Tag Archives: linkspam

Career planning for the frivolous.

The finishing line of my DPhil is apparently in sight. I’ve rewritten and deleted this paragraph a lot, obviously, but the gist is that I have to send my Faculty a schedule for completion, and my supervisors got quite excited. There is now a schedule. My mouth is quite dry.

Meanwhile, I am obviously researching and angsting over jobs. Again, can’t really talk about that without an oral desert and a twitching superstition gland, but I CAN talk about the other side to job-hunting.

Thus, putting the pro in procrastination, and making public a list I wrote last week:

Jobs at which I secretly believe I would excel:

1. Hostage negotiator.

I could do that.

2. Member of the Kennedy family.
3. Set dresser for theatre or TV, but only if all the sets were people’s student bedrooms.
4. Florist.
5. Royal nanny.
6. Curator and/or founder of a small (it must be small), esoteric museum on any of the following subjects: bookplates, Madge Kendal; Dorothy L Sayers; the Mitford sisters; Shakespeare’s women; the reasons why Jo March should have married Laurie; the now-demolished Surrey Theatre; sundry instances of Liverpudlian true crime; Alfred Douglas’s deranged family; and the less successful partners of famous actors/writers/artists. In no particular order, and somewhat worryingly, these are the subjects on which I know most, and which (crucially) that I think might make the kind of small, weird museum (nothing that would merit a large, lucrative museum is included) run entirely on an individual’s obsession, and which slightly frightens the punters. These are the museums I most love. It is my parents’ fault for accidentally taking me to Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft, as a child. They were thinking Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but there turned out to be pictures of naked Satanists. I wish I’d been more traumatised. Also, when finding a link to check it was actually Boscastle, I discovered, heartstoppingly, that ‘Neopagan Witch Cecil Williamson tried to open a museum to hold his collection of witchcraft and occult artefacts in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1947‘. Guys. We could have had Cecil’s Museum of Witchcraft AND Gyles Brandreth‘s Teddy Bear Museum (you don’t know. You weren’t there) both in my town.

I could hold that (I definitely couldn’t make it).

7. Suffragist.
8. Travelling tutor for children who live/perform in circuses.
9. Parisian.
10. Proprietor of year-round Christmas shop.

There, you see. If academia doesn’t work out, that’s at ten plausible career options…

That was quite a silly post. I am planning more sensible posts, regarding lecturing-from-iPads, Oxford’s new Interdisciplinary Network on Celebrity, and my thoughts on the RSC‘s #RSCWinter13 season (though that’s less a post, more feelings), but now I’m going to edit the draft I’ve been editing since the late Middle Ages, and then see Quartet. Have a lovely weekend.

 

 

Advent Calendar Day 19: MacColl.

Yesterday marked twelve years since the (heroic, tragic) death of Kirsty MacColl. Above, MacColl and everyone’s favourite Celtic punks sing “Fairytale of New York” (MacColl at her absolute best), which is (in turn) everyone’s favourite tale of embittered alcoholics and singing policemen.

Advent Calendar Day 16: Quiz!

This image is marginally relevant to the quiz. One of the things I really enjoy about life is that wherever literate women gather, you can always find someone willing to scream with you about Jo not marrying Laurie.

Earlier in Advent, the fragrant Jem Bloomfield described this month’s project as my “literary Advent Calendar”, coincidentally slightly before I started posting clips of 70s sitcoms and much-loved puppet shows. To reinforce the high moral tone, therefore, I offer you a lovely Christmas books quiz from the Guardian website.

Christmas, games and quizzes obviously go together like cheeseboards and heartburn. I love games and quizzes. I am pathologically incapable of not playing to win. This has encompassed the very nasty Scrabble game I played between Oxford interviews (I was convinced it was a subtle, informal form of testing; I’d like to confirm now that it DEFINITELY WASN’T), the Shakespeare board game with E’s mother in which my competitive streak led me to trounce EVERYONE, and the daily Bananagrams tournaments which embroil my mother and me in psychological warfare.* In the spirit of taking part meaning absolutely nothing against the joy of a Monopoly game won (even if your victory is by default following your opponent’s death or sleep), do enjoy the quiz.

