I’m Dave McLaughlin, a 3rd year PhD student in the Geography Department at Cambridge University. As a friend once described it, my PhD falls into the category of “non-serious geography”. I think that means I don’t do scrambling up mountains or wading through rivers. Outside of my week’s curating the WeTheHumanities account you can find me on Twitter (@crake1986) – where my tweeting has been criminally lax of late – on Instagram (@crake1986) and on my blog (www.travellinghistories.org). I started blogging as a way to get my ideas out of my head and into other peoples’. My long-term aim is to use all three social media platforms in concert to demonstrate the multifaceted nature of research about travel literatures – in ideas, in images and in community.
In my thesis I look at how American readers of the Sherlock Holmes stories have used travel writing and guidebooks about the Great Detective and his world to blur the lines between reality and fiction, using geographical knowledges from the Holmes stories and fan fiction to understand the world and using real-world knowledges to better understand Holmes. I am particularly interested in the change, which happened sometime around the 1970s, in which Sherlockians went from being happy collectively imagining Holmes’s world as, in the words of one famous fan, “a nostalgic country of the mind” to being somewhere that needed to be walked through and actually experienced at first hand to really be known.
I try to reflect the corporeal and intellectual mobility of the readers I am studying in the work that I do, so I have spent a large part of my thesis travelling widely in America, meeting fans and reading their books; and I am using the interdisciplinary theories and methods of literary geography – a relatively new subfield of Literary Studies and Geography. However, as a 3rd I do find myself more and more closed off in my own little research world. One of the things I want to get out of my We The Humanities experience is to talk to more people out there who are interested in Holmes, or travel, or the power of reading, or who just want to know how on earth someone can read all this Sherlock Holmes and never watched any episodes of Elementary.