One of the other things I've promised you is a bit more insight into my DPhil, now that it's over. I started it in the autumn of 2009, a couple of years into Stuck-in-a-Book, so since then it has been a constant companion to my blogging, and many of the books I've read for my DPhil have appeared here. You might be surprised at how many haven't been related; when I decided to go back and do some graduate study, one of my main self-stipulations was that I'd still have time for recreational reading. Books and reading mean too much to me to have them exist only as part of an academic apparatus. Perhaps that's one of the reasons it took four years rather than three, but better four contented years of enjoying reading than three miserable years of hating it, I think you'll agree!
It felt astonishingly good to finish. I enjoyed most of my time doing my DPhil, and I'm definitely glad I did it, but I was also very much ready to finish. It's mentally exhausting, and quite isolating, and I'm looking forward to having colleagues and shorter deadlines!
It's difficult to know where to start in explaining the 92,957 words I handed in (and the 70,000 or so words which got cut along the way), so I've decided the easiest way is to give you a one-sentence summary and the contents page, so do ask about any bit which interests you!
In one sentence... my thesis was about middlebrow novels between the world wars which used the fantastic (i.e. set in the real world, but something supernatural happens) and sought to explore connections between manifestations of the fantastic and social anxieties affecting the middlebrow reader.
And now the contents page (I've cut out page numbers). If you see typos, don't tell me!
Introduction: ‘There may be not one marvel to speak of in a century, and then […] comes a plentiful crop of them’
Chapter One: Placing the Middlebrow and the Middlebrow Place
--‘The British, with their tidy minds / Divide themselves up into kinds’: between the brows
--“I am not an Intellectual and don’t wish to be thought one”
--‘This literary allusion not a success’: playing with the classics
--The places and communities of middlebrow reading
--‘Good service for the ordinary intelligent reader’: the role of the Book Society
--The fantasy of the ideal home
--The home in flux
--Servants and the geography of the home
Chapter Two: ‘Adventures of the everyday are much the most interesting’: Finding Room for the Domestic Fantastic
--Minding Ps & Qs: commonsense, etiquette, and inheriting the Gothic
--‘The duration of this uncertainty’: questioning the fantastic
--‘Slipping from waking into sleep’: turning points
--The complicit reader and the style(s) of the fantastic
--‘The Oedipus complex was a household word, the incest motive a commonplace of tea-time chat’: the middlebrow Freud and the fantastic language of psychoanalysis
Chapter Three: ‘My Vixen’: Marriage and Metamorphosis
--‘Hold her husband and share his ecstasy’: marriage and sexual knowledge
--Non-fantastic versions of metamorphosis
--Observer and observed
--Metamorphosis of the domestic
Chapter Four: “Creative Thought Creates”: Childlessness and Creation Narratives
--Frankenstein: the modern creation novel
--‘A rather muddled magic’: (lack of) method in the domestic fantastic
--Blurring the line between creator and created
--The creative power of desire and the difficulty of identity
--Adoption, agency, and non-fantastic creation
--“I hate her and I love her and – I’m half afraid of her”: power struggles
--Miss Hargreaves, madness, and the God complex
Chapter Five : ‘She can touch nothing without delicately transforming it’ :
Re-creating Self in Lolly Willowes
--‘A sort of extra wheel’: Laura and the Willowes’ home
--‘One of these floating aunts’
--‘A Constant Flux’: the quasi-metamorphosis of Laura Willowes
--'The bugaboo surmises of the public’: subverting stereotypes of the witch
--‘You are too lifelike to be natural’: Laura’s Satan
--‘She smiled at the thought of having the house all to herself’: Laura’s independent space
Conclusion: “Is this really a part of the house, or are we dreaming?": Fantastic Novels as Alternative Spaces
--Why the fantastic?
--The fantastic as investigation--After the Second World War