Dr Joanna Taylor (completed 2016)
Dr Joanna Taylor completed her PhD in 2016 and now works as a Research Associate on a Leverhulme Trust-funded Project at Lancaster University.
What was your thesis title/topic?
My thesis was titled ‘Writing Spaces: the Coleridge family’s agoraphobic poetics, 1796-1898’. It explored the construction of writing spaces – physical, imaginary, textual and material – in the works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s (1772-1834) children and grandchildren: Hartley (1796-1849), Derwent (1800-1883), Sara (1802-1852), Derwent Moultrie (1828-1880), Edith (1832-1911) and Ernest Hartley (1846-1920). It argued that these writers expressed spatial anxieties as a way to explore their status within their family’s poetic network.
What are you doing now?
I'm now the Research Associate on a Leverhulme Trust-funded Project at Lancaster University: Geospatial Innovation in the Digital Humanities: A Deep Map of the English Lake District (2015-2018). The project is led by Ian Gregory, Sally Bushell and Christopher Donaldson, and it does two main things: first, it suggests innovative ways to read literary works by using a methodology that combines corpus linguistics and GIS approaches with traditional literary analysis; second, it incorporates the design and development of a digital deep map of the Lake District that will lead to a step-change in the digital representation, exploration and analysis of place and space in regional history and literary studies
What did you gain from/enjoy about studying at Keele?
I loved being part of a reasonably small department; I felt that I got a lot more opportunities and support. For example, I was able to teach throughout my PhD, and I organised a lot of conferences and seminars with colleagues (both other PhD students and academic staff). The PhD community was invaluable – I fondly remember many coffee mornings bewailing how dreadful all of our PhDs were, and talking our thesis issues over with each other. Usually, someone suggested something that helped. A big part of that was the fact that we were encouraged to be so interdisciplinary, and that we went through with people from a lot of different academic backgrounds. I think my thesis became much richer thanks to the consistent opportunities to talk about my work with people from a variety of disciplines across the humanities and social sciences in particular.
What advice would you give to current PhD students wanting to go into academia?
My one big tip is to network – but I don’t mean in the game-player sense. I mean go to conferences, seminars, coffee mornings, discipline-relevant exhibitions – and make friends. For me, once going to academic events stopped being about trying to meet the ‘right’ people and getting some kind of definable advancement out of things, and much more about seeing friends and making new ones I got much more out of academia on both a personal and professional level. And it helped that at the end of my PhD I had a lot of people at other universities that I could email and find out if there was any teaching, or other opportunities, available.
A second tip is to not be too hard on yourself. You deserve a life outside of your work, including things like sleep, exercise and family time. Your work will always be better for a bit of time away from it – so come up with a structure that gives you proper working hours, but know that there will be times when you need to be more flexible. Sometimes, you’ll need to work longer to meet an upcoming deadline, or to really explore that great idea. And others, you’ll need more time for yourself, to refresh and get back to academia raring to go. Like any job, no one wants to work with an academic robot anyway!