Introducing: Shalini Sengupta

Introducing Shalini Sengupta from the School of English — don’t forget to follow @sussexreshive tomorrow for a day in her shoes! #TuesdayTakeover



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Hi, I’m Shalini and I’m a third-year PhD student at the School of English.

  1. What is your PhD about?

My PhD is on Modernist Difficulty and its Others: I’m researching (and theorising) the concept of ‘difficulty’ in modernist poetry by looking at bodies that are traditionally not associated with the literary trope. For me, this usually refers to women, effeminate bodies, queer bodies, and people of color: my various chapters are arranged to illuminate how these bodies respond to, challenge, and appropriate the trope of difficulty in their writings. The broader intention of this project is to ultimately show how literary tropes could offer an unique insight into the dynamics of race, gender, and class in the literature of the period they are associated with.

2. As a PhD researcher, what do you want or need from the Research Hive?

Three years into this program, I have realised that they’re not exaggerating when they tell you that a PhD is lonely and isolating, and that it is a really bad idea (particularly if you’re an international researcher) to go through this journey without a peer group. One of my best memories from my years in Indian colleges/ universities is the act of thinking together with people: some of my best thinking, my most rigorous research ideas, have emerged out of conversations with people, and this is precisely what I want from the Research Hive. I think the Hive brings together some really wonderful people from across several disciplines, and the sense of community I feel in that space, the comfort that arises from the realisation that we’re all in this together, works really well for me.

3. What crucial thing have you learned during your PhD that may help other students?

I’ve learnt that discipline and downtime are key if you want to keep it together over the course of your PhD. I sometimes have to discipline myself into taking a break over the weekend, which is a funny realisation. Its also good having a routine that works for you: I usually keep most of my books in a shared workspace in which a bunch of us in English work together, so that I don’t do any research-related work at home. Taking work away from home, and maintaining a clear divide between the two, has really worked for me. Its nice to not feel like your research is taking over your entire life.

4. Where can we find you when you’re not working on your PhD?

I feel like the answer to that changes across the years! Until last year, I would have said the gym or in the movies, or something fancy like that. My PhD is very incentive-based: I give myself little rewards for when I finish stressful deadlines, like going to a nice exhibition or watching a play, or maybe a nice long walk. This year is all about comfort TV: if I’m not working on my PhD, I’m pretty sure you’d find me at home, in my pyjamas,  watching The Good Place, as is right and proper.

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