suddenly everything has changed: Wayne Coyne was probably talking about my PhD [an update]

beth-gibbons
current mood: contemplative, thinking, are we still in 1994, let’s have Beth Gibbons pictures everywhere

Hello everyone. I know I don’t really update this corner of the internet much anymore. I’m currently in the third year of this PhD, so TWO MORE YEARS and YOU SHOULD BE WRITING and GET OFF TWITTER and YOU STILL AREN’T WRITING are the slogans marching around inside my head for the last month or so. I’m teaching, too — since earlier this year I’ve been given the opportunity to teach undergraduates solo, which is exciting and challenging. I get to work with some brilliant students. All good.

I’m at the stage of my thesis where I’m starting to believe that I’ve found my focus, so to say. My research has now become a study of Shakespeare performance in Ireland in relation to how it operates in and out of current Irish debates on gender and sexuality, as well as issues of national identity. This makes sense to me, this excites me, and this allows me to take ownership of this work. It’s funny, because in some ways, that focus has been there since the beginning: being adamant about taking an intersectional feminist approach to my work regardless, becoming invested in the #WakingTheFeminists and #repealthe8th campaigns, and unconsciously taking an interest in women and queer people’s approaches to Irish Shakespeare.  I had been thinking about the project so broadly beforehand, and spent ages struggling with how to siphon everything down. So, when I walked into a supervision in August saying ‘I get to write about #WakingTheFeminists in my thesis now!!!’ (after having seen the wonderful and distinctly Irish Globe The Taming of the Shrew), that was a clear indicator to my supervisor as to where the thesis ought to go. And, eventually, to me, too. [I’ll actually be talking about this production in relation to Irish feminism at this symposium in Maynooth at the end of the month, fyi.]

And what’s the most wonderful thing about this development is that my feminism, my queerness, and my research do not need to be separate from each other. They co-exist and they inform each other. And despite my own fears and hesitations, I know that can be possible. Just yesterday, I attended the second day of the 1916: Home: 2016 conference (co-organised by brilliant colleagues of mine at NUIG), in which a panellist stated that ‘I don’t see why I can’t be both an activist and a historian.’ And we, as younger scholars, need affirmations like that, as we try to carve out our own paths. At the same time, Academic Manel Watch is gathering steam on Twitter, as is the hashtag #WakingTheAcademics. Conversations are happening.

So there’s that. Our objectives now are to keep those conversations and actions going. In the meantime, myself and three brilliant colleagues/friends/sisters-in-arms are running our own podcast called Feminist Theatre Squadron: you can listen to us talk about theatre, feminism, and being cranky here. And sure, that sounds like a cynical shill. But given our own current political situation (Brexit and its aftermath, the rise of the alt-right, so much inaction close to home, #WakingTheFeminists offering some semblance of hope and change), I think it’s important that we talk, and keep talking, and refuse to stop. I’m sure it won’t be our only contribution to this conversation, but it’s a start nonetheless.

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…How did we get here?

Greetings, everyone. I have not written here in a long time (a lot has happened — we have marriage equality and gender recognition, for one), so I’ll do one of those update posts á la Sophie Duncan’s at Clamorous Voice (you all should read that blog, as it is indeed Very Good).

Anyway.

1. I am about ten months into my PhD. I did a bunch of writing this year, passed my GRC meeting in May (that’s Graduate Research Committee, fact fans, kinda like a progress panel), and thus launched into four to five weeks of SO. MUCH. TRAVELLING.

2. The first was a trip to BritGrad at the Shakespeare Institute, which is generally brilliant every year — I always come away from it having spent quality time with old friends and having got to know excellent new friends. It’s essentially a holiday at this stage. Second trip was the STR New Researchers’ Network symposium (I’m a committee member, fnarr) at the Shard, which I came away from loving all of the delegates and all of my fellow committee members, and also feeling very hopeful for the future of theatre and performance studies. Every panel I went to was great, and taught me something new. Third was, following a weekend at Dublin Pride with friends, a trip far down south to Skibbereen in west Cork. I stayed in a very swish B&B, or what my housemate called ‘a sex B&B’. (FYI, I did not have anyone to have sex with in that B&B.) The reason I was down there was that Druid’s latest production, DruidShakespeare, was performing there for a night, and the thesis dictated that I would basically follow that production as much as I could over the summer. Other than the show being Very Good (I’ve seen it several times now), I came away from it thinking that all theatre shows could do with serving free tea at intervals. And then I went to New York to speak at a symposium about the show and then got to see it in the city there too. Which is all pretty good. (All I need to do now is get tickets to see it in Kilkenny — performing at Richard II’s digs! — and then the odyssey will be over for now.)

