I met with David at Brunel on Monday for a supervision meeting and gave him a brief update on what I’ve been doing and what my plans are over the next few weeks. It really is action stations at the moment because I’m scheduling in conversations with my participants, and putting together my literature review chapter. The data collection part of my schedule has slipped a bit, but I’m still aiming to get a first draft of the literature review done by the beginning of May:
The main thing we discussed was possible approaches to the literature review. David encouraged me to consider interesting stylistic ways of structuring it, and suggested a deep reading of a core text; using this as a central thread from which to make outward connections with the other sources I’ve been engaging with. The core text would need to be something quite fundamental and David thought Newman’s The Idea of A University would be a good choice. I really wasn’t sure about this at first because it seems so very dated, but I quickly came around to the idea. It should actually give me lots of opportunities to compare and contrast present and future conceptions with the origins of the university. I’m a lot more comfortable working with the theological aspect of these origins now as well, after my little sideline into psychedelic phenomenology, several months of PESGB seminars where God features quite a lot, and reading Barnett and – just for fun – a comprehensive anthology on the philosophy of Free Will. If there are bits of Newman’s Idea that seem to be of no relevance to the hear and now, then that could be a point of interest in itself.
It’s been done before of course – here’s a short Guardian article from 2010 and a much longer paper given by the Reverend Ian Ker in 2011, both of which deal with the relevance of Newman’s Idea in the 21st century. The timing of these is pertinent; the dramatic rise in tuition fees payable by students and the associated marketisation of higher education prompted a good deal of reflection about what a university is and what it is for.
I thought it might be useful to look out for a couple of examples of this ‘deep reading’ approach, but then again maybe it’s best to find my own way with it. I found a neat little resource on ‘close reading’ from the University of Wisconsin’s Writing Center, which might come in useful if I run out of ideas. And this excerpt – I’m not sure what book it’s from – has some good questions to ask when reading Newman.
What I know I’m at risk of doing is continuing to read all the other interesting things (including Jon Nixon’s book on Interpretive Pedagogies, which rather annoyingly sets out very well the kind of thing I was planning to write about conversation and education), and putting off the actual drafting. So before the end of this weekend I plan to sketch out the main concepts in Newman’s Idea and start overlaying connections with the other sources I’ve looked at.
Looking ahead to the Methodology chapter, David suggested I get in touch with another PhD student Ido Gideon, whose thesis on communities and the moral foundations of citizenship education also utilises conversation as a research method. I met Ido at last year’s PESGB conference, and hopefully he’ll be there in a couple of weeks’ time so I can pick his brains.
Aside from a little tangential discussion of Arendt, Heidegger and romantic love is/as education (touching on jealousy, possessiveness and polyamory), that was pretty much it; a really focused, useful meeting. Boom.