Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Secret lives of academics

One thing which gets interesting the more you read and the more you learn about your subject is watching the critics change. Or, more precisely, watching the critics’ names change as they apparently grow up, get married, and move on. This has nothing to do with my PhD, and probably no-one else cares, but I like it.

I have recently noticed that some of the eminent critics whose works I cite seem to have been around much longer than I realised; the thing is, in fact, they have changed name. Some of them have gone from single surname to double-barrelled; others, apparently, have gone all the way, starting out with one surname, going for the double-barrelled, and in the end dropping the first one and sticking with their new married name. This, to me, is interesting.

If, as a young academic, you have always published under one name, is it better to try and keep that name, so people know who you are (hence the ones who keep it forever, or adopt the double-barrelled approach), or is it perhaps preferable to take your husband’s name, and thereby reinvent yourself as a ‘new and improved’ you, subtly disassociating yourself (but not) from the stuff you wrote earlier, and thereby making your new work the new focus of everyone’s attention?

Maybe I have been reading too much into this. Maybe I just quite like the idea of these eminent academics as human beings, and maybe there’s a part of me that wouldn’t mind sitting down with them and being shown the albums of their wedding snaps.  Or maybe it is because, in the course of my PhD, I have come across people  - writers – who do this; they change their name from whatever they originally published under, thus at some point disassociating themselves from the less-than-perfect things they wrote when they were young and still learning their trade.

Also, I am wondering what will become of me if ever I get this PhD and become a ‘doctor’. Will this be something I will want to put on my credit card? Or will it be weird if I insist on people adding ‘Dr’ in front of my name on things?

Maybe I should stop fantasizing about this and go do some work.

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