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  • Writer's pictureChelsea Haith

It's Week 1 and I'm already tired

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

Said every academic ever.

This blog has been devised to function as a record of the final year of my DPhil at the University of Oxford. At the end of this (October 2021) I'll (probably) be a 'Doctor of [the] Philosophy' of English Literature. Dr Haith, the first of my name, the first person in my genetic line to go to university, #firstgen.

I don't really believe in English Literature or the language anymore, because we none of us use it the way we were taught, and that's GOOD. When we talk about English, in the academy, we mean literature. Which is not always in English. This is rudimentary, but I'm restating in case anyone needs a refresher. Using 'English' to mean 'literature' is slandering the many good books that are not in 'good', 'classical' or 'hifalutin' English, in my opinion (and yes, that is how you spell hifalutin #meta). Bob Eaglestone has some very important and useful things to say on the topic of Doing English, and he says them better than I do, so read his book.

Above is a photograph of me, on the campus of the University Currently Known as Rhodes, in Makhanda/Grahamstown, South Africa. This is where I learnt how to 'Do English' and then immediately unlearnt how to 'Do English'. A dear friend of mind added, almost a decade ago, the sign 'House of Fiction' above the interior door. A House of Fiction it was.

I'll post, with luck and hope and tears of exhaustion streaming down my face (and requisite melodrama), once a week, and share my adventures. And adventures there will be. I teach a lot. I read a lot. I run a research network. I recently recorded a podcast. I live with a Lovely Man who reads a lot and is not an academic (top tip: if you're in academia, DO NOT try to love someone that does what you do. It did not work out for me, thrice). Sometimes I try to explain my thesis to people. This consistently makes Lovely Man laugh, because not even I know what I am doing. Must work on elevator pitch.

It's Week 1 at Oxford, which is just silly, because I've been getting work-related emails for two weeks already. This is because Oxford has, but does not officially acknowledge, Week -1 and Week 0. When the official eight-week term ends, there will be the admin of Week 9 and Week 10. We will however, all pretend that teaching staff (DPhil candidates, sometimes infantilised as 'youths' or 'students', included) have had the three months-to-six weeks off that the undergrads have had. The administration of this institution plays fast and loose with the concept of time and work/life balance. I respect the balls on anyone who emails me 'hope you had a good break' in Week 1. They do not believe in time, and neither do I. 'I hope you have had *A* break', seems more in keeping with the general disaster that is HE in the UK, au present. I dunno, that's the impression I'm getting from Academic Twitter, which is perpetually on fire. Maybe everything is fine?

My thesis looks at urban inequality and speculative fiction, mostly teasing out the problems of theories of cosmopolitanism, modernity and progress. I grew up in Johannesburg, so I have many many feelings about urban inequality and how it manifests. I am about 60k words in, and they need serious editing. I also have about another 40k to write. My main problem is that I am a much better editor than I am writer. So it's mostly a matter of getting the words on to the page in time to edit them into coherence. I'll keep you posted on that.

Not all of my posts will be this long, I am presently enthused by the prospect of a new project. I love new projects.

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