I’m Mel, a PhD student in the French department at the University of Cambridge. I’m mostly a medievalist, working on Old French epic crusade poetry – if that sounds obscure, one of my aims for this week is to make it a little less so. Communicating with people about my research is one of my favourite things, and I see it as the reason I’m here. My handle, @chevalier_cygne, refers to the mythical Swan Knight from the cycle of poems that form my PhD subject – I tend to tell people who ask me at parties that my PhD is about people who turn into swans.
I’m right in the middle of my PhD, and alongside research I absolutely love teaching undergraduates. At Cambridge we’re lucky enough to be able to teach in very small groups – sometimes even one-to-one – which I find incredibly rewarding. I teach second-year undergraduates on the medieval French course, which is brilliant – it’s so wonderful seeing them flourish and get more confident handling material that can initially seem so alien and distant. The one-to-one teaching system here is old, though, and it has its flaws: in particular, it can be inaccessible in various ways for students from certain backgrounds or with certain disabilities. As such, one of my main aims as a teacher is to be as ethical and inclusive as possible, and I hope to discuss this while I’m curating the account.
I did my BA at Cambridge in French and German, before hopping to Oxford for my master’s and then back to Cambridge for my PhD. I came from a school where almost nobody went to Oxbridge, which has obviously coloured my higher ed experience, so I’m always thinking about and wrestling with class and educational inequality. I want to use my time on We the Humanities to share examples of good inclusive practice in arts institutions, academic and beyond.
Alongside research and teaching I’m organising two conferences this year (they can be found @CamMedieval and @stains_taches) and a seminar series (@CamMedFrSem), so I can often be found hopping around Cambridge having various meetings over coffee and trying to pretend I know what I’m doing with a budget. Outside of academia I like crochet, cats and sleeping, and often can be found ranting about politics and mental health (and indeed often both at once).