Oscar Wilde’s Questionnaire

Originally posted on Mature Age Renaissance:

My canadian twitter friend @justinohearn (who incidentally researches the rather interesting subject of Victorian porn & lit) last month posted the following questionnaire originally posted by Oscar Wilde in An American Confession in 1877. And as everybody’s favourite subject for discussion is themselves I thought I’d give it a go too….for my own benefit really but perhaps you’re interested in my answers too! I’m a bit strange in that I rather like these sort of things and I love reading other’s responses, which I suppose could be interpreted as just being nosy or, as I rather see it, being genuinely interested in what my friends & acquaintances would answer. So if you feel inclined to do it please add your answers in the comments below!

Your Favourite:  you’ll notice that sometimes I can’t chose just one answer, sorry!

  1. Colour?  red, periwinkle blue, teal
  2. Flower?  pastel coloured roses & peonies…

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Oscar Wilde and I Share a Favourite Subject: Ourselves


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This post on Oscar Wilde’s favourite subject came up on my Twitter feed the other day from twitterer Sarah Ross whose tumblr, Paxvictoriana, can be found here. The post consists of some questions filled out by Wilde in 1877 from something called An American Confession. It’s basically a list of favourite things. I know a guy who likes to talk about himself almost as much as Wilde did, so I went ahead and answered the questions as well. I’d love to see some others’ answers.

Your Favourite

  1. Colour?  blue 
  2. Flower?  fragrant ones 
  3. Tree?  weeping cedar 
  4. Object in nature?  deserts 
  5. Hour in the day?  midday (if I’ve slept till then)
  6. Season of the year?  summer 
  7. Perfume?  varies, but Geo. F. Trumper’s Sandalwood at the moment 
  8. Gem?  the one with the richest colour 
  9. Style of beauty?  art deco 
  10. Names, male and female?  Jack, Priya 
  11. Painters?  Dali, Bosch  
  12. Musicians?  too many to list  
  13. Piece of sculpture?  pass  
  14. Poets?  pass 
  15. Poetesses?  what a strange word 
  16. Prose authors?   Philip K. Dick, Wilde 
  17. Character in Romance?  the knight 
  18. Character in History?  Jack Saul 
  19. Book to take up for an hour?   magazines? 
  20. What book (not religious) would you part with last?  all my books are religious 
  21. What epoch would you choose to have lived in?  none of the past ones. I’d only be comfortable visiting for a short time 
  22. Where would you like to live?  London 
  23. What is your favourite amusement?  unfriending on Facebook 
  24. What is your favourite occupation?  haven’t found one yet 
  25. What trait of character do you most admire in man?  awareness of personal hygiene 
  26. What trait of character do you most admire in woman?  as above 
  27. What trait of character do you most detest in each?  sanctimony 
  28. If not yourself, who would you rather be?  the man who could say things in song 
  29. What is your idea of happiness?  the free pursuit of intellectual stimulation 
  30. What is your idea of misery?  geographical remoteness 
  31. What is your bete noir?  how much time have you got? 
  32.    ”     ”    ”  dream?  pursuing whatever I want without worrying about money  
  33. What is your favourite game?  never given it much thought  
  34. What do you believe to be your distinguishing characteristic?  pessimism girded with confidence  
  35. If married, what do you believe to be the distinguishing characteristic of your better-half?  forgiveness, empathy
  36. What is the sublimest passions of which human nature is capable?  I’ma go ahead and ignore the grammar of that question and say music  
  37. What are the sweetest words in the world?  well done  
  38. What are the saddest words?  Big Bang Theory is such a good show  
  39. What is your aim in life?  to accomplish something I never thought I’d be able to  
  40. What is your motto?  let’s go with something in Latin  

The PhD Process: Passing Qualifying Papers


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It’s been about a month since my last post. That post was about the culture and procedures of academic funding in Canada — and I guess they could be extrapolated to academic funding in general. The thing that I forgot about was why I had started this blog lo those many almost two years ago: namely, that I wanted to try and make the PhDing process somewhat less murky for others who found themselves in the same position as I was (and still am) in terms of the unavailability of examples of things like qualifying exam reading lists, qualifying papers, and the like.

