PhD diary part 1: getting started

So I’ve finally done it – I’ve upped sticks and moved to Lancaster!

Induction week is now well underway and I’m starting to come to terms with my new life as a PhD student in the department of English & Creative Writing. As things start to settle there seems no better time to post my first ‘proper’ blog on my research and my PhD journey.

Project summary, October 2016

For those of you who don’t already know, my project title is ‘Life, death and the sovereign state: an Agambian investigation of American science fiction published during the Vietnam War (1955-75)’.

The idea is to combine literature and philosophy of Giorgio Agamben to investigate how life functions as a discursive construct – in particular in relation to war and the science fiction of the Vietnam War period.

To do this I will focus on two key questions:

  • How is war used to frame life as a discursive construct?
  • How is the transient question of who can kill and be killed used to frame our concept of life, and what it means to be alive and subject to sovereign rule?

At present I plan to focus on about half a dozen key science fiction texts of the period by American authors, including (but not limited to):

  • Slaughterhouse 5
  • Babel-17
  • The Gods Themselves
  • The Man in the High Castle
  • The Forever
  • Starship Troopers
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

As with any PhD project, of course all of the above may change, and I’m currently looking at some Ursula Le Guin texts to also investigate. I’ve already read The Left Hand of Darkness, and have The Word for World is Forest on order as it fits in nicely with a number of my key themes.

Books, books and more books

My philosophy bookshelf, October 2016

My philosophy bookshelf, October 2016

At the time of writing I’ve met one of my two supervisors – Brian Baker – and look forward to meeting Arthur Bradley later this week.

I’ve already been pointed in the direction of some readings relating to SF criticism and look forward to Arthur’s input on my (increasingly large) philosophy reading list. Thus far I’m working my way through Benjamin, Arendt, Foucault, Deleuze, Badiou, Esposito, Butler, Derrida and of course Agamben.

I’m hoping to get the majority of background and core reading done (with notes) by Christmas from which I can start drafting my first chapters. Thankfully Lancaster has an excellent library, and I’ve already scouted myself out a good seat, so I can’t wait to get started. Now the real work begins!

Until next time,

Mike

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