• Kat Gupta’s research blog

    caution: may contain corpus linguistics, feminism, activism, LGB, queer and trans stuff, parrots, London

Looking back on 2013

2013 turned out to be an eventful year! I submitted my thesis in February (the final weeks were pretty grim). I had my viva in May and passed with minor corrections. I completed these corrections while performing at the Edinburgh Fringe and got it bound by the excellent Libris Bookbinding, who as you can see, did a beautiful job. This meant that I could graduate in the December ceremonies and graduate I did. The ceremony itself was a bit odd. I especially enjoyed the cajoling for money and the slideshow of an imagined undergraduate’s life, and my fellow PhD graduands and I were a bit baffled by it as it didn’t reflect our university experiences at all – where were the library fines, the teaching of reluctant/hungover undergrads, the frustration of tracking down a book or journal article not in Hallward? But I digress – the slideshow was for the parents, and I got to have a day of strutting around in only slightly ridiculous robes and spend time with my family and partner. In a way, these robes are a place to settle. Whereas my BA and MA gowns felt transitory – I always wanted to pursue further study… Continue reading

Trans seminars

I’m going to be speaking at ‘Trans’ in Popular Representation at the University of Warwick on Thursday. It promises to be a really interesting event and I’m excited to be presenting alongside such cool people! I’ll be talking about the media representation of Lucy Meadows, and focusing on pronouns in particular. It’s something new for me and very much a pilot study of the “is there something worth investigating here?” kind. Anyway, here’s a brief summary of what I’ll be talking about. ______________ Response and responsibility: mainstream media and Lucy Meadows In March 2013, Lucy Meadows was found dead at her home. Meadows, a primary school teacher, was transitioning from male to female; the school announced her decision to return to work after the Christmas break as Miss Meadows. This was reported in the local press and quickly picked up by the national press. Her death prompted discussions of responsible media reporting, press freedom and the contributions of trans* people to society. I collected two corpora of newspaper articles: one of articles mentioning Lucy Meadows and a larger one of general news articles. These corpora are used to identify keywords – words that occur more frequently in the Lucy Meadows… Continue reading

(not) writing in public

It’s been very quiet on the blog and there’s a reason for that. I thought I’d write about the reasons behind it. At the moment I’m juggling several things – an early career researcher’s portfolio, if you will. There are numerous things that I’m involved with, some short term and one longer term, all focused on my area and which will hopefully open doors in the future. However, none of them are things I’m happy to talk about yet – or indeed discuss in detail with anyone but a few close friends and my immediate family. In some cases this is due to the sensitive nature of the project, in others it’s due to the wishes of other people on the project, in others still it’s because things aren’t fully confirmed and I’m loath to count my chickens before they hatch, in yet another yet it’s because it’s still a tentative thing and I’m not sure how closely I want to connect it with my academic identity. If I were a cleverer writer I’d be able to write carefully, giving you enough to make me seem busy and exciting while withholding juicy details of the stuff I want to keep… Continue reading

Student mental health part 2

Following on from my last post about student mental health, here’s a post from the other side of teaching about making space for “quiet students”. There are some really interesting ideas there and it’s made me reflect on my own teaching practice. When I was an undergraduate, one of the people I was taught by seemed to have an air of desperation and mute appeal whenever we scrutinised the floor rather than meet his eyes. I found it unbearable; it would make the seminars drag on (dull – I wanted to get to the interesting stuff!) and honestly, I felt kind of sorry for him. So I talked a lot (which I disliked, and disliked myself for not shutting up) but furthermore, I felt I was being forced into the position of the talkative student who risked looking daft just so that the tutor at least had something to build on. I wasn’t a quiet student, but I resented not being given the chance to be one. When I started teaching, I was determined not to reproduce that dynamic but at the same time, didn’t want to pick on people. I think there’s room for silence as a pedagogical tool… Continue reading

Student mental health

I recently read a Time To Change blog post on starting university with a mental health problem and it made me wonder what advice I’d give to a student in that position. I was an LGBT welfare officer at Nottingham and I considered it part of my role to know as much as possible about structures for student welfare and advice – everything from housing issues to sexual health – all of which stood me in good stead when I began teaching. If a student came to me with a problem, chances were that I’d know where to find information to help them – or at least know where to start looking. Student mental health is one of the things I care a lot about and it both frustrates and terrifies me that information about student mental health can be so difficult to find on university websites. So with that in mind, here are three things that I’d especially like students to know. Identify formal sources of support You’ll probably be assigned a personal tutor who’ll be your first point of contact if you have any problems or issues. If you don’t click with them you can usually swap to… Continue reading

