Confessions of a Crazed Ph.D. Student, or, A Very Honest Account of Exams Preparation

I am currently wading neck deep in the quagmire that is comprehensive exam preparation. Countless fellow students warned me ahead of time that this would be the most challenging aspect of my pursuit for a doctoral degree. While that remains to be seen, I can admit that the last few months have been exhausting to say the least. Below, I will narrate some of the realities I have thus far experienced, both good and bad, with as much honesty as possible. Whether you can relate, commiserate, or completely disagree with me, I hope that my transparency will help prepare others for their own exams.

You will have an “oh, sh*t” moment.

There will come a point where you think you have a handle on your list, that you are on top of your reading and this whole thing will be a piece of cake. It’s not. Continue reading

Report from the Front: Professor Jeffrey N. Cox on the Waterloo Bicentennial

June 18, 2015 marked the two-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, that decisive event that signaled the end of the Napoleonic Wars and, more broadly, constant military conflict on the European continent since 1756. Notable not only for Napoleon’s defeat by the combined forces of England, Prussia, and the Netherlands under the command of the Duke of Wellington and the Prince of Orange, Waterloo remains one of the bloodiest military conflicts in history with nearly 48,000 causalities in only ten hours. Yet, even more than a political turning point, Waterloo left an inedible mark on the period’s cultural productions; as graduate students studying Romanticism, we remember the battle in terms of the massive literary and artistic output it inspired. From Wordsworth’s “Thanksgiving Ode” to a theatrical production at Sadler’s Wells that included the song ‘The Bellerophon, or Nappy napped,'” Waterloo became a permanent fixture in Europe’s cultural memory. Continue reading

Report from DHSI 2015

I had the pleasure of attending the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) this year at my home institution, the University of Victoria in Victoria, BC. It was the largest DHSI ever, with over 700 attendees. Previous institutes were one-week events, but this year’s DHSI was three weeks long, including the middle core week of courses, colloquia, and an unconference, and a week of courses before and after. Also new this year was the opportunity for academic accreditation through UVic’s Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities program. Continue reading

George Frederick Watts, 1872

Sleep, Dreams, and Poetry

Endymion is one of the funniest heroes in Romantic poetry, mainly because he is so frequently fainting and falling asleep. He sleeps so often that I struggle to separate his waking and sleeping, a common problem for Keats that I want to talk about in this post. I have written previously about shared feeling and cognition, and dreaming is a particularly interesting case study for these topics, I think.

Let me catch you up to the ideas I’ve been toying with for my dissertation. I have come to believe that for Keats communion across time and space is enabled by acts of reading and the shared feelings reading encourages. Feelings circulate, via a text, among the bodies engaged in acts of reading (or other aesthetic experiences), and feeling is always an embodied cognitive experience. Therefore communion is realized (not just imagined) in the embodiment of transferred or circulated affect, a reactivation or revitalization of feelings in the moment of reading. From these assumptions, I begin my study of sleep and dreams. Continue reading

Power Over the Land

One major aspect of Romanticism that draws me to it over and over is the deep and ever intense experience of we feel at the vast and powerful places in our landscapes that leave us feeling in awe of nature and – perhaps – at the whim of it. This quality is called the sublime, and is a feeling of some perpetual study in aesthetics and, whether it be spiritual or artistic, I find myself returning to works over and over that tangle with the immensity of nature.

John Pfahl Crystal River Nuclear Plant, Morning, Crystal River, Florida (January 1982)
John Pfahl
Crystal River Nuclear Plant, Morning, Crystal River, Florida (January 1982)

Continue reading

Get It Together, Leveton!: A Romanticist’s Resolutions for the (Academic) New Year

For me, getting to candidacy this year was challenging. Of course, in the end, all went well. I found reading for my qualifying exams rewarding, and having the dissertation prospectus approved was a joy beyond measure. Nevertheless, allowing myself a moment of honesty and vulnerability in this forum, despite the year’s successes I’m left with the feeling I broke with the strategies for success devised in part through blogging with the NGSC, and which were successfully implemented my first and second years. This year, I found myself reading and writing into deadlines–as opposed to allowing thought to open up and evolve over time. Accordingly, and inspired by Deven Parker’s similar post, I thought that composing a piece in the wake of the conclusion of Spring Quarter regarding resolutions for the upcoming academic year starting July 1 would be a positive step towards restoring a sense of balance in how I approach my work. My hope is that it will be helpful to caucus members who, like me, can craft solid work strategies, but may struggle from time to time to sustain the good academic habits carefully cultivated.

1. Goal Setting Continue reading

Romanticism & Aboriginal Rights in Canada: A Primer

Screen shot 2015-07-01 at 10.03.54 AMAt the upcoming NASSR conference on “Romanticism and Rights” in Winnipeg, Canada this August, one of the headline events is the Aboriginal Rights Panel, which I expect many readers of this blog will attend. But what readers may not know is that Canada is at this moment at the centre of a deep and painful investigation into the ongoing legacies of the colonial maltreatment of Native people, which in June 2015 a Truth and Reconciliation Commission determined cultural genocide. Most of all, readers may not be aware of the pernicious influence of British Romanticism in forming the ideological conditions in which this cultural genocide took place. Continue reading

Summer Camp for Library Types: A Week at Rare Book School

lion“Go be smart. Don’t forget to wash your hands.” These two pieces of wisdom, spoken by RBS Director Michael Suarez, marked the end of daily mid-morning or mid-afternoon breaks during my week at Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. This thirty-year-old program encompasses the love and care of books from a myriad of different angles: collecting, cataloging, reading/transcribing/interpreting, identifying and describing, even binding and printing. The list goes on, all courses focused on developing the skills of librarians, collectors, editors, booksellers, conservators, and scholars through the historical study of books and how we make them accessible. One course, five days, 6+ hours per day of non-stop book-talk. No water, unwashed hands, or writing utensils other than pencils allowed in any of the classrooms: a classroom treated like an archive, or an archive treated like a classroom. In other words, heaven for book lovers like me. Continue reading

Spring 2015 Editorial Report

Ahhh… campus in the summer! So quiet, so peaceful, and so perfect for uninterrupted doctoral study — and for blogging! After recovering from a whirlwind Spring term, I can finally report on the wonderful work that our graduate writers have been producing in 2015. But first, I have to say what a privilege it has been to be the Managing Editor of the NGSC Blog this year, and to serve our community of readers with original and exciting content. Our Traffic Counter reports that we have over 3,000 monthly visitors and over 15,000 page views each month. Thank you, everyone, for reading! Continue reading

Reminder: NASSR 2015 Essay Prize

Dear all,

This year’s NASSR Conference organizers would like me to remind you of the graduate student prize for papers presented at the conference. The details are copied below, from the Conference website:

NASSR 2015 Graduate Student Prizes
Co-sponsored by NASSR and European Romantic Review
Each year NASSR conference organizers offer prizes for graduate student papers presented at their conference.  To be eligible, you must be a graduate student in good standing at the time of the conference.  Please submit an electronic copy of your completed conference paper with a 100 word abstract to the conference organizers at nassr15@umanitoba.ca by July 15, 2015.  The paper chosen as Best Graduate Student Paper will be published in the conference issue of European Romantic Review.  Results of the contest will be announced at the conference banquet.

Jacob, Caucus Co-Chair

Resources for Graduate Students of Romanticism