Hi Rommany, congratulations on passing your viva! How does it feel?!
It’s a great feeling – although part of me can’t quite believe it has happened. I did my PhD part-time so it has been a long time coming.
What was your PhD title?
The origin and role of sospiro (sigh) in the poetry of Guido Cavalcanti
Can you explain in a couple of sentences what your PhD was about?
You will probably be familiar with Dante, of Divine Comedy fame. Cavalcanti was writing at the same time as Dante but the important role he played in the development of Italian lyric poetry has been under-explored. My thesis aimed to play a part in redressing this imbalance. I chose sospiro as the entry point for my exploration because it is both a commonplace in love poetry, but also a word of hidden depths.
Can you sum up your PhD experience in three words?
‘Rite of passage’ – think that sums up the inevitable lows and also the wonderful highs.
What was the viva like?
So much better than I thought it would be! People had told me that I would enjoy it, but I couldn’t believe I would for a second. Actually, they were right. My internal examiner played the ‘I know nothing, do tell me more’ role, which settled my nerves because I became the teacher. My external examiner dug into and challenged some of my arguments, and by the end of the viva we were discussing some issues which were pretty far removed from my main focus. I’d spent a long time coming to my conclusions though, so I actually enjoyed reflecting on and responding to my external examiner’s comments. It was like a gentle joust and was, dare I say it, fun.
What are your top tips to someone preparing for their viva?
Know your thesis. I probably over-prepared – I wrote a one sentence summary of every page of my thesis – but by the day of the viva I felt that I knew my thesis thoroughly. I didn’t look at the text at all during the exam, and I was glad I didn’t need to.
Run through some likely questions. My supervisor identified a question which ended up being the first one my examiners asked me. Having a fully formulated answer which I had practiced delivering set me off on the right foot. All the questions I was asked were thesis specific, but the practice I’d done with friends and family in delivering answers to generic questions (from the Vitae and University of Leicester websites) boosted my confidence in coming up with answers on the spot.
Any advice you’d tell your earlier PhD self now you’ve made it to the other side?
Yes – have more self-belief. If two supervisors are telling you that your thesis topic is interesting and what you’ve written is good enough, believe them. I spent my entire time as a PhD student feeling like I would get ‘found out’ – classic imposter syndrome. Passing my viva has finally made me believe what my supervisors had always told me – I am good enough.
What are you up to now and any exciting plans for the future?
I’m taking a welcome break from my thesis and getting stuck into my allotment. I’m still in touch with my supervisor though, and I’m hoping to try and publish a paper from my thesis.
Thanks so much for your time Rommany, we wish you all the best for the future!