Academic conferences, academic publications, creative writing, Early Career Reseacher, Publishing academic research

The doctorate unbound: publications versus the bound volume

2013-09-09 16.03.09

I was excited to see a fellow doctoral traveller’s thesis photographed on Facebook, leather bound, and with gold lettering. She is now a Dr, and her twinkling gold letters on the leather bound cover were a joy to behold. In contrast, my university ran a mile from having to store a hard copy of my doctoral research, uploading it instead onto a server.

I wasn’t that fussed, actually. While the newly minted Dr. I congratulated on Facebook had her doctorate conferred in London, and that might be the way things are done there, I see my university’s logic in the doctorate unbound. Literally and metaphorically.

Sure, I wanted to see my academic articles in print, of course, but not printed in a bound volume that I had achieved by taking it to the printers. I wanted those words critiqued by peer reviewers apart from my examiners, and accepted for publication in academic journals and/or book chapters.

However, I know of others who have long held the fantasy of getting their doctoral thesis bound, despite the fact that their university simply doesn’t want it. They went ahead and had it printed up anyway, fulfilling the long held dream of seeing their names in gold on the cover.

Of course, whether or not it is a requirement to have a bound volume of the doctorate for ready for submission, candidates are aware that what they hand in surely isn’t the last word on their research.

I think that eschewing the concept (and fetish) of the bound submission if possible reminds us that our doctoral research is the beginning of the journey.

It’s also important to remember that ‘research active’ isn’t just what happens after you land (if ever) an academic job. You should be presenting and publishing your research throughout your candidature – enough so that when you finally submit, your work is already in the public sphere.

Okay – maybe this doesn’t apply to STEM candidates (I’ve heard that their research is akin to state secrets) but sharing your work and progress, exposing your ideas and writing to the cold light of day – and an audience – are all part of doing a doctorate in creative writing.

 

Evelyn Tsitas chapter "Boundary Transgressions: the Human-Animal Chimera in Science Fiction"
Evelyn Tsitas chapter “Boundary Transgressions: the Human-Animal Chimera in Science Fiction”

 

I had my taste of the printed thesis back in the analogue years, when I was required to present my fourth year undergraduate fine arts mini thesis (10,000 words) this way. I have a copy of it in my unpacked books somewhere. There is no doubt a (very dusty) copy in the university archives. The research (on semiotics and 1980s art magazines) is bound, sealed, delivered. Who looks at it? No one. And it’s not enough to drag it from the shelves yourself, flicking through the pages of that hard grind of study that produced the tome. Research should be set free. It is the springboard to other research, and doesn’t live in between the printed pages of a book expensively printed by an academic printer.

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Of course, if your university demands you print the thesis as part of your submission requirements, you must print it. But if all that is required is an electronic version? Well then, I say print that disk or upload to USB and move on.

Granted, handing in a disk to the Graduate Research Office with my ‘final’ version as the rite of passage after being passed by examiners lacked a certain romance. But I can see it saves on storage space, and the work is searchable by the world at large.

It’s actually a tough call to publish as you progress through your doctoral studies. While my aims were to always have the thesis published and presented in stages, showing my research to the world in tentative steps, that required being judged for it all along. I remember my first presentations at conferences; sure, there were some tough questions, but I have to say the academy was welcoming. I made many friends and contacts across the globe in my key research areas when I presented at three Inter-disciplinary.Net conferences at Oxford University through my doctorate.  These are wonderful for the emerging academic and demand that everyone fully participate – a big difference to conferences where senior academics adopt an arrogant Fi-Fo (Fly in/Fly out) attitude of presenting their paper, listening to no one, and having a tax-right off holiday.

 

Evelyn Tsitas chapter " Strange Erotic Encounters: Speculative Fiction and the Trope of Bestiality"
Evelyn Tsitas chapter ” Strange Erotic Encounters: Speculative Fiction and the Trope of Bestiality”

 

Coming as I did from the media world and demands of daily journalism, I was amazed by the slow progress of academic publishing. Factor in the endless waiting after a paper is accepted and the endless waiting after submission to see if it might be accepted – the wheels turn at a pace which I’d say was glacial. Except in this era of global warming, glaciers can melt faster than the response time from many academic publications.