 

*I looked on Amazon for seasonal variations on Bananagrams, to expand the family game horde. All the reviews consist of people screaming NOT AS GOOD AS BANAGRAMS in the allcaps of addicts. The tiles are addictive.

Advent Calendar Day 15: Muppets!

The Swedish Chef, Beaker, and Animal share a choral moment. Enjoy!

(You should of course also take the time to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol, the GREATEST of all Dickens adaptations, and its slightly alarming making-of documentary. I am word-perfect on this film. It’s awesome.)

Advent Calendar Day 12: Global!

Decorated trees, lit buildings, and Father Christmas in Beijing, China.

A woman wearing a niqab is photographed alongside a shop selling Christmas decorations in Cairo’s Shubra neighbourhood. Photograph: Odd Andersen, AFP.

An underwater Father Christmas in Malaysia, 2010.

The Bolshoi Theatre at Christmas, Moscow, Russia.

A Nigerian woman prays on the beach at Lagos, Christmas Day 2011. Photograph: Reuters.

The Apollo Theatre, 125th Street, Harlem, New York, illuminated for Christmas.

In Chandigarh, India, little schoolchildren dressed as Santa Claus sing Jingle Bells (and do the actions!). Photo: Reuters.

Advent Calendar Day 10: Carrots!

I understand that you’re feeling confused. Disturbed, and perhaps a little excited. Here is a place and a way of life you never knew existed.

The World Carrot Museum may be mainly virtual, but as this image shows, curator John Stolarczyk has taken at least part of his passion into the physical world. This Christmas tree is in Skipton, UK. We too will thither bend our joyful footsteps, or at least follow the link and (as Mr. Stolarczyk suggests), discover the power of carrots. After all, the carrot has long been associated with the Christmas festivities.

I am 99% certain this is neither a big sectarian NOR a phallic cult. Happy Christmas, Rudolph.

Advent Calendar Day 7: Charity!

The quintessential Christmas charity is probably the Salvation Army. Personally, though, I’m uncomfortable donating to the SA due to their historic (and contemporary) attitudes to LGBT people, and, of their militaristic, evangelical style of Christianity.

Christmas Charity Fun Run, 2011. Awesome (and unrelated to the SA...)

Christmas Charity Fun Run, 2011. Awesome (and unrelated to the SA…)

Enough hate. Today’s window opens on other and perhaps worthier causes (chosen in entirely idiosyncratic and incomplete fashion by me) to which you might like to donate this Christmas!

Of course, not everyone has spare cash for donations at the moment. So, here are places where just a few moments’ clicking or playing allows you to donate to charity without spending any money yourself:

[PODCAST]: Oscar Wilde’s Women for Great Writers Inspire

A couple of weeks ago, Alex recorded me for a podcast that rounds off the series called Great Writers Inspire. Great Writers Inspire is an amazing project providing open access, FREE lectures, talks, ebooks and other material on all sorts of writers. You don’t need any kind of educational affiliation or specialist background to enjoy them – they’re a great way to discover new writers.

Equally, listening to the other podcasts (generally in a state of sweaty apprehension and/or while on trains) allowed me to revisit authors I’d not studied since undergrad. Since I’m massively about to plug my own contribution, I’ll pre-emptively recommend those I most enjoyed:
Dr. Jennifer Batt on Mary Leapor, a fascinating eighteenth-century kitchenmaid and poet of whom I’d never heard (I didn’t get much beyond Stephen Duck).

Professor Daniel Wakelin on Chaucer (I loved this & enthused nostalgically about glory days of undergad).

