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.

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April 23rd.

I’ve been maintaining some form of radio silence over the last few months on this blog. I just haven’t really felt like writing, to be honest. Also, additionally, a LOT of things have happened too. Namely the whole leaving-Stratford-and-going-back-to-Galway thing, which happened around the end of December and the beginning of January. I do miss Stratford, but feel quite fortunate to be back to Galway too (and close to home, to boot). The pangs for the Midlands lessen the longer I spend here, although I’ll be glad to visit the place once again during the summer.

Anyway, the one reason that motivated me to write again was seeing this notice in my notifications this morning… ‘You registered with WordPress three years ago!’

I had no idea my blog shared its birthday with Shakespeare! Well, relatively speaking. We don’t exactly know when he was born.

Whereas I don’t want to make any claims to greatness or anything, I just thought it was an unintentionally serendipitous touch, given that I’ve spent the last number of years watching/thinking about/reading/arguing about Shakespeare and early modern drama (can we PLEASE think of a way to construct that sentence that isn’t ‘Shakespeare and his contemporaries’. Maybe just ‘early modern drama’ will do. Maybe) for god knows how long. I could talk at length about what studying Shakespeare has granted me over the last year and a half, but frankly, that day is not today because I want to go home, eat chocolate, and watch Othello. I may not be there for the fireworks over the Royal Shakespeare Theatre tonight, but I’m having a pretty great Shakespeare’s birthday regardless — and I hope you are having a good one too.

 

The New Newness

I’ve been living in Stratford for the past few days now, and two weeks from today, myself and a gaggle of other new students will be arriving at the Institute for the start of two weeks’ induction. Exciting, nerve-wracking, new, lovely stuff. Although, in the light of new things and new places and new newness, I’m trying to avoid turning this post into a minutiae description of what it took to get there, like some blogs do. Seriously, I just hopped on a plane from Knock, landed in Birmingham, took a train or two, THAT WAS IT. This blog does not host contemporary rewritings of ‘Old Man Travelling’, if that’s what you’re here for.

sad Wordsworth reacts to this news. maybe.

Stratford hasn’t really changed a lot since I last was here, unless you’re counting the amazingly fantastic weather. Hundreds of tourists are still pounding the pavement on Henley Street, filling its restaurants, wandering into Shakespeare’s house and gardens and into the giftshop and bookshop, and eventually trickling down onto the green outside the RSC Theatres. Seeing so many people enjoying the sunshine, replete with vendors floating in the river (coming from Ireland, I still find that incredibly novel) and buskers playing the violin or the electric guitar — it’s a sight that’s very reminiscent of Galway in the summertime. Oddly, I still feel like a tourist of some sort, but maybe that’s because I’m still finding my way around, looking for the nearest ATM, the cheapest place to buy colour shampoo, and still finding hidden crevices within the town that I hadn’t discovered before.

I can’t remember if I felt the same about Galway — the first time I had visited NUIG with the intent of studying there, to me the university appeared to be this GREAT BIG SPACE. I genuinely thought it was huge (it’s really, really not). Subsequently, when I finally moved, I barely remember if I ventured beyond the centre of town at all (getting involved in NUIG Dramsoc actually brought me into the town more, now that I think of it). I speak as someone who only first went out to Salthill in my third year, to the ridicule of many.

Anyway, such adjustment is customary, isn’t it? I like to think that I’ve learned a bit about adjusting to somewhere new four years on. The funny thing is, I’ve realised that I’ve gone from being the token Shakespearean in Galway to potentially becoming the token Paddy here. We’ll see how that works out around 17th March.

and now, a nice picture of Mason Croft, where the SI resides — admire, everyone.

As well as this, other newness currently resides in my room, in the form of Very New Books and boxes of herbal tea. That’s a non-sequitur, right there, but surely a very necessary one. Newness continues apace!

 

Strange News From Nowhere, or, The Great Galway Goodbye Trail

I’m a little sentimental today, as today is the first time in four years that I won’t be starting another year in Galway. No more rolling into NUIG at nine in the morning, fresh as a daisy, at the start of the only week in the academic year where you could legitimately get away with not doing much work. No more filing into large lecture theatres, filling out forms, deliberating over whether you want to do the history of the Crusades or military history, children’s fiction or true crime. No more running into folks you haven’t seen in weeks or months, screaming down the concourse OH MY GOD HOW ARE YOU HOW WAS YOUR SUMMER etc. before you all go in separate directions for your first class.