3. I arrived back from New York on Monday, attended the launch of the Yeats & the West exhibition (you should check it out, it’s so pretty), saw Luck Just Kissed You Hello with my friend Chris that night, and went to see St. Vincent on Tuesday night. The only downside is that now, my body is beginning to revolt, and as a result I am experiencing All Of The Jet Lag. The worst part is the sudden feeling of constantly being off-balance, so now I am in my bed, trying not to lift my head too high, and attempting to strategically drink cups of tea without lifting my head too much. We’ll see how things go. I would like to be able to stand in the shower and not feel nauseous.

4. My department are organising this conference next week and you should go because it’ll be great and I’ll be volunteering at it and being overly chirpy at the registration desk. Oh, and it’s GIAF. Hurrah.

5. I really don’t want to get on another plane for another long while but then I remembered I’ve to go to London at the end of next month. Damn.

6. My tea is now cold. Shit.

So, You Want To Do A PhD [And Get Money While You’re At It]

I have a strange kind of nostalgia for this time last year. I remember how I had arrived back in Galway for a few days to meet with a potential supervisor to discuss PhD ideas and funding, whilst also keeping my visit very low-key because I was a little bit worried about everything falling through (I’m cautious to the point of Let’s Not Do It At All, sometimes). Otherwise, I was spending my last few months in Stratford reading, researching, writing, thinking, putting together That Proposal. It’s amazing how much has changed in the last twelve months. When I think about it, those few months were fun, exciting, and full of possibility: now that I’ve started my PhD with full funding, I consider myself very lucky to be able to do what I want to do, to be able to do what I love with financial backing. It’s difficult at times, but there is nothing else I would prefer to do right now — which can only be a good thing.

Now, it’s that time of year where research councils such as the AHRC and IRC are rolling out their call for applications, and where people are putting together their proposals, and are sending tentative ideas to academics they’d like to be supervised by. I’m not saying I’m an expert on all that there is to know about applying for a PhD and getting funding (every situation is different), but this is all I can offer.

1. Initially, the process of choosing a supervisor should go like this: Topic, Supervisor, Institution. Which is a contradiction, but this was advice given to me by a PhD student at the Institute and he was damn right. I remember my MA supervisor telling me that I should do the project I’m doing *in* Ireland — because that’s where all the resources and archives and performances are. In that case, choosing my supervisor, and to that extent my institution as well, was a no-brainer (again, have you SEEN our archives?). As much as we all want to work with Tiffany Stern because she’s Tiffany Stern and pretty bloody amazing at what she does, do your research interests align with hers? No? Then don’t approach Tiffany Stern.

2. Make enquiries to intended supervisors. Who is the most enthusiastic about your work? Who makes time to answer your email in a detailed and timely fashion? Who shows interest? What is their attitude towards you? They could be a Big Shot in your field, but if they’re dismissive towards you… do you really want to work with them? This may not be feasible or maybe too expensive, but also try and meet with them in person. That will also give you some indication of how you might get on with them, and how excited they are about your project. I don’t have any advice on contacting supervisors you might not know (I was lucky in that I knew mine from my undergraduate days), but when initially emailing them, don’t send them A Huge Chunk Of Text. Especially if you’re prone to rambling about the stuff you love, like me. I remember redrafting my initial draft of the ‘so hey I’m interested in working with you’ email to my supervisor twice: partially out of fear, partially because it was too damn long. Save the rambling for when you meet them (but please don’t scare them off either).

3. Get reading! Get writing! Don’t be afraid to show drafts of applications to your intended supervisors. Contrary to popular belief, they will not think you are wholly incapable of doing research because of a rough draft you send to them. Remember, they were at that stage you’re at right now too, and they genuinely want to help you succeed and GET MONEY.