Professor Tiffany Stern on Shakespeare and the Stage (concise, entertaining and illuminating, this is the best of the introductory talks).

My talk is here: Oscar Wilde’s Women. If the link dies, I am also searchable on iTunes, which will never stop being bizarre. In the podcast, I talk a bit about the ways in which I find seeing Wilde’s life as radical or inspirational problematic, wave the flag for Constance Wilde, and then suggest where the really radical Wilde is to be found – in his society plays’ depictions of women. I very much hope you enjoy it.

I was incredibly nervous about participating, but am so glad to have been involved. Do check out the Great Writers Inspire blog and library (including the unexpected opportunity to download Fanny Hill to your Kindle).

And, if you’re reading this in Oxford, enjoy the last of -1st week…

[EVENT] The Hogge Hath Lost His Pearle, 22 September, Oxford.

Saturday, 22nd September 2012. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The Malone Society with the Oxford English Faculty, at Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

A semi-staged reading and discussion of Robert Tailor’s The Hogge hath lost his Pearle.

Registration, to include sandwich lunch and a copy of the text (or alternative Malone soc publication): £35 full, £15 student/Malone Society members. You can register online here.

If you prefer, please send a cheque payable to the Oxford English Faculty to Emma Smith, Hertford College, Oxford OX1 3BW.

Corpus Christi College, Oxford. (c) college website, 2012.

Corpus, incidentally, is the prettiest of all Oxford’s smaller colleges excluding ORIEL and Brasenose.

I was there yesterday, showing E. the wonders of its Jesus-pelican, inexplicable greenhouse, stunning gardens and commitment to really beautiful planting. Also, there’s a sun terrace.

(Note to Oxonians: did we know about the sun terrace? Shall we all meet up there and share sundry ice-cold beverages? Is Corpus so cool that its possession of a sun terrace is, to the …corpuscules,  not even A Thing? In any case, here’s the view from said terrace).

So yes. £15; Hogges; Pearles; sun terrace. Please do propagate the link and forward it to anyone who might be interested!

Research 2.0

Oxford is enjoying the long vac. This is the academic summer holiday; the period running from the end of 8th week Trinity (usually in late June), to October and Freshers’ Week. It is also the period to which proper academics refer as “time for getting some real work done”.

i've got 99 problems but mrs patrick campbell ain't one (sorry)

Mrs. Patrick Campbell. Doing ACTING. She's not trying very hard.

I’m doing my best. I’ve handed in a chapter draft & started work on another, only to discover that while reviews of Mrs. Patrick Campbell’s Shakespearean heroines (my last topic) were relatively few (journalists preferring to focus on Weird Saintly Johnstone F-R), every fin-de-siecle hack seems to have had at least 1,000 mind-numbing words to say about Ellen Terry in Cymbeline.

My DPhil project is (currently) entitled “Shakespeare’s Women and the Fin de Siècle”, a title I love & cling to because

a) it’s short

b) it doesn’t have a colon in it (ergo no need to find Witty Quotation/make Unfortunate Pun), and

c) it lets my project do what it says on the tin. At present, though, it’s  the Fin de Siècle, rather than Shakespeare’s Women, giving me a mild academic headache.

Ellen Terry: The Psychedelic Years.

Oxford’s broadly/tacitly historicist approach to English (yes, all right, excluding Wadham, & NDKAlex) has always suited me perfectly. Unfortunately, while beginning my last chapter, I realised I had absolutely no idea what happened in theatre, literature or indeed British history, in the years immediately following 1895. Apart from Jude Law shouting “OSCAR!” across a Mediterranean courtyard, that shot of Lillie Langtry in The Degenerates, and Robbie Ross summoning a priest to Paris c. 1900, the end of the nineteenth century remained a blank.

Being gay for Sarah Bernhardt. That's my girl (Pelleas et Melisande, since you ask).