A lot of people I know are doing that right now as I write. Some of them are starting or continuing their postgrad courses, some of them are going into final year, some of them are starting second year and awaiting what’s in store.

Life in Galway over the past four years wasn’t always without its stressful and unhappy moments. That’s only to be expected. But I’ll miss Galway immensely. I’ll miss the university, I’ll miss the people, I’ll miss the town. At the same time though, I am incredibly excited about moving to Stratford later this week. I’ve finally secured somewhere to live, and I’m looking forward to familiarising myself with the town even further. I’m looking forward to starting at the SI, to meeting people who love Shakespeare as much as I do (he’s a pretty cool guy, I know), to studying wonderful things such as performance history and practically every single play in the canon and experiential close readings and so on — the stuff I dreamed of learning more about from as little of more than a year ago when I realised that Shakespeare was what I wanted to continue with. This is the point in the post where I’d say ‘It’s a new chapter in my life, a new beginning’, but I’d rather side-step that for now. Mainly because it’s trite.

So long, Galway, and thanks for all the fish.

‘Who am I? I’m the goddamn Batman’, replied Aunt Helga

St. Swithin’s Day comics, anyone?

Happy St. Swithin’s Day to you all. I’ve been wracking my brains lately trying to come up with a blog post, or something to write about. You know, the sort of polemical blog post that asks Why Do Today’s Parents Stop Their Kids Doing The College Course They Love (mine didn’t, but still), or a general fluff-piece that critically analyses Swedish House Mafia music videos, which are great fun because they really don’t make any sense, or something else entirely. Maybe I should hold it off for a few days and write a commemorative ‘July 19th: The Day The Ice Age Ended’ article. Which, in all likelihood, would probably spin out into reams of Father Ted jokes and references to sabre-toothed, acorn-eating squirrels. And this, in result, would probably last two paragraphs in total.

So here’s a list of things that I’m going to write about instead, as a form of meandering update searching for a point to make:

1) I’m going to write about Batman. This roughly translates as ‘I’M REALLY EXCITED ABOUT THE NEW BATMAN FILM EVERYONE’, which is preferable than having to format this blog into a love-letter to Christopher Nolan and his work (even though he probably is a very lovely chap). This is maybe to the point of fearing for one’s mental health, as I am now one of those insane folk who will be turning up for a 5am screening of The Dark Knight Rises at the local pictiúrlann, because of those pesky time-zone restrictions. You can laugh at my folly next week if I fall asleep in the midst of doing anything important next Friday evening. I can only hope it’s not making the dinner or doing the ironing.

2) The Galway Arts Festival is nearly upon us! In fact, it starts TOMORROW, and this is very exciting. I’m due to see Propeller Theatre Company in the second week of the festivities, when they bring Henry V and The Winter’s Tale to the Black Box. I’m just as excited to see them as I am to see The Dark Knight Rises, or maybe even more (words cannot express the love I have for The Winter’s Tale, they really can’t). I’m also hoping to see Fishamble’s The Great Goat Bubble, and if money were no object, the DruidMurphy cycle. David Greig also has a new play at the festival, if I’m not mistaken. If you don’t see anything else, at least go to the Macnas parade, which takes place next Sunday (for my sake, because I can’t perform in it this year and it makes me very sad. And Macnas are wonderful, creative, inventive, hard-working folks).

3) Also, the Galway Fringe Festival is underway too! This is running for most of the month, and is also very exciting. There is A Lot of Theatre, Art, Dance, Music, Literary Events, etc. — and it’s all over the town, even spilling into and out from the university (The Tribal Lyric, Ahhhh Lad!!, and Third Time Lucky to count a few). In general, Galway finally has its own Fringe, go see some shows, huzzah, groovy times. It’s about time we had one.

4) In general, life is generally quiet here back at home. But in the nicest way possible. It’s mid-July though, which means we’re already halfway through the summer, and closer again to new semesters, new colleges, that kind of thing. That is exciting in itself, but I’m enjoying the quiet time when I still can have it.

