Doctoriales IDEA 2019/2020

PhD students’ meeting (20/01/2020, Nancy)

“Theoretical background for doctoral research”


IDEA’s PhD students were invited to gather around a common matter of concern in their research. What theoretical background to abide by? What role should theory play within a PhD

Laura Davidel, a 5th year PhD student, was invited to account for the theoretical path followed in her research.

Laura’s thesis aims to provide an analysis of Anne Rice’s vampires as liminal creatures, who struggle to find their identity between the compulsive thirst for blood and the desire to connect with the human world. This presentation of the theoretical background used in her thesis has focused primarily on Victor Turner’s studies regarding liminality. Laura draws on Turner’s theories about the liminal stage of transformation rites – a period of in-betweenness characterized by separation from society, a disrupted temporality, and alterity. This perspective on liminality has enabled Laura to explore how the Ricean vampires experience their monstrosity as liminal in relation to time, space, and difference. By reading the vampires’ monstrosity through the lens of liminality, the focus shifts from otherness to sameness, from the objectified Other to the subject who tells his/her own story.

Manon Kuffer, a first year PhD student was given the role of asking a set of prepared questions to Laura. Among them, we will quote :

How long did it take you to find and abide by a theoretical background ?  How easy is it to let new concepts invite themelves in research that is already advanced?

Do you try to keep within frameworks related to interdisciplinarity ?

How can one refrain from interpreting a theory according to one’s needs?

Is a whole chapter devoted to presenting concepts and theorical background or are they introduced gradually within the research ?

The participants were then invited to give some feedback The lecturers and professors present transfered some arguments to give advice on how to apply theory in civilisation and linguistics research.

Eva Antal, the guest professor invited by IDEA in January and February 2020, presented the doctoral studies at Eszterhazy Karoly University (Eger, Hungary) in her university’s curriculum, the institution’s demands and the role of theory in the studies.

Eva Antal spoke about the framework of doctoral studies in Hungary. Having given a short introduction on the system in the country, she highlighted the advantages and some of the disadvantages of different doctoral programmes, taking examples from her own past and present experience. Being affiliated to three doctoral schools as a supervisor and an examiner, she could elaborate on the interdisciplinary feature of several doctoral theses, showing the strong and weak points of their theoretical approaches. In addition to raising the questions of originality and illegitimacy of students’ topics in the 21st century, she expressed her scepticism about the forced comprehensive quality of dissertations in Hungary emphasised in the requirements, namely that a list of great amount of readings, their “bibliography”, should be provided by the students well in advance in the course of their studies. The presentation was followed by a discussion with doctoral and master’s students.

The rich discussions that followed revealed that the students needed further practical information, namely about entering academia, or anything to do with the material shaping of their research.

A follow-up is planned in March, when IDEA will be welcoming Marjorie Huet, a PhD student from Porstmouth, working on cultural references in literary translation.