Given that much of my last chapter took place in and around 1895-8, this necessitated serious remedial research; fortunately successful. My new chapter centres on 1896, and I fondly imagined that this date – falling as it does under the big neurasthenic umbrella spread by the antics of Mrs Patrick “Skinny, Mad” Campbell – might make things easier. Oh no.

My supervisor, having reminded me that one version of my project was originally called The Actress and the Academy (I wish it’d been “The Actress and the Evangelist”, because if you’re going to have a pun, it should involve an actress and a bishop), has prescribed lots of C19 non- (and sometimes anti-)theatrical Shakespeare criticism.

Hartley Coleridge. The poster child for not-being-the-son-of-a-Romantic-Poet.

I have thus spent much of this weekend with Schlegel, Hazlitt, Coleridge, poor old Hartley Coleridge (no wonder he turned out so weird), Lamb, Ruskin and Pater. Simultaneously, I’m trying to pin down the theatrical marketplace c.1898-1901 beyond my memories of the Forsyte Saga and a Ladybird Book of Kings & Queens awareness that, in 1901, Queen Victoria Has To Die.

Fortunately, it’s brilliant. So far I’ve popped back to 1892 (Tennyson’s deathbed & the Shakespeare-hugging) and then jetted forward to 1904 (Vedrenne and Barker beginning to manage the Royal Court). In between are a series of pleasing symmetries: it gratifies me hugely that 1895 was both the year of Irving’s knighthood, and the year Shaw became critic of the Saturday Review (mostly to spend the next three years inveighing against Irving on a weekly, public basis). If you’re on Team Shaw (I’m mostly not), it’s also immensely satsifying that 1898, the year Shaw published Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant, was the year Irving had to surrender the Lyceum Theatre to a syndicate.

L. Waller. REALLY, ladies?

Team Shaw and Team Henry were never actual Victorian entities (sad mistake), but today I discovered there was a Keen On Waller (Lewis Waller) Brigade, who wore K.O.W. badges, and doubtless bore resemblance to the madwomen we used to unpeel from David Tennant’s car during the RSC Hamlet.

In the midst of all this scattergun chronology, I cautiously feel I’m making progress and gaining, at the very least, some self-awareness about my research. Increasingly, I recognise a rhythm in the psychology involved in beginning a new chapter. Each time, it’s with scholarly-fingers-crossed that the distant instinct of x production potentially being useful or interesting to study (I found my first ever Thesis Outline last night. It made me laugh. And heave) will be justified by archival fulfilment of the Micawber principle that Something (Anything) Will Turn Up. So far, joyfully, it always has. But never the thing(s) I’ve expected.

Although it does nothing for my personal brand of Imposter Syndrome, I’ve learned that, in research, it’s rarely solely the Neat Planned Trajectory of Reading which delivers the goods. Obviously days-on-end of grunt work is essential (see my opening re: hacks/Shakespeare/Terry), but it’s often the chance remark made by your supervisor/panel chair/coffee buddy in the Bod/Costa/despair that sparks something new; or the book you pick up for £2 at a room-sale, or flick through in Blackwell’s. Or, it’s the “irrelevant” scrapbook you read for fun while in archives, or the weird small ads in the Post, or the lucky chronological coincidence you can’t control. The miraculous cannot, I’ve found, occur without the mundane: I usually find the Big Idea only when bored to tears by hours and hours of the Small. Perhaps there’s some weird scholarly symbiosis at work — actually, maybe this isn’t progress; on rereading, it sounds more like a retreat into archival mysticism. The Oxford Faculty of Magical Thinking. Damn.

Secondly, alongside this uncertainty principle (which COULD be interpreted as evidence of a rich field for research & hitherto unexplored complexities of fin-de-siecle theatre, thank you very much) there’s the sensation from which I’ve drawn the title of this post – the start of second-year research and an upgrade to Research 2.0.

I like pictures. Only God can judge me.

Poor old Tennyson.