An Irish Girl In Stratford II: The Berlin Decision, or What You Will

This is pretty much a post-Stratford update, if you will. I didn’t come back to Ireland with a broken or amputated leg, a curse having been put upon me by a vengeful gypsy, or having accidentally blown anything up, so by those standards the expedition went rather well. Stratford, as I’ve probably reiterated over the past few days to anyone who’s asked, is really quite lovely. In size, it’s comparable to Galway, and it’s remarkably easy to get around. It’s CLEAN too (it’s a tourist town, so I guess it has to be).  And having located the Shakespeare Bookshop and Waterstone’s, the place adequately fulfils The Bookshop Quota. So all that’s grand.

The main reason why I came over (other than checking out where I’m going to be living for the next year or so) was for the BritGrad conference at the Shakespeare Institute. The Institute host this conference every year, which is organised by graduate students, and allows graduate students to show off their work and get feedback. As well as that, they manage to bag rather amazing plenary speakers (and this year didn’t disappoint. You can listen to some of them here). Now, Galway is great for meeting drama folk, and I’ve met a lot of them through studying theatre and English or through Dramsoc. I love being able to sit in a café, a seminar, or anywhere around town or college to discuss theatre with those who care about it as much as I do. If there’s one thing I’ll miss about theatre-going in Galway, it’s going to see a performance and arguing about it afterwards with dear friends over tea in Java’s till the wee hours. But what Galway lacks is a proper contingent of Shakespeare heads, and that’s what BritGrad provided in spades. That’s not to say that Everyone In Galway Hates Shakespeare (there are a good few who love him too, including the dashing WordOtter), but it was a nice change to refer to Cymbeline by its proper name rather than as ‘a really obscure play of Shakespeare’s’. Hell, there was a fascinating paper on the play last weekend, which made reference to Maradona’s Hand of God.

what’s a Thierry Henry?

This was all in an institution where people shared the same enthusiasm for the same interests. And also the same infectious excitement as gosh golly, well Professor Whatsername IS GIVING A PLENARY TODAY. In short, it was just wonderful being around people who love Shakespeare as much as I do, and that’s why I’d encourage any postgraduate working in that area (or general early modern drama-ness) to get their tushies over there for next year’s conference. Ah you will. You will now. ‘Gwan. They’re all LOVELY.

An Inept Tourist’s Guide to Stratford-upon-Avon:

a) Shakespeare’s House and Gardens: I regretfully didn’t visit Hall’s Croft and the rest, but there’s a lovely exhibition (voiced by PATRICK STEWART and… some other actress who I can’t remember as I’m terrible at recognising voices) where you get to see a copy of the First Folio (another is in Oxford, and not even Katherine Duncan-Jones is allowed to touch it) and get to potter around in his digs for a bit. The best bit is seeing the performers outside, especially on a very sunny day.

b) The RSC: Pretty much goes without saying. I’d recommend Richard III at the Swan, by the way. And there is such a gorgeous green outside the theatres, with a huge scrum of folk relaxing underneath the trees or buying ice-creams off the boat vendors.

c) Holy Trinity Church: Where you can see Shakespeare’s grave, memorial, etc. I didn’t get a chance to go here, despite being advised to. I’m sure they won’t move it to Shelbyville before I return.

d) The Real Tea Café: Because it was cheaper than Anne Hathaway’s. Well, this *is* supposed to be an inept guide of sorts.

In other news: Double First Class Honours degree, howrya?

An Irish Girl In Stratford

Shakespeare’s crib. It’s lovely.

Hello all! This is coming to you live from Stratford-upon-Avon, which is located god knows where in the Midlands of the United Kingdom. I could write reams about its loveliness, but I’ll try to process that after I leave. But yes, it really is quite beautiful, and I’m excited about moving over here permanently.

On a more home-based note, if you’re in Galway next week, be sure to get yourself out to see Red Kettle Theatre Company’s The Country Girls (adapted by Edna O’Brien from her own novel) in the Town Hall. It’s directed by the Very Lovely And Talented Mikel Murfi (who’s coming to this year’s Galway Arts Festival accompanied by Fishamble for The Great Goat Bubble), and among the strong cast is the Equally As Lovely And Talented Bob Kelly, who probably gives the funniest portrayal of a priest on stage this year. Having seen the show last week, I can assure you that it’s a very good show and, for the older wans in the audience, very nostalgic.

