A couple of weeks ago, I completed (and passed!) my Mid-Year Review.
A Mid-Year Review (sometimes known as an ‘upgrade’) is a compulsory part of my PhD programme. It takes place halfway through the first year of doctoral study, and involves submitting a sample of written work (mine had to be 5,000 words in length, plus 2,000 words of project-planning materials) and attending a formal interview. The idea is to check that the student is thinking at PhD level, and that they’re on track to complete their project on time.
Technically, until I completed this process, I was registered onto an MPhil (Master of Philosophy) degree. Passing the interview means that my PhD registration is complete, and I’m now a fully-fledged doctoral researcher.
My interview lasted for around 45 minutes, and involved a series of questions about my research, my personal development as a researcher within the Midlands3Cities scheme, and my plans for the future. I was invited to justify decisions that I’d made about what would and wouldn’t be included within my research project, and about the terminology and methodologies I’ve started to put into place. Do I feel well supported, and that I’m a member of multiple research communities? Am I enjoying life as a PhD student?
Thinking through all of these things was useful. Having been a PhD student (well, technically an MPhil student!) for around six months, it felt good to look back and think about what I’ve done so far, and where my research might take me in the coming months and years.
This also seemed like a good topic for a blog post. So, without further ado, here’s how I’m feeling about my project at the moment, and a few juicy details of what I’ve been up since starting my PhD.
I’m still head-over-heels for my topic. My project is all about the significance of Jacobethanism (the incorporation of Elizabethan and/or Jacobean aesthetics) in 21st-century design for plays written by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. These early modern texts are an important part of our cultural heritage, and they’ve not always been performed in period dress. Analysing the intricacies of how we represent the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods on stage today has the potential to reveal a lot about what early modern drama is doing for us in the 21st century.
All seems to be coming along nicely in terms of my project’s development. I’ve got stuck into thinking and writing about issues surrounding authenticity, and have also spent time working on defining ‘Jacobethanism’ and other important terms. The last couple of months have been devoted to researching the history of Jacobethanism in design for Shakespeare, which has helped me understand the origins of various practices in use today. All in all, I’m feeling much more knowledgeable about my field of research than I did a few months ago, and confident about the content and significance of my topic. Happy days!
A bit on the side
In standard Ella fashion, I’ve had my fingers in several metaphorical pies over the past few months. I’ve been on a placement at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust since February, and am hoping to carry on working with the organisation until the summer. (I’ve been blogging away about my work with the SBT throughout the placement: you can read more about it all here, here, and here, and you can find me on YouTube here and here.)
I’ve also been conducting promptbook research on behalf of the Royal Shakespeare Company to assist the creative team in preparing for the Rome MMXVII season. This has involved spending a lot of time in archives since September, and reporting my findings to the directors for Julius Caesar, Antony & Cleopatra, Titus Andronicus, and Coriolanus. Working with the RSC has been a great experience, and I loved seeing this project come to fruition when the first two productions opened last week.
In February, I became Co-Chair of the New Researchers’ Network. I’ve been organising academic events with the Network since 2015; working with this fabulous committee puts a huge tick in the box for feeling part of an academic community.
Between these various side-projects, presenting my work at conferences, and working as a teaching assistant on two MA modules at the Shakespeare Institute, I’ve been keeping myself happily busy.
I’m still feeling all of the warm fuzzy feelings about where my research might take me. My supervisors and funding body are fantastically generous and supportive: having these people believe in me and genuinely want me to succeed is a powerful weapon in the endless fight against imposter syndrome. The Shakespeare Institute has come to be my home from home; it’s a close-knit community made up of people who love Shakespeare, theatre, and cups of tea as much as I do. I’m lining up opportunities for the coming months to share and develop my research. My feedback from the Mid-Year Review process made me feel that my project has a bright future: ‘impact’, ‘innovative’, and ‘interdisciplinary’ are all good words to hear when talking about the potential significance of research. I’m can’t wait to shout about my work at various conferences and events around the world over the course of my PhD. Bring on the next six months!