"The English PhD offers the flexibility to pursue a variety of complex research topics with some of the best writers, scholars, and colleagues I have ever known."

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Student Profile: Jorji Temple

English doctoral student in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences

January 11, 2021
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A few unrelated facts: self-description makes my skin itch. In my final year of high school my classmates voted me "most likely to be stuck in the mud" in 2015. I have studied at three universities, moved more times than I can count, and have taught, tutored, and trained since I was 16. Without my students, I never could have made it. On the most meaningful day of my life I was nearly run over by a police wagon at a blockade line. I try to live as what Rita Wong calls an "unsettler" for as long as I'm on stolen land.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I met my supervisor, Steve Collis, reading a poem at the Sounds New poetry festival in Canterbury, Kent. After studying modernist poetry and trying to find a way to do political work through literature, I was hoping to find a politically-engaged poetry community to connect with. I may not have made it as a poet, but I did meet a bunch of awesome people who changed my life.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH AND/OR PROGRAM.

I write about pop music, poetry, and film from the 1970s-now to show how romantic love continues to be connected to the dynamics of capitalism. Feelings are personal and social, not only psychological, so I show how pop culture has handled the  the drastic economic changes of the past 40 years in terms of romance. I hope my work will allow people to reconsider their assumptions about belonging and love from a critical and historical perspective so we can build solidarity beyond the closed doors of romantic couples.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

Classes in my first year were both intellectually challenging and open to creative engagement; that dramatically shifted my understanding of what research could look like. My supervisors have been extraordinarily patient with my shifting research, and the folks at the library are as excellent at research help as they are at commiseration. I had both critical, supportive, and antagonistic classmates, who made me realize the ethical obligations that come with cultural study and have made my work better. Thanks to the teaching support staff union, I found social and political connection together, and because of more than 40 years of union solidarity I had enough money to pay  my rent as a TA.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR FUNDED AWARDS?

Without funding for my studies, I could not have come to SFU. My family has no money or clout back home, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to study here. This has been made possible by a series of SFU awards, including William and Ann Messenger Fellowships, a Community Trust Endowment Fund Fellowship, the C.D. Nelson Memorial Scholarship, the Provost's Prize of Distinction, and a Graduate Fellowship. As someone who came to SFU with more student debt than I can imagine repaying, this funding meant that I did not have to worry about making rent for the first 5 years of my studies.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM POSITION TO SOMEONE STILL SEARCHING FOR A PROGRAM?

The English PhD offers the flexibility to pursue a variety of complex research topics with some of the best writers, scholars, and colleagues I have ever known. I have learned from hallway conversations, email threads, office hours, and meetings, and would encourage people considering the program to speak to students about how best to navigate it for their personal research.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?

The one thing about SFU and the metro Vancouver area is that there is no shortage of political and social work to be done, so if your research is not anchored to that work your life can feel divided. I did not make the best of this program, and there is much I regret not doing.

Contact Jorji: gtemple@sfu.ca