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Author Topic: Congrats to Dr. Steerpike!  (Read 778 times)
Straight Outta Johto
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« on: April 19, 2017, 08:29:44 PM »

Hey, I figured I'd start a thread about this, so that the tavern doesn't get clogged. Congratulations Steerpike on your Thesis and your defense of your PhD! I just wanted to ask if it would be possible to ever read your thesis, as that would be fascinating. I don't know the rules on that, but I figured there was no harm in asking. What was it like confronting educators an defending your thesis? I imagine that defending Lovecraftian Fiction from a board of Peers had to be an interesting experience.
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Giff
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« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2017, 08:39:11 PM »

Congrats Steerpike
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Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2017, 09:19:54 PM »

Thanks LoA!

It should indeed eventually be possible to read my thesis after it is uploaded to an open access repository - probably some time next week.

Defending the dissertation was indeed interesting and challenging, although fortunately they did not saddle me with any substantive revisions or rewriting, which is a possibility during these things. I take that as something of a vote of confidence for the thing's quality, and it certainly earned its share of praise at the defence, although there are a number of details that still dissatisfy me about it. I hope to eventually turn a version of the dissertation into a monograph where I can clarify and develop a few of those loose ends. Overall, though, I'm pleased and really quite proud of the work as a whole. I deal with four authors in detail - Poe, Machen, Blackwood, Lovecraft - over about 320 pages, so it's a fairly deep dive into their works, their ideas, their language, literary theory, and bits of philosophy, primarily aesthetics and metaphysics, particularly as practiced by the so-called "speculative realist" movement.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2017, 11:06:28 PM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2017, 11:06:48 PM »

Major congratulations, Steerpike!
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AnIndex of My Work

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« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2017, 08:55:36 AM »

I'll once again echo my congratulations on the twin accomplishments of completing the dissertation and then successfully defending it to your committee (and with little/insignificant revisions too)! To clarify, since different countries run things differently, did you have to write and defend both a thesis (for a master's) and then a dissertation (for your doctorate)? If so, what was the topic of your thesis (versus the above explained dissertation)?

For the rest of you, I was able to secretly tape Steerpike's defense. Enjoy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lrlro3YJ15o

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Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2017, 09:15:56 AM »

I did not write a Master's thesis - some Master's programs have them, and some don't, and I did my Master's at an institution that rather discouraged them. I did write an "Honour's Thesis" in the final year of my Bachelor's degree which is a bit shorter than a Master's thesis but of some size, and for that I wrote on the grotesque and Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.
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« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2017, 09:19:15 AM »

Nice. So do you have any classes or remaining requirements before you get hooded into the PhD cabal?
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Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2017, 01:50:25 PM »

The only remaining hoop I need to jump through is getting the dissertation formatting approved by the inscrutable wardens of the institutional repository, but that should be a formality (however due to weird deadlines this might mean I attend a ceremony in a few weeks or in six months).

Here, by the way, is the dissertation's abstract:

Abstract

“The Daemonology of Unplumbed Space: Weird Fiction, Disgust, and the Aesthetics of the Unthinkable” explores the aesthetic and metaphysical significance of disgust in weird fiction. Beginning with the weird’s forefather, Edgar Allan Poe, the study traces the twisted entanglement of metaphysics, aesthetics, affect, and weird fiction through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, considering along the way the myriad attempts of authors such as Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, and H.P. Lovecraft to stage encounters with the unthinkable. Drawing on recent philosophical efforts to reinvigorate metaphysical thought – including speculative realism and new materialism – as well as affect theory, the dissertation argues that in contrast with earlier Gothic writers, whose focus on sublime aesthetic experience reified the importance and power of the human subject and entertained fantasies of spiritual transcendence, authors of weird fiction exploit the viscerality of disgust to confront readers with the impermanence and instability of a subject polluted by nonhuman forces which seep into it from the world around it. In doing so, weird fiction helps us to think about the nature of this queasy, nonhuman world, to glimpse an existence beyond the world merely as it appears to us. By investigating the intertwinement of the aesthetics of disgust and metaphysical speculation about the nonhuman world, the dissertation expands our understanding of weird fiction and the study of affect in literature. It thus contributes to a growing understanding of weird fiction as more than a pulp, essentially commercial genre, rather interpreting the weird as literature of ecstatic yearning for a non-anthropocentric reality, literature which dwells on questions of being, becoming, and the ultimate nature of the universe.

