2008 Abstracts
  1. Louisa Allen 'PhD: Eliminating the Womb in Feminist Science Fiction’
  2. Chikwendu PK Anyanwu ‘Novel to Stage: Research and Scriptwriting’
  3. Sara Bailey 'If abundant instruction would make us into novelists, the people of England ought to be a nation of Fieldings'
  4. Laura Bottomley ‘The Art of the Deadline: Curse or Cure’
  5. Kathrina Haji Mohd Daud ‘Censorship, Critical Response and the Creative Writing Degree’
  6. Christian Defeo ‘A Doctorate’s Strange Love: Or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Phd’ Paper
  7. Alison Habens ‘The First Page Again’
  8. Ruth Hartle ‘”Myths of the Near Future": Contributing to a Truly Modern Mythology’
  9. Sonia Hendy-Isaac ‘The Reading-Writer or The Writing-Reader?’
  10. David Humphrey ‘The Limitations and Possibilities for the Teaching and Practice of Creative Writing’
  11. Craig Jordan-Baker ‘All subjective innit?’ Creative Writing and the Politics of Subjectivity
  12. Dina Kafiris ‘A Novel in the Works’
  13. Vikram Kapur ‘The Post 9/11 World Seen Through the Eyes Of a Brown Writer’
  14. David Manderson ‘Paradox: The Creative Crucible’
  15. Mike Martin ‘The completed PhD and its ironic postscript’
  16. Lesley McKenna ‘Writing the Wrong: The Liberating Effect of the Research Degree in Creative Writing’
  17. Jo Powell ‘The Body in the Library: Writing a Crime Novel for a PhD’
  18. Alexander Pheby ‘Out of the Garret and into the Tower: Why the Myth of Isolation is Bad for Writers’
  19. Steve O'Brien 'I sing the Rapparee; A Biography of a Poem'
  20. Shelly Ocsinberg ‘Silent Cries: Why Women Behave The Way They Do and How This Impacts Their Future’
  21. Nigel Robinson ‘Create or Cant? Why the PhD in Creative Writing is a Buridan's Ass’
  22. Gavin Stewart PPhhDD: Why did I feel like I was doing two PhDs (or maybe none at all)

Louisa Allen

PhD: Eliminating the Womb in Feminist Science Fiction

The main aims of my project are:
• To write an original work of feminist science fiction of publishable standard that will challenge current gender conventions.
• To critically evaluate current creative and critical work in the area of feminist science fiction.
• To keep a self-critical development diary in the form of a weblog.
• To examine the process of writing both creatively and critically simultaneously, and the relationship between the two.

Feminist writers have embraced science fiction as a genre to experiment with alternative politics, in both utopias (e.g. 'Woman on the Edge of Time' by Marge Piercy and dystopias (e.g. 'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood). The definition of science fiction I will use is 'hard' science fiction; that is, the story will contain plausible scientific elements (though not necesssarily possible elements) with regard to off-world travel, alternative energies and with particular focus on reproductive technologies and the role of family and the mother. Feminist science fiction writers and their utopias and dystopias have been studied before, most notably by the writers themselves, but I will combine the critique of the existing writing alongside a creative process. In particular I am interested in the creation and use of non-gendered pronouns and my novel will include a section of society which uses such pronouns. I am interested in creative writing as a growing discipline, its legitimacy as a subject and how it can interact with other disciplines such as biology, physics, sociology and criminology. The subject of my novel is a future society which is experimenting with an artificial womb as a means to achieve equality between the sexes, and the problems that arise.

Chikwendu PK Anyanwu

Novel to Stage: Research and Scriptwriting

Many authors including Stanislavski and Robert McKee have expressed the need for creative writers and artists to explore their topics through research. Mckee, for instance, sees research as the key to winning the war against writers’ block(Cf Mckee, R, Story, London, 1999, p.72) For an inexperienced adaptor, having the source book could mean all that matters in writing the script. However, my experience in adapting Chinua Achebe's novel, A Man of the People, for stage under the title, Kingdom of the Mask taught me the need to research around one’s source book.