To revise: Stratford, lovely, Country Girls, Galway. More substantial writing next week or the week after.

In which our heroine finishes her undergraduate degree, discovers the beauty of Sherlock, and reflects on Seth Cohen.

As of eleven o’clock on Monday 14th May, I handed up my last pile of written work, and thus completed my undergraduate degree.

Woo, I’m a graduand, funtimes, c’est fini, etc. It’s a strange feeling to get used to, one I’ve tried to explain in terms of one having a cup of tea. Usually, one has a cup of peppermint in the midst of a study break with a friend amid the woes of an essay due this week, an essay due the week after, and oh wait, haven’t you forgot that presentation in between all of that? (Trust me, there have been PLENTY of that. And tea, to alleviate said woes). Now, the great thing about being finished is Not Just All The Tea, but You Can Have The Tea If You Like, When You Like, And As Long As You Want (basically, not having to scurry back to the library afterwards). If you’re not a final year student, you’ll see what I mean by at least… the middle of October. And sleep. Cherished, long-sought for, long neglected, beautiful sleep. Oh my, the sleep is not to be sniffed at. And then there is the Reading For Pleasure:

this is what I’m currently reading. Yer man’s mode of seduction is… ‘interesting’ to say the least

So now I’ve talked about undergraduate freedom in terms of tea, books, and sleep. But also, this has been after four years knocking about the same town with the same people (I don’t mean this in a derogative sense), and of course it’s hard to encapsulate those years into one brief sentence. And after these four years, whether they are staying in Galway, moving to somewhere else in Ireland or indeed abroad, everyone is going their separate ways very, very soon. That hasn’t sunk in just yet.

But in the face of such… things, there is SHERLOCK. Huzzah for Sherlock. Laugh at my inability to keep up with television trends all you want (I have never watched The Wire nor Boardwalk Empire, have never watched an episode of The West Wing and only one or two of Mad Men and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the many memes and references to Game of Thrones that are EVERYWHERE on Facebook go over my head. It seems the only commitment I make is to a man in a flying blue box), but watching the first and second episodes over the past two weeks has me converted.

yes, Sherlock warrants a paragraph. look, he even plays the violin for flip’s sake

Speaking of television, does anyone remember The OC? I look back on it now as a pretty formative element of my generation’s teenage years, back when we had all the boxsets, the numerous compilation albums (it was a Big Deal that a band got onto the show), the endless ‘Ryan-Seth-isn’t Luke a bit horseyfaced’ debates. As far as I remember, the first two seasons were fantastic before dipping in quality (WHY DID THEY KILL JOHNNY HARPER etc. I’m sorry, that was more devastating than when they killed off Marissa. Maybe it was because I had switched off by then). Now that I think of it, rather than lusting after Seth Cohen, I more so wanted to be him. The fellow was in high school, listened to decent music, read comics, and was considered a ‘nerd’ by everyone around him — and he still got all the ladies. Lucky sod. That is, when he and his friends weren’t all emoting to Coldplay or Phantom Planet or Bell x1 or impassively swaying to The Killers who have somehow been booked to play in their local nightspot.

Some have all the luck, or if you’re Seth’s dad, have all the amazing eyebrows.

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.)

Is this a non-Cymbeline or Shakespeare related post?

(Most of my last posts have been related to it, or Shakespeare. I am quite predictable.)

In the last few days I’ve finally gotten my hands on the latest Mark Lanegan album, since it was released in February. This is actually a Big Deal, seeing as a) he’s prolific as hell but NOT when it comes to solo albums, so this is a first and b) the part of me who’s still a first year and who was completely obsessed with him (he came to Galway during the first two years of my degree, cue fangirl excitement) is very very happy.

At first listen, it’s a very good album. This week I’ve been incapable of moving past the ‘wtf?’ brilliance of ‘Ode to Sad Disco’, which combines two disparate loves of mine (Lanegan, obviously, and synth-pop). This really Shouldn’t Work On Principle, but it does.

And this is coming from the second last week, EVER, of undergraduate classes and lectures. I had my final English seminar class last week, and I’ll be completely finished with History come next Tuesday evening. This is insane.

But my first visit to Cute Overload in quite some time allowed me to come across this. He’s so TEENY!