Katy Limmer, 36, is studying for a PhD on Charlton Heston at Exeter University

The posh way of describing my research is as a PhD in film and visual culture, encompassing star study, female spectatorship and masculinity. The straightforward way of saying what I'm researching is Charlton Heston. Film academics can be squeamish about saying they like stars, because it's unfashionable to do so. And there are widely accepted psychoanalytical approaches to spectatorship which argue that mainstream films are constructed for the pleasure of the male viewer and therefore any female pleasure is masochistic and perverse. But I enjoy watching Charlton Heston and am not sure why - but then for a PhD you should investigate what fascinates you. I like Hollywood, I like big cheesy films.

The posh way of describing my research is as a PhD in film and visual culture, encompassing star study, female spectatorship and masculinity. The straightforward way of saying what I'm researching is Charlton Heston. Film academics can be squeamish about saying they like stars, because it's unfashionable to do so. And there are widely accepted psychoanalytical approaches to spectatorship which argue that mainstream films are constructed for the pleasure of the male viewer and therefore any female pleasure is masochistic and perverse. But I enjoy watching Charlton Heston and am not sure why - but then for a PhD you should investigate what fascinates you. I like Hollywood, I like big cheesy films.

I did my undergraduate degree in English at Oxford, then a PGCE at Manchester Metropolitan. For the next six years I taught English at Yeovil College in Somerset. Eventually I took over the film studies course, though I felt underqualified.

When I became part-time because of a cost-cutting exercise I decided to do the MA I was always talking about. My MA in the history of cinema and popular culture at Exeter University took two years part-time and I had my first daughter, Lily, halfway through which complicated things and I did miss one term. I got a distinction in my MA dissertation (on Charlton Heston in 1950s epic films) which meant I got a distinction overall. My supervisor suggested a PhD, and Exeter offered me the Peter Jewell bursary which pays my fees.

I sent Charlton Heston my MA dissertation (I found his address on the internet) because I was chuffed with myself about getting the distinction. I said I wanted to do my PhD on him, and could I dedicate a bit of my research to him. It felt a bit naff writing to him, but I got a lovely, lovely letter back in which he said nice things about my dissertation. He said he'd be happy to be mentioned in the acknowledgments "along with others", which I thought was very self-deprecating for a Hollywood star.

I've been working on my PhD for two years; I think I've got until 2007. I took a year out in 2002 when my second child, Noor, was born. I'm now writing the second chapter of the thesis. It's not easy finding the time for research.

Before Lily started school, I did my research in the holidays when my students were off and the babies were in a crèche. But since Lily started having school holidays I felt guilty. Well, not guilty, I just didn't want to do it. Now I'm going to Exeter once a week, and I'm hoping to organise time to research in June. I'm always worried about the next bit of research.

It's not that easy combining further education teaching and research. I'm teaching Shakespearian film adaptation and British cinema at higher education level - my students have vaguely heard of Charlton Heston from his appearance in Friends.

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