In this paper I will review how my work was enhanced by various kinds of research, not just reading around the original text. I will go further to show some findings after the production of my adaptation have led me to retouch the script for future productions.

Sara Bailey

'If abundant instruction would make us into novelists, the people of England ought to be a nation of Fieldings'

"If abundant instruction would make us into novelists, the people of England ought to be a nation of Fieldings" (Daily News – London 1895 – Review of How to Write Fiction)

This paper will discuss the way in which we read, use and understand ‘How to Write’ books. As the date of the quote above shows, the debate on the teaching of Creative Writing has had a long history. However, in recent years there has been a huge escalation in the writing and selling of the ‘Self Help/Creative Writing’ book. Many of these texts resemble the plethora of diet books they often jostle with for shelf space in bookshops with their titles promising a ‘new you’ in a month, a year or 16 steps – or at the very least turning the reader into a successful writer and often a more fulfilled human being. However, most of these books contain ‘get out’ clauses, which suggest that if the reader doesn’t achieve success it is through no fault of the author’s.

So are they light reading, or serious text books?

By reflecting on the effects of just two of the most popular ‘How to Write’ books on my own work as a writer and as a teacher of creative writing, I will examine the practical ways in which we can apply and adapt these texts to our own work.

Laura Bottomley

The Art of the Deadline: Curse or Cure

Points to be made:

• The deadline re-organises the creative process. Is this useful or irritating?
• What are the effects of this disruption?
• Pros and cons, what can a deadline do for a writer, what does it prohibit?
• Real life – the nature of publishing deadlines
• Sef-set deadlines, do they work?


“We have been familiar with meeting deadlines for years. The pressing dates and times loom up at us from blackboards, diaries and finally the backs of our hands. We know all too well the late night library sessions and coffee fixes that bring us to the marvelous moments of getting it all done, and hopefully printed out before the doors are locked and everyone has gone home.

Today I ask, is the deadline is a blessing or a hindrance?

We can work to deadlines, we know we can and our tutors know we can, albeit with a dash of doubt that rears its head when we are at our lowest or busiest, or both. The start of term sets our clocks ticking and we make those early promises that we will get it done early this time.

Whether it be in weeks, months or years we are given a stretch of time to play with and make our own. No one will demand anything of us until that moment. But it is also a devilish promise: Having agreed to such a time frame and having it lurking at the backs of our minds, we enjoy it all too much. It is a life of heady pleasure before we are called to judgement. But should it be this way?

Should the creative writer, with his or her flashes of inspiration, moments of doubt and writers block be subject to such limitation? Should we be told when and when not to be creative? Can we be told? And what effect does it have on the creative process?

The creative process is unique to us all. Some write in the study, library, bath or nocturnally and in our own way we get it done. So it is a good idea for someone to disupt our process and re-organise it for us?”

Kathrina Haji Mohd Daud

Censorship, Critical Response and the Creative Writing Degree

The validity and value of the creative writing degree has been a subject of controversy since it’s conception. In what is now an oft-quoted essay, Ron McFarland claims that 5 qualities make a writer – desire, drive, talent, vision and craft – only the last of which, he says, can be taught. This paper seeks to argue that the creative writing degree provides an invaluable space for new and unpublished writers in which to not just hone their craft, but also their vision, by providing a ready-made, consistently critical and analytical readership – a readership which is generally more critical of the medium than of the message. By testing out reader responses in an environment composed of people who share a common seriousness of attitude towards the craft of writing, the integrity of the message within the writing can be served. This paper also argues that the movement of creative writing courses and discourses from the romantic, expressionist model of instruction to one which focuses on academia gives writers a sense of context as to how their work will be received in the world beyond the classroom, not simply in the popular, but in the critical sense, and how this impacts the marketability and integrity of the work. This is of particular importance to the growing number of “minority” writers, who come from backgrounds – national, religious and social – which prohibit freedom of expression, in conceiving and defining how their voices will be heard, and crafting their writing in response to or against the canon, introducing an element of social responsibility to the creative writing degree. These issues will be discussed with reference to the author’s own body of work and experiences with reader response while completing a creative writing degree.