4. Enjoy doing the funding applications. I’m serious. They help you clarify and think about your research in ways you can’t imagine. You also need to be super specific in them too, especially when it comes to money and justifying your project’s financial needs. Go onto British Airways or Ryanair or Aer Lingus and see how much it would cost to attend the main conferences in your field. Include details of conference fees, bursaries (if they are awarded, that is — you don’t know if you’ll get them, but it will show that you have actually thought this through), living expenses, and accommodation. This also goes for research trips, but you need to make sure you’re thinking about them sensibly (I wanted to go to the Guthrie Theatre initially, in my first year. Ha ha, good one).

5. Further on from writing and reading and editing, use your supervisors, but ask friends, former tutors, and people whose opinions you actually trust to read over your drafts too. Listen to them. Sometimes you will agree with them, sometimes you won’t, but it is very valuable to discuss your ideas with other people who may offer different perspectives on your work. (If your supervisor is anything like mine, they will encourage this.) For example, my undergraduate Shakespeare tutor [who, in my mind, is equally as brilliant as Tiffany Stern] doesn’t work on performance, but his suggestion to be conscientious of plays with an Irish presence in the text was something I needed to be aware of. My best friend reads everything I send to her, and she is the queen of detecting clunky expressions and has the innate ability to make sentences sound beautiful and clear. And where your supervisors are concerned, they can help in making very valuable changes: suggesting a line of enquiry to take, or a place to go on a research trip to, or particular authors to include in your critical context section.

6. If the scholarship you are applying for requires an interview, bring a thesis outline and a plan for the duration of your studies. Draw on it during the interview (maybe bring another copy for yourself to keep), but leave it with your interviewers. Also, you might be asked to think about how your work so far has brought you to this stage, and how your work can make an impact beyond your immediate field. This is important: what are the wider implications of the work that you want to do? Again, what your assessors want to see is that you have actually made an effort, and that you have thought this through, and that you’re not flying by the seat of your pants (well, we all are flying by the seat of our pants, we all just need to learn how to hide it. I’m still learning myself. Also, isn’t ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ a FABULOUS expression?).

8. Acknowledge that your research is going to change and develop over this period, and that this is okay. In fact, it’s fun. As I’ve already said, funding applications are invaluable for helping you to clarify your research question, and to reshape it into something more exciting than you previously thought. If you don’t get funding, that doesn’t mean that you’re incapable of doing research, or that your idea isn’t great — research councils are unpredictable and often very fickle. Someone will get funding from one awarding body, and will be turned down by another. It’s very, very weird, and very saddening considering the amount of funding that is out there for the humanities (i.e., dwindling, dwindling quite fast). I wish you all the best of luck, and enjoy the ride.

PhD? Oh yes, that is a thing now.

GREETINGS wordpress. I haven’t written much in the last several months (April doesn’t count). I thought it was time I’d log in and actually write an update of some sort. A real one.

I moved from Stratford back to Galway. You already knew that. I finished my master’s with Distinction overall (hoorah!) and graduated in December. The graduation ceremony was magnificent: they had this brilliant musical section who I was ALMOST SURE were going to start playing The Throne Room from A New Hope. Unfortunately, they did not, but I’m pretty sure they played Wagner instead which was pretty cool. After a year and three months of being called ‘Emm-er’ by people, my name was at long last pronounced correctly on the podium to my relief (I apologise for my cynicism regarding the University of Birmingham’s correct pronunciation form). I also didn’t trip up or cause the Great Hall to implode or cause great injury to my friends, fellow graduates, academics, and loved ones. I then spent the evening with friends eating pie and wandering around in Birmingham’s massive humungous German Christmas market (i.e., drinking mulled wine in a charming little shack on what appeared to be New Street). There was also really nice pie and soft furry animals and liking Disney even though they reinforce horrible gender norms.

Leaving your whole life behind for the sake of one guy you met that one time -- that is A Thing. And yet I still love this film.
Leaving your whole life behind for the sake of one guy you met that one time — that is A Thing. And yet I still love this film.

And a few weeks later I had to leave and it was all very sad. But then I moved to Galway so I was less sad.

