Thursday Retrospect

this is an old photo of my cat but essentially this is the pissed-off expression she's been giving me all week. I have turned to cat blogging to indicate the primordial pit of pyjama-wearing word-cutting into which I have sunk. Me and the chocolatey mini-bites om nom nom. Future employers should probably skip this post.

My thesis is driving me to distraction. I could write a long and detailed post about why, about word counts and outlines and the impossibility of choosing a grammatical tense with which to articulate both your possible putative proto-not-yet-tested Big Idea, and the 2 x 15,000 words on which you’ve spent the past two terms. But that would be unutterably boring. Choosing tenses is boring for ME, and if I were any more emotionally invested in this thesis, I’d be choosing its godparents and putting its name down for prep school (my thesis would never get into prep school. My thesis would colour in its reading book and bite all the other little theses on the arms. My thesis would get EXPELLED from prep school. It would look RUBBISH in a boater. Good show). One of my supervisors wrote a self-help book about Shakespeare, or possibly a Shakespeare book about self-help. It’s awesome, except I cannot currently follow ANY of its advice, because the one aspect of the human condition on which Shakespeare apparently had nothing to say was thesis-writing. Can’t imagine why that should have been (and yet, it’s a bloody tragedy, because if ANYBODY had stuff to say about writing for deadlines and juggling ideas and trying to please all manner of potentially-hostile-audiences, it would have been Shakespeare. Not, of course, that I’d use a celestial one-to-one with Mr S to bitch at him about my thesis [today, I would totally do that]. I just wish he’d written to us about his writing).

My point is that rewriting sucks, and outlines suck too. Masochistically, I am comforted by the intensity with which I loathe every word that I wrote this morning. It reassures me that I care, and that I’m probably doing the right thing. Doing the right thing with my life, that is – I doubt I’m doing the right thing with this damned outline.

Impassioned angstspam aside, here are some of the other things that have interested me this week…

  • Lewis — well, it was splendid until the last 10 minutes, when the cheerful-Gaudy-Night-ripoff suddenly turned into a bedhopping treatise on how all you need is the love of an (immature, violent, possibly rapist) undergraduate male, and how if it’s taken away from you, you’ll have to set fire to yourself in an army base. As Juliet Stevenson did. BEFORE THAT, the entire thing was Lewis at its ludicrous best – no continuity  (snow?), at least four thousand Byronic lesbians, a House Beautiful, Juliet Stevenson in AMAZING CLOTHES, magic-coma-regression-quackery, and the fictional college of Lady St Margaret Hall H(t)ildas. We see what you did there. My personal highlight, however, was Hathaway making an enormous MURDERCOMIC! out of love for Inspector Lewis. Hobson (Clare Holman) and Innocent (Rebecca Front) as brilliant as ever. I was also able to point out to Emily the pub in which I thought John-Mark was going to be glassed. I love Lewis. I hate not having a telly at uni on which to watch it.
  • Would you rather be productive or creative? Normally: the latter. Today: the former yes please god now thankyou.
  • This video of a 1979 Macbeth has been making E and me laugh this morning. Actually, sod it, have the embedded version:
    It’s Act IV, Scene 3, with some Serious Acting by Roger Rees and Bob Peck. E is shortly to play Macduff and was confused as to where my stoical acting impressions were coming from. Roger Rees has an inexplicable fisherman’s jumper (similar to one my friend Daniel wore on Monday night), but the bit where Bob Peck says “He has no children” is magnificent. The rest is less so. I do think Malcolm is one of the most thankless character parts in Shakespeare – such a holding bay, and such a terrible Big Scene. Everyone’s waiting for the Tidings of Doom and whether or not Malcolm’s a filthy pervert is comparatively uninteresting. If I saw a production that actually knew what to do about the England scene, my mind might be changed.
  • Excited BEYOND BELIEF at the publication of vol 2 of Ellen Terry’s letters. They weren’t at the Shakespeare Institute, but will be my first port of call on returning to Oxford tomorrow. A snip at £100 a vol.
  • This list was inspired by Jonny’s Monday Retrospects. Such is my life that I’m doing it on a Thursday.


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Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.

10 Comments Leave a comment

  1. That episode of Lewis started out by making me so happy with its Gaudy Night-ness and awesomely-attired and glowing Juliet Stevenson. However, ARGH WHAT WAS THAT ENDING? So disappointed. Grmph.


    • awesomely-attired and glowing Juliet Stevenson

      I KNOW. My every second word (the other being the compound omghathaway) was a reference to CLOTHES. I thought she looked especially fab doing Griefstricken Digging in that natty jumper.

      Total letdown on the ending. Especially since Stevenson’s character followed roughly the same trajectory as Miss Hillyard in Gaudy Night, who retires with dignity after what must have been an agonising interview with Peter. The final scene with Annie is, of course, terrible (and one of the few scenes, as opposed to characters, that the TV version gets really right), but I find the descriptions of Miss Hillyard the most painful part of the book.


      • I must rewatch this and relive the squee of OH HER FACE and HER BEAUTIFUL CLOTHES. Apart from the jumper of grief and digging her dressy frock thing from the Gaudy was just lovely. Also her robe and reading glasses in the morning.

        I am sorely due a proper Gaudy Night re-read. I may just have skipped through it the last time for all the Peter and Harriet bits. Ah dear.


        • Yes. The robe and glasses were just splendid. She’s got such a wonderful face, too. And acted the TERRIBLE ENDING very well indeed. I thought the part of the Principal was rather underwritten – realistically, Stevenson’s character would never have BECOME Principal, but she was a bit redundant because she never felt like a threat/possible candidate – one more scene and she might have done. I wonder about the Lewis deleted scenes….

          Me too! That may be the best thing to come out of the episode (that and Hathway’s MURDERCOMIC).


    • Also: it pleases me more than I can say that someone found this blog by googling “juliet stevenson clothes in lewis”.


        • She DID. I mean, I’ve seen her perform in her own clothes and she has fabulous taste + is v thin, but they did dress her BEAUTIFULLY. And I thought the whole episode was marvellously shot. Much more Morselike in production values than any other Lewis I’ve seen. I hadn’t really realised the disparity until I started watching the old Morses on DVD – they ARE like films in their cinematography. As we ALL KNOW, Life Born of Fire is my favourite ep ever, but in terms of photography, it’s pretty unremarkable beyond just framing.


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