Christian Defeo

A Doctorate’s Strange Love: Or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Phd.

Creative writing tends to be a solitary, out of the box activity: inspiration is both effusive and transient. Academia, however, has seasons, schedules, deadlines and colleagues. How to bridge the gap between the two? And how does learning to harness imagination to structure prepare one for real life?

This paper will discuss how bridging the gap between spontaneity and academic requirements is an ideal preparation for a productive working life as an author. The topics that will be discussed include:

1. The Chaos Theory of Imaginative Project Management: or, learning how to “swiss cheese” fleeting moments of inspiration into an overall structure. How can project management techniques of iterative software development help one to bridge chaotically developed elements into a single work?
2. Freeing Oneself from Oneself: or, how having feedback from academic colleagues makes one a better writer by forcing the writer to separate the ego from the work.
3. Welcome to the Real World: or, how learning to live with rules and structure helps with deadlines. How does business think? How can experiences in academia help one prepare?
4. Knowing When to Break the Rules: at what point does one throw strictures out the window? When is it not only acceptable to do so, but necessary?

Alison Habens

Title to Follow

As my PhD nears completion, I find myself on the first page again. The words here were conceived years ago, before I knew much about the novel’s theme of ‘divine inspiration’. Now I know more about the nine muses of classical mythology, who were invoked by poets and philosophers at the start of every creative endeavour, and have written essays dedicated to each of them. My story seems to need a new first page so that I can have my last word on the subject. But just as the historical novelist shows only the tip of the research iceberg, so must I resist the urge not to tell the whole thesis in my opening paragraph.

Ruth Hartle

"Myths of the Near Future": Contributing to a Truly Modern Mythology

In A Short History of Myth, Karen Armstrong wrote that myth is "an art form that points beyond history to what is timeless in human existence". We are "mythmakers", constantly renewing the same stories in order to keep them true. Myths are important, vital, but the reason why is not always clear. We know the stories but why are we compelled to retell them over and over again? What is the value of these old stories? 'Myths mean something', says one female character to another in a Kathy Acker novel. The question is why are the same stories always repeating?

A myth may need to simultaneously change completely and yet stay the same in order to find a place and purpose in a modern society. This paper will investigate the problem of the "middle children" (Palahniuk), the generation who are now beginning to produce art and myth in order to understand the world into which they were born, and the situations which they inherited. There is, without doubt, a "modern mythology" in production; "symbol, myth and image belong to the substance of the spiritual life…they can be camouflaged, mutilated and degraded but…they will never be rooted out" (Armstrong). Old structures are set on fire, and something truly new emerges from the ashes. Retellings become reinventions. The old stories begin to shine again.
Using a mixture of texts, including novels by Neil Gaiman, Douglas Coupland and a cross-section of my own short story work, this paper intends to examine both the issue of the role of the writer in producing literature which does double duty as mythology and the question of what form a modern mythology must take to be truly relevant to the 'middle children'?

Sonia Hendy-Isaac

The Reading-Writer or The Writing-Reader?

This paper explores the notion of the reading-writer (or the writing-reader) and the importance of this dynamic within the Creative Writing workshop environment. My line of enquiry considers to what extent Creative Writing students are ‘equipped’ to engage in the act of ‘reading’ and critical discourse, both in terms of creative/critical self-reflection and their engagement with the work of their cohort; how do we actually define and teach, ‘criticism’ to these writers.

Students are often summarily told to read - read widely - read everything! The quandary is not only why we ask them to read but how? If as tutors, we do not demarcate the terms and intentions of reading, and foster the skills necessary to utilise that reading within their learning experience, then what is its purpose? I propose that the presence of literary theory and analytical approaches found in the Literature class may be highly advantageous to the dynamics of the Creative Writing workshop, which is ultimately founded on critical reading. The constructive side-effect of this approach would also aid the ‘critical response’ pre-requisite of current assessment methods within academic teaching of the subject.

