Since I began pursuing a PhD, I’ve found that most of my introductions begin with the phrase, “I’m a first year PhD student and I work with the Victorian novel.”
The phrase doesn’t even begin to account for the complexity of my research interests (or my identity, for that matter), but it does say a lot about who I am within the academy. Still, I find myself changing this phrase up for the sake of precision and relatability.
Because, really, the Victorian novel is an enormous genre (in all possible ways), and I’m mostly interested in the manifestations of it that can be categorized broadly as “crime fiction.” More specifically, I’m interested in Victorian crime fiction featuring female detectives and criminals. For convenience’s sake, I often claim to be a scholar of Victorian sensation fiction (which, I am), or more precisely, late Victorian sensation fiction. But I’m also extremely interested in Victorian science fiction and “urban fantasy,” by which I mean texts which mix mystery, supernatural, and realist urban elements (Marie Corelli’s The Sorrows of Satan and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde spring immediately to mind).
Maybe, by the end of this crazy ride they call PhD school, I’ll have figured out exactly how to introduce myself. Maybe slogging through a dissertation will make my precise position as a scholar within that vast period called “Victorian” will be obvious.
For now, I’ve learned to enjoy the self-reflection, the ambiguity, and the re-positioning introductions demand.