On 26 June 2019, I submitted my PhD thesis, “Astir With Great Things: The Early Life of Katharine Susannah Prichard”. I started my enrolment at the University of Western Australia in August 2014, so it took me four years and ten months all up; I’ve enjoyed every day of it.
Early in my research, in May 2015, I had the honour of a residency at KSP Writers’ Centre as an emerging writer. The experience of living and writing at her old house was significant, the physicality of place—soil, timber, verandah, fireplace—as a counterpoint to the word traces of her I work with on the screen and in books. Since then, it has meant so much to me to be connected to KSP Writers’ Centre and have a community already interested in my research. This monthly column has given me a chance to share what I’ve found as I’ve gone; the recurring deadline has been a helpful spur to write. Another highlight has been the opportunity to give several speeches and readings at the centre over the years. Thanks to all of you at KSPWC for welcoming me into your community.
My thesis (with some further cutting and rewriting) will eventually form the first third of my full length biography of Katharine. It tells the story of Katharine’s life from her birth in 1883 to her marriage to Hugo Throssell in 1919, capturing a different Katharine from the one we’re familiar with—her evolving political beliefs before she was a communist; the centrality of Melbourne to her formation before she moved to WA; her romances before she married Hugo; her struggles before her literary breakthrough. I’ve found a lot of the research involves joining the dots, connecting sources which haven’t been connected before. The advent of Trove’s digitised newspapers has made a huge difference, revealing so many new things about the daily life of Katharine throughout her years. My title comes from a 1908 article where Katharine wrote that Australian literature ‘has reached the adolescent stage—it is astir with great things; growing daily in power and freedom’.
In effect, not much changes for me. In a few months, I’ll receive the examiners’ reports, and hopefully, after some corrections, will have my thesis accepted and receive my doctorate. Perhaps it’ll open some doors, perhaps not. In the meantime, I’m carrying on with the biography. I’m currently in 1935, with 1941 and 1950 already completed, leaving quite a few years to go.
- More about Katharine on Nathan’s blog at https://nathanhobby.com.