Stand inside the nucleus of the atom. What do you see? You see protons, neutrons, dashing clouds of electrons.
—-And a woman with a notebook, writing.

It all began with physics. It wasn’t that I was good at physics at school. Chemistry was easy. Maths was a thrilling challenge. I didn’t quite click with physics. The school suggested I study Chemistry at university. I decided to choose the more difficult option. The much more difficult option, it turned out: joint honours in maths and physics. What was I thinking?

Although this is not a document aimed at physicists, or scientists, or even those curious about physics, she, the writer, who is interested primarily in story and in narrative, begins here because it is where it began for her, so many years ago, the spark that led to this PhD project. And it’s where humans may have begun to get particulate, to split and fragment everything, where “everything” includes story and narrative. She hopes, although the word “physics” is a turn-off for many people, that you don’t find it so here. She hopes you are entertained and intrigued.

The above is a quote from the “contextualising research” that formed part of my creative writing PhD, which I received in 2017. Am I the only person to undertake a practice-based creative writing PhD inspired by particle physics? I suspect I might be. Did I have any inkling this would be in my future as I sat in a University of Manchester physics lecture hall almost 30 years earlier, one of very few female particles in that male sea?I suspect I already knew I wouldn’t become a physicist (or a mathematician, my brain wasn’t suited to that), but I never dreamt, despite writing stories since I was small, that I might become a writer. A Writer. I felt that somehow this wasn’t “allowed” for someone who not only didn’t study English Lit at University but didn’t even really like English at school.


This is an excerpt from Tania Hershman’s essay in Magma 84, Physics



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