Well, good news: now that I’ve finally reminded myself of my initial mission* I’m posting my successful qualifying papers for your perusal. I say they are the ‘successful’ ones because the first go round I had to do some revisions on one of them. At UBC English you get two chances to submit your qualifying papers before your oral defense. This means that, at the discretion of the graduate committee, I was instructed to take that second chance and was offered plenty of feedback as to what the paper was lacking.

I haven’t reformatted the papers for consumption here and you will notice the dates differ on both papers. The later date on paper 1 represents the date of the final revisions’ completion. After both papers were accepted, the oral defense was scheduled at which my committee plus a representative from the graduate committee asked questions about my papers and the direction(s) of my future project. That took about an hour and my committee automatically dissolved (as per the rules of UBC English). I am not quite a PhD candidate yet, as there is still the next stage — the prospectus — to deal with before I’m set free to work on my dissertation. To bring us up to the present, however, I am currently sorting out my dissertation committee and working on my prospectus. Expect another post like this nearer the end of the summer when that bit is all said and done.

Feel free to have a look at the PhD work I have posted thus far here. It might give you a better idea about the process in the Humanities, even though every program is going to be different.

*’Initial Mission’ would be an awesome band name. You can have it if you put me on the guest list at your shows in perpetuity.

Qualifying Paper 1 Erotic Memoir

Qualifying Paper 2 Pornographic Print Culture

“Recommended but not funded”

This was the result of my most recent kick at the federal funding can. For those unfamiliar with the Canadian system of federal scholarships for doctoral work, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council is the major funding body for this type of academic research in Canada at the graduate and professorial levels. If you’d like a bit more about this process see my post on grant proposals. What exactly ‘recommended but not funded’ means is that my proposal was accepted and good enough to receive an award, but there was nothing left in the pot to actually consummate that marriage. I am lucky because I am in a position — thanks to my department and family — where my continued pursuit of a PhD does not hinge on SSHRC funding. It would be nice to hold a SSHRC scholarship because that opens more opportunities for funding things like overseas research. I would be remiss to mention that ‘recommended but not funded’ does not mean the same as ‘no.’ On the contrary, it means that there is still a chance of an award if another is declined for any reason.*

At any rate, this post is not a whinge or a sour grapes kind of thing. I have plenty of friends and colleagues who have received this funding and that’s an incredible thing. I know how hard it is to make it in the academic funding game and anyone who makes it should be applauded. I hear plenty of griping around funding season about projects that didn’t ‘deserve’ to be funded but were. That kind of crap doesn’t help anyone and is petty beyond belief. Does every funded project ‘deserve’ its funding? I don’t know. Someone thinks so. There’s a subjective element to funding decisions that is going to make it a necessarily flawed process but, hey, that’s the Humanities, folks (I’m sure this is the same for other disciplines too).

Congratulations to all those who were awarded grants this time around. To those who weren’t, it’s cool. If you’re doing a PhD, your success is not tied to your ability to receive SSHRC funding. You’re already doing a PhD and an entire department at a university somewhere has your back. That looks like success to me.

For those interested, I’m posting my successful SSHRC proposal below with the note that this was my fourth time applying. So, yeah, it’s harder than it looks.

*Since I don’t know how far down the list I am, I might be in a Prince Charles situation or I might be one of Liz’s numerous titled yet ultimately unimportant grandchildren.

