Guest blogger Liz Sage, doctoral researcher in the school of English and senior founding editor of Excursions, has been selected as one of fifteen PhD students from across the world to go and spend a week studying with the feminist theorist, Luce Irigaray. In this post, Liz talks about how she caught this golden opportunity. In Adventures with Irigaray, Part 2: It’s Academia, but Not as We Know It, Liz reflects on the experience.
Long shot, short deadline
I learnt a valuable DPhil lesson last month. Simply put, no shot is ever too long. It’s always worth a go, no matter how you rate your chances. How did I stumble across this pearl of PhD wisdom? It all began with an email I received from an eagle-eyed friend back in early February. Ruth Charnock spotted that Luce Irigaray was inviting doctoral students to apply to spend a week studying with her at the University of Bristol in June this year.
Since the publication of her seminal work Speculum of the Other Woman in the early 70s, Irigaray has been remained one of the most radical thinkers in feminist theory and continental philosophy in recent decades. Controversial, complex, inspiring, and innovative, it was encountering Irigaray’s work as an undergraduate that set me on the path to my present research. So, I set about pulling together a dazzling application. I envisaged spending long, careful hours honing each sentence, sculpting out an elegant piece of prose that would stun Irigaray with my subtle, yet brilliant, use of her work.
And then I realised the deadline was in ten days’ time. Not only that, the invite had been sent out more than six months ago! The PhD perfectionist in me wanted to give up there and then. How could I possibly produce a polished academic CV, a succinct yet stimulating summary of my thesis, and a six-page presentation on ‘the ways in which my work makes use of Irigarayian thought’ in less than six months!? And how does one go about writing a cover letter to one of the most prominent thinkers alive today without consulting every member of the English School who knows anything about said thinker?
Many, many comforting cups of tea later, I decided the answer was to just give it a go. I pulled the lot together in three days, proofed it, got friends to proof it and then proofed it again. By that point, the deadline was a mere day away. Seeing it as an exercise in putting this kind of application together helped me keep a calm head. That lasted until the very last moment – that horrible ‘it has to go now or it won’t make it’ moment – when I realised all of the references had disappeared from my final print out.
I still have no idea what happened. They’d disappeared from my computer altogether. I had no time to correct it. It had to go, or I wasn’t even
going to get considered. I sent it, collapsed for an afternoon, and then forgot all about it.
You know what’s coming. I got in. I have been selected as one of fifteen applicants from across the world to spend a week working
with Luce Irigaray in mid-June. I’ll be presenting my research to Irigaray and the other participants, and discussing the questions and issues raised in my project with the woman who inspired it, in a room full of people whom she similarly inspired. Not only that, but Irigaray will also be running sessions tailored to tackle the themes and issues raised in each researcher’s engagement with her oeuvre. All this will be rounded off with a one-to-one meeting with this influential figure at the end of the week, to focus in on our research. Daunting, yes, but exhilarating, too.
There is a moral to this brag, er, blog. When that golden opportunity comes, just give it a go. At worst, you gain some experience that helps you the next time something comes along and at best, well, I’ll let you know how it goes! And those pesky disappearing references? Irigaray’s asked me to make sure I bring a bibliography with me to the seminar.
Liz Sage, Doctoral Candidate, 3rd year, AHRC funded, School of English, University of Sussex.
Senior Founding Editor for Excursions, The Postgraduate Journal for Interdisciplinary Research.
Liz Sage’s research examines the representation of terrorism in post-1980s literary fiction, using the work of Luce Irigaray and other feminist thinkers to explore the ways in which the concept of terrorism is bound up with contemporary models of masculinity.