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?

P.S.
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.

6 thoughts on “Impostor Syndrome

  1. Chris says:

    I think your folklore idea sounds really original AND interesting (and like something *you’re* really interested in…!). I say go for it … or at least investigate it further. :o)

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  2. Sarah says:

    I think that connection is extremely interesting and I often wonder how God and faeries or magic can be mentioned in the same text (at least in Renaissance and Victorian texts) and how that is negotiated…I think you’ve got something here!

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  3. Chera says:

    Sarah: It is very interesting! A girl I met at Quadrivium has a friend writing a PhD on medieval faeries and she said she’d give me his email address. I suppose I am learning how to network after all.

    Kelly: You tempt me, my dear. Something tells me that your other half might not be so keen.

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  4. Megan says:

    III think it sounds intriguing and exciting, and you know how little I know about any of that. šŸ™‚

    I sometimes suffer from imposter syndrome, but I don’t know that I’d describe myself as “perfectly intelligent” and think I might just be an imposter at times, in fact.

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