An excerpt

April 19, 2012

As I sit here at my desk, in my study, the desk lamp throws my shadow squarely across the page. This shadow is made up of all the elements of me that I know I am supposed to edit out of this thesis.

The shadow of the PhD student who writes is a twenty-nine year old, white, British woman with one ovary. She has recently been going through a bout of insomnia, is struggling to pay the bills, and is experiencing all of the standard anxieties of a final year doctoral student with a few others thrown in for good measure.

When I sit down at this desk to write my thesis, she is my shadow. But at other times, when I email friends, when I feel guilty about not visiting my ninety-three year old grandmother more often, or when I accidentally spend most of Sunday reading novels in the bath, I am not the shadow cast by a PhD candidate sitting before a laptop and a desk-lamp.

In this chapter, I am letting the shadow write too. I am speaking in both of my voices, because I realise as I read back through the other chapters in this thesis, that the shadow’s voice was never quite silenced anyway. It was she who spent hours reading the blogs of infertile women because it was she who had her ovary removed in Lewisham hospital in 2005. It was she who first read A Room of One’s Own, before the PhD student picked up a copy, and it was she who first thought of the avatar as her own online self-portraiture, an idea that the PhD student took up and ran with.

Woolf may have written about the autobiographical ‘I’ as overshadowing the feminine, but here, in this thesis where as Leigh Gilmore would say, it is ‘not licensed’, it is the autobiographical ‘I’ that is liberating me from the shadows, allowing me to walk back into this thesis that I write.