O’Hearn SSHRC 2013

The Decision

Originally posted on Archimedes' Archive:

            I’m taking the time to write this in the – likely misguided – hope that it will prevent me from having to repeat myself with all of you: I have decided to withdraw from the PhD program at UBC. This was obviously a really difficult decision to make, especially given the fact that I received a tremendous amount of personal and institutional support, and that my performance in the program had been promising. So why does someone walk away from something so significant that he or she has invested a tremendous amount of time and energy in? It should go without saying that this is a deeply personal decision and I think my reasons are quite different from many others who have done the same thing. What follows is my attempt to clarify my reasons for getting to this point.

            First of all, I…

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The Library Recall War


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The spring 2014 semester has been the semester of the recalled library book for me. I have had no fewer than seven recalls, the latest one being merely five days ago. I can’t help but feel these are somehow personal attacks on my research by malicious hordes who fear my exposing the truth about Victorian pornography. I’m pretty sure big pharma/data/oil are all in on it.

If I can be serious for a moment, though, I need to flesh out this whole culture of librarying. Now, the reason I think I am taking these recalls somewhat personally is that I don’t live within a reasonable distance of my institution and so I’m having to return the recalled books via post (you know, that thing that costs money). I don’t expect that there is any way those recalling the books can know this, nor would I expect them to care if they did…so long as they really needed the book they’re recalling. It’s every borrower’s right to have access to a given library’s materials. I get that. I do. My fear, however, is that some recalls may be haphazard. It takes more than simply spec for me to recall a book. I have to make sure that it is something I really need. Some of the books that I’ve had recalled this semester were available online — which helps me out because I still have access — had multiple copies available, or were borrowed and returned almost immediately by the recaller. Imagine my surprise when I planned on waging a fully spiteful recall war in an effort to give the inconsiderate recaller(s) a taste of their own medicine only to find that the items were listed as available in the library stacks. Zut alors!

As such, I’ve got a couple of tips for those who may recall first and ask questions later.

  1. Ask yourself if you really need this book.

Maybe you feel like you do because it lists a keyword for the thing you’re researching? That’s not really a good reason. When I don’t have immediate access to a particular item but I found it during a keyword search or some other ephemeral thing I’ll try and find someone else who’s read it. Chances are, if the book is at least a few years old, there’s a review or two floating around out there that will help you decide whether the book is really what you need. Or, alternatively, ask someone else who knows shit about the topic if the book is worth getting and will add anything to your work/research. Who? You’re at a university, use your imagination (hint: not the swimming coach).

2. See if it’s available electronically.

I have colleagues who manage to never step foot in a library. I envy their electronic research kung fu. I myself have only the most tenuous grasp of finding things online, but even one as incompetent as I can usually find at least a snippet of things online, if not a full text. Newer texts will usually have some sort of online presence as publishers try and make their wares available on every platform and, more often than not, university libraries will have electronic copies of new and/or key texts. It seems like a contradiction for me to be telling folks to find a text electronically before recalling the physical copy, and that’s a fair point. Please note, however, that these are simply steps to take while deciding whether recalling the work is the necessary thing. I do this myself. I have to convince myself that it is absolutely necessary for me to obtain a physical copy of a text, which most likely means that someone will have to make a special trip to the library. A minor inconvenience, to be sure, but it’s only polite to consider others when making requests. This is not to mention also that I find most electronic versions of texts cumbersome, especially if I can’t download a pdf version that I will print out as a last resort.

3. Recall the book, but don’t abuse the privilege.

As I mentioned above, nothing is more disheartening than thinking items you’ve gone out of your way to return have not been used thoroughly. But, hey, maybe you really only needed half a chapter of a specific book. Who the hell am I to judge your work? I’m nobody. Could you do me a favour, though? Make a show of it. Keep the book for longer than a couple of days. It’s cool. Most libraries send you courtesy emails telling you that your book is coming due soon so you don’t even have to rely on your memory to know when to return the thing. Can’t return it when the library reminds you nicely? No problem, it’s 2014 now and you can renew that shit online. No human interaction required. If nothing else, please make the recallee feel that their efforts to get an item you have recalled have not been in vain. If there were an academic library episode of Seinfeld I feel it would have covered the social conventions of this interaction succinctly. Since there wasn’t an episode like that, all you got is me. Sorry about that. I feel I could use a guy like Mr. Bookman sometimes, though.


