My Thesis….

Turns out, like a fool, that I’m going out tonight – so I’ll be late watching the Great British Bake Off final.  I will, however, be recapping it!  But maybe not very promptly.

One of the other things I’ve promised you is a bit more insight into my DPhil, now that it’s over.  I started it in the autumn of 2009, a couple of years into Stuck-in-a-Book, so since then it has been a constant companion to my blogging, and many of the books I’ve read for my DPhil have appeared here.  You might be surprised at how many haven’t been related; when I decided to go back and do some graduate study, one of my main self-stipulations was that I’d still have time for recreational reading.  Books and reading mean too much to me to have them exist only as part of an academic apparatus.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons it took four years rather than three, but better four contented years of enjoying reading than three miserable years of hating it, I think you’ll agree!

It felt astonishingly good to finish.  I enjoyed most of my time doing my DPhil, and I’m definitely glad I did it, but I was also very much ready to finish.  It’s mentally exhausting, and quite isolating, and I’m looking forward to having colleagues and shorter deadlines!

It’s difficult to know where to start in explaining the 92,957 words I handed in (and the 70,000 or so words which got cut along the way), so I’ve decided the easiest way is to give you a one-sentence summary and the contents page, so do ask about any bit which interests you!

In one sentence… my thesis was about middlebrow novels between the world wars which used the fantastic (i.e. set in the real world, but something supernatural happens) and sought to explore connections between manifestations of the fantastic and social anxieties affecting the middlebrow reader.

And now the contents page (I’ve cut out page numbers).  If you see typos, don’t tell me!

Introduction: ‘There
may be not one marvel to speak of in a century, and then […] comes a plentiful
crop of them’
Chapter One: Placing
the Middlebrow and the Middlebrow Place
–‘The British, with their tidy minds / Divide themselves up
into kinds’: between the brows
–“I am not an Intellectual and don’t wish to be thought
one”
–‘This literary allusion not a success’: playing with the classics
–The places and communities of middlebrow reading
–‘Good service for the ordinary intelligent reader’: the
role of the Book Society
–The fantasy of the ideal home
–The home in flux
–Servants and the geography of the home
Chapter Two:
‘Adventures of the everyday are much the most interesting’: Finding Room for
the Domestic Fantastic
–Minding Ps & Qs: commonsense, etiquette, and
inheriting the Gothic
–‘The duration of this uncertainty’: questioning the
fantastic 
–‘Slipping from waking into sleep’: turning points
–The complicit reader and the style(s) of the fantastic
–‘The Oedipus complex was a household word, the incest
motive a commonplace of tea-time chat’: the middlebrow Freud and the fantastic
language of psychoanalysis
Chapter Three: ‘My
Vixen’: Marriage and Metamorphosis
–‘Hold her husband and share his ecstasy’: marriage and
sexual knowledge
–Woman-as-animal
–Woman-as-plant
–Non-fantastic versions of metamorphosis
–Observer and observed
–Metamorphosis of the domestic
Chapter Four:
“Creative Thought Creates”: Childlessness and Creation Narratives
Frankenstein: the modern creation novel
–‘A rather muddled magic’: (lack of) method in the domestic
fantastic
–Blurring the line between creator and created
–The creative power of desire and the difficulty of
identity
–Adoption, agency, and non-fantastic creation
–“I hate her and I love her and – I’m half afraid of her”:
power struggles
Miss Hargreaves, madness, and the God complex
  
Chapter Five : ‘She
can touch nothing without delicately transforming it’ :
Re-creating Self in
Lolly Willowes
–‘A sort of extra wheel’: Laura and the Willowes’ home
–‘One of these floating aunts’
–‘A Constant Flux’: the quasi-metamorphosis of Laura
Willowes
–‘The bugaboo surmises of the public’: subverting
stereotypes of the witch
–‘You are too lifelike to be natural’: Laura’s Satan
–‘She smiled at the thought of having the house all to
herself’: Laura’s independent space
  
Conclusion: “Is this
really a part of the house, or are we dreaming?”: Fantastic Novels as
Alternative Spaces
–Why the fantastic?
–The fantastic as investigation

–After the Second World War

36 thoughts on “My Thesis….

  • October 22, 2013 at 3:48 pm
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    Your thesis sounds so interesting, Simon – I wouldn't mind reading! And well done again for completing it!

    Reply
    • October 26, 2013 at 1:44 pm
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      Thanks Sakura! I have to admit, reading through my contents page, it still interests me – which is a blessing!

      Reply
  • October 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm
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    Thanks for posting this. I can really see where you are going with it through the chapter titles and sub-headings. It belongs on my shelf right along side of Beauman's A Very Great Profession and Humble's The Feminine Middle Brow Novel. So, if it is published, put me on the list. Sincere congratulations, Simon.

    Reply
    • October 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm
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      And those are two books I very much love, and were very useful in writing my thesis! It would be lovely to be on the same shelf with them, one day…

      Reply
  • October 22, 2013 at 4:39 pm
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    Any chance of a bibliography for it? I sounds absolutely fascinating. Well done – Congratulations. What comes next?

