Getting to know ... Patrick Spedding

Dr Patrick Spedding

Dr Patrick Spedding

Name: Dr Patrick Spedding
Title: Associate Director, Centre for the Book
Faculty:  Arts
Dept: English
Campus: Clayton

How long have you worked at Monash?
I started at Monash as a PhD student, graduating in 2004. After a few years of sessional teaching I won an ARC Fellowship (which ran from 2007). I was appointed as a lecturer in 2010.

Where did you work prior to starting at the University?
I spent most of the time working in second hand and antiquarian bookshops.

What do you like best about your role?
Basically, the creative elements—bringing together evidence and developing arguments when I am writing up research and bringing together texts to illuminate themes when I am developing new teaching units.

Why did you choose your current career path?
It would be a bit melodramatic to say that I wanted to shine a light in the dark corners of scholarship, but I have been attracted to subjects that have previously attracted little interest, have been taboo, or which are of only emerging interest to literary scholars. I was inspired by Dale Spender’s Mothers of the Novel to write about Eliza Haywood, one of the “great women writers before Jane Austen” that she argued had been written out of literary history. The fact that there was not a single book by or about Haywood at my university (The University of Tasmania) just made the subject more appealing! And I have spent the last five years researching clandestine and erotic material of the “long” 18th century, despite—or more likely, because of—the difficulty of doing the research.

First job?
I worked as a storeman and packer at a duty-free shop in the centre of Sydney.

Worst job?
My first job! I worked underground in a windowless room for three months. There was no air conditioning and the ceiling was only just six foot (I am about six foot two inches), with pipes all over the place. I worked all summer sweating and stooping and banging my head for just over $100 per week. I quit the day I discovered I was eligible for a week’s holiday pay, which was a Friday—and by Monday morning I was in Queensland!

What research are you currently working on and what does it involve?
At the moment I am working on a number of projects that are only tangentally related. Dr Paul Watt and I have just finished the first stage of a major research project looking at bawdy (and clandestine) songbooks of the early nineteenth century. The next stage is likely to result in an ARC proposal, and at least two books, based on the material we have now edited and published. I am also well advanced on a book-length study of the use of condoms before 1830 and I have a number of smaller projects and essays related to my continuing work on Eliza Haywood and on eighteenth-century erotica.

What is your favourite place in the world and why?
Hobart. I have visited more beautiful and more spectacular places—places steeped in history like London and Prague—but I lived in Hobart long enough to be convinced that it is the most livable city in Australia.

What is your favourite place to eat and why?
The White Lotus near the Queen Victoria Markets. Great vegetarian and vegan food, good atmosphere, reasonable prices, no pretentions —and easy to get to.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?
I can’t think of any advice that I have received that I would want to offer anyone else that rises above the level of “don’t put your hand in the fire” or “keep walking past the open windows.” And the more I think about it, the more I am reminded of all the bad advice I have been given, so I guess I am still waiting for it.

Tell us something about yourself that your colleagues wouldn’t know?
I was a motor-head as a teenager. I had thirteen cars and motorbikes in the first eighteen months that I had a drivers’ licence. In that time, I destroyed three of the cars and one of the motorbikes, and took two trips around Australia, the first in a ’63 Holden and the second on a Honda CBX550. After that I went cold-turkey: I let my motorbike licence lapse and didn’t own another car for almost 15 years.