But here’s another thing: I am now a PhD student. One that started just this month. I was awarded a postgraduate scholarship by the Irish Research Council [UK friends who are not in the know, this is basically the Irish equivalent of the AHRC], and as such, I’m researching Shakespeare in modern Irish theatre 1969-2016 at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance, and assessing the impact of social, political, and cultural influences on performance in the country (taking into account the Northern Irish Troubles, Europeanisation, globalization and the Celtic Tiger, the economic crisis, the tercentenary of the Easter Rising, etc). It’s a big, exciting project, and I’m so delighted to get started. I’m grateful and thankful to actually have funding, knowing all too well how scarce it is from having to self-fund the master’s, as well as knowing many who are going/have gone through their PhDs in a similar fashion. Plus there are LOVELY AND USEFUL ARCHIVES on campus in which I’ll probably get lost in for the next four years. I mean, have you seen the Abbey Digital Archive? This is hardly a bad thing.

But seriously everyone, what am I doing?
but seriously everyone, what am I doing?

So, now I am almost four weeks into starting doctoral research. But it only took about a few days for the whole ‘what the hell am I doing?’ feelings to hit me. I’m not saying it’s all bad and awful: I really love my topic; I have a supervisor who is very supportive and encouraging; I’m in a department that’s inclusive and communal; I’m lucky to have friends, mentors, and colleagues who are there to say ‘don’t worry, it’s totally normal’, ‘that’s what it’s like here’, or ‘please, tidy up your desk’. (Said desk is like a crashed car at the moment. Sorry.) Friends ask me how the PhD is going, and my answer is half ‘I love it/I’m stumbling around in the dark’. Well, we all are to some extent — it’s a feeling that I’ve bonded with other new students over, at least. Maybe the amount of lists I make for myself in terms of TASKS and DON’T FORGET and PRIORITIES and which are STUCK TO MY WALL SO I REMEMBER THAT THEY’RE THERE AND THAT I HAVE TO DO THEM will make at least parts of it more regimented or something. Who knows.

But that’s how things have been so far. I have a conference paper to give in November and a full semester to get through before Christmas. It’s a hodge-podge of flailing hand gestures, ‘wait and see’, and just getting used to things. I think.

So the main nub and thrust of this is: I’m still alive. I’ll try and update this a bit more (I saw so many interesting things over the summer, and meant to write about them but never did), and I’m looking forward to the years ahead. No idea yet as to what they’ll entail, but it’s exciting nonetheless.

‘Shakespeare in Education: Educational Trends and New Directions’ /// 3rd July 2013, The Shakespeare Institute

There will be a free to attend symposium titled ‘Shakespeare in Education: Current Trends and New Directions’, organised exclusively by students of The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham on Wednesday 3rd July 2013.The symposium is supported by the University’s Postgraduate Research Development Fund and is designed for those interested in Shakespeare and Education including students, alumni and any Shakespeare educators. It will be held at the Shakespeare Institute campus over one day from 10am-4pm, bringing together both new and expert researchers at an emerging hub of scholarship in Shakespeare and education.

Together with disseminating, sharing, and discussing a range of teaching methods and approaches,we have visiting speakers and experts to discuss topics at the forefront of the field, ranging from using digital Shakespeare resources to getting published.

The tentative schedule is as follows (all events in the Hall):

9.00-10.00 Registration

10-10.55 Shared Experiences and New Ideas – Laura Nicklin and Thea Buckley
This will consist of a workshop-discussion presenting our findings and experiences from attending relevant conferences. It will be an opportunity for us to share with you what we have learned that will then act as a springboard for the afternoon’s group discussion.

11-12.30 Plenary – James Stredder: ‘Active Shakespeare in the Cyberage: can collective theatre-making survive in today’s classroom?’
Dr James Stredder was Chair of the British Shakespeare Association Education Committee until very recently and is still working with the BSA in the field of Shakespeare and education. He has a vast and deep knowledge of the teaching Shakespeare field and has previously taught the Shakespeare and Pedagogy module at the Shakespeare Institute. He holds an MA and PhD in Shakespeare studies and is the esteemed author of the fantastic teaching resource The North Face of Shakespeare. He will be running a dialogue/workshop with us all, including discussing the sources of current trends in teaching Shakespeare and the new directions that these are taking.

12.30-13.15 Lunch Break
A sandwich lunch will be provided in the Conservatory.

13.15-14 .00 Roundtable Discussion
The idea here is to create a shared platform for discussing that which you may have experienced as being particularly successful or unsuccessful in teaching Shakespeare. Through this we can gain and create a knowledge bank of new and existing ideas that we can then take into our own educational work and/or experiences.

