Classically Inclined

July 27, 2018

The ending of eras

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 4:43 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Today is a pretty huge day. I have just sent off the complete draft manuscript for the Monster Book, now under the working title of Tracking Classical Monsters in Popular Culture.

The last fortnight or so, as I’ve worked towards this point and it’s looked increasingly likely that it would happen when I thought it would, has been surprisingly emotional. As I put everything into a single file yesterday, I found myself feeling nauseous with a fear which didn’t seem to have a particular cause; this morning, walking into the British Library reading room to check some final references, I found myself tearing up. This feels very emotionally different to sending off the manuscript of the Seneca book, perhaps because that was tied up with the completion of the PhD and rode on the waves of emotional exhaustion caused by that, perhaps because it is a hot, hot summer and I am anxious about far more in the world at large than I was when I was working on the Seneca book. (It is not a surprise that I have free-floating anxiety when the most common conversation I am having with friends at the moment is about our respective plans to stockpile medicines.)

But it is the end of an era in other ways too. Today was one of the summer meet-ups for Shut Up and British Library, a loose group of academically inclined people who get together at the BL every two or three weeks to carve out some research time in good company. I came up with the idea at the start of my sabbatical in autumn 2016, a way to make sure I still saw humans despite being on research leave. Rather than stop  at the end of my sabbatical, the group’s now become a bit of an institution; it’s contributed to the completion of a handful of articles and chapters, and a PhD dissertation – and now this book. Shut Up has always been about the Monster Book for me. I’m going to have to find something else to do.

Because another era that ends (or starts to end) here is obligations that I put myself under pre-infans. I signed the contract for this book before he was born. He has never known life without this project (although he’s been very understanding about it). One of the biggest shifts in becoming an academic parent, for me, has been a streamlining of effort – I can no longer work on more than one project at once, and having the contract has meant that finishing the Monster Book has been (from necessity as much as  from choice) the priority. Now this is off the table, I can look at my research agenda with more of a critical eye, not driven by what I’ve agreed to do for other people, thinking about what I can realistically achieve and produce, and indeed what I want to get done. It marks the change in how I order my research work-flow – a change I’ve been working up to mentally for the last few months, but now that it is here, quite an unnerving one to be facing.

Part of the reason for that change is my attempt to move towards a more sustainable work pattern. The risk of moving into mid-career is that you take along habits which are going to mean you burn out. It is not sustainable to work at the intensity of the ECR years without that taking a massive toll on you; you have to find other ways of doing things (including, for instance, establishing personal workload limits to stop yourself getting overloaded without you noticing). While doing the Monster Book has been fun, it has also been really quite intense. I went through a period of at least five months where I was writing around two thousand words per week to try and get the manuscript finished by the contracted deadline. I have written 88,000 words more or less from scratch in (very nearly precisely) two years. It’s been made easier by the fact that the material is fun to work with, and that I haven’t had to become familiar with what the nineteenth century Germans thought on this issue, but that doesn’t make this any less big. It’s been a big job. And now it’s… not there.

One of my reasons for wanting to get the manuscript sent off, besides the fact that the original 1st May delivery date is now well behind us, is that now I have the month of August empty. No conferences, no deadlines, a few research things to think about, some light teaching prep and admin to do. I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard to get to this stage – and while I’m not taking a month off, I’m looking forward very much to taking my foot off the pedal and cruising.



  1. Congratulations Liz! I hope you take some time to relax and celebrate yourself soon 🙂

    Comment by Holly — July 27, 2018 @ 6:09 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, Holly! The plan is definitely to take August as slowly as humanly possible and chill out a bit, whilst reading whatever the hell I feel like – really looking forward to it!

      Comment by lizgloyn — July 27, 2018 @ 8:07 pm | Reply

  2. I am saddened that you felt no need to learn about what nineteenth-century Germans thought about monsters…

    Comment by NevilleMorley — July 27, 2018 @ 8:30 pm | Reply

    • Well, I don’t think they’d have had a great deal to say on the subject of Xena: Warrior Princess… but Freud turns up! Does that count?

      Comment by lizgloyn — July 27, 2018 @ 8:31 pm | Reply

      • Maybe not explicitly…

        Comment by NevilleMorley — July 27, 2018 @ 9:02 pm | Reply

        • That is, maybe not explicitly on Xena. Freud definitely counts, but I would have expected Nietzsche to have things to say about the monstrous side of antiquity.

          Comment by NevilleMorley — July 27, 2018 @ 9:04 pm | Reply

          • And in any case that wasn’t intended as a serious comment, but I’m too old to do emojis.

            Comment by NevilleMorley — July 27, 2018 @ 9:05 pm | Reply

            • It’s alright, tone was appreciated – but obviously my disciplinary training runs deep and I have to become defensive when the nineteenth century Germans come into play 😉

              Nietzsche, interestingly, doesn’t come up in modern discussions of monster theory! Didn’t think about seeing what he’d say independently, although I’m not sure it would have made much difference.

              Comment by lizgloyn — July 28, 2018 @ 9:26 am | Reply

  3. Congratulations!!! This was a huge task and you’ve done a great job of managing the workload to a deadline (seriously 3 months past your planned delivery date is well within the normal and acceptable variance). The bit about changing your work rhythms and developing strategies to manage your workload is also worthy of some cheering. I hope you are taking at least some of August off. You deserve a holiday and a bit of a recharge before things ramp up again. But I can also see how just having some time to reflect a bit on your priorities moving forward is a good thing. Go you!!!

    Comment by jovanevery1 — July 28, 2018 @ 3:22 pm | Reply

    • August is definitely a gearing down month, and there is proper holiday scheduled in there as well! I’m becoming increasingly struck by the fact that this is a real ‘wow’ moment… but also that I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t had a contract in hand and a sense that that needed to be honoured. I’m not getting a contract again until there’s a manuscript that’s at least half-finished!

      Comment by lizgloyn — July 31, 2018 @ 11:22 am | Reply

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