Whilst this may raise contentions and conflicts in pedagogy across the spectrum of teaching Creative Writing, especially since the establishment of the field as a separate academic discipline stems from its extrication from the English Literature umbrella; it is an issue that requires attention. It is inherent that the pedagogical approach taken to instruct our ‘writers as readers’ should not stifle their creativity, or simply churn out another batch of literary critics, but the distinction between the reader/critic and the student writer is currently creating a dichotomy; students are invariably assessed within the Academy as writing-readers or reading-writers, so how should we support their academic endeavours?

David Humphrey

In 2007 I was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing for a programme of work entitled Liberty Horses (A Novel): Narrative and Cultural Analysis in Postmodern English and American Texts. This work consisted of an original piece of writing as well as a critical essay on existent English and American texts. Such a project immediately describes the dilemma for those both undertaking and teaching Creative Writing. That is, the division between the academic and the wholly creative which such courses inevitably comprise.

It is the intention of this paper therefore to look at the limitations placed on the writing of an original work within the confines of an academic programme, such as time, acceptability to the overall aims of the creative writing programme and to reference these with my own experience of undertaking a PhD. I should then like to go on to discuss the problems of the different writing skills required in writing an academic essay and the problems this can cause someone more inclined to the more fictive aspect of writing. In particular I will address the use of the personal standpoint, that is using the first person when referring a discussion to the original work and the necessity to place oneself at the centre of what ought to be a solely objective critical argument.

Finally I will address the need within creative writing to broaden the frames of reference. That is to move away from wholly literary references to allow the bringing in and development of references to other artistic media, such as film, theatre, painting, dance etc and to explore the possibilities of developing relationships with the relevant departments within a university with the teaching and practice of creative writing. As with the rest of the paper I shall draw on my own experience in this respect.

Craig Jordan-Baker

‘All subjective innit?’ Creative Writing and the Politics of Subjectivity

It is something of a truism that the effects of philosophical postmodernism and the politics of mature capitalism have bifurcated to produce a climate of widespread scepticism towards ‘privileged’ interpretation of texts and the very idea of ‘aesthetic excellence’. But to what extent is the rapid emergence of Creative Writing in British Universities over the last ten years a consequence of this? And if Creative Writing has emerged out of this intellectual and economic atmosphere, where does this leave its teaching credo, let alone the concept of academic supervision and grading?

This paper seeks to explore this tension inherent in the teaching of Creative Writing. It will argue that while postmodernity has bred a wider and (generally) healthy culture of questioning of aesthetic and interpretive standards, it has vitiated the role of critical pedagogy inasmuch as the mantra ‘its all subjective’ provides both a defensive and potentially philistine sentiment that serves all too often to close down debate and remove much of the intellectual and academic demands that a Creative Writing course should include.

Linking this to the wider trend of consumerism in education and all that it implies, the paper will also argue that unquestioned interpretative subjectivism reverses the relationship between university and civil society. Where universities would no longer generate potentially ameliorative/transformative ideas and people, but instead would be geared only towards industry ‘standards’ and the requirements and expectations of paying consumers, the university becomes a thoroughly recuperated part of the superstructure. What some may see as a freedom from certain elitist notions of taste and aesthetic excellence can only be a deferral to another set of precritical standards.

Dina Kafiris

A Novel in the Works

The idea for my novel came to me while I was participating in a screenwriting class as part of the Graduate Certificate in Film and Television at the University of Technology in Sydney, 2000. A fellow student suggested that only a novel could meet the demands of the numerous events taking place in the script. Workshopping the script, I was made aware by the class how they saw it taking place in Europe, the place that had become my home for the last seven years before returning to Sydney. Therefore, the complexity of human relationships and the influence of environment would become the focal point of the novel.

