Who am I?
I’m George Simmers, who in 2005 retired from teaching English in a comprehensive school. Not wanting to drift into intellectual mouldiness during my retirement, I decided to do what I should have done thirty years before, and began PhD research at Oxford Brookes University. My subject was the fiction of the Great War (That’s the fiction they were writing at the time and just after, not modern novels about the war).
I have therefore spent a lot of my time reading novels (and memoirs and magazines and comics) of the period 1914-1930, gathering insights into the way that soldiers and ex-soldiers were portrayed. I’m lucky to live near Oxford, and once or twice most weeks I have spent a day or twoin the astonishing Bodleian Library, whose dedicated staff (I think of them as myopic gnomes scurrying through vast dark subterranean book-stacks, just for me) dig out the most astonishing material. Sometimes I order a book and am presented a cardboard box. I open it to find a ninety-year old book nestling inside, in its pristine dust-jacket. I wonder if I’m the first to open the book since 1915.
So why blog?
Reading this extraordinary material, I find a lot of interesting stuff that hasn’t found a place in my thesis or anything else that I’m likely to publish or share in other ways. On the off-chance that someone else might be interested in the things that catch my eye, and the ideas that strike me, I thought I’d put some of them online and see what happens.
It has been a most productive decision. I have made contact with academics and enthusiasts, and heard their views about the literature of the War. Even more rewardingly, I have also heard from descendants of some of my authors, which has greatly helped my sense of context. To anyone out there who is just beginning a Ph.D. thesis, I’d give this advice – get blogging!
The thesis was finally handed in late in 2009, and in 2010 I was awarded my Ph.D. Now I am thinking about how to turn the thesis into a book. I’m still fascinated by this material, and you can expect the blog to continue for a good while yet.
Where else am I online?
I also edit Snakeskin Poetry Webzine, which I think is the longest-running poetry zine on the web.