Jean-Xavier Ridon, Professor of French and Francophone Studies
As Director of Postgraduate Studies, Jean-Xavier takes care of the school's research students.
Also a professor of French and Francophone studies, his main research areas are contemporary travel narratives and French/Caribbean Literature. Among many other concepts, his research focuses on the question of strangeness and otherness and the different ways of representing them.
What led you to a career in academia?
From a very early age, I had a great love for literature and poetry, and the academic world was the best way for me to pursue this interest. To be able to confront and discover new ideas, and to explore new works makes this work never the same and, therefore, positively motivates my research. One of the great joys of this job is to be able to continue to do research while having the opportunity to share my findings with my students.
How interdisciplinary is the department?
Very! And I believe that the more interdisciplinary, the better. I am part of a research network that works with the School of Geography and Nottingham University Business School called the Travel Cultures Network. It may sound like three very different approaches but we share questions of how we perceive, interact and impact upon the world. Our students get to participate in this work through various activities and we always run a series of lectures where students are invited to talk.
How do you select MRes and PhD candidates?
The research proposal is key. We are looking for proposals that reveal good knowledge of the subject studied, that are well written, clear and precise while offering a new direction or a new approach in the field chosen.
We understand that, in the early stages, ideas are still at the level of intuitions and questions and that students may not know where their work will lead them. This is fine.
We're looking for something that asks the right questions and has the potential to be original and exciting.
A good MRes/PhD candidate has the ability to ask the right questions (it's not always easy to find the right questions) and the enthusiasm to look for answers. Obviously, they also need the ability to look critically at texts, whether that be literature, film or other artefacts.
If they ever feel that they need help, where can they turn?
There are various people they can go to. Usually the first port of call is with their supervisors with whom they will work closely. Then there are the department postgraduate directors and, of course, me as School PGR Director. The university also has many sources of support which are shared with the student in the first few weeks of them starting with us.
What makes our department such a special place or MRes and PhD students?
We have a very active and dynamic research community where students and academics work on projects across many disciplines.
This interdisciplinary environment offers students the opportunity to communicate and exchange ideas which can be very inspiring.There are work-in-progress and research seminars to which students are invited to contribute. All PGRs (including part-time) are supported through supervision, training and skills development, including publishing/presenting opportunities, funding support, preparation for future careers, and teaching experience.
What careers have your past students gone on to?
Most stay within academia and look for a lecturer position, although some do go on to do other things such as translation or writing, or filmmaking.
Jean-Xavier's three pieces of advice for prospective MRes and PhD student
Follow your enthusiasm and intuition - if there is a text or a subject that inspires you, you should follow this inspiration which will make you want to write.
- Organise yourself - when we research something that can be quite abstract, we need to find a structure which will allow us to keep our feet on the ground.
- Write every day - Make sure the writing doesn't become a problem, and the way to do this is to write every day. It doesn't need to be great every day, but it does need to be done daily. Otherwise, it can become too daunting and then it's easy to procrastinate.