I am a PhD student at one of the University of London colleges, now in my third year. I have a BA (Hons.) from one of Canada’s leading universities and did my Master’s here in London as well. Since my fourth year as an undergraduate student, I have been fascinated by spy fiction. Specifically, I have been fascinated with the way Lacanian theory seems to explode over every page and the immeasurable landscape spy fiction provides for furthering our understanding of human and political psychology.
At 5 o’clock 1 January 2010, having spent an uninspiring last day of the decade under a mountain of blankets trying to draw my immune system from its death throes, I lay awake debating whether or not I should continue my so-called research into spy fiction when so much seemed stacked against it.
- I’m broke. Even part-time, writing a PhD is expensive and time-consuming and I have been struggling for the past two and a half years to keep up.
- The economy sucks. My partner, adored by me and wonderful though he is, cannot support me financially, which makes overcoming 1. more difficult.
- I am now in my third year as a part-time student and feel I have accomplished relatively little. That feeling is remarkably unmotivating.
There are other reasons, but these three loom large when you’re lying in bed staring at the ceiling wondering what the hell you think you’re doing with your life.
Just as I decided I should just pack it in, forget it, throw in the towel, take what meagre savings I have and get out while the getting’s good, something came over me. Unfortunately for financial solvency, I love my research. It’s silly and admittedly self-indulgent and it won’t save the world. But it’s fascinating.
The fictional spy world takes the best and worst society, often married to ideological stalemates and geopolitical conflict, and creates a forum in which to let them fight it out.
It seems so black and white: good conquers bad, we beat them, the winning side flips the losers the finger and does a victory lap as the crowd goes wild, before graciously returning to the podium to give the losers a lesson in what makes their system awesome.
However, it’s never quite as easy as that. The losing side will inevitably find a way of secretly contaminating the winner’s urine sample, thus attempting to prove them both unfit for the number one place and cheaters besides.
The paranoia and contempt that comes from both sides throws everything into conspiracy and anxiety, with accusations and counter-accusations being flung in every direction, until what was once barely an issue morphs into a towering inferno of deceit, betrayal and intrigue.
And what makes it all the more interesting is that the fiction we read is heavily based on real-world perceptions and events, and perceptions of events, and events in perception. You see? This is what I’m researching!
So, I have decided that 2010 is the year I stop faffing about and stay focussed. In June 2009 I invented International Spy Novel Month (InSpyNoMo) in an attempt to get back on track and it worked. What I need now is to take InSpyNoMo and turn it into InSpyNo — Ye? Or simply, The Spy Project.
This blog is thus designed to keep me inspired and on track. It’s my hope that in a year’s time I will have been published in a modest handful of reputable academic forums, that I will have completed two full chapters of my thesis as well as revising and mostly finalising what I’ve already written and that I will have figured out how to get enough funding to enable me to achieve these goals.
If you’re reading this, please leave a comment! Discourse is a great and powerful thing.