November 3, 2022, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham
Patience is a Virtue
Ella Wydrzynska is a 4th year PhD candidate in the School of English. She specialises in the study of stylistics, with a particular focus on contemporary children’s literature. Financial support from the Researcher Academy’s Conference, Travel and Training Fund allowed Ella to present her research at the most recent Poetics and Linguistics Association conference.
Picture the scene: the biggest international conference in your discipline is coming up (how exciting!). It’s going to be held in the South of France (sounds lovely!). And you’ve just had a paper accepted (omg that’s fantastic!).
Plans start being made, you look into travel arrangements, you sit down to write the paper and… a global pandemic brings everything to a stop.
That’s precisely what happened in March 2020. As with so many other events worldwide, the international Poetics and Linguistics Association (or PALA) decided to postpone their 2020 conference.
But, of course, the show goes on and the lack of travel forced everyone to think outside the box and try new possibilities. For instance, when the time came for PALA’s 2021 conference a year later, the School of English here at the University of Nottingham offered to host it online. As a PhD candidate within that department, this not only gave me the opportunity to present my own research, but I was also able to join the organising committee and learn a whole host of new skills there. From deciding which abstracts to accept, chairing panels and facilitating an online café for virtual networking, to simultaneously running multiple parallel sessions off one laptop when every single computer in the School of English decided to restart at once (I swear I’ve never felt panic like it!), hosting PALA 2021 online was a huge learning curve and I am so grateful for the opportunity it allowed me.
That being said, when it was announced that PALA 2022 was going to go ahead in person and it was back to the original plan of being held in Aix-en-Provence in the South of France… well let’s just say that I was a little bit excited.
Having presented my original paper at PALA 2021, I started work on a new abstract. This time it was based on metalepsis – the blurring of narrative boundaries within a text – with a particular focus on the works of celebrity children’s author, Tom Fletcher. I had just finished a thesis chapter on a similar topic and so felt confident that there was enough academic rigour and new material in this paper to make my mark on the international stylistics community at PALA. The organising committee seemed to agree and my paper was accepted – hooray!
This was my first ‘in person’ conference since the pandemic had started and honestly I hadn’t realised quite how much I missed them. It was strangely emotional to be surrounded by like-minded researchers once again, and the buzz of sharing ideas and learning what people were working on after such a long period of relative isolation is a feeling that I will never forget.
“Getting to present my research to world experts? Receiving their invaluable feedback and insight to improve my work? Engaging with other people’s research to find parallels for my own or learn about entirely new fields of study? You can’t put a number on that!”
I’m happy to report that my paper went well. Part of my presentation questioned an existing model of metalepsis and I’ll admit that I did the dreaded ‘ask the audience’ thing to get their input. Fortunately there isn’t a nicer bunch of people than the affectionately named PALAns and they were more than happy to suggest ideas to help develop my research. As a PhD candidate, this kind of insight from world experts is such a privilege and I cannot wait to incorporate some of the discussions we had at PALA into my own work.
Getting that kind of feedback is a crucial part of conference participation and I am so grateful for the opportunity afforded to me by the Researcher Academy’s Conference, Travel and Training Fund (CTTF) which went towards my travel, accommodation and registration at PALA 2022. While there’s a specific monetary value attached to the CTTF, the overall experience that it gave me is priceless. Getting to present my research to world experts? Receiving their invaluable feedback and insight to improve my work? Engaging with other people’s research to find parallels for my own or learn about entirely new fields of study? You can’t put a number on that!
So while it definitely took longer than anticipated to get there (and I don’t just mean the long queues at Stansted airport when trying to fly), I can hand-on-heart say that every second of PALA was worth the wait. I left filled with a renewed vigour and passion for my own academic work, and can’t wait to see where the ideas developed as this conference will take me.
Now, time to start the countdown to PALA 2023…
Ella Wydrzynska (PhD Literary Linguistics, School of English)
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