When a paper was accepted, it was a major cause for celebration – and rewrites! Each editor or editorial team has a particular style, and some desire more input than others. My exegesis chapters grew up to become real papers, and these have been pushed, pulled, restructured, massaged and cut back. Others have required lengthy additions, a refocus, and some demanded – hardly anything. What I can say is that I responded to all requests for changes, and made them. You can’t afford to be precious with your work, or arrogant.

That’s not to say it was easy! Sometimes the space between submitted paper; accepted paper and editorial request for changes can be lengthy indeed – a year or more. You move on, other work priorities take over, and it’s hard to get back into that headspace again. Not to mention the fact that several of my papers were accepted while I was frantically finishing my doctorate, and others were reworked at the beginning of this year – after I had officially graduated, and also moved house. All my notes – and books – were stacked in boxes in the basement…

Evelyn Tsitas chapter "Monstrous Breeding Grounds: Creation, Isolation and Suffering at Noble’s Island, Hailsham and Rankstadt"
Evelyn Tsitas chapter “Monstrous Breeding Grounds: Creation, Isolation and Suffering at Noble’s Island, Hailsham and Rankstadt”

That meant putting in all my time after work and on weekends going back to the exegesis. Not an easy task – or welcome one! And it meant that many other things I wanted to do with my creative writing were put on the backburner while I did these papers. It often felt like the equivalent of sticking a hot fork into my eye – utterly painful and pointless. But in the end, I can proudly say that four chapters of my exegesis have now been published, as well as presented at conferences in Australia and overseas. I find this more satisfying than getting the ‘final’ version of my exegesis printed in a leather bound book. Because the chapters have evolved since my doctoral submission.

And there is more to come. The well of four years of doctoral study has not dried up – the exegesis is a research gift that keeps on giving.

As part of my creative writing doctorate, I needed to explore the process of how the research impacted on my creative writing, and the methodology used to tackle the hybrid that is the creative writing doctorate. I’ve submitted an abstract based on this chapter for a conference next year in London. Fingers crossed.

Likewise, my final exegesis chapter on further explorations in my research has become the basis for an abstract I have submitted to another conference mid next year. Once must plan ahead!

 

Evelyn Tsitas chapter "Are We Not Men? When the Human-Animal Cyborg Talks Back"
Evelyn Tsitas chapter “Are We Not Men? When the Human-Animal Cyborg Talks Back”

 

I still feel I have several other abstracts lurking and papers arising from my exegesis, because it isn’t ‘finished’ as such, but the foundation of my continual research into issues of hybridity, identity, human-animal relations and monstrosity. My exegesis, like Frankenstein’s creature, is unbound. And that’s why it literally is unbound, as I do not want my research to be boxed in, held between the covers, and regarded as “complete”.

The next step is to develop the research into a book sparked by my ideas, and I am hoping that the fact that the work has been published and approved, as it were, by the academy in one form will give me the authority to present a different version of the work for a wider audience. As my supervisor often reminded me, it’s hard for me to totally remove myself from my past as a tabloid journalist.…always seeking a large audience, always aiming to make complex work accessible and interesting.

And what’s wrong with that? 

Indeed, the journey from thesis to book demands doctoral candidates look beyond their academic research, and consider marketing, product placement, competitors, unique point of view, their own author profile and potential audience.

Evelyn Tsitas two short stories "Xenos" and "Undeceive"

Evelyn Tsitas short story “Xenos”

As this is a blog about the creative writing doctorate, the question you are probably asking as you read this post is the same as my youngest son’s. “When are you publishing the creative component – the novel???!” I am working on it! So far, I have had the middle chapter of my doctoral novel published – in the collected short story book “Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut”.  My short story “Xenos” won the the Scarlet Stiletto Award-Dorothy Porter Prize for Innovation in Crime Writing and became the inspiration – and anchoring chapter – for my doctoral creative work.

But just like doing a creative writing PhD, there are two sides to the postdoctoral story as well – the exegesis and the creative. Getting the academic research published requires a different set of skills and part of the brain than writing the novel and getting it published. There will be many blog posts to come on the novel’s journey, don’t worry.

At the moment, while pitching the novel to publishers I am happy with having the exegesis out in the world. Unbound.

