In which I have another idea for running away

Not that there’s anything of a theme going on, you understand. But I was just kind of looking at job sites and thinking about what I might want to do if I didn’t think I could hack it in publishing for a single second longer. There is also the fact that the retirement age is going up to 68, which means 28 more years in the clink being a productive member of society. Depressing, much? Oh yeah.

So then I stumbled across a site advertising academic jobs and then I accidentally browsed the funded PhDs available, and I found this one: ‘The End of Letter Writing? Correspondence from 1900 to the Present Day’.

The idea is to study the epistolary archives of 20th century writers, to see how their literary networks were facilitated or broken by letter writing; and then what effect changes in methods of communication may have had. The British Library has archives from people like Virginia Woolf, Ted Hughes and Harold Pinter, and although I have read little by any of them, I think studying them as people via their letters would be more interesting than their writing per se. The BL is funding the research to the tune of, oh, let’s call it roughly 75% less than what I currently earn. Tax free, though, and fees paid, and an additional annual bursary of, well, slightly less than one car payment + council tax.

Right, so I know that a few weeks ago I was all ‘Squeeee, classical studies and pop culture, squeeee!’ But I’m a flibbertigibbet, and I have varied interests and I Just. Want. To. Learn. Something. Besides which, I could totally take that project forward into C21st and wrap in Twitter too, and the whole thing would be fun.

Oh, and did I mention Sheffield? It’s at the University of Sheffield, hence almost no money = less scary because I checked out rent prices today and was actually shocked at how little a one-bed flat costs up there. Fair enough, the last 15 years haven’t done much to make Sheffield more attractive; but then, hello glorious nearby Peak District!

So, I’m plotting. I have barraged the supervisory tutor with requests such as ‘Please define full time study’, ‘cos clearly I cannot live on the stipend alone and would need a part-time job as well. I’m not giving up my car and I won’t share a house again (even the thought of it almost brings me out in hives),  so those are significant constraints. If I apply, and that is not a thing of certainty, it will be a 3-year commitment. I’ll have to be damn sure it’s the right thing to do.

And if it isn’t, and this idea gets abandoned? What the hell, something else will come along. It always does!

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7 thoughts on “In which I have another idea for running away

  1. Annie

    I would find this extremely attractive as well. (Don’t worry, I’m not going hassle you for it, one PhD is enough for anyone’s life time!) As you say, you could easily bring it forward. We had a student who completed her PhD a couple of years back on the language of text messaging and it was very well received. And Sheffield has a lot going for it culturally as well as being on the doorstep of the Peak District. Go for it!

  2. vicky acklam

    becky this sounds just perfect, i say: go for it! what was the name of that italian deli round the corner from work again…

  3. Nicola

    I say go for it, too! The thought of spending the next 20 years in the IT department I currently work in is driving me mad, too, but I keep thinking I must stay for the NHS pension, mortgage, etc etc but it is so frustrating.

  4. Emily Barton

    This is a fabulous, fabulous “running away” idea. Really, I can’t think of anything that would be much more fun than studying epistolary archives of 20th century writers. You’ll get to read letters (always fun) and learn about writers you don’t know well (also always fun). Please do it. I’m tired of living vicariously through you in Oxford and working in publishing. Let’s move to Sheffield and read, read, read, and learn (oh yeah, and write some, too).

  5. musingsfromthesofa Post author

    Annie – Yup, I used to live in Sheffield about a thousand years ago, and I still have friends up that way. I like the Showroom and The Crucible, and the proximity to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park!

    Vicks – Hello! You mean Nonna’s, which is still there but appears to have become the hangout of women of a certain age. Which I suppose is me, actually, but I’m not drinking slightly too much Pinot, with a vaguely desperate look in my eyes as I hope to pick up a wealthy husband…

    Nicola – Much as I want a house, I do appreciate my current mortgage free ability just to cut and run. You have my sympathy. And on the plus side, you’ll have a pension and a house when I’m old and destitute!

    Emily – Your comment made me laugh out loud. You have to find someone with a more interesting life through which you can live vicariously (and then let me know, so I can follow suit). If only I’d realised you were so bored with Oxford, I’d have done something about it sooner!

  6. Debby

    I second Emily’s vicarious living comments. If you can run away, and still find a fabulous place to live and keep the fabulous car, while doing exciting research, you then must write a how-to book and help the rest of us follow in your footsteps!

  7. musingsfromthesofa Post author

    Debby – I’m not sure that Sheffield qualifies as fabulous in anyone’s book. The how to book is simple: be aware that it’s madness, think ‘Fuck it’ and do it anyway.

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