    Reply
    • October 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm
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      The bibliography was ten pages long, I'm afraid – a bit too long to quote here! But the most useful book for preparing myself with the middlebrow was undoubtedly Nicola Humble's The Feminine Middlebrow Novel, which is a great read as well as academically interesting. For the fantastic, Tzvetan Todorov's The Fantastic isn't a book I always agree with, but is incredibly interesting and set off the modern era of fantasy theory.

      Reply
    • October 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm
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      I am always amazed at people who do doctorates in topics they don't love – I loved reading lots of middlebrow books, and it was still hard work – I'd have died if I didn't love the topic!

      Reply
  • October 22, 2013 at 4:53 pm
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    Simon, thanks so much for posting this. You are so right about the joys and drawbacks of a PhD – and that's coming from someone who's not even approaching the halfway point. Your thesis itself looks so interesting. I know some academics working on Dutch middle-brow literature and I have recently had the pleasure to hear one of them speak and it always seems such an interesting subject.
    As I and others have said before: congratulations on completing! It must feel so good :)

    Reply
    • October 26, 2013 at 2:00 pm
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      Thanks Iris! I am, at least, proof that it can finish at some point…
      The middlebrow conference I've been to a couple of times has moved to Belgium (I think) for next year, for the European middlebrow – maybe your friends will be going!

      Reply
  • October 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm
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    OMG, I love your topic and I love your table of contents. I've been thinking about doing my PhD, since I can do it at virtually no cost as a staff member at the university, but I know it'll eat my life. Maybe when my kiddo is older. :)

    Reply
    • October 26, 2013 at 2:01 pm
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      Thanks Andi! How nice to do it at virtually no cost, you should definitely take advantage of that! And it doesn't need to be as all-consuming as some people make out… but maybe wait til you can leave kiddo home alone :)

      Reply
  • October 23, 2013 at 12:20 am
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    Knowing you through blogging for all of those four years I must say that you made it look easy, Simon. But I know it couldn't possibly have been…well done!

    Reply
    • October 26, 2013 at 2:04 pm
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      Thank you Darlene! I was determined not to let it take over my life completely, and I'm glad it was like a duck – serene to appearances, and mad paddling underneath!

      Reply
  • October 23, 2013 at 12:56 am
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    Well done Simon. Such an interesting topic. You must feel as though you are wearing wings now to have finished such a big task.

    Reply
    • October 26, 2013 at 2:05 pm
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      It is a wonderful feeling! Once viva and corrections are over, I will feel truly winged-up.

      Reply
  • October 23, 2013 at 6:07 am
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    Congratulations on completing your thesis! This is such an achievement! All the best with your viva.

    Reply
  • October 23, 2013 at 8:31 am
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    Congratulations! I'd be very interested to read anything you publish from it – do you have anything in the pipe-line?

    Reply
    • October 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm
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      Thanks Erica! I have something very vague in the pipe-line… I'm waiting til the viva and corrections are over before I try to make it less vague.

      Reply
  • October 23, 2013 at 9:12 am
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    That does sound fascinating. I'd love to see the bibliography too if that is possible.

    Reply
    • October 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm
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      I'm afraid it's 10 pages long, so too long to post here! But if you give me an email, I could send it across. (Ditto to Annabel, if you read this far!)

      Reply
  • October 23, 2013 at 9:16 am
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    I want to make a thesis but I do not have the money for college tuition. I was less fortunate

    Reply
    • October 26, 2013 at 2:07 pm
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      I had to work to pay my way, it wasn't always super fun scraping the bottom of my bank account!

      Reply
  • October 23, 2013 at 9:16 am
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    Your thesis project sounds great! Oh, how I wish I can read the whole paper, or you could share it for other people to read it too. It can be a big thesis help for students who are also on the same field as you. It can be a great source of data and information for them to use for their research.

    Reply
    • October 26, 2013 at 2:07 pm
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      It was great fun! I see you have a link in your comment – was that deliberate?

      Reply
  • October 23, 2013 at 5:12 pm
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    Sounds interesting. Should have guessed Miss Hargreaves would be in there :)

    Reply
    • October 26, 2013 at 2:08 pm
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      Heehee ;) She was actually something of a late addition, but it was lovely to be able to write about her!

      Reply
  • October 25, 2013 at 12:57 pm
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    It's a marvellous feeling — congratulations again, and thanks for the 'taster'. (I probably shouldn't say this, while you're nicely mellow , but you're presumably having a viva sometime — all the best!)

    Reply
    • October 26, 2013 at 2:08 pm
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      Thanks Vicki! Yes, a viva sometime, but I don't know the time yet… probably not til January.

      Reply
  • October 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm
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    Congratulations again, Simon – your contents page is terribly appetising. Do you plan/hope to publish it?

    Reply
    • October 26, 2013 at 2:08 pm
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      Thanks Tanya! I would like to publish, but only if it can be done without preparing the book becoming a full time job for years… that part of my life is well and truly finished with.

      Reply
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