amount of information crammed in as there is just so much work on Europe that had to be brought into my thinking about the literary representation of European spaces. The Victorian British conception of Europe, tensions between Britain and Europe, writing by British travellers to the continent and ensuing representational issues, anxieties over national identity, hostility towards Britain, Imperial competition and rivalry on the one hand and shared ideologies of superiority on the other, the remains of the Grand Tour, the emergence of honeymoon and family trips, female travellers, anticipation and anxieties of modernity... All of these issues, and more, filter through representations of journeys to Europe in just a handful of mid-Victorian novels. This left me with a difficult chapter to get into a coherent written form- not least, trying to order all of this into a linear argument caused me a lot of headaches- a spatial map of the chapter would have been much easire (and appropriate!)

The finished chapter ended up at around 20,000 words, which brings the thesis total to over 60,000 words so far (all desperately waiting to be re-written). This means that my plan to write 2 more chapters is now adapting to just one more lengthy chapter on railway journeys- which works nicely, as I don't think there's enough material for 2 whole chapters, and it also relieves a bit of stress as it allows me to finish writing the first draft of the thesis by sometime around Christmas and therefore get cracking on the entire re-write in term 2, in time to give my supervisors the near-finished thesis in mid-June... but I don't want to think about that just yet...

For now, the focus is on shaping my writing about the railway journey- once again, there is a lot of relevant research out there, so I'm working on getting my own approach to it shaped out, which as always means close attention to travelling bodies and how they are positioned in spatial understandings. So far, I've been coming up against a lot of absences- lack of detailed descriptions of railway journeys, and bodies notably absent from descriptions that are present- which seems significant in itself. Although it's also more than a little frustrating, wishing that just somewhere there is a book with a fantastically detailed railway journey, but also terrified that there might be one such novel and I haven't/won't find it before finishing the PhD!

October 2009

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