14.00 -15.50 Innovative Software Focus Group – Andrew Kennedy: ‘Storming Shakespeare: Applying MovieStorm softwares to teaching Shakespeare’
Andrew Kennedy is a pioneer in software for education and is the Managing Director of software company Movie Storm. In coming to share and develop his new engagement with Shakespeare and educational software with the conference delegates, he hopes to gain useful feedback to ensure that the product developed is something that will be of optimum usefulness in educational settings. This session will involve a discussion dialogue, practical demonstration and first chance use of software built with the purpose of teaching Shakespeare. This will give all delegates the unique opportunity to trial and contribute to the effective development of this product to ensure that the ultimate creation is ideally fit for most effective use.

15:50- 16:00 Closing Remarks and Thanks
—————-
Our student-led symposium also aims to build on this knowledge base of current approaches to teaching Shakespeare, by situating it in the latest scholarly conversation through sharing insights gained through the organisers’ wider experience in participating at recent international level Shakespeare conferences. These include most importantly the Worlds Together Conference on Shakespeare in education in London late last year sponsored by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the recent Folger Shakespeare Library educational workshop on Setting Shakespeare Free and active approaches at the 2013 Shakespeare Association of America (SAA) Conference, Toronto.

A light lunch will be provided for all attending. We are also a short walk from the nearby railway station. There is parking; however it is very limited on site, so where possible delegates are advised to use public transport or seek alternative parking in Stratford.

If you wish to attend please e-mail Laura Nicklin or Thea Buckley at nicklinll@fsmail.net with your name, or click ‘attending’ on the Facebook event. We look forward to seeing you at the event.

[So, yeah. If you happen to be in the Stratford vicinity, you might want to go to this. It’s free, I tell you, FREE! I’ll be livetweeting from the conference with the hashtag #edshakes2013 (I’m @emeramchugh), I’d love it if you could join in the conversation. So I’ll see you there, yes?]

And there’s one for everyone in the audience(s): Macbeth and the ordinary spectator

Programme cover for Macbeth, Swan Theatre, 1999.

It’s the end of May and I’m almost a month into researching my masters dissertation. I’m writing on Greg Doran’s 1999 production of Macbeth at the Swan Theatre, and looking at it through two very distinct prisms: one is concerned with how the participants (actors, directors, etc) write, think, and remember it, and the other deals with different groups of audiences — critics, academics who either review it for publication or try to position it into the performance history canon, and lay audience members. This project germinated out of the fact that so many from the first set have written and/or talked about it so much — Harriet Walter wrote a short book about it in the Actors on Shakespeare series; Antony Sher has written extensively about it in Players of Shakespeare and in his very good autobiography, Beside Myself; and Greg Doran has given several interviews in print and elsewhere. To that end, I’ve become interested in how an actor or director’s memory works differently from someone who may not be intimately involved with the production at all — Peter Brook writes in The Empty Space about how, for the general spectator, memories of performance almost become images, like ‘silhouettes’, which for me describes my own way of remembering shows that I’ve seen in the past. They become narrowed down to one solitary image that stands out from the rest. I’ve mentioned to people that the one image that remains from seeing Propeller’s Richard III is the sight of Richard Clothier’s Gloucester standing alone onstage after becoming king, a crown on the stool near him. He begins to laugh — it’s a horrible, high, cold laugh — and the lights cut to blackout. It’s now the interval. Other shows have worked the same: it’s Cillian Murphy sporting a pair of homemade wings and hanging over scaffolding with a microphone in his hand, disco lights reflecting off his body, at the end of Misterman; Pippa Nixon serenading the audience (and Alex Waldmann) with a Wye Oak song while balloons flood the stage in King John; and more recently, the party that forms the end of As You Like It, as the revellers bounce around the stage singing and dancing. They’re completely wet but they’re deliriously happy, and every single time I watch it, their euphoria rubs off on me too (I will review it soon, promise).

