Juliet Jacques, from the Royal College of Art
Juliet Jacques, a former AHRC-funded doctoral student, talked to us about her experiences as a Chase DTP doctoral student, the opportunities being part of a cohort provided and advice she would offer to current doctoral students.
Dr Juliet Jacques began her AHRC-funded doctoral studies in Creative and Critical Writing in 2015 at the University of Sussex. Five years on, she now teaches on the Contemporary Art Practice MA at the Royal College of Art, and a course on queer fiction at City Lit in London, and has given guest lectures and workshops at Central Saint Martin’s, the University of Sussex, The American University of Central Asia (Bishkek) and elsewhere. Her collection of short stories, Variations, which are based on the creative element of her PhD are due to be published by Influx Press in June 2021.
With over ten years’ experience working in high-profile journalism writing for the Guardian, New York Times, The Washington Post, TimeOut and the New Statesman amongst many others, Juliet came to her PhD with a wealth of experience. Indeed, during her first week of the PhD her memoir, titled Trans, was published by Verso Books. This book emerged from a successful series Juliet wrote for the Guardian between 2010 and 2012 in which she documented her gender reassignment.
Her thesis, “Variations: transgender memoir, theory and fiction”, explored the potential of literary fiction to represent and enrich understanding of transgender (trans) people and politics. In doing so, Juliet explored how the trans community engage with literary fiction and the role of autobiographical modes and genre fiction in trans-writing. The thematically linked short stories enabled Juliet to explore problems of living, politics or culture across different times and cultures. Juliet applied for AHRC funding because of the opportunity it gave her to devote three years to researching and writing about a project she had wanted to do for a long time.
During her PhD, as well as continuing to write for a range of publications, Juliet also produced three short films. She took the opportunity to undertake a 2-month residency in Kyiv where she spent time making a 30-minute documentary exploring art and politic activism in a post-Soviet context. Juliet took many opportunities to travel during her PhD, presenting her work in the US and Canada, France and Slovenia, Greece and Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine, Australia and elsewhere: “Travel was one of my favourite aspects of the PhD and it was incredibly helpful in inspiring my current work as well as being mind-changing”.
Asked what advice she would offer to PhD students, Juliet explains how important it is to take advantage of opportunities provided by AHRC funding including attending events and exploring the possibility of exchange programmes.
She also stresses the importance of cultivating networks by attending relevant events. For example, Juliet used AHRC funding available for research-related travel to attend and speak at a conference at The American University of Central Asia (Bishkek). It was in these contexts where Juliet had the opportunity to meet other interesting artists, writers and film directors. However, Juliet does note that she if she had her time again, she would devote more time to engaging with the academic community and would take up teaching opportunities offered by her university.