After a short hiatus, our ‘5 Minutes With…’ series is back just in time to celebrate Women’s History Month! In this series we interview PhD researchers across the arts and humanities in Scotland, and throughout the month of March we’re putting a special focus on women-identifying researchers. To kick the series back off, we welcome Shelby Judge, who is a PhD researcher at the University of Glasgow.
What year are you in, and at what school?
I’m a third year (ahh! Where did the time go?) PhD researcher in English Literature at the University of Glasgow.
What’s the working title of your thesis?
‘Exploring feminist adaptations of Greek myth in contemporary women’s writing.’
How would you describe your thesis to someone you just met?
I research contemporary feminist adaptations of Classical myths. I basically spend my time reading novels by female authors that adapt Greek mythology, thinking about the myths they are adapting, how they are adapting them (are there any recurrent themes, techniques, or tropes?), and – most importantly – how they can be read through feminist lenses. Specifically, I am interested in how these ancient myths can be utilised and politicised to present commentary on contemporary society, particularly in terms of feminism.
When I tell people about my research, they tend to say, ‘oh, like Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles?’ or ‘Have you read Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls?’ to which I excitedly reply yes! I also like it when I’m asked for my opinion on mythical figures, such as Medusa, Phaedra, or Helen.
What do you like best about your PhD/research/experience thus far? Least?
What I like best about my PhD is definitely my blog: TheShelbiad.blogspot.com
I love being able to share chunks of my research with people, or random mythical tidbits that I’ve come across, or draw parallels between what’s happening in the world and myth. In particular, I find blogging a really useful tool when considering the readability of my thesis – personally, I try to avoid technical jargon as much as possible in my work and I want my research to be as accessible as possible, so blogging really helps me explore my voice as a writer.
Unsurprisingly, what I’ve disliked the most about my PhD experience thus far is COVID. Like a lot of other people in the same position, I feel like I’m missing out on so many PhD experiences and opportunities because of COVID, as well as personally feeling lots of complex, negative emotions about COVID and lockdown life.
What do you wish you’d known going into your PhD program?
That universities push for ‘impact’ and ‘knowledge exchange’ and, while these ideals are very good in theory, they come from a place of privilege and can be quite dangerous for researchers who aren’t cis-het white men and/or researchers whose work is inherently political or activist. I wish that I had a little bit more warning about the very real dangers that come with wading into the public eye – it’s not all happily sharing your research with the wider world, it can be a traumatising experience of doxxing and dog-piling. While HEIs encourage us to expand our reach, they are quite unprepared for supporting us when that goes badly.
What do you do for fun outside of academia?
I really enjoy baking – what could be better than a hobby that results in desserts, right? Recently, I made a Mini Egg and white chocolate cookie pie with a gooey chocolate centre that was almost as much fun to bake as it was to eat!
I also like to read in my spare time, but for me it’s a very blurred line between “for fun” books and “for work” books – contemporary women’s writing is both my primary research interest and my personal favourite. Researching what you love: It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to do it!
Would you like to be interviewed for our ‘5 Minutes With…’ series? All are welcome to email Danielle.Schwertner@glasgow.ac.uk