2021 Research Roundup
Despite the ongoing pandemic that most of us are struggling with, 2021 has proven to be year of increased assurance, confidence and sense of direction for me than the (equally apocalyptic) previous year. At the start of 2020, right before the sudden eruption of the pandemic and Sydney’s plummet into lockdown, I began a brand new role as Lecturer and Director of the Master of Research in the Faculty of Arts at Macquarie University. This is an exciting, dynamic, richly rewarding role where I get to experience first-hand and help to shape the amazing research generated by bright, passionate, up-and-coming researchers in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (I love it!). Working with future scholars and discussing their brilliant ideas and insights is inspiring and buoying, particularly when the rest of the world seemed descended into chaos. It is also a very demanding role, and entering into it for the first time, learning the ropes and developing brand new advanced coursework units – all amidst a pandemic and lockdowns – was exciting but all-consuming, leaving little time for much else, especially the many research projects I’ve been chipping away at over the last several years.
Now, however, I’m wrapping up my second year in this role, and despite teaching online for the entire second half of the year during a second (longer) lockdown, things overall are beginning to feel more smooth and well-oiled: I feel like I’ve laid the foundations and can now build on them to continue refining, improving and advancing our program. The second year of this role has felt a little like returning to a foreign city for a second time: you know where things are, what to expect, and you can begin to refine your experience and squeeze even more out of it. On paper, this might have meant getting more of my life back in the evenings and weekends, but where I sacrificed this under the demands of a new job in 2020, I confess to having mostly continued to sacrifice my personal time in 2021, only this time in service of pursuing my research goals (motivated largely by the looming deadlines I had agreed to long ago).
Over several months in the first half of 2021, I dedicated most evenings and weekends to these projects, at the expense of pretty much everything else. Admittedly, juggling this level of research around a demanding full-time job takes its toll and is unsustainable long-term. I was glad to soften my pace in the second half of this year and spend more time recuperating with loved ones while stoking the fire for some larger projects. My goal moving forwards is to find that elusive balance between enough research to steadily advance my projects and enough rest to feel rejuvenated. For now (at the end of the year), I think I’ve found that balance, and I hope to maintain it in 2022. I hope this will be an easier feat as I turn to bigger projects with less immediate, pressing deadlines.
Looking back over this year, despite how demanding it was at times, I find myself feeling proud of what I managed to forge ahead with and bring about for my research, both in terms of publications and some really exciting public communication opportunities. So, to honour that, here is a quick look over some highlights from my research efforts in 2021:
2021 Research Highlights
March saw the publication of my chapter ‘The Supernatural Fourth Dimension in Lucas Malet’s The Carissima and The Gateless Barrier‘ in The Palgrave Handbook of Steam Age Gothic. This was written the year before and I blogged about it here.
Another publication I was particularly excited to see come out this year was my article for the premiere journal in my field, Gothic Studies, titled ‘Haunted by “Lenore”: The Fragment as Gothic Form, Creative Practice and Textual Evolution.’ This was incredibly enjoyable to research and write, and I’m so happy it’s finally out in the world! I blogged about this article here.
This year I also worked on three other articles that will be published throughout next year. Two are interrelated pieces exploring the gothic writing of Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge: ‘The Poetics of Space, the Mind, and the Supernatural in S. T. Coleridge’ will appear in The Palgrave Handbook of Gothic Origins, edited by Clive Bloom (one of 3 volumes in this expansive, field-defining handbook), while ‘Morphean Space and the Metaphysics of Nightmare: Gothic Theories of Dreaming in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Notebooks‘ will appear in Gothic Dreams and Nightmares, edited by Carol Davison and published by Manchester University Press. These chapters draw on work I’ve been doing over the past several years and which actually originated in my PhD research, so it’s a great feeling to have them see the light of day.
The third piece is the ‘Lucas Malet’ entry for The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Victorian Women’s Writing, edited by Lesa Scholl. This was a lovely bit of scholarship to do, book-ending the year along with my aforementioned chapter on Lucas Malet. Malet is a writer who deserves much more scholarly attention: a wildly popular and critically respected writer, spanning the Victorian into the Modern, she’s only now returning to light through the excellent recovery work of several eminent scholars. I’m excited to add my contributions to this important work.
Public Research Communication
In addition to the above scholarship, I also enjoyed some less formal (read: extra fun!) research opportunities. In February I was interviewed about ghosts and ghost stories for the Northern Beaches Review (reprinted in The Canberra Times), after which I was delighted to be interviewed for a student documentary on local ghost legends for the Media, Communications, Creative Arts, Language and Literature Department at Macquarie University.
I also wrote an article, ‘Lockdown Binge: the best Victorian-era TV shows to watch right now,’ which was published in Macquarie University’s The Lighthouse magazine. In it, I talk about why we love to reimagine the Victorian era and review three TV shows that I think are doing it best.
Not only was this article a lot of fun to write but as a follow-up I was interviewed on ABC Radio Sydney:
In some ways listing achievements during an ongoing pandemic feels odd and unnatural, but while acknowledging the struggles and difficulties faced all around the globe (including for increasingly precarious, overworked academics who feel pressured to maintain unreasonable levels of research performance amidst the crisis), I also think it’s important, particularly for Early Career Researchers, to be able to take stock and celebrate what they have worked so hard for, often under these immense pressures and with great sacrifice.
Realising these projects this year, even though it at times meant losing much-needed personal time, was something for me to cling to as a kind of pathway out of the chaos brought on by Covid-19, towards an imagined future. A way to feel like I was building towards something, even if that something was just things that had long haunted my to-do list and conscience, or things I just decided I wanted to do (baking the perfect banana bread loaf was another one, but I couldn’t quite find a way to classify that as research).
Likewise, finding a way to realise the joy in research is particularly important to me, especially as this joy and passion for research feeds back into my teaching of research and communication skills to budding future researchers in the Macquarie University Faculty of Arts Master of Research program. To me, finding ways to share that joy with the world is increasingly important because whether it’s baking banana bread, dedicating time to family, or talking about ghost stories and Victorian-themed TV, every little bit of joy we put out into the world can help provide a bit of respite and inspiration, and help ease someone’s load that little bit more.
Wishing all of you a safe, happy and bright new year ahead!