Conference bingo

Another conference season draws to a close. Heather Froehlich and I have been discussing a conference I recently attended and this is the result: Let us know how you get on! Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments. Addendum: We forgot to mention food! I once spent three days miserably eating dried fruit and nuts at a conference because I’d brought that along as a snack, little realising that there would be no vegetarian option. Consider yourself winning if this happens to you, if such a thing can ever be described as “winning”. Also, if your conference experience involves a dying rabbit and having to wash said rabbit’s blood off your hands, at that point you can reasonably be allowed to give up and just drink everything in sight. Continue reading

Viva classics

To prepare for my viva, I came up with a list of viva classics questions and a list of questions specific to my thesis – mostly about weaknesses that I wanted a ready response for. The list of viva classics ended up being more useful than the list of perceived weaknesses and so I thought I’d share it. My examiners started with a couple of these questions to put me at my ease (ha), then we moved to going through my thesis chapter-by-chapter, then we finished by talking about plans for dissemination. What is the main contribution of this thesis? Why this topic? Has your view of your research topic changed during the course of the research? Who has done the main work in this area? Who is your audience – and what is your message to different elements of your audience? Where do you position yourself? What would you do differently if you started now? What have you learned from the process of doing your PhD? What research questions does this thesis open up? What are your plans for dissemination? The first question is an absolute gift as it gives you the chance to give a good summary of… Continue reading

Edinburgh post!

I am currently at the Edinburgh Fringe performing in Lashings of Ginger Beer Time’s production of Fanny Whittington. This is my first ever acting (deemed too rubbish for the school play in secondary school and I’m not sure being a tree in a primary school assembly counts) and I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying it! My thesis is also making its acting debut as the script calls for a Really Big Book. Today I saw two other acts. First up was Job Seekers Anonymous by Sh!t Theatre. Becca and Louise – or “Blouise” – are a confident duo of the “laugh because otherwise you’d cry” school of comedy. JSA was, by turns, funny, frustrated and despairing. Because being young and and un(der)employed and skint[1] and trying really hard to navigate the baffling maze of employment, internships, benefits and what you want from life is pretty rubbish. The act did what it said on the tin but what made it enjoyable was Blouise’s energetic delivery of visual metaphors, statistics, and experiences. I’m not totally sure it worked as a one hour act – there was a bit in the middle where I thought it lost some of its energy and… Continue reading

A defence of political correctness

Trigger warning: this post contains slurs for race, sexuality, disability, neurodiversity and gender. So I tweeted something the other night and was a bit surprised that it took off: #confessyourunpopularopinion usually I like political correctness because most of the time it translates to not carelessly hurting people — Kat Gupta (@mixosaurus) August 7, 2013 As a queer, Asian, female-assigned-at-birth person with an interesting medical history, I like political correctness. Political correctness is why it is generally considered unacceptable to loudly inform me that I am a “chink”, a “paki”, that I should “fuck off back to where [I] came from”, that I should “fuck off back to Santa’s grotto”, that I am a “fucking dyke”, that I am a “fucking lesbian”, that I am a “fucking dwarf” or that I’m an “it”. Obviously not everyone agrees, which is why all of these examples are taken from real life. When I come across a written article that uses slurs, I am not inclined to read it. I have lots of things to read: my “to read” list is constantly full of books, journal articles, blog posts. Unless someone has contracted my services as a proofreader or copyeditor, I am not obliged… Continue reading

Corpus Linguistics 2013

Ah, the biannual Corpus Linguistics conference…the biggest date in the Corpus Linguistics calendar, the event that Tony McEnery described as more of a bacchanal than a conference. This is one of my favourite academic conferences – it was the first one I went to as a wee MA student and I’ve been to every one since. Luckily it’s biannual or my wallet would be a thinner, sadder thing. I’ve done a lot of growing up at this series of conferences – first conference I attended, first conference I was a student helper for, first conference I got funding for, first conference I’m presenting at post-viva – and it feels a bit like home turf for me. It was wonderful to catch up with friends and to meet new people. One of the conference helpers, Robbie Love, wrote a great post on his experiences at CL2013 and I’m delighted that he found it such a friendly place. I was presenting on my PhD research, this time trying to give an overview of how the three approaches I used in my thesis fit together: corpus linguistics, three approaches from critical discourse analysis and, underpinning all of this, an awareness of the social,… Continue reading