Right, so, I’ve been in Aberystwyth just about a week, and I did promise to try to stick to one of these updates a week, so here’s my first pass at a proper blog.
I’ll start with what everyone’s been asking me:
1. How do your pronounce that place you live?!
2. Have classes started yet?
Not as such, no – and when they do, it won’t be as you think. I’m not doing regular coursework as a PhD student. There are certain Continuing Personal Development modules that I’m required to take in my first and second year, for the graduate school. I shall, as the department administrator said to me when I came to see her to register, “explain it to you in American”: a module is like a class. Within the module are lots of workshops, divided into three sections. I register for the module, and then sign up for whatever workshops interest me – at least three from each section. Workshops are on Tuesdays, usually two hours apiece – so I properly start classes, such as they are next week.
I also have the option of auditing courses that are relevant to my work, so I’m hoping to sit in on an Anglo-Saxon linguistics course this semester, and one on Medieval lives next semester.
Academics aside, the town is beautiful and I’m settling in nicely. I’ve found a Medieval re-enactment society that looks like fun, and I’m auditioning for the university’s madrigal choir. The departmental mixer was tonight, so now I’m familiar with many of the students and professors. This evening also helped cement something for me: the knowledge that I made the best decision in coming here. Last year, after the Aber professor who was originally to supervise my dissertation left the university, I had the option of following her to Surrey. I ultimately passed that up, even though I had no other sure academic options at the time, primarily because she was a brilliant academic, but not a poet. My whole academic career has been a tightrope walk between literary studies and creative writing, primarily because I refused to choose one of them; a PhD in creative writing seemed like a good way to foreground my poetry without giving up rigorous academic research. And that was why I didn’t choose to go to Surrey – because, with Dr. Watt as my first reader, I felt like it would be far too easy for me to lose focus and begin to preference my academic writing, or to simply feel unsupported poetically. I turned down Surrey, waiting out Aber, hoping they would offer me another position, and was never sure at all about the wisdom of my choice until tonight. I’ve landed with a supervisor who may know very little about my academic focus, but is a brilliant poet and very in-line with the sort of work I’d like to undertake. My second reader is a poet who does in fact have some interest in Anglo-Saxon history. And the highlight of my evening was meeting Tim Woods, who was to have been my second reader initially; “Oh, you’re that Ashley!” he said, when I told him my research interests. “I’m glad you made it here.” So am I. I don’t feel uneasy (as I thought I might) about finding academic resources, and I have a wealth of brilliant poets for guidance. This was exactly what I hoped it would be, exactly what I needed.