Roll Call: My exegesis chapters – and final publications

1. “Boundary Transgressions and the trope of the mad scientist” – became  “Boundary Transgressions: the Human-Animal Chimera in Science Fiction” in Vol 2, No 2 (2014) Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism

2. Monstrous birth tropes and hybrid breeding grounds – became “Monstrous Breeding Grounds: Creation, Isolation and Suffering at Noble’s Island, Hailsham and Rankstadt” in Monstrous Geographies: Places and Spaces of the Monstrous. 2013

3. When the hybrid talks back – became “Are We Not Men? When the Human-Animal Cyborg Talks Back” (with Dr Lisa Dethridge) in Navigating Cybercultures, 2013.

4. The erotic nature of the hybrid – became ” Strange Erotic Encounters: Speculative Fiction and the Trope of Bestiality”, in “Forces of the Erotic”. 2014.

5. and the creative component – the middle chapter “Xenos” published in Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut.  Clan Destine Press. Ed Phyllis. King.

 

 

academic publications, Brand Identity, Early Career Reseacher, Publishing academic research

Holy Matrimony! The peril of the ‘married name’ for women in academia

2013-09-21 11.30.17

Mrs George Clooney may rue the day she changed her name after marriage to her Hollywood superstar. Statistics being what they are, she may want her name back. And that name is Amal Alamuddin – the name she used at university, the one she used to become a high flying lawyer (currently advising how Greece win back the Parthenon marbles from the British Museum) and the name she with which she basically made a name for herself.

At the same time, more or less, UK heiress Jemima Khan has announced a decade after divorcing Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan that she intends to revert to her maiden name. She writes in the New Statesman that she feels sad about it because she used her married name for so long. And for good reason – use it long enough, and a new name becomes your identity. A woman may build up her brand under the adopted married name, and that’s not an easy thing to change. Brands remain, for better or worse, longer than the shelf life of many relationships.

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Eleanor Robertson from The Guardian speculates that Amal Alamuddin Clooney may have decided on the American actress tradition of hitching the married name to hers – a double barrelled effort – but she still may be on dangerous ground when it comes to her brand and identity. For a man may take his name back if things turn sour.

Flamboyant Australian businessman Geoffrey Edelsten has waded into the debate about whether or not a woman should change her name on marriage by demanding that his estranged wife Brynne stop using his surnameAccording to Daily Mail Australia, an enraged Mr Edelsten said: ‘Stop using my last name, Brynne. You are only using it to get publicity and attention, it’s desperate.’

Edelsten has declared that Brynne, who has a reality TV show that is based on her brand as a glamour wife, ditch her married name, demanding that she “Make a name “ for herself [and] stop leaning on mine, it’s an embarrassment to me and a desperate act of attention.”

This is perhaps a cautionary tale about why women should not change their name on marriage – and a more convincing argument than any a feminist can muster. The former Brynne Edelsten is now Ms Brynne Gordon.

Eleanor Robertson defends Amal’s choice by arguing that “the political valences attached to taking your husband’s name are different for different groups of women, but the arguments we hear most centre the perspectives of feminists with a prominent platform.” However, it takes a woman a long time to build up her resume and credibility, and that shouldn’t be thrown away lightly, no matter if that knight in shining armour happens to be George Clooney.

As MamaMia blogger Jamila Rizvi observed, why wouldn’t the former Amal Alammudin – a renowned lawyer and person of note in her own right – want to keep the name under which she had accomplished so much? The name that she was born with? The name that says more about her culture and ethnicity than her husband’s name?

The fact is that these choices are not the same for men, and that women in academia should think carefully about casting aside their names. The lure of the wonderful and lavish wedding is embedded in popular culture. But isn’t it possible to have the ring, the big dress and the presents – and still keep your name, just as your husband is keeping his?

Amal’s choice is quite pertinent to doctoral students and post docs, because the higher degree journey comes at all stages of the lifecycle, and with it love, divorce, remarriage, recoupling, and conscious uncoupling. None of this means terribly much for men, but for women on the academic journey it comes with the political choice of surname.

If you meet that special someone while a doctoral student (don’t ask me how this is possible, because don’t you have study to attend to???) and decide to be married, will you, like Amal, opt to be Dr Mrs His Surname? Or Dr Mrs Mine & His Surname?

I married very young but was never expected or asked to give up my name. I kept my Greek name through all my degrees and decades of marriage, and though now uncoupled, when I received my doctorate, it was in the name I was born with. My children, who have their father’s name, have never felt confused that their mother has a different name. Indeed, I have a different name to my own mother, though she is still married to my father. She is not Greek and returned to her own more ethnically appropriate name decades ago after Women’s Studies courses at university caused her to question the convention of changing your name on marriage.

