Why study for a PhD?

Mag 53 Cover

(Should there be a fully Creative PhD? 
Sarah Dobbs questions the requirement to validate a PhD in Creative Writing with a critical exegesis.)

I realise that anyone who knows me has heard me moan (quite) frequently about the PhD. But talking to a friend the other day, whose PhD is in another discipline, made me rethink aforementioned moanage. It’s clear that there’s a misunderstanding about what it’s supposed to do. Why it needs to be in the Academy.

The link above is to an article I wrote about this, and my views have wavered since then, and just been reaffirmed. An oscillation of conviction, if you like. But the passion to demonstrate the link between writing, culture, experience and consciousness (and, let’s face it, the human condition, yeah I said that)  is still there. Moreover, it’s about demonstrating the usefulness of that link. I think.

A PhD in Creative Writing isn’t about writing a good novel. Well okay, yes, it should be readable, it should be of publishable standard. But you can’t judge it purely on those terms. Is the language pretty? Oh give her a PhD then. Do you like the characters? Bing bing bing, Would you like fries with that, Doctor? No no NO.

That misunderstanding needs erasing and it can only be rewritten with solid PhDs with original aims and intriguing practice. Or, better, intriguing praxis. The programme should be a creative way to explore and demonstrate research. These novels can be different from bookshop books; no shame in that. They can be in bookshops, yes, but the intent is often different or other. That’s what I think today anyway. For so many reasons, I’d love to do my PhD again. Not because I want to write another novel, or a different / better novel. But because I would have understood this distinction and the research and the expression of that research could have been so much more. Don’t waste your chances people.

And, if you’re a lady, and the AHRC is making you go OMG then keep these people in mind. I couldn’t have finished without FfWG – funds for women graduates. There are other funding opportunities.

So if anyone says to me again, hey, I’ve written a novel, can I be a doctor? I won’t say, well, I see your point. I’ll say, no you fecking can’t. And forward them the link to the above.

So, um, there.

Back to marking…

(To clarify, I moan about the PhD because of this: It can feel like a creatively degrading process, much of that is because of funding, money-(lack of)-induced-rickets, etc. But it’s because the process is different than writing a novel outside of academia, whether literary or commercial).



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