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I’m now two months into the PhD. It’s been a steep learning curve for me in many ways but others not. My day job skills come in handy and the fact that I’m researching and analysing topics that I love, means that I’m working harder than ever. I’m taking pain killers to do it too.

The first thing I needed to do was up my reading mojo. I started this well before I actually hit the uni scene. I’m still not where I should be. I need to read faster, harder and analyse more. But I’m getting there.

The next challenge is that I have a lot of topic areas to get across. I have to research a methodology. There’s no tick box here. I have to read the philosophy behind the methodology. Next, I have to research feminism (not in-depth because I’m not doing feminist research per se) but sufficient to understand it, the origins, the different schools of thought and past and current trends. Linked to this is Gender so I’m reading up on that and Queer theory. This links directly I think to my creative work, which will be spec fic with romance.

Then I need to read journal articles and books that deal with Harlequin Mills & Boon novels, with or without feminist analysis for my literature review which outlines what research has been done so I can point out where my research will add value. Absolutely fascinating stuff! OMG!

My independent research is the textual analysis of Harlequin Mills & Boon books from 1970 ish till now and also some interviews/questionnaires with romance authors and readers.

I tried develop a schedule so I could get across everything quickly. My approach of shoving all this stuff into my head led to me not reading Mills & Boon books because I was busy reading everything else. Pulls hair!

I haven’t quite got the schedule developed yet. I am being more balanced.

What I wasn’t prepared for is the change in me. Already I think I’m changed by what I’ve read. I believe I should be objective, unemotional and distanced, but I find I’m passionate, sometimes angry, sometimes so excited and happy. Maybe I need a chill pill or something. I don’t know if other Phders went through the same. It would be good to know. I’m not too upset by this. I like being enthusiastic and I know possibly in future I will have the t-shirt that says ‘don’t ask me about the Phd!’ on it. I feel like I’m surfing a wave of exploration and enjoyment. I wonder why I didn’ t do this years ago. (mostly couldn’t afford to)

I was saying to Matthew last night that this PhD might make me more of a feminist than I am now. I am a feminist but I am my kind of feminist. I’m not affiliated to any particular school. Life made me a feminist. I was subject to child abuse, I was raped at 14 (my first sexual experience) and was a victim of domestic violence and I was discriminated against in the workplace in the 1980s for being a woman. Life made me a feminist.

Feminist are known to rubbish popular romance. I can take that. I don’t  believe in that criticism because I can see feminism at work in the texts I’m reading. Not all texts but its there. However, yesterday, when I read an article about right wing Christian romances being anti-feminist (Darbyshire, P, 2002) I was enraged I think. I knew there were Christian romances out there. I thought they had no sex and took place in Sunday school. (not read one!) and then I read Darbyshire’s analysis and I was appalled by it. His analysis was great but I was appalled at the let’s blame feminism for the world’s problems he identified in the texts and put women back in their place, out of the work place and being subservient to men. OMG! This touched a deep nerve in me. I did the religious thing in my early years. No offense to my ex but I soon learned that I was lot smarter and more capable than he was. The thought that he was going to govern me in the afterlife sent me running and I haven’t looked back. I think people should be free to believe what they like, but I also believe in equality of the sexes and of race.

So that’s me. Two months in. I have a great supervisor. An excellent partner and very supportive friends.

Highland Gathering 1983

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