Simply put, this is the unfolding student belief that, twelve months in and umpteen texts later, EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED. Suddenly, everything is linking up! Everything is helpful for everything! EVERYTHING must be written down, EVERYTHING speaks IN A VERY REAL SENSE to that other thing there, in that document, on that bit of paper, LOOK HOW IT ALL MAKES SENSE. ISN’T IT INTERESTING??? &c. Having drafted three chapters, I am suddenly transfixed: although nominally just researching Cymbeline, I start SEEING INSIGHTS EVERYWHERE re: Lady Macbeth, Marxism, big dead Tennyson, the Royal Court Theatre & other figures who belong elsewhere in my thesis… LOOK HOW IT ALL JOINS UP.

This is fun, but dangerous. A love of patterns, symmetries & the desire for a Grand Master Theory encourages me to see/overstate connections and conspiracies that might not exist. While a deepening sense of the period is crucial – definitions, relationships, geographies etc – I’m trying to balance this with caution about tying it all together in a quixotic version of the Victorian World Order (even if I really want to find that Big Idea and make it Unlock Everything Ever), and trying not to confuse INTERESTING with what’s actually important. Equally, to make progress on one chapter, I have to limit my exciting tangents re: others, at least temporarily.

Then again, I suppose that kind of tangential, experimental research is exactly what the vac is for! In the various begging letters written during my year out & time as a PRS (i.e. my Oxford, AHRC, STR, Helmore Award and other apps, thank god for imminent funding) I set out a schedule for  completing the DPhil. This schedule made no mention of the Christmas, Easter or long vacs.

At the time, I had two reasons. Firstly, I knew the timetable was ambitious, and wanted to allow myself decent margins for expansion/alteration/disasters, should they occur (secretly, I was convinced I’d have to resit transfer). Secondly, at the start of my DPhil, I was unfunded, and expected to spend most or all of each holiday working (hence the stacks of A Level papers beneath which January was crushed).

Now funding approaches, but this vac time has been essential – both for finishing my third chapter, and starting teaching prep. Finishing Cymbeline by Christmas will mean I’m on track; sounds easy, no? But, again, teaching approaches. Not merely because of the volatile summer weather, I can’t help feeling I’m in the calm before the storm.

Sophie's spiritual home. Well, 50% of it. The other half doesn't have a nice picture.

Not that I’m, you know, calm exactly. I’m moving house (yes, still), alongside one of the least calm people I know, viz. my namesake, who is taking Some Sort Of Exams on Tuesday. Most of them are about Death. Every time I bother her in the library, she’s reading books on What Happens When You Die (non-medics thinking of researching: oh my god, don’t), and her life at the moment seems to consist entirely of Palliative Care and salads from Alpha Bar. I am reassured that, after Tuesday, her eyes will return to their normal size. Her hair is going white.

Probably what stung me.

Said medic has, however, been a star this week. Last Sunday, I was in Kent, where I not only attended The Most Beautiful (And Tasteful. And Moving. And Boozy) Wedding in-the-world-ever (it was here), but was bitten by some gladiatorial tropical deathfly that had visited England on summer exchange with the humble Kentish mosquito.

The lovely Emily, also bitten, had merely a slight itch in manner of a hardy German: I chose instead to stage my personal tribute to Cheryl Cole (except I bet she never had the left leg of an elephant with sunburn).

Sophie, my v. own doctor-in-the-house (who is doing far better at masking her native glint of clinical interest with the glow of human sympathy) has been sterling in pointing out the inadequacy of my home GP, and promising I won’t die. This is a vast step forward from The Time My New Bra Gave Me A Rash, when she poked said rash with one finger before saying “ooh, it doesn’t blanch”, and losing interest. I’m happy to live with her.

Meanwhile, I hope everyone on the East Coast or otherwise in the path of Hurricane Irene (why not Imogen, hmm?) is keeping safe. I go now to sort photo-frames into cardboard boxes.