I actually like how I put it in the conclusion better, where I get to let myself off the chain a bit and indulge in a less-stuffy prose style:

Wisdom of the Unhuman

This study has been an exercise in a form of weird criticism, blending together things which we might think disparate, mingling the strange aesthetics of the gross-out with metaphysical inquiry, reading pulp fiction alongside philosophy, finding something akin to the sublime or the numinous in worlds of putrescent slime and cannibal monstrosity. I have sought to articulate philosophical insights gleaned from the festering tongues of too-animate corpses or the hungry, myriad mouths of hybrid abominations – the wisdom of the unhuman.

My external examiner referred to it as "DUS," which I quite liked.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2017, 02:04:38 PM by Steerpike » Logged


Straight Outta Johto
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« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2017, 03:48:51 PM »

For the record if Steerpike ever became a professor, I would gladly screw over my education to go to his college and take "Weird Fiction 101". Best non-existent course ever!
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Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2017, 03:55:47 PM »

LoA, I know you're kidding, but as it happens I'm actually already planning to teach a version of a weird fiction course (contract faculty, not tenure-track yet). This summer I'm going to be teaching an "Approaches to Literature" course for first years - a "study of selected examples of poetry, fiction, and drama." Every instructor gets to do their own version of this course and there's a lot of leeway for choices. There's already one on the Gothic where they read Dracula and similar texts. Mine is going to be themed around the weird and will include:

Beowulf ("wyrd" fiction)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Shakespeare's Macbeth
Sheridan le Fanu's “Carmilla”
Stories from the Lovecraft anthology The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories
China Mieville's The City & The City
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Giff
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« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2017, 04:06:23 PM »

That's awesome.

But I'm curious, what do you intend to do with that kind of study, exactly? Like, it must certainly be a passion for you, but can you translate that passion into something you can earn money with? Are you going to write books, then?
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Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2017, 04:40:39 PM »

Magnus Pym

But I'm curious, what do you intend to do with that kind of study, exactly? Like, it must certainly be a passion for you, but can you translate that passion into something you can earn money with? Are you going to write books, then?

Essentially, English scholars who want to pursue a career in research are hired by universities to do a mixture of teaching and research. You're expected to publish academic articles and monographs, and, eventually, get tenured as a result. Tenure-track research jobs are hard to come by, but certainly not impossible (a friend of mine who I share an office with just got hired, for example; she works on disappointment and Romantic poetry, so we make a funny pair - disappointment and disgust). Universities hire professors and grant tenure on the basis of their research, which is where this kind of study becomes valuable, especially if I can get an academic publisher to turn it into a monograph i.e. a scholarly book. Sometimes these books can provide their own income-stream as well, but more often than not the books are primarily of interest only to students and other academics, so your salary comes not from the books directly but from the institution funding you. A lot of the time research projects are also funded by organizations like SSHRC in Canada (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) who give out grants for scholarly research in various disciplines.

