Personally speaking, my time really isn't my own at the moment. I've been busy trying to finish drafting my first and second thesis chapters. I am ready to embark on writing my third (having most of the reading/research/arguments done and thought out), but I hesitate to progress without having my first and second chapters ready to the point where I won't need to go over them again until I have the entire thesis completely drafted. Then, the editing begins (hopefully around April)! I honestly can't believe time has flown so much - that I'm about to enter my final year of this wonderful Ph.D. process. I think my wish for this coming year is to really work 9 - 5 every day (as opposed to 11am - 4pm, or the much more frequent 3pm - 8pm/7pm/6pm...eek...).
I also hope that this is the year I begin to feel more like a researcher, and less an imposter. Confidence is something I have really struggled with throughout this process, mostly because of my own negativity and poor self-esteem, but also other factors like my disastrous differentiation process weigh heavily on my mind. Funny how the negative experiences have much more resonance than the positives I have achieved, like getting things published, receiving good feedback at conferences, successfully leading seminars and lecturing, etc. The good news in this respect is that I managed to find some funding to attend the Sylvia Plath Symposium at the University of Indiana at Bloomington this October. Hopefully this will give a needed confidence boost! I absolutely cannot wait to meet some of the biggest names in the field of Plath studies, and the fact I'm giving a paper based on one of my chapters will be a litmus test for how my thesis will be received. What a nerve-wracking prospect! But how exciting, also!
Negatives aside, I think my main achievement of this second year has been my growing belief in the importance and relevance of my question. I really believe that my question is important, and it reflects the way I passionately consider the work of Sylvia Plath. Whether I can bring it to full fruition is another story, but I will do my level best to achieve this! I've also, in the past few months really, finally managed to grasp key concepts of literary theory. Literary criticism has always been something I have grappled with, but I think having taught concepts of theory (structuralism, post-structuralism, and deconstruction particularly) this year forced me to break down a lot of complicated ideas and helped me understand everything a bit more. This further encouraged me to attend philosophy seminars and listen to podcasts, helping to further the knowledge of ideas I was teaching and reading about in my own time. I'm by no means an expert, but I think I'm getting to a place of understanding! Frankly speaking, the next year is going to be insanely busy with work. I predict little else in store for 2013 but writing, a few conference presentations, hopefully one more publication and also trying to save money from my funding so that I'm not completely broke by October next year. So that means no pub, no holidays, no distractions! The climate for jobs post-Ph.D. is a huge topic and worthy of a blog post in itself, so to put it briefly, I'm under no illusions about walking into employment once I finish. I am very ambitious and hope that I manage to get a good job after this Ph.D. While I would like to stay within the academic world... I'm not restricting myself solely to that. It just isn't practical. I'll blog more about this in full another time. I just hope that come the end of this wonderful process I will have passed my Ph.D., have work suitable for publication, not have any debt and have a small amount of savings. Fingers crossed!!
Back to more interesting things. Here are the final selection of Plath-related photos from my Smith College trip last year. It really was just another world over there. Beautiful leafy trees, cute coffee shops, music, the most wonderful library I've ever been in... Just a complete bubble, a haven from the rest of the world. I had dreamed of places like Smith, and Northampton; and to spend time there was an absolute privilege.
Plath lived in Lawrence House from September 1952 until her graduation from Smith in 1955. It was in Lawrence House where Plath met and became friends with Nancy Hunter Steiner. The two girls shared a house together in Cambridge, MA in the summer of 1954 while at Harvard Summer School. Hunter Steiner went on to write A Closer Look at Ariel in memory of her friend.
337 Elm Street, where Hughes and Plath lived while Plath taught at Smith College. They rented an apartment in the back of the house. The photograph of the footpath shows the walk from 337 Elm Street to Smith. Plath would have walked this path regularly. Child's Park (inspiration for 'Child's Park Stones') is further up this street, just a little further than #337.
Finally - obligatory geeky photo of a thrilled Plath fan living her dream at the Smith College gates! :)