The atmosphere in the School is really vibrant. There are always interesting conferences and talks happening almost every week

PhD student Harsh Trivedi.
Harsh Trivedi
PhD Student
19th Century French literature with an emphasis on the works of Honoré de Balzac
Harsh is from India and is a PhD student in the School of Languages and Cultures researching 19th Century French literature with an emphasis on the works of Honoré de Balzac.
PhD student Harsh Trivedi.

He holds a B.A (French Honors) from the University of Delhi (Gold Medallist) and an M.A in French and Francophone Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi). He also holds a multiple masters degree under the Erasmus Mundus Crossways and Cultural Narratives program from the University of Sheffield, University of Perpignan (France) and University of Bergamo (Italy) where he studied world literature, philosophy and specialized in 19th Century French literature.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Sheffield?

Having studied in Sheffield for a semester during my masters degree, I was very impressed by the University infrastructure and the library services.

My current PhD supervisor was assigned to me in a guided reading module and helped me specialize in my particular area of interest in the works of Balzac and guided me greatly in coming up with a formal proposal for doctoral research.

The academic staff and the administration were extremely friendly, approachable, professional, and knowledgeable.

What made the University of Sheffield stand out for you?

Having already experienced the academic atmosphere at the University, I found it to be a perfect mix of competence, innovation, and tradition. The University provides ample opportunities to grow, learn, and even voice dissent should the need be. While there is no compromise in the academic rigour, originality and critical thinking are much appreciated and encouraged.

What do you particularly enjoy about French Studies? 

I have been obsessed with the works of Balzac since as far as I could remember. The reason I learnt the language in the first place was to be able to read his works in original French. Being a (struggling) novelist myself, the works of Balzac have always been a source of great inspiration.

I started my research on Balzac in India without the influence of the contemporary developments in 19th Century studies in Europe and U.K, which incidentally helped me develop an original perspective which was further complemented by my eventual research at European universities.

What are you currently researching as part of your PhD?

I am studying the ‘fictive works’ present inside Balzac’s La Comédie humaine (a collection of around a hundred novels and short stories). These ‘works inside works’ are created by the characters of Balzac and belong to a variety of domains (literature, philosophy, painting, music, science, law, etc.) and exist in the texts as fragments.

I am exploring the narrative functions of these fictive works while trying to understand if and how they contribute to the ‘textual fluidity’ of the Balzacian universe. The works constituting La Comédie humaine are heavily interconnected with recurring characters and references, however, it is quite remarkable how these works can be approached in any particular order and even individually without affecting the chronology of narration.

How did the School of Languages and Cultures help support you through the whole process from application to settling in?

My supervisor, Dr. Maxime Goergen was a source of constant support and gave me extremely helpful feedback on my project proposal. Dr. Kristine Horner helped me a lot with the scholarship application and gave me invaluable feedback to write a proposal that could be examined by a non-specialist scholarship committee.

Dr. David McCallam, my second supervisor, gave me very helpful inputs regarding the proposal as well. Prof. Michael Perraudin was really helpful with my queries about administrative processes and always put me in touch with the appropriate people to help me out.

And last but not the least, Dr. Sophie Watt, who during a conversation at an end of term dinner made me believe that I actually had a shot at being accepted for a PhD program.

What are your tips for any students thinking about researching in Sheffield?

It is very helpful to be clear about your area of interest so that you can approach the right people. Once you have made up your mind to apply, it is best to send your proposals well in advance to the academic staff who specialize in your field (all the academic staff members have their profiles listed on the website with a description of their published research and research interests). The scholarship deadlines are always different from the program application deadlines so it is imperative to plan in advance.

Tell us about being a postgraduate in the School.

The atmosphere in the School is really vibrant. There are always interesting conferences and talks happening almost every week. The postgrads are always encouraged to participate in academic events not just in the University of Sheffield but in other universities in the U.K and overseas as well.

What is your highlight of studying and/or living in Sheffield so far?

As my first ever academic conference I had the privilege of presenting a paper on Balzac at the SDN (Society of Dix-Neuvièmistes) annual conference, which is one of the most prestigious academic clusters in my field of research.

What do you know now about Sheffield that you didn’t know before you came here?

So many things! It very common to have random people addressing you as ‘love’, ‘darling’ or ‘petal’! The local pubs and their ales are really great. It is one of the friendliest cities I have ever lived in.

What are your plans after your PhD?

At the moment I am torn between having a career in academics and being a full-time novelist. Perhaps both.

Anything you’d like to add?

I don’t want to sound pompous, but I actually turned down an offer from Oxford to come to Sheffield. That is how much I recommend it!

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