So, to my great delight, at the start of July I will begin three years of work on a super-exciting project on 'mountains in ancient literature and culture and their postclassical reception'. I will be working on the postclassical half of the project, which in other words means undertaking what is a beautiful sequel to my PhD research, extending my study of early modern texts relating to mountains into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with a particular focus on how these texts relate to much earlier, classical reactions to the mountain landscape.
As many of my friends will know, I have long been fairly divided on the question of 'going into academia'. At the end of MPhil, I dithered, anxious mostly about the effect of the academic career path upon my marriage (the charmingly-termed, 'two body problem'). Then I was offered funding at St Andrews, and the ScotsAntiquary gamely moved to Scotland with me without any prospect of employment for himself. A year later, he was offered a British Academy postdoctoral fellowship in the same School as me. This is, to put it lightly, a remarkably unlikely solution to the two-body problem.
Two years into his fellowship, the Antiquary was offered another job, this time a lectureship in 'English Literature and Material Culture' at the University of Stirling (no-one is entirely sure what that job title means, but the ScotsAntiquary has managed to wrangle it to include hand-press printing, the lucky devil). This slotted in remarkably neatly, timing-wise, with the completion of my PhD, which marked a second moment of doubt for me.
When I chose to undertake the PhD, I was clear with myself from the start that I was doing it for its own sake, rather than with any absolute, instrumental sense of it as the first stepping-stone towards an academic career. If anything, this simply seemed a practical way to avoid crushing disappointment: the job-seeking experiences of ScotsAntiquary before his more recent successes had taught me a very clear lesson about the challenges of the academic job market. So I went through the PhD with an open mind and in the months after completion did my best to keep an open mind, whilst also - I must confess - investing a lot of energy and excitement into figuring out how to be gainfully employed outside of research.
Ironically, the advert for my new job came out at almost exactly the moment that I had started to feel quite confident in my self-employed circumstances. But it was also one of those opportunities - rather like the PhD - that I simply couldn't pass up. In the conclusion to my thesis, I had stated that I hoped - in challenging the traditional narrative of pre-modern mountain gloom - that it would open up new avenues for subsequent researchers. Somewhat selfishly, when faced with the advert for a job which pointed down such avenues, I realised I wanted to be one of the people to explore them.
So, although it was not a prospect that seemed particularly likely three months ago, I'm extremely happy to be looking forward to another three years of research. Of course, I also anticipate that at the end of it I will have another existential/practical crisis about my future career. So with that in mind, I plan to spend the next three years doing a lot of writing, teaching, and publishing - to put myself in the best possible position to apply for subsequent academic jobs - whilst also continuing to gain experience as a developer and skills workshop facilitator, lest a return to the freelance life beckons.
But, for the time being, it's back to research, back to St Andrews, and into a new School (!) and a new academic career stage for me. So watch this space for further updates!