This leads me onto the type of literature that I’ve been looking at lately. A fantastic introduction to audience studies is probably Helen Freshwater’s Theatre & Audience, which argues for the normal audience member’s inclusion in performance research. Freshwater makes a very valid point that relying on critics in order to ascertain the reaction to a particular show has its limitations. This is particularly glaring where Shakespearean performance is concerned, as critics come to a show with certain preconceptions and previous productions in mind (as much as I really don’t like Jonathan Slinger’s Hamlet, one gets tired of critics referencing the ‘advice to the Players’ when talking about his performance: see here and here). This is something that I will need to be conscious of when talking about those who were paid to come and watch Macbeth, whether to sell it to the public, discourage people from seeing it, or (if they were reviewing it for an academic publication) to generally discuss its successes and failures in an attempt to place it in dialogue with previous or concurrent productions of the same play. Or even similar or wildly different ones at that.

So what I want to figure out is what do ordinary audience members remember from this production (urgh, I hate using the word ‘ordinary’). What are the lasting images? If not, what are the sounds, the moments, the words that stick out in the memory? Do they, too, place this Macbeth in dialogue with the likes of Trevor Nunn’s 1976 production or other productions that they have seen? Do they compare Sher and Walter to other Macbeths and Lady Macbeths that they have seen, or measure them up by some general cultural consensus that determines what they ‘should’ be? (Obviously owing to her firsthand experience, Walter is especially good on Lady Macbeth’s cultural legacy: see Actors on Shakespeare.) Whether these memories are big or small, verbose or concise, they are welcome, and fascinating in any way. So, naturally, please get in touch. And generally, suggestions/ideas/comments are always welcome.

[P.S. I’m giving a paper on ‘Reading Shakespeare: Macbeth at the RSC and the actor’s account’ at this year’s BritGrad conference. Do come along if you’re interested in hearing yours truly yammer on about Sher and Walter for twenty minutes flat. I promise it will be interesting. Somewhat.]

What No-One Tells You About Doing A Masters: Five Weeks In

As of last Tuesday, I officially became Emer McHugh, B.A. (NUI), and became an alumna of NUIG. I saw my friends, my other half, my family, hugged and waved at numerous people, paraded around in academic robes and struggled to keep my hat on my head. I didn’t realise how much fun a day it would be. And then I hopped on a bus at 1am, flew out to Birmingham at 6.30am, and arrived back in time for class at 1pm that afternoon.

Welcome back to Postgradland.

I have been immersed in Postgradland (or as it is officially known, a Masters degree in Shakespeare and Theatre at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon) for about five weeks now. I’m glad that now I can focus on something that I really do love, and that I can commune with people who share that same love. The novelty of that wears off in the first week, which is not necessarily a bad thing — it’s just second nature for us all to talk about Shakespeare and early modern theatre, and to natter about what we find so interesting about it.

At the same time, nobody prepares you for what a Masters or any form of postgraduate course entails. No-one tells you what to expect. NOBODY. I’m not asking to be spoonfed here, but after talking to fellow new postgrads, I’ve come to the conclusion that the first few weeks of a Masters is the equivalent of wading around in a deep lake that you thought was just a shallow pond. (Poor metaphor, I know.) It wasn’t what we expected it to be, but I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. We just went into it blindly, I think. But there’s a sense that maybe, just maybe, we should have pulled one of our lecturers aside, or someone who has gone through it, anyone, and asked a bunch of questions.

So this is for those of you who are contemplating doing a Masters degree. I’m not trying to put anyone off, but these are just my own observations.

1. It is a lot of work. Biggest ‘duhnoduh’ statement, but it is true. You may have six hours a week, but you do have work to complete for those six hours. If you’re a humanities student like yours truly, most of it will be reading. Which is not a bad thing. But there is generally a much shorter timeframe for you to do that reading. So, to quote one of my English lecturers at NUIG, ‘you’ve really got to like reading’.

2. You may feel that you can’t do the work. But that is OK. What was crucial for me was knowing that others felt the same way. Whether they were in the same course as me, whether they were in the same university, whether they were back home in Ireland or here in the UK. A great piece of advice from one of my best friends was that eventually, you catch up to the pace of what is expected of you. That same person has just received his results from his Masters, and he’ll be graduating from his M.IT very, very soon. I’m very proud of him. He also makes a mean cup of tea.

3. You’re not special anymore. Remember when you were the only kid in your seminar who actually talked and took an interest? Remember being the only one who answered questions in your lectures? And over the years during your undergraduate degree, as you attend classes and accumulate good grades, you have slowly built up a very good reputation for yourself. Well done you, but it turns out that you weren’t the only one. More than likely, your fellow classmates didn’t just sign up for this course out of idleness and are there because of their ability, interest in the subject, and intellect. And yes, you may not feel special anymore, but that’s something you need to get used to. It’s also something you can use to your own advantage too, which leads me onto to my next point.