Ethics and the University: A Graduable Profile of Linda Baines


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Dearest Graduable Readers,

This is what you have been waiting so patiently for. The profile of Linda Baines, a PhD student in the School of Management at University of Southampton studying the interactions of knowledge exchange, innovation, and social responsibility. You can find out more (after you’ve read the interview) on Twitter, Linkedin, Academia.edu, or DelBea. Linda also hosts #phdchat on Twitter periodically which, if you don’t know already, is one of the most useful hashtags in the academic world. Below is our interview about her research, how she came to PhD studies after working in the public sector for a number of years, and the similarities between the UK and North American university systems. Thanks for reading. Enjoy.Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Thanks for agreeing to be profiled, Linda. It’s great to talk to you. Let’s start with a little bit about your research.

I’m looking at the ethics of exploiting the knowledge and ideas that come out of the research that universities and public research labs undertake, and the values and ethics that underpin this. For instance, when biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies work with universities there can be conflicts between the companies wanting the research to be kept secret and the universities wanting to publish their results. So, what are the ethical limits within which universities and academics are bound or socially responsible for exploiting  their research and knowledge? It’s closely linked to what universities are about, their roles and perceptions of this.

Also, what happens if a tobacco or some other company wants to fund research at a university but their involvement is a conflict or makes the researchers uncomfortable? Could they then refuse and what are the boundaries within which they must operate? I’m focusing, in short, on the ethics of showing the benefits of research or proving academic worth.

So what if that large tobacco company, for example, or some other contentious source wants to donate money to build a new wing of a university for research?

To give you one example from the UK, a few years ago Muammar Gadaffi’s son donated a large sum of money to the London School of Economics and he was also awarded a PhD, to which there was a large outcry. On the one hand, universities are under pressure to try and find additional sources of income because the government has cut funding, for instance. On the other hand, the university is accepting money from a regime that the government is against, so this apparent trade off can happen.

What’s the climate like for doing a PhD in the UK? In North America there’s a sort of all-or-nothing culture in graduate school and PhD programmes especially. It doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t people doing a PhD and working part- or full-time out of financial necessity. How are the funding programmes different in the UK and how has corporatization affected academia there?

Two things: first, the trend toward academic corporatization is prevalent in the UK as well. We’re a few steps behind North America, though. Second, there is a perception that the proportion of administrators has grown, the metrics and the measuring that academics have to do in the form-filling and paperwork has grown along with it, and many have said that this takes away from their research and teaching that they really want to do. So, it’s not just a North American phenomenon. You can even look to Australian universities, for example. I think it’s a global trend right now.

When you register for a PhD in the UK you can register for full-time, which is about 3 years, or part-time, which is about 6 – 7. It’s not unusual for people in the UK to be doing a PhD on a part-time basis. You’ve indicated that it is a little unusual in North America to be doing so. In fact, I was told that approximately one-third of the students in my programme were doing it part-time. I was surprised by this number as well. Normally those doing their PhD part-time are working part- or full-time and even those doing full-time PhDs are sometimes working. The main sources of funding are public institutions that give grant funding or studentships for doctoral research to universities for Science, the Humanities, and so on. The competition for this funding is getting more difficult as cutbacks take effect, though. You have to be outstanding to get one.

That’s similar to Canada and they’re also being cutback. We’ve had a fairly fiscally (and socially) conservative government for the last decade or so and grad students are finding themselves having to seek other forms of funding either through university endowments or other types of private scholarships and awards.

Yes, we have charities like the Wellcome Trust or sometimes big companies will endow a chair at a university. There are similar patterns, I think.

When you say you’re ‘self-funded,’ do you get any funding at all from the government?


So all your expenses are out-of-pocket for your PhD?

