Our warmest congratulations to Suzanne Leedham on her successful viva!
Suzanne writes an account of her experience as a doctoral researcher, culminating in her thesis entitled ‘The Impact of Charlemagne and Roncevaux in English Literature and Culture from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-First Centuries’ (supervisor: Mrs Phillipa Hardman)
The research for my PhD was wide-ranging and full of material that easily allowed me to retain interest in my studies over the course of three years. While beginning with and focussing on Middle English literature from the fifteenth century, my thesis also covered material up to and including the twenty-first century, and reaching from medieval manuscripts to modern comics and even heavy metal. My research looked at the reach and relevance of the figure of Charlemagne and the Battle of Roncevaux in England in late medieval and post-medieval narratives, considering each in light of its social, political and historical context as well as alongside other narratives in the tradition. As a result of my research into various periods and genres of literature, I was struck by the depth of knowledge and variety of topics that can be covered within one research field: in my case, medieval heresy, political satire, nineteenth-century Gothic, twenty-first-century feminism, eco-terrorism, children’s literature, and even Sonic the Hedgehog. It is truly difficult to restrain yourself to one thesis once research begins, and while this can be a hurdle when it comes to meeting the word limit, it does ensure that, by the end of the research period, you are full of ideas for further work!
Moreover, I found my research to be very helpful in other ways. I particularly enjoyed attending and taking part in a variety of conferences, which not only improved my research and ideas but introduced me to a supportive scholarly community and greatly improved my confidence and ability with public speaking. I also found that the discipline and organization needed to undertake personal research over a three-year period has enabled me to deal with a variety of tasks in other situations. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, my PhD has enabled me to enjoy complete immersion in subjects that I love, and is an experience that I will therefore always be grateful for. Upon examination in my Viva, I felt able to be honest about my interest in my research and my sense of its importance, and, despite being nervous beforehand, found the experience to be very fruitful and enjoyable. My examiners seemed to have a genuine interest in the topic and had taken great care in their examination of it, so that the comments I received and the discussion we had left me with a great insight into work that I thought I had become completely familiar with, as well as with plenty of ideas for further research and publications.