23 Things

I first thought about writing a blog when I began my PhD in April 2014, and here I am over two years and an almost completed PhD thesis later on my second blogpost! What has finally prompted me to start blogging? Quite simply, deciding to take part in the ’23 things for research’ course run by the Researcher Development Programme at the University of Surrey. The central aim of the course is to engage researchers with a range of digital tools that can help them to develop professionally and personally.

It may have been a long journey to get to this point but it seems fitting that it should come about as I am facing the transition from my PhD to (hopefully) the next step in academia. I am hoping that this blog (and the ’23 things’ project) will allow a space for me to document ideas pertaining to my research, open up a dialogue, and engage with people who are interested in similar things.

I am not entirely new to the benefits of digital tools and social media, I have an academia.edu page where I can share abstracts, conference papers, and publications and from the moment that my supervisor recommended that I boost my academic presence by starting a Twitter account (@amylouise921), have been in LOVE with it as a platform. While I am more of a retweeter than a tweeter (something I hope this blog will make up for), Twitter enables me to connect to a vast network of people who engage in topics that cover my broad range of interests: from medieval literature, to the study of women, to feminism, to queer theory, and all of the intersections in between.

So I am very much looking forward to what all of this brings and hope that it can help me to communicate my ideas to a wider audience.

What’s in a name?

Writing is not something that comes particularly easy to me (perfect choice of career I’m sure you’ll agree). Contemplative and a fusspot, I overanalyse every word and spend a lot of time deleting what has taken me a long time to write. However, I have decided to commit to writing a blog.

It should come as no surprise then that the first challenge I encountered after making this decision was what to name it. My aim is after all is to engage with people about my research on medieval space and identities and I wanted the name of the blog to convey that.

For reasons unknown, the first thing that popped into my head was ‘Friends on the Other Side‘, a dark voodoo inspired song from the 2009 Disney film The Princess and the Frog. On the surface this film set in 1920s New Orleans about a hardworking, ambitious woman and a pampered prince being turned into frogs has little to do with the medieval world. And yet, as the song continued to play in my head, I began to make connections between the film and some of my primary research interests: transformation, transgresssive identities, magic, strong female characters, and monsters.

In addition, one thing that has struck me while writing my PhD thesis on queer time and space in medieval literature has been the frequency of liminal spaces as points of contact in the romances and lays that I have been working on. In Sir Orfeo for example, Heurodis is playing by an ‘orchard-side’ (66) when she falls in to an enchanted sleep and meets the Fairy King and in the Wife of Bath’s Tale, the knight encounters the loathly lady ‘under a forest syde’ (990). The ‘Otherside’ also evokes the concept of the Otherworld, an alternative space in the medieval imaginary that is populated by fairies.

And so here we have ‘The Medieval Otherside’, my very own liminal space where I hope to reflect on aspects of my research and draw connections between the medieval world and the now.