upper reading room (it’s like the lower reading room, only better)
I am in the Bodleian (Lower Reading Room, land of scary Classicists; fewer stairs, but also fewer exciting-slash-dreadful friezes), and I can hear the Coronation Street theme. This is baffling. It is not seven-thirty. It is not even the Omnibus. While you pause to consider exactly what this says about my viewing habits, I’ll stay here and wonder if this is some sort of dreadful mental breakdown. I am certainly v tired. Janette commented the other day that she could always hear Christmas carols whenever she was in the Lower Reading Room, so perhaps this place just has hallucinatory properties. Maybe the Bodleian is just made of drugs.
I am writing my essay. Well, of course, I’m not writing my essay, I’m blogging. My essay is going fairly well (the first draft is done, with only a sprinkling of [[PUT MORE HERE]] and terms like ‘DARWIN’ and ‘PHRENOLOGY’ and occasionally ‘STEPHEN COLBERT’ between paragraphs. I am still v much in love with him). I am still not applying for a DPhil, which makes me feel somewhat of an academic fraud. I also feel like a fraud because I’m attempting to combine Oxford Christmas (an ever-shifting festival that encompasses the end of November, early December and whenever eighth week happens) with a sober and mature contemplation of the fact that it’s still two weeks before I go home. And by ‘go home’, I mean ‘finish essay, hand it in, leave Oxford, start work [YAY] the following day, on a show I don’t know’.
My fellow postgrads are responding to the challenge of coursework in varying ways. L has already written hers, but then she’s a Physics major from Harvard who has the academic capability to treat an English MSt at Oxford as a gap year. She does not count. Janette (indigenous Oxonian, although baffling Medievalist) has any number of words and regards them as good. C saw my laptop draft today and said ‘stop it stop it stop it’, M has huge piles of books out, and S is downloading a great deal of music.
Meanwhile, the third years handed in their Paper 7 coursework today (Special Author). I wrote mine (last year) on Wilde. I read it again last night and wept for the lost coherence and articulacy of my youth (much in the same way I spent my first year weeping for the lost brilliance of my A Level coursework). You definitely get stupider as you get older. I have spent many days trying to find new ways of saying ‘significant’, and am gradually piecing together a vocabulary of essay-words that will, God willing, one day link my babbling about murder and physiognomy into beautiful paragraphs. My new favourite word is ‘predicate’. Unfortunately, much like ‘phrenology’ and ‘discourse of the soul’, I do not think it means what I think it means.
Anyway, Tuesday night was the English Faculty Graduate Christmas Party. I would like to offer a full and formal apology. I mean, I had a wonderful time. I just apologise for the shattering glass, wine-hoarding and cheese-scoffing that might have been centred on our corner (you know what I mean) of the very pretty room. And then we went to Poptarts. And then last night I went to our Christmas Dinner in college. And then there was champagne, and then don’t judge me. Apparently, saying you’re going to go home straight after dinner is not the same as actually doing it. Who knew.
But now it’s no more fun, no more bombs, no more misquoted Hunter S Thompson, and just lots and lots of restructuring between now and 18th. Talking of Poptarts, that was another occasion of culture shock. Apparently another thing Americans Don’t Have (as well as Christmas pudding, mince pies, and crackers – my God, describing those is difficult – ‘Well, it’s this cardboard cylinder covered in, like, shiny foil, and we pull them and they make noise, … and then we wear hats made of paper’) is really dreadful 80s Christmas songs.
Next term should be exciting, though, what with Victorian Drama, terrifying Bibliography, more stuff for the Oxonian Review (five pieces commissioned! Exciting times), and possible contribution to a new zine Jay’s creating. But, yes, until then, have a quotation (my favourite from my research thus far, thanks to its batshit insanity) —
If a woman breastfeeds her baby while ‘suddenly depressed under a shock of profound terror’, she will kill it: ‘at the first draught of milk its limbs become rigid and it dies’.
All The Year Round (17th March 1860), pp. 484-8, p.484. A publication by that grandad of cosy Christmas cheer, Charles Dickens. Women’s emotions kill babies! Hurrah!