16/03 – 23/03 Kate Maxwell

Week 4 four sees @wethehumanities take a Scandinavian turn with a curation from Norway.  Kate Maxwell will be taking over the account on Sunday night and early risers will get to accompany on her mammoth fortnightly commute in the small hours of Monday morning.  From the sounds of her introductory post Norway’s life-work ethic puts much of the rest of the world to shame and we suspect that we won’t be alone in googling visa applications by the end of the week.

In its fourth week of rotation-curation, @WeTheHumanities leaves the shores of the United Kingdom for the first time. So let me invite you on a journey of discovery to Norway, where I am working on a postdoctoral project on multimodality in medieval manuscripts, particularly Old and Middle French literature and music.

As a UK-passport-holder living in Norway, my adopted country sometimes seems utopic. With high social equality, barely visible crime rates, low unemployment, generous research funding, hard-working undergraduates, and where free time is highly valued, I won’t be surprised to find you all knocking at my door next week. That is not to say that Norway is perfect. But its problems are of a different order of magnitude from those I encountered during my time in the UK.

It’s like a drug, the Norwegian (and Scandinavian) respect for free time. These days, my academic life – like that of my colleagues – revolves around my outside life, my family. I am unusual in that I live in the north of the country (in the Arctic circle no less) but work in the south. That’s an 1800-km commute (about the same as London-Madrid), and no, I don’t do it every day. I generally work from home one week, and in the office the next. My curation week actually falls on my first double ‘away week’, thus one in which, in honour of our vow to spend weekends together, my family (partner and children) will come south to join me for the weekend. Unless I can work out how to use someone else’s mobile device (no, I don’t have one – why the hell would I want to read emails when not working?), tweets at the weekend will be limited, because I’m not taking my computer to the zoo. (It won’t fit under the pushchair, and anyway might get eaten by a giraffe. Or something.)

What I do hope to show during my week is that it is not only possible, but enjoyable and above all healthy to be a researcher and balance an active family life. This means that I will do more than ‘merely’ introduce you all to the fascinating, ever-present and growing methodology that is multimodality (warning: once you pop you can’t stop), we will spend some time having fun in the Middle Ages, we will listen to some of the music I work with from that time, and we will revel in the uncertainty that is dealing with a past from which so little documentation survives. Be warned, my friends, that I will also introduce you to Goat Major (5) and Goat Minor (3), and to my co-goatherd the Goatfather (33). As the week goes on, these three will be travelling more than the length of Norway’s train routes to join me. (‘More than’ since we live half a day’s drive north of the northernmost terminus. Flying is for commuters.) And – why not? – there might even be some Norwegian lessons.

I look forward to debates on the work/life balance which is rightly so dear to all our hearts, on whether it really costs £10 a pint here (spoiler: it does), on the realities and necessities of pursuing two academic careers in one household, the experience of living, working and bringing up kids in a culture and language that is not my own, and on life as an immigrant (and voluntary exile). There will be beauty, there will be love, and I hope there will be laughter.

Welcome to Norway!

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3 thoughts on “16/03 – 23/03 Kate Maxwell

  1. Pingback: 21/07 – 28/07 Camilla Ulleland Hoel | We The Humanities

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