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Name: Alan
PhD discipline: Spanish Literature
Area(s) of work: University teaching
Year of graduation: 2003
Date of Interview: 16/06/2008

Alan - teaching outside of your PhD research interests
Alan recounts the initial challenge of teaching a broad Oxbridge syllabus.

You were having to undertake teaching outside of your PhD research interests can you tell me how you found that? 

It was quite a difficult process I remember when I was offered the post in the summer before I came and I was reading up on the very wide papers here and so within the Oxbridge Institution the papers that are taught cover possibly nearly two centuries of Spanish culture and literature. Or the Latin American paper, which is literally just called Latin American Culture it could be anything. It meant that I spent most of the summer before I arrived just reading; luckily I didn't have anything else to do, I wasn't in paid employment anyway and so I could do that! And it became very clear that I would have to broaden my knowledge base from the very narrow confines of the PhD research in order to undertake these new authors' film work as well over periods. I mean the 19th Century, for example, I had never studied apart one text in my first year in my previous institution where all the teaching had been very much more confined into modules and so I am only just now at the end of my fifth year actually really getting to grips with 19th Century novels and finding the time to – because they are very long pieces of work – finding the time to read up on them as well in order to be able to teach them to students.

Is it very daunting?

Yes, yes and even people who have come through the Oxbridge system themselves and are supervising and lecturing here, you know, we all have tales about how we have gone to a supervision to teach a pair of students and we haven't actually read the text because we haven't had time or they have chosen to write on something so obscure. But you can't really tell the students that. And obviously we still have a much better sense of context and what is going on. But everybody at some point does that. And it is something that can be quite anxiety inducing, I think actually, because you want to be a good teacher, of course you do, but at the same time you are aware that the time you are not teaching you also want to spend on research on areas that you are working on and finding the time for reading for pleasure, if you can call it…well I suppose it is kind of reading for pleasure when you are reading for the wider context, it is not always easy to find the time.