The other career route - and one I find as-or-more appealing as pursuing a research career - is to get a primarily teaching-focused career at a university or community college (I'm currently teaching courses at one of each). While tenure-track research faculty do have to teach classes, they're also being paid to research. Teaching positions just pay you to teach instead of to teach and research, but obviously they still want qualified scholars to teach literature and composition courses. Community colleges sometimes just require a Master's degree, but a PhD is an asset. Often you do still get time off and possibly some funding to do research, or even creative work. I know quite a few community college English instructors who are also poets or filmmakers or writers; two actually play in my D&D game. It seems to be a slightly less frenzied life than that of research faculty, where the "publish or perish" adage holds true. The especially good news here for English PhDs is that English is almost always a required subject at Anglophone post-secondary institutions regardless of faculty, so there's a big demand for qualified instructors. Obviously, your abilities and experience as a teacher are more important than your research talents, which is why you spend a lot of time as a TA while completing a PhD. I managed to secure work as an instructor of record in my final year of the program, which gives me a bit of a leg up on this route.

The research positions can be more prestigious but are sometimes more highly paid, but often necessitate moving to a new city. You go where the jobs are, essentially. With teaching jobs there's a better chance of getting to choose your city. You're also not pressured to publish scholarly works in the same way, even if it's encouraged and/or rewarded.

Those are the most directly obvious career paths. So, essentially, you don't usually do a PhD in English to go into business for yourself, you do a PhD in English with an eye to becoming a professor or instructor at a college or university, who want qualified experts to teach their students and perform additional research.

That said, there are a number of other things that PhDs go off and do that don't explicitly require a PhD - working for governments and private companies, often. Usually your specialization doesn't matter as much here, it's your ability to write and research and organize large projects that's valuable. Mid- to higher-level university administrators also sometimes have PhDs. I know some people who got kinda burnt-out on scholarship and found decently paying and reasonably interesting work as administrators or other non-faculty university staff.

Ideally, I'd like my career to be primarily based in some combination of teaching and research at a post-secondary institution while I pursue creative projects on the side. My idols in this regard would be authors like China Miéville (who has a PhD in international relations and teaches at the University of Warwick) and Ada Palmer (who is a professor of history at the University of Chicago), incidentally probably my two favourite living authors. J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis would actually also be very good examples of this kind of dream-career, albeit from an earlier era - both English academics who also wrote creatively.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2017, 05:39:46 PM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2017, 07:19:36 PM »

So what you're saying is... you're going to write a book.

laugh

laugh

About how many publications does your field generally require for obtaining and then keeping a tenure-track position?
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Digital wizard
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« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2017, 07:27:11 PM »

Congrats Steerpike!
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Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2017, 07:40:14 PM »

Thanks Hoers!

Rose-of-Vellum

About how many publications does your field generally require for obtaining and then keeping a tenure-track position?

I think there's quite a bit of variation, but a book and around five articles or so is pretty common as I understand it. Single author papers are generally the norm in English.

Rose-of-Vellum

So what you're saying is... you're going to write a book.

Yeah, I'd like to turn DUS into a book, and ideally I'd like to write a sequel about the New Weird. For a book I'm thinking of adding William Hope Hodgson into the mix, and possibly some combination of MR James, Vernon Lee, and Clark Ashton Smith; for the sequel, Thomas Ligotti, China Mieville, Jeff Vandermeer, and perhaps K.J. Bishop or Clive Barker might be possible authors of interest. Alternatively I've always wanted to write something about Gormenghast, for obvious reasons, but maybe that'll be an article instead. I do plan on possibly writing some articles adapting parts of the dissertation. I've published several that weren't part of the dissertation, and presented bits of the dissertation at conferences, but not actually published any of the dissertation in journals, so I can start mining it for stuff soon.

I'll say one thing for the PhD (and I don't know if this has been your experience too, Rose) - it was hard, sure, and sometimes it was stressful, but it was frequently fun and intellectually rewarding, and while I think higher education has some serious structural problems it needs to address, I didn't have the cliche experience you sometimes hear about, where you enter graduate school and leave a penniless emotional wreck without any relevant "real-world" experience. I've occasionally read these miserable accounts of people's time in grad school, but mine really was nothing like that. Which isn't to say that grad school is for everyone, but it's also not the dystopian dead-end money-suck it's sometimes portrayed as being, or at least it wasn't for me.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2017, 07:43:25 PM by Steerpike » Logged


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