by Fran Allfrey and Charlotte Rudman, PhD students in the Department of English and co-presenters and producers of Footnotes Radio Show, KCL Radio
We were always the talkers, the thinkers-out-loud, the ones just spilling out what came into our heads in seminars, to the disdain or amusement of our fellow undergraduates. But now as PhD students – teaching classes and attending research seminars – sometimes we restrain ourselves: worried that a half formed musing might be taken as our critical point of view; watching ourselves say ‘Is it this…? Or is it that…? Am I making any sense?’ and feeling unprofessional, that we’ve exposed ourselves as frauds.
But outside of the conventions of classroom or conference, we know that the most exciting moments come in conversations with ‘your people’. Your people can take many forms: maybe you’re in the same chronological discipline (medievalists), or perhaps your research concepts (Aristotelian philosophies across different times), or obsessive tracking of images, of poetics (of water, of sound) enter into dialogue irrespective of imagined boundaries in time or place.
Whilst we might be specialising now for our PhD’s sake, we feel the pull of exciting other worlds: we while away an evening at The Abstract; we spend a Friday night at a UCL art history seminar; we find the classmarks we need, but wander further along the stacks to pull down books with beautiful covers, titles that we didn’t even know we were looking for, but somehow are precisely what we need. We’re not interested in institutionally-designated categories: someone who loves what they do, and can write about, or talk about and around their love is romance enough for us. Hearing someone talk about something they love lets us indulge in dreams of choosing Virginia Woolf over Chaucer, 21st century politics over Anglo-Saxon poetry.
We know how privileged we are to be able to read, to talk, to explore knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Which is why we feel it’s so important to share what we love, and encourage others to do the same. Our motivation is partly selfish: we get to ask the silly questions, to frivolously flick through the living encyclopedia that is our research community, to listen to stories told by scientists, geographers, literary scholars who speak so beautifully on their research obsession that we become convinced that we too should dedicate the next three years to their work. But we also know that all researchers make discoveries that can change the world in practical terms – whether that work affects the day to day life of thousands or shows just one person another way to be.
We hope that other people join us for the conversations, for the indulgent mind-roaming, for the romance, too:
Hear English Department PhD researchers Joel White (Episode 1 – Sound), James Morland and Emma Seaber (Episode 5 – Bodies), Penny Newell (Ep 6 – Water), and Sinéad Kennedy Krebs, Diya Gupta (Episode 7 – Conflict).
Charlotte researches sound in Chaucer’s dream vision poetry @charrud https://twitter.com/charrud. Fran explores Anglo-Saxon things and contemporary cultural and creative practices @francheskyia https://twitter.com/francheskyia.