My UEA Story: Nick Bradley
Name: Dr Nick Bradley
School: Literature, Drama & Creative Writing
Research area: PhD in Creative and Critical Writing (But I’ve now passed my viva and finished!)
Bio: I have just passed my PhD in Creative and Critical Writing, which consisted of my novel The Cat and The City which was just published by Atlantic Books in June, will be published in the US and Canada in September, and is currently being translated into multiple languages. The book follows the adventures of a stray cat in Tokyo, and the huge cast of characters she encounters on the streets, who at first seem disconnected, but as the book progresses we start to see how they are all connected in hidden ways.
The critical section of my thesis examined the figure of the cat in Japanese literature. In particular I looked at the work of three 20th Century Japanese novelists: Natsume Sōseki, Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, and Murakami Haruki. My PhD was funded by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, and I also obtained a generous research grant to conduct archival research in Japan, courtesy of a Santander Mobility Award.
In the future, I will continue to write novels, and am also currently seeking a permanent lecturer position at a UK university.
What is life as a postgraduate student at UEA like? Describe a typical day
This really depends… I found life as a Postgraduate Research student to be extremely varied. At times I was teaching, at times I was conducting archival research, at times I was working on my novel, at times my critical essay, going to academic conferences, giving papers on my research… all sorts really.
I found my time to be busy, varied, and incredibly enjoyable. I will miss it!
Why did you choose UEA?
I originally chose to come to UEA as a master’s student to do the Creative Writing MA here (for obvious reasons). But I found the environment so exciting and stimulating that I decided to stay on and do a PhD.
Any tips for choosing a project / supervisor?
Make sure you are passionate and deeply interested in your research project – you will be living with it for the next 3-4 years. I’d say something similar about a supervisor: choose someone who you can see yourself working with well for the duration of the PhD. I would opt for someone who is personable and supportive over fame or research output. Your supervisor won’t be writing the thesis – you will. So it’s always best to have someone who is kind, generous, and supportive in helping you reach your goal.
How is postgraduate study different to undergraduate study?
You’ll be spending a lot more time on your own. You’ll need to be focussed, motivated and independent. Your work will come from within – no one will be telling you what to do. That’s for you to figure out. It’s incredibly rewarding, but you’ll need to be comfortable running on your own steam.
What’s the social side like? How do you find the Postgraduate community?
It’s great – there if you need it, but equally, if you need time to yourself to work on your thesis, everyone is understanding of this and will let you drop in and drop out whenever.
What has most surprised you about your postgraduate study at UEA?
I have never ceased to be surprised at how beautiful the lake on campus is, throughout all the different seasons, whenever I took my daily walks around it. This is something I didn’t have at previous universities – a beautiful rural campus, with woods, fields, and a lake – and it’s something I will really miss about UEA.
Any highlights of your experience?
Accessing Natsume Sōseki’s personal book collection and archives in Japan when I was out there on research. Oh, and the day my literary agent e-mailed me to tell me a publisher wanted to publish my novel, which makes up part of my thesis.
What kind of activities you have got involved with at UEA (e.g. networks, conferences, events, outreach) that have helped your research?
I was an active member in Japanese studies networks and conferences during my time at UEA. I also enjoyed attending research seminars held by the Centre for Japanese Studies here. Teaching for the outreach programme The Brilliant Club in various Norfolk schools during my first year of my PhD was also extremely rewarding.
I’ve also very much enjoyed teaching as an Associate Tutor in both the School of Literature, Drama & Creative Writing and the School of Politics, Philosophy, Language & Communication Studies (where I taught Japanese). Working as an Associate Tutor was extremely fun and enriching, and I was delighted last year when I was awarded the Graduate School Teaching prize, as voted for by my students and colleagues in the School of Literature, Drama & Creative Writing. Teaching at university is definitely something I want to do as part of my career in the future.
What is writing your thesis or preparing for a viva like (if you’ve got there yet!)
I found both very enjoyable. My viva was fun, although it had to be conducted over Zoom during the heights of COVID-19 lockdown… but even that was a memorable experience!
I’m very glad to say that I passed the viva, but I will definitely miss the lifestyle of being a PhD student.
What would you say to someone thinking of coming to UEA?
I would highly recommend studying at UEA. I’ve studied at four different universities in my life, and each one has its own personality. If you like the sound of a wonderful creative community, amazing literary events, and a gorgeous rural campus, then UEA is the place for you!
…anything else you’d like to share!
As well as UEA being great, it’s also brilliant being in Norwich. It’s a lovely city to be a postgraduate in – amazing restaurants, pubs, shops, events, beautiful streets, and a lovely welcoming vibe! It’s also a cheap train ride to London, if you do need to get to the city for events. Having Norwich airport nearby is invaluable, too. Quick flight to Amsterdam, then you can travel anywhere in the world!