Nine months later, I left for Greece, after a difficult year of trying to adapt to a country which was once my home. That winter, I spent seventeen days in a patisserie cafe in Kifissia writing the story by the fireplace, about a woman in search of her identity. A Greek-Australian trying to discover her heritage, finding the country her parents spoke about did not exist; a country also in search of its own identity in a new Europe.

After having finished the first draft, I knew it needed structure. Being too close to the narrative I decided that I required proper guidance. Therefore, I chose to apply for the PhD.

A degree would not only discipline me in the craft of writing, but unveil the journey that I would be taking to discover not only myself as a writer, but also the main characters. Having a mentor would assist in putting it all into perspective. On finishing this novel, I might even be able to answer the question: Who am I?

Vikram Kapur

The Post 9/11 World Seen Through the Eyes Of a Brown Writer

Seen through the eyes of a brown writer, the world since 9/11 is eerily Chekhovian. In the popular psyche, the brown man is enshrined as a faceless bearded terrorist. Yet, far from being sources of terror, most brown men are as much victims of it as anyone else. They are the ones most likely to be stopped by airport security. If they happen to be Sikhs, they may be beaten up, because, thanks to their beards and turbans, they embody somebody’s idea of a Muslim. And like everyone else, they are just as likely to be killed by a bomb going off in a bus, an airplane or a tube station.

This dichotomy between popular perception and everyday reality gives the writer, to paraphrase V.S. Pritchett, several things to glimpse through the corner of the eye in passing. These glimpses—comic, tragic, banal, brutal…all add up to snapshots that chronicle the evolution of the human experience since 9/11, painting a picture of an existence that is every bit as random, haphazard and inexplicable as the one depicted in many of Chekhov’s stories.

Vikram is unable to be at the conference due a prior engagement but he has kindly offered a paper for this website

David Manderson

Paradox: The Creative Crucible

Is postgraduate creative writing on the campus still a paradox? Yes. But what does that mean? Does “good” creative writing (and how can we define it?) result from an unproblematic application of theory to creativity? Or does the true artist reject all thought in favour of the Muse and the ‘unfettered’ imagination?

This paper argues that paradox is not only alive and troublesome in the making of valid writing on the academic campus but is a vital part of the process. Whether there are better places to make it is irrelevant because all ways lead to the same crossroads. The tensions of theory versus creativity form a creative crucible where ideas melt and meld, and, as they dislocate, alter, challenge or affirm, forge the writer. The tempered material they harden into is the writing. This process does more than merely exercise the imagination, it heightens the writer’s ambition, intention and level of achievement. And it keeps her or him in touch with the current demands of contemporary fiction, no matter its genre.

Mike Martin

The completed PhD and its ironic postscript.

I read before I wrote for my Creative Writing PhD. The research, at best tangential to the companion literary work, was too broad in scope at inception. It was initiated from that comfortable position of complete ignorance. Only when better informed, that is not until the research study was actually finished, did a real creative value emerge. This was long after the work, a novel called Three Jumpers, was finished and, incidentally, delivered to the publisher, Paper Books.

Unlike the PhD novel, it is my fourth novel (a work in progress, with a working title, The Hungry Dark) which will be the creative response to the study, “Death-Work in the Californian Works of Aldous Huxley and Evelyn Waugh”. Two of the key findings of that study are that Aldous Huxley’s Ape and Essence (1948) is an allegory about the USA’s contemporaneous censorship regime, and that its structure was inspired by Evelyn Waugh’s essay, “Half in Love with Easeful Death” (1947). These findings beg two important historical questions. Why was Huxley never indicted to appear before HUAC (The House Committee on UnAmerican Activities)? What was the conversation over the dinner table on that unlikely occasion when the Huxleys hosted the Waughs in their LA home in March 1947? The work in progress will provide hypothetical answers to these questions.

It should have been The Hungry Dark, not Three Jumpers, which was submitted with the study for PhD examination.

