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The PhD Diaries: Identities in Transformation

The PhD Diaries is a series of pieces written by PhD candidates who work in areas associated with the Identities in Transformation research theme. Over the course of several weeks, they will examine their relationship with their research and how it has changed them. Louise Kari Méreau is a PhD candidate in the French department of the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies where her research focuses on Cynicism in French contemporary novels.

Me, Myself and I.

1. ME.

I pour a cup of tea, take my anti-depressants and open a new Word document.

I have been asked to write about myself and what I believe is a part of myself: PhD. It is almost a month now that I am supposed to get into it and write about how I feel and what I feel. What I am. It appeared at first like the easiest exercise: just blab a lot about myself over 500 words and I’d be done.

No. it is not that simple, for the very reason that, this time, I have way too many secondary sources and bibliographies to prove my point. I know I am sitting at my desk, at the Trinity Long Room Hub today, because I read Harry Potter from the age of 8, Molière from 10, The Portrait of Dorian Gray when I was 14, the Confession of a Child of the Century when I was 15, Mémoires d’un jeune homme derange at 16, and many more: Le Marquis de Sade, Baudelaire, Nerval, Kerouac, Rabelais, Corneille, Racine, Rousseau, Orsenna, Bergson, Jean Lorrain, Epicure…

Can I just make a list of all the books and all the authors that made me devote myself to literature over the remaining 300 words I have left?

One said, “you are what you eat”; another one added, “you are what you do”; many disagree that “you are what you say”. I say, I am what I read.


The sensation I have while struggling to write about myself anew: for the first time, I am realising that I am identifying myself as my PhD. I am research, I am cynicism, I am reading, I am French contemporary literature, I am writing, I am Beigbeder, I am staying up late and not sleeping much, I am novels, I am stressing and overthinking, … I do not know how to define myself if not through the spectrum of the PhD.

Yet, I know I am not only my PhD. And still yet, I don’t know how to present myself without using it.
I feel like the PhD work and the overwhelm of it has sucked up all the other parts of what I am. I had to put so much of myself into my research that I may have lost some bits in it.

I not only work on my PhD, I live through it.

3. I.

“I”, the first personal pronoun. One letter to know who does the action. “I” changes consistently, depending on who is using it, in which sentence, at which time. The “I” from yesterday is not the same as today, and my “I” is not the one used by my desk neighbour or my students. Even more, the “I” is not the “je” that I use when I speak my first language. I read somewhere that one’s character changes depending on the language the subject speaks. I absolutely believe this is true.

The “I” allows the subject of the sentence to identify that he or she is doing the action and is depicting it from his or her perspective. There is no need to be the “myself” to use “I”. If I imitate someone, I can use “I”, if I write a fiction I can use “I”. “I” is the mark of an action and a subjectivity.

I can say for sure that the “I” writing these lines is not the one who applied to do a PhD in Trinity in March 2016.


Louise Kari Méreau

Louise Kari Méreau is a fourth year PhD in the French department of the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies at Trinity College, Dublin. She is supervised by Dr. Sarah Alyn Stacey and is the recipient of the Claude and Vincenette Pichois Award. She has a double license of philosophy and literature (Panthéon Sorbonne, 2014), a master of French Renaissance Literature (Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2016), and a master of English Literature (National University of Ireland Galway, 2016). Her current research focuses on Cynicism in French contemporary novels, with the examples of Frederic Beigbeder and Virginie Despentes. She has participated in more than twenty conferences on Cynicism, the Beat Generation and Beigbeder and Despentes’ novels, and the concept of “the freak.”