Yes – well – let me work backwards and tell you how I got here. I used to work full-time in the public sector. I was in commercial management and there came a point where I wanted to put a theoretical framework around what I was doing. I found a course at Manchester Business School and did a Master’s there over three years.  I was fortunate to be accepted into the PhD programme at the university that my dissertation supervisor moved to. The university I’m at now, University of Southampton, is much closer to home than Manchester as well.

Do universities give your life skills acquired outside of the university any kind of weight in the application or degree progression?

No, they don’t, but when you’re discussing with your supervisor what your needs are, you look down the list of prerequisites and course requirements, and figure out which you need and which you don’t based on the skills and experience you bring with you. The only real course I did was the compulsory research methods course and that was very useful.

You’ve started your PhD later than the majority of students, so what’s your take on taking breaks before or between degrees and have you encountered any resistance from academia in doing so?

Not resistance, but speaking anecdotally, some universities is not properly set up for part-time students. It’s difficult to become part of the academic community as a part-time student so I’ve had to find different ways to deal with that, such as finding communities on Twitter and PhD buddies outside. I think also that my supervisor and I are more equally matched in terms of confidence and complementary experience than if I were a student, say, in my twenties. And I think that’s healthy for me.

Yes, I think that’s important. It seems to me that confidence and, ultimately, independence from your supervisor is a powerful thing. What do you think of attaining independence as the ultimate ‘goal’ of a PhD?

I think it is. I  share my plans and strategies with him, of course, and I also  seek advice and guidance from him but not permission. And I will listen to and follow his advice. One piece of invaluable advice given to me by him on my dissertation has been: what three new things is your PhD going to say about your topic?

That’s actually a great way to get yourself thinking about your project in another light.

Yes, I think it is.

Backing up just a bit, let’s talk about why you’re doing a PhD now.

I suppose it was always something, in the back of my mind, that I always wanted to do and I think that if I don’t do it now I never will. Having done a master’s you get a little ‘taste’ of academia. When I had done my master’s, it had been quite a while since I’d done any university so I found myself getting used to new kinds of academic techniques and procedures, particularly the conventions of academic writing. But, yes, I think getting the ‘taste’ for it again was important. It’s great being able to do original research into something that you’re interested in, not knowing what you’re going to find or where it’s going to take you. It’s a bit like trying to start writing a novel from scratch, but you have certain parameters and a framework to guide you.

How would you frame doing a doctorate to someone else with a background and experience similar to yours?

I think you’ve really got to want to do it and you’ve got to choose a topic that excites you that you can stick with for several years. You’ve got to be able to keep plodding away at it consistently; it never really leaves you. And you may not do work on it every day, but little things like cleaning up a file or something that adds to the productivity. Even just thinking about your project is important. It’s also very important to allow yourself a break. It takes a while to get back into studying, however. It’s a bit like when you stop exercising for a while. It takes a while to get back into it.

I think it’s also important to have support. I’ve got lots of family support and the fact that I’ve got my daughter rooting for me as well as my other half. If not for that, I don’t know that I’d be able to do this. Their support goes a long way in terms of my motivation.

Thanks, Linda, for taking the time to talk with me today. It’s been a pleasure talking with you today. Cheers.


So, that’s the end. Don’t forget to read the other current academic profile on Graduable.com on Dr. Eva Lantsoght. If me peppering you relentlessly with questions sounds like something you’d like to do for an hour or so, contact me and we can set something up. I want to hear about your research and share it on my blog. I really, really do.


Talk on Jack Saul and Sins of the Cities of the Plain


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Hi All,

The clip I’m sharing is about a half hour long and I promise you it is not a video to try and convince you to poster your town or hamlet with the face of an African warlord. Instead, this is an amateurish attempt by me to make a previous talk I gave into a listenable file. The text of the paper I’m delivering in this clip can be found in its edited form here. So, enjoy my foray into the world of video editing. You’ll also be glad to know that I’m getting used to the sound of my own voice.


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