Working on her thesis, Ann moved home to Singapore towards the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. As she completes the final week of Trinity terms she shares her highs and lows of academic and non-academic life, from essay uncertainties and dengue fever to cat fights and publishing success.
It’s the first (traditionally second) day of Week 8, Trinity Term and the last week of the academic year but it feels far from it, because there’s a lot to be done. The first draft of half of my thesis introduction is due Wednesday and while I have a seven-hour time-zone advantage at home in Singapore, there is a cascade of emails to send in relation to the last week of term.
As usual, I get up at 7.30am (or rather I turn off the alarm at 7.30am) and find myself at my work desk at 9am. I open my email inbox and decide the emails can wait till after lunch. Today I have the arduous task of trying to condense theoretical reading that I have done, on and off, over the past one and half years into a series of pithy, evaluative paragraphs on the developments in my field of postcolonial and world literature. There is a strange sense of a time-warp.
By lunch I’m relieved that I have a couple of paragraphs to add on to the ragged end of the document from last week. I send out a couple of feeler emails to current committee members on the graduate student publication I’m on, to see if they’d like to stay on for next year, ahead of Wednesday’s online meeting. I finish my writing quota for the day in the afternoon, and am looking forward to an evening online reading group meeting hosted by a Filippino writer-in-residence at a local literary nonprofit, where we’ll discuss short stories from the 1970s.
I am back at my desk at 9am, and have what to me is the most exciting part of the introduction to write so far. It feels like a good day already because there are no online meetings or distractions. This is the bit where I make a strong case for an approach to reading Anglophone literature that I feel really adds to the scholarly conversation. Again there’s a sense of a timewarp, and I wonder how should I speak to the heavyweights in my field, while adding on observations of my own.
Mid-morning there is a flurry of whatsapp messages from my fellow editors at Food Republic. Our anthology has been prematurely announced by one of the contributors on social media. I promise them I’ll get the Food Republic Facebook page up and running tomorrow. They should know that a PhD is real work.
By the late afternoon, I’m satisfied with what I’ve got in front of me on the word document, and there’s just a paragraph or two more, and the referencing to be completed. In the evening I head out for a run to reward myself, exploring a new route by the storm drain but end up way off-course and in the middle of a housing estate that is a dengue hotspot and supposedly infested with Aedes mosquitoes. In between this and Covid-19 and a PhD, I hope I’ll live to see a better year…
There’s just a couple of paragraphs more to the introduction before I fire up Endnote to finish the referencing. I’m typing away merrily, but with a gnawing sense of doubt because I’ve got my supervisor’s voice in my head and I’m wondering if the introduction is too general, and if I should be offering a lot more evaluation of specific junctures in the intellectual traditions. Granted this is a first attempt, but I know I should be doing better. Nonetheless, it is the submission date, and it is a piece of work completed, and I send it off
I spend the afternoon reviewing the work plan for the next couple of weeks, set up the promised Facebook page for Food Republic, and get some Oxford Research in English journal admin done ahead of our annual review meeting in the evening.
The journal meeting on Teams takes longer than expected, but the upside is that there are several committee members who will stay on for the next academic year, with plenty of fresh ideas. I’m glad that I’m leaving the work in their good hands.
I wake up feeling strangely exhausted and unmotivated – I suppose I deserve a break after meeting yesterday’s deadline? My mind is still going over many of the doubts from the introduction to the thesis and I’m feeling anxious about some of the loose ends from the virtual meeting last evening.
The morning peek into the email inbox pays off: there is a reply from the editors of a special journal issue that I’ve sent an abstract to. They haven’t exactly accepted it, but they want me to revise it, which I’m going to take as good news.