No Victorian vices at weekends

March 2, 2007

Name: Diane Mason. Age: 51. Job: Freelance writer, researcher and sometime lecturer at Bath Spa University.

Education: I left school at 15 with no qualifications and entered higher education in 1992 after gaining three GCSEs and a brace of A levels at evening classes. I achieved the first first-class degree in English awarded by Bath College of Higher Education (now Bath Spa University) in 1995. I was granted a British Academy PhD studentship in 1999. I completed my thesis on masturbation in Victorian fiction and medical culture and was awarded a doctorate in 2003.

Working hours and conditions: I am writing a book entitled The Secret Vice: Masturbation in Victorian Fiction and Medical Culture for Manchester University Press and have other projects in the pipeline. I usually work about 40 hours a week.

Biggest challenge this year: Managing my time - as I largely work from home. It is easy, but never healthy, to become obsessed with one's work, and it is vital to get the balance right, giving equal weight to the demands of research and the other essentials of a fulfilled life. How you solved it: I never work beyond 6.30pm and always take weekends off. Worst moment in university life: Having a male undergraduate pass out during one of my lectures on Victorian medicine. Surprisingly, it wasn't the slides of grisly anti-masturbation devices that made him feel queasy but the image of 19th-century surgical implements, bone saws, amputation knives and so on.

What is your office like? An airy, upstairs room with lots of bookshelves and a desk looking out over the back garden.

What university facilities do you use? The library, the cafeteria and the bookshop. The quiet study area at the back of the library with the window facing the lake is a good place to sit and be inspired.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with and how do you cope with them? In any difficult situation, it is important to keep a grasp of proportion and sense of humour.

Best excuse for bad behaviour: "I didn't know that it wasn't allowed" from a student caught signing an absent friend (who was on an unauthorised three-week, mid-semester holiday in Florida) into class.

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? I have some good friends and colleagues in the history department.

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