My mother taught me this – in your career your name is your business card. It is, like the former Amal Alammudin, the name with which you make your mark on the profession. As a writer, I take my name very seriously. A career in journalism taught me the importance of one’s byline. Indeed, fellow Australian and writer Kathy Lette, who defended Amal in the Herald Sun (Saturday 11 October 2014) has kept her own name despite her long marriage to UK lawyer Geoffrey Robertson.

If you think you can take for granted the fact that you may keep your new married name forever (or indeed, want to keep it forever), think again. Once conscious uncoupling has been achieved, you may find yourself with the added burden of starting over with your publication record and explaining your name change. Just because you are traditional and did your husband the huge ego boost of severing your identity and taking his name, doesn’t mean that when you tire of each other he will not decide that he has other uses for his name, and other partners-in-waiting with which to bestow his mighty gift. Or that he simply doesn’t like you having his name when he no longer has you.

Then again, you might feel you no longer want the name now you are by yourself, and remember, if you never changed your name in the first place at least you won’t be stuck with the name of someone you are no longer with.

You – my dear traditional female academic who has attached so much importance to your acquired name – may find that there is a battle over naming rights. Before you can say “look me up on Google Scholar” you may be asked to hand back your name. Your ‘married’ name that is. Yes, start again with your publication record.

It is simply something men in academia never have to contemplate.

Whether or not to take a man’s name on marriage is something that used to divide younger women from their older married cohorts. Back in the 1980s, no self respecting feminist would use the title ‘Mrs’ let alone dump their surname at the altar. These were the days of being proud to use Ms as a title (before you became Dr) and you could take comfort in watching strong female TV characters like Murphy Brown, who were single, feminist and making it  – and having a great time – in the tough world of media (with their own name).

These days, of course, young women are jumping at the chance to add “Mrs” to their name, and are keen to adopt their husband’s surname as a badge of pride, or, more likely, as a sign of success at having finally nabbed one of those commitment-phobic men.

Just what men think about this name changing game has rarely been investigated, presumably because we expect men to puffer up with pride that a woman will shed their identity for the privilege of being their wife.

But what about when the often inevitable split happens? It used to be one of the reasons women were cautioned not to through away their moniker. It’s not only time consuming to change all one’s official paperwork to a new name – come divorce, and it has to be changed back.

The trouble is, that name – the name you, a married woman, have adopted with such pride, is one that you worked hard to elevate as your own brand in whatever career you developed. You changed your twitter handle to hubby’s name – and now he wants it back? What’s your twitter handle going to be now? @Washisname? That maybe all very well if you have a reality TV show, less convincing if you are attempting a career in academia, for example.

I am intrigued by why men encourage and agree to women taking their name on marriage. Presumably it is an ownership deal for them. Perhaps, as a woman, I simply do not understand why men agree to a woman taking their name. It is not about love, that’s for sure. Love does not need to have matching names (unless you are very insecure). Why then?

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The trouble with taking a man’s name for an academic in need of a publication record is that few women pause to consider that their man’s name might be up for grabs in a divorce settlement. Perhaps it will be a chattel that is disputed in court, bartered, say, in exchange for jewellery given or fought over in return for part ownership of a holiday house?

And is a man’s name, like his fidelity and love, something that can be regifted over and over again in new marriages, leaving an endless trail of wives with the same surname? Or should the previous owners be forced to relinquish the naming rights?

Geoffrey Edlesten has revealed that a newly acquired name may be as transient as most marriages. According to The Daily Mail, Geoffrey has said that he wants his new paramour, Gabi Grecko, to take his name when he marries her. ‘I love Gabi and I want her to use my name once she feels comfortable to do so.’

I rather like the American celebrity ritual of adding the husband’s name to their name on marriage – such as Christy Turlington Burns and Robin Wright Penn. And then dropping it like Farrah Fawcett (Majors) or (as listed on wikipedia) the actress “previously credited as Robin Wright Penn” as they drop the bloke from their life. It suggests that coupledom is a temporary condition, one that should not impinge on one’s identity. It says ‘ I will placate your ego by hitching your name to mine, but like the caravan annex, it will be abandoned by the road side once I decide to pack up and make a getaway, without any costs to my identity.’

 

The image of abandoned surnames littering the highway of love is rather compelling.