Lesley McKenna

Writing the Wrong: The Liberating Effect of the Research Degree in Creative Writing

This presentation will begin with a brief discussion about how the creative freedom that the Masters by Research in Creative Writing offers can help postgraduate writers to explore issues that surround taboo subjects, by retaining an intellectual framework within which to work. It will be followed by a reading of the first chapter of Clutching Shadow, the novel resulting from my research, that explores brother-sister incest and family dysfunction.

Steve O'Brien

I sing the Rapparee; A Biography of a Poem

From my grandfather I inherited portable songs of great power. The critical component of my recently completed PhD is an exploration of how the Sean Nos ballad tradition informed and influenced my poetry. One old rebel ballad - Eaman an Chnoic is the creative kindling for my poem The Rapparee. In turn, this one poem served as the equinoctial point from which a whole sequence of poems grew. These poems flare with violence, blood and martyrdom. And just as I am a spectator to the raw meat of the ballads I am also an alarmed witness to the strident clamour of my own writing. A certain professor Jung has much to say about the ragged and fanatic man who stalks these stanzas.

Shelly Ocsinberg

Silent Cries: Why Women Behave The Way They Do and How This Impacts Their Future

As the novel typically reflects changes in our social environment more generally, my aim is to investigate whether sexual discrimination as a theme has ceased to exist, and if not, how it presents itself in the contemporary novel. Using a reading from Women as Lovers by Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek and extracts out of Silent Cries, my own novel in development, I will support my arguments of socio-political shift in the position of women within society.

For centuries feminist writers have fought for gender equality and women’s rights. Writers such as Virginia Woolf and Charlotte Perkins Gillman, to name but two, have paved the way to economic and social freedom in the West. Today we see a decay of community values, loss of socialisation and women behaving against their nature in the current wave of binge drinking, violence and mass fashion conceptions such as plastic surgery, dieting and over-consumption. Whilst men have been drinking and behaving violently for ages, the media focuses on women and stratifies them solely on the basis of this behaviour.

My project's aim is to transpose within the novel a broad spectrum of sociological issues typical to the west in the twenty-first century. It will embody the reaction of western women to these issues and how it affects their behaviour. Consequently it will reflect the increase of individualisation and loss of community consciousness, the Pyrrhic victory of women's right to earn their own money, and the overall expectation of western society on women in general. With this I intend to bring sociological understanding of the condition of women to the mainstream of readers, and consequently contribute to socio-political awareness and its power to change the future.

Jo Powell

Why do a PhD instead of just writing a novel?

Is it a matter - to paraphrase Humpty Dumpty - of which is to be master? It was only as I neared completion of my own thesis that I felt able to answer these questions.
My motivation for embarking on a PhD in creative writing was based on an interest in experimenting with the conventions of the crime fiction to produce a novel in which I could play with the codes of the genre and push at its boundaries. I also wanted to examine how the generic conventions could be used to explore cultural constructions of the female body. This involved examining the writing of published contemporary female crime authors as well as reflecting on my own work. My project has been one of research, writing and reflection, focused around the metaphor of fragmentation - both of the female body and of the boundaries of crime fiction writing. The final novel is intertextual in which the writing and the narrative itself is a form of research as opposed to the conventional academic essay or thesis.

Without researching and analysing these codes and conventions and reflecting on them in my own work I would have been unable to experiment with them as I have done in the narrative. Using the metaphor of fragmentation and adapting the genre's conventions, I have been able to learn much about the genre and my own writing through this process of writing as research and organic reflection on the poetics of my own writing which would not have been possible in an academic thesis. The novel is not only evidence of research and reflection, it contains that research and reflection and an integral element of its text.

