Impostor Syndrome

n. A phenomenon in which a perfectly intelligent person perceives that he or she is inferior to those around him or her, leading to a sense of falseness or feeling like an “impostor”. Particularly acute among academics.

Today I felt like Stitch when he carries the book about the Ugly Duckling out into the woods and cries, “I’m lost!” I don’t have a PhD topic. I know I have the mental capacity and the writing ability and just the skills that I need to do a PhD, but the subject, the focus, the topic continues to elude me. Everyone says this is normal, that is okay. It doesn’t feel okay. I feel like I’m wasting my time. I am simply interested in too many things, seemingly disparate, that I don’t know enough about to bring together. And yet I can talk about science fiction until the cows come home.

Things I am interested in: The Bible; reading in Middle English; Church tradition; theology and orthodoxy; mythology, folklore and faerie stories; faeries; encountering the supernatural; the unknown and the unknowable; abstract thinking; the Other; sociology, anthropology, psychology. The two medieval texts that continue to capture my imagination and that I can retell (in my own words) from memory are Sir Orfeo and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I am interested in how the medieval mind conceived and perceived the supernatural. I am curious why I haven’t come across anything about Celtic folklore/paganism in my readings about religion in the Middle Ages. I want to find out what accommodations, compromises, parallel mindsets, syncretism took place to negotiate the co-existence of Faerie and Heaven. I want to uncover the medieval view of faeries, because so much of the folklore we have has been influenced by the Puritans. Robert Kirk (1641-1692) theorized that faeries were spiritual beings existing on a plane between angels and demons. I have read and seen hints that this idea existed long before him.

I mentioned this, briefly, to Alan, a post-doc who is also at the conference. He said he knew nothing about folklore, but that it sounded incredibly original. I know that I want to avoid the term “folk religion”. Other than that, I don’t know if I actually have anything here. Can I bring about a marriage between folklore and medieval religious thought (in the vernacular)? Can I find the texts and manuscripts to make it literary?

I don’t normally like to post twice in a single day, but it’s been such a long day it feels like two. And it’s my blog and I can do what I want.

Away again

I am in Leicester. (I know, whenever am I at home? I ask the same thing.) Yesterday as I traveled here, to a city I’ve never been, to a city where I’m not meeting anyone I know but going to a conference, as I checked myself into the B&B and asked where I could get dinner and then went there, that I might be doing this whole grown-up thing after all. I was reminded of Sarah’s post about the certain art of loneliness. The train rushed through rain storms and sunny skies and there was at one point a double rainbow, a brilliant, bright redorangeyellowgreenblueindigoviolet arc over the sky. I saw two pheasants and I read about brownies and other tutelary spirits in an Irish pub.

The conference starts in a couple of hours and I have happily finished my word count for today. I am still ever so slightly more than a day ahead: 8530 words. Today our noble knight has encountered a Black Knight, a band of Tylwyth Teg, and rescued a damsel in distress. All in a day’s work (and considerably better than yesterday, where to his embarrassment the damsel wasn’t quite in distress). He still needs to encounter the Green Knight before this chapter ends. I better get on that soon.