Meet our new podcaster going Beyond the Books

We chat to PhD candidate, and Web and Communications Postgraduate Intern, Ellen Davis-Walker about our new podcast on research and the people who make it happen.

Beyond the Books is a new podcast from the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC).

Photo of a podcaster
Ellen Davis-Walker (l) recording an episode of Beyond the Books with PhD student Katie Hawthorne

The series gives you a behind-the-scenes look at research in our School, and the people who make it happen, from our PhD students and early career researchers to established academics.

The podcast is researched, curated, edited and presented by Ellen Davis-Walker, a final year PhD candidate in French and Francophone Studies, and our Web and Communications Postgraduate Intern for 2019/2020 through the Employ.ed for PhDs programme at the University of Edinburgh.

Together with our new Instagram feed on postgraduate life in LLC, Beyond the Books has been the focus of much of Ellen’s internship, bringing her closer to other PhD candidates in the School, and our wider research community.

Feeling part of something bigger

“I hope this podcast will play a small part in helping people see that academia can, and should, be for them if they want it to be" says Ellen, when asked why people should listen to Beyond the Books. "If nothing else, I hope it will help them feel connected to something bigger”.

“Academic research can feel very introspective sometimes, and that’s intimidating if you’re just starting out. Before recording this podcast I regularly fell into the trap of feeling like the only person who’d never planned on doing a PhD, or who had serious doubts about their future. Speaking to our guests, I very quickly realised this was not the case.”

“There’s something really powerful about hearing other people put words on feelings you’ve struggled to articulate. If you don’t see your lived experiences reflected back at you - if it feels like nobody else thinks in the same way as you - you can quickly start to feel very isolated.”

"I think one thing our guests all collectively demonstrate is that elevating different voices or methodological practices will be key to the future of academic research. Ultimately, the success of that future is contingent on challenging a lot of tacit assumptions about what constitutes ‘scholarly’ research, and who is afforded the power to shape its direction."

Listen to the podcast trailer...

Freedom to frame ideas in new ways

Ellen has largely been working on campus, using the facilities in the School’s Resources Centre, and picking up advice from other podcasters like Kat Zabecka (Film Studies graduate host of the Edinburgh Film Podcast) and the team behind Development and Alumni’s Sharing Things.

Asked what she’s enjoyed most about the process, she says “Apart from gaining some invaluable experience on the sound production and editing side of things, it’s been fascinating seeing the breadth of research within the school. We have colleagues working on everything from debates surrounding reparations for Afrikaans slavery, to representations of sexual violence in Shakespeare through casts of all women.”

"There’s something about the podcast format that facilitates in-depth conversations about complex issues in a way conferences and seminars rarely seem to do. When you’re sat in a sound-proofed cupboard with zero external distractions from the outside world, something shifts.”

“There’s no panel of peers dissecting your every word, no insistent audience member to diffuse or placate. I feel like that gives people a freedom to frame ideas in new ways, which is a total joy from an interviewer’s perspective."

Becoming clearer and more direct

Designed to fit around students’ study commitments, while enabling them to develop and share their high-level research and analytical skills, the Employ.Ed for PhDs programme offers offers part-time paid internships to PhD students across the University of Edinburgh.

Asked about what she’s got from her internship, Ellen reflects on the value of being “part of a very supportive and generous team, who have given me an incredible degree of guidance and creative freedom. Having a lot of free reign has reminded me of the importance of having a very clearly defined focus or strategy from the get go.”

“I always have a hundred different ideas, projects and questions floating around my brain, which can be a blessing and a curse. When you’re building a social media channel, or a webpage, or an entire podcast series from scratch, things can very quickly snowball if you’re not methodical, and don’t ask for help.”

“I’m a stubborn perfectionist who is paradoxically terrible at honing in on small details, so that has been something of a challenge! I’d like to think I jump around less in my writing these days - that I am becoming clearer and more direct as I work through my PhD write-up. I’ll have to ask my supervisor when we get her on the podcast….wish me luck!


Beyond the Books on the LLC website

All episodes will be added to our Beyond the Books hub, where you can now listen to the trailer and find out about our first episode featuring Ellen in conversation with Rachel Chung.

With special thanks to John Glendinning (LLC) for additional technical support and En-Chi Liu (Development and Alumni) for advice. Our logo was designed by Ann Harrison (Digital Innovation Team, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences). The theme music is taken from the track ‘ThunderBird’ by ‘Oyy’, hosted by Epidemic Sound.

Take me to the Beyond the Books hub

There’s something about the podcast format that facilitates in-depth conversations about complex issues in a way conferences and seminars rarely seem to do. When you’re sat in a sound-proofed cupboard with zero external distractions from the outside world, something shifts.”

Ellen Davis-Walker, final year PhD candidate in French and Francophone StudiesEllen has researched, curated, edited and presented Beyond the Books

Related links

Find out more about the Employ.ed for PhD programme

Listen to the Edinburgh Film Podcast on MediaHopper

Find out more about Sharing Things