Alexander Pheby

Out of the Garret and into the Tower: Why the Myth of Isolation is Bad for Writers

While the mythology of creative production centres on the isolated and solipsistic relationship between the artist and the muse, how accurate is this characterisation in practice? The typical criticism of creative writing courses is that, by allowing influences other than the author’s into the creative process, the individuality of what is produced is diluted and the writing produced becomes formulaic. The tacit assumption is that writing that is produced outside of an academic environment is somehow more authentic and free of influence. What of the writer’s relationship with their agent? What of the writer’s relationship with their editor? What, in the first instance, of the author’s relationship with their own expectations of the environment into which their work is produced? Does the unavowed influence of the commercial process act to produce a certain limited form of fictional endeavour? If the creative act is never innocent of external influence then what benefits might a writer find in an academic, rather than a commercial, influential environment? Are there certain forms of writing and praxis that might only be impossible within an academic environment?

Two examples from my own practice:

For my current novel I draw on historical and psycho-analytic sources which are well outside the range of my expertise but are the forte of my supervisory team. With their help I am able to ensure an accuracy and depth of perception in the characters and environment I am detailing that would otherwise be impossible.
Additionally, I am also looking into the possibilities for creative writing praxis that come from genetic criticism - the study, using working drafts, of how certain canonical texts were written - a field of enquiry that would be almost impossible to engage with usefully from outside of an academic environment.

Nigel Robinson

Create or Cant? Why the PhD in Creative Writing is a Buridan's Ass

My paper argues that a programme of creative writing for a doctoral qualification entails a paradox. In its requirement to produce both a practice and a theoretical work, it creates a dialectic with its synthesis located inevitably but aporetically in the practice aspect, the Object to be Investigated. This is inimical to the creative process. While the pressures upon any creative enterprise have historically been diverse, and often bizarre, never before has a writer been required to construct an artifact that systematically examines itself, for a purpose wholly extraneous to that of aesthetic enjoyment in the reading community. The peril is that a self-reflexive work may ensue that, being fashioned primarily to satisfy the dei ex libris of a viva jury unrepresentative of any community but itself, abandons all reasonable hope of autonomy, durability, or marketability. (Has any work of creative writing produced specifically for a PhD ever been read by anyone but the author and those academics who were paid to read it?) If the primary result of a PhD in Creative Writing (the MA quite apart) may be supposed to be a teacher of creative writing of more than usual competence – and what else could be its purpose? - I submit that any demonstration in the programme of the applicant’s skills in creative writing per se is both irrelevant and distracting. Instead, I suggest that the doctoral process focus solely upon the heuristic exploration and evaluation of the applicable craft skills of creative writing and that the practice aspect confine itself to the rigorous probation of these techniques in the pedagogic environment. I will propose some means by which this might be done.

Gavin Stewart

PPhhDD: Why did I feel like I was doing two PhDs (or maybe none at all)?

This presentation forms a complement to an earlier paper ‘So You Think it is All Over?’ that I presented to the ‘In Theory’ conference in 2007. This earlier piece took a long-view approach to my PhD experiences by describing the ever-changing relationship between theory and practice during the pre-doctoral, doctoral and post-doctoral phases of my project. By and large, this paper presented a positive account of my memories of being a PhD student. However, this does not mean that it was an entirely pleasant experience. In fact in my 2007 presentation, I noted that the progress of my project could be mapped “as a series of expectations, frustrations, confusions and enlightenments” (Stewart, 2007).

In this paper I want to focus on one moment of extreme dissatisfaction that came about half way through my studies when it felt like I was struggling with two or more PhDs at the same time. I will argue that this low point was a consequence, in part, of my own expectations for my PhD. It also arose out of the online and inter-disciplinary characteristics of my practice. Furthermore, it was also an unexpected consequence of the awaking of my inner-theorist (that had hitherto slumbered through most of my educational life). However, it was made into a problem by the institutional processes designed to mark my ‘progress’.

This paper will suggest that the ‘PPhhDD’ moment could have been made much less daunting by a more sympathetic and flexible approach to monitoring. However, it will also argue that a number of positives arose out of the resolution of this moment as it forced me to adopt a more realistic and protective approach to my creative life. It encouraged me to recognize the limits of my time, the location of my expertise and my real need to collaborate with other creative practitioners on complex projects. This change of approach, in turn, has helped me to have the resources and fresh insights to take on new challenges.



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