4. You know what’s the coolest thing about doing a Masters? The people. I know it’s something I keep reiterating again and again, but it is true. Especially if you’re interested in something that is quite specialist, like Shakespeare or the eighteenth century. It’s incredibly nice to be surrounded with folk who want to talk about whether Aaron from Titus Andronicus is more sympathetic than Richard II in the pub, or whether that production you saw at the RSC the night before was better the second time you saw it. The lecturers and seminar leaders are just as eager to talk about such topics too. And for once, you’re not the only would-be academic in the room, and those who don’t want to be academics still care about what they’re studying too. For me, that’s just heartening.

So there you have it. While I’m at it, I should refer you to my dear friend Patrick McCusker’s post on a similar topic (albeit it deals more with studying for a Masters abroad). In general, I recommend his blog The Neverending Blog: Part II. It’s funny, insightful, and quite thought-provoking.

And to conclude, here is a banana kitty.

Happy Hallowe’en!

ohdearIcan’thandlehowcutethisis

Five things to do, or not to do, when you’re a final year student.

Last week I sat my final undergraduate exam ever. It was a Wednesday morning one, at 9.30am. The knowledge (and of course, the wonderful feeling that that knowledge provides) that I will never have to get up at 6am to be at an exam centre for 7am (yes, and?) is quite liberating, even more so when you realise that your workload is slowly trickling down, little by little, until the last essay is handed up or the last exam is completed. A day after that exam was finished, someone reminded me that I was ‘nearly a graduand’. A graduand! That’s mad Ted. Anyway, that thought is quite hard to shake, especially more so since (as of next year anyway) I won’t be remaining in Galway for postgraduate study. So it’s caused me to look back at this year a bit (not the entire four years, we’d be here all night), and the dos and don’ts. Final year is demanding at best, but we’re all still here… well, what’s left of us anyway. I’m missing a limb somewhere.

1. Accept the fact that you may not have a life this year, or the life you had in previous years at college. Rehearse the following: ‘I can’t, I’ve got work / reading to do for English / two History essays to write for Monday / etc’. Yes, your friends from the years below may have some degree of freedom and you may envy them, but suck it up, go to the library, and finish reading your copy of Belinda. Which is very long and which you need to read for next Tuesday. It is a good book, I promise.

2. Pretty ‘duhnoduh’, but actually go to your lectures and tutorials. I’m serious. I mean, where else are you going to learn about demonic lesbians or Mick Jagger in drag?

well, actually you can learn about it RIGHT HERE. This is a very educational website, everyone

3. Sort out your postgrad stuff early. I mean start-in-September early. Don’t be like the rest of us and leave it till later. If you want to do a MA in Kyle MacLachlan Studies at the University of PAC-MAN next year, get your personal statements, transcripts, references, etc. in gear as soon as you can. Talk to the lecturers Who Actually Like You (would you believe it, they are actually human beings. No shit!) as they will actually try to help you across the myriad path.  It helps if one of your references is Kyle MacLachlan himself, so I hear.

‘you know, this is… excuse me… a damn fine personal statement’

4. At some stage in the year, you will have to do some form of a thesis or dissertation for one or two of your subjects. Sometimes it’s obligatory, sometimes it’s not. And of course, you will wonder whether your topic is very limited in terms of interest. You will enter into a phase of wondering whether people really want to hear about the implications of Mark Rylance playing two characters at the same time on the Globe stage in 2001. Not so — headless corpses and gods descending down on golden eagles always seem to hold some appeal with people. When you can explain the plot of Cymbeline (albeit with many digressions) to a LSE graduate student on a plane from Newark to Heathrow without once referring to the diagram you drew up for yourself at the start of the semester because you yourself couldn’t remember all of it, you may be on to something. The lesson is: believe in yourself?

5. Above all things, keep your head. This year is going to be one of the most busiest and stressful years of your life, but you will get through it. Just put in the work, and at least get through first semester (trust me, that’s the hardest part). Besides, Smokey’s is always there just in case you need the damn fine coffee.

Anything I’ve possibly missed out? (in before the ubiquitous ‘Do as I say, not as I do’, that is.)