It’s been a momentous three months since my last post as at the end of September I submitted a book I’ve been thinking about and working on intermittently for over sixteen years. Over the past two years I’ve been able to pull together all that thinking, engage in sustained writing, and produce a book I am truly proud of: Deconstruction, Feminism, Film will be published by Edinburgh University Press in June 2018. It’s a special book to me for many reasons: it’s my first book that extends my work from literary studies into film; it addresses and finally puts to rest troubling philosophic questions about deconstruction that I’ve had since I was a PhD student; and it articulates my methodology as a feminist scholar. Most importantly, however, it is my first monograph since having my children. As any academic parent knows, the effect of having children on one’s career is enormous – it’s not just the actual weeks you take off for parental leave. If you carry the child, it’s the inability to concentrate in the final months of a pregnancy, or even throughout those nine months if one has a difficult pregnancy. It’s the chronic sleep deprivation that arrives with your first child, which, if they are not that mythical beast, ‘a good sleeper’, prevents all but the most basic functioning (and can do so, in my experience, for years). It’s the return to work as a different person, with a different set of commitments and an entirely different relationship to time. It’s all the conferences, invitations, after-hours seminars, international travel that are now mostly ruled out just as a matter of course, with the select few you choose to attend requiring careful and extensive planning. I have no complaints – I chose to have my children, I love them, and they are more important to me than any book. But the pride I feel in having produced Deconstruction, Feminism, Film as well as my babies is enormous. So for any academic parent out there struggling in those early years, doubting the possibility that they will ever read anything more advanced than a picture book again, let alone have the intellectual energy, time and space to WRITE a book again….keep the faith: you will be able to do it again, eventually.
The Proms season is upon is and it’s been my pleasure to try my hand at the presenting game. It’s a very different experience asking the questions to being the one answering them, but I enjoyed it just as much, if not more. To be fair, my first gig could not have been easier since my interviewee, Steven Price, may well be an Oscar winner for his score for Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity but he’s also a very lovely guy who’s retained the down-to-earthness of our shared Northern roots. Steven and I talked about film music, Holst and the anxiety of influence in a Proms Extra live audience event which is then produced for broadcast in the interval of that evening’s Proms Concert. With my presenter appetite whetted, I’m looking forward to my next Proms Extra event on Monday 31st August when I’ll be interviewing the great Hermione Lee about Willia Cather, on the centenary of the publication of The Song of the Lark. If you’re free, come and join us at the Royal College of Music, or tune in that evening for the interval broadcast.
So the big news this month is that I’ve just been appointed to a University Lectureship in Literature and Film at the University of Cambridge. I’ll be heading down South to take up the post on 1st April 2014. I’m looking forward to embracing all things film and literature in the South East, as well as being within easy striking distance of the Big Smoke. One of my main responsibilities will be a special topic paper on Classical Hollywood – my favourite recent discovery is the startlingly postmodern 1941 musical Hellzapoppin’, loved by Lindy Hoppers the world over for its fantastic dance scene, but also laugh out loud funny and smartly self-reflexive about the Hollywood cinema of its time, in particular, and film in general. Well worth a watch over the festive period!