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The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Posting Problems

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Having just had to move The Pequod blog away from FTP and across to Blogspot, now seems a good time to reflect upon my blogging more generally. As is clear from my postings, the word that most aptly describes this activity is: erratic. After Christmas, I managed a few posts every week, some even on sequential days. Inspired by reading snatches of Antonia Fraser's memoirs of Harold Pinter, and Alan Bennett's London Review of Books diary, I thought it would be great if I could keep track of my reading and cultural encounters by keeping a daily record. Hence began my series of posts headed "Daily Diary."

Well, it worked for a while, but the "Daily" element quickly became a misnomer. Weekly, monthly, and non-existent have become increasingly applicable epithets to that section. The trouble is - as ever - my workload.

Whilst doing my PhD, I was generously funded by the AHRC, to the tune of £12 000 a year tax free. Earning anything like the equivalent as a post-doc has been challenging, and time-consuming.

Luckily, last Summer, I got a part-time job with the Open University. I also had quite an amount of teaching allocated to me at my old university. I already had a job working three afternoons and evenings a week in a university library. I did a bit of web work for my old department. Since Christmas, I also took on a second OU tutor group, and a four-month project to write an annual report for a research institute. Overall, then, I am earning about as much post-tax as I was as a PhD student, and although my income will probably go down next year, as I lose some of my teaching, for this year at least I am going to be able to pay the rent.

The trouble is, with five different jobs, I work more than the equivalent of full time. On a typical week during term, I expect to work from 8.00 to 8.00 on weekdays, and then generally pick up some more work over the weekend, including the afternoon I spend working in my library job. I work, then, for around 50-60 hours a week, although my sheer workload is tempered by the fact that I can often work from home, so mix up household chores with my main jobs.

After days or weeks like this, the last thing I want to do is to continue to sit in front of a computer, and blog. I am, to put it bluntly, knackered. Luckily, the long academic vacations come along to revive me somewhat, during which I drop my library job and also some of my teaching load. Over Easter, for the first time since the summer break, I was able actually to do some research (something I hope to blog about soon), although unfortunately my partner broke her leg early in the holidays, meaning I've taken on a caring responsibility to eat up any spare time I might have had, hence leaving me unable to blog over the last few weeks also.

I met a student late last term, who is always invariably enthused with his course, and the chance to read freely, a chance this student (unlike many others) takes full advantage of. I joked that I was envious. Not untruly, I said that the only times of day I get to read are over my breakfast, and in a half hour in bed at night before I fall asleep. For someone whose profession is supposedly literary criticism, I get barely any time to do any of the two key activities that should be both pleasurable, and productive: reading literature, and writing about it.

The sad thing is, until I can move into a full-time teaching and research post, I can't see anyway out of this milieu. I need to work in all my jobs, so that together with my partner we earn enough to keep my house, drive a car, and have a few niceties like meals out and weekends away. But in that position, tied to the necessity of paid teaching, I have little time to do unpaid research, read, blog, or generally keep up my core skills that should have peaked with my PhD. I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. I need to keep my portfolio of jobs, in order to keep myself in the manner to which I am accustomed, but this means it will be a struggle to find the time to boost my research output, including looking for a publisher for my PhD, which I will need in order to get a full-time research and teaching post.

Still, I should not moan too much. I am still employed, independent, not forced to rely on my parents, and I do have a little loose change in my pocket, which makes me feel smug when I spend my own earnings. I'm off to Amazon, to buy some books...to stand on my shelves, unopened, until I can buy some time.

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Posted by Alistair at 8:29 am


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