A new and old experiment

My old experiment, my fanzine, is over. I’ve tried really hard to keep up with it, but I just don’t have the enthusiasm for it any more. I know a lot of that is due to the fact I don’t have the time for it any more, now I have a job. So, that is over, and it failed, though in the next few weeks I will post some of the articles and reviews I wrote for it, I don’t want to waste them, and I’m proud of some of them

Instead, I have a new experiment. The plan has always (read, since I decided I didn’t want to be a teacher) been to work for a year while I apply for an MA, then go back to university for an MA of some sort, either English Lit, hopefully followed by a PHD, or Library Studies, hopefully followed by a job as a librarian. At the moment I am leaning towards the English route, and have been looking at MAs, there are several Victorian Studies ones that I am very interested in, both in London and out of it. Upcoming members of family moving to various areas of the north of England have made me following them seem sensible, especially as it is cheaper, but ultimately I’ll be ruled by course choice over everything. I’m going to make my application the best I can, so I’ve started my research already, to make sure I know as much as I can about the courses I’ll be applying for, and the application process.

The preparation for uni has also taken a different form. As I’m considering a Victorian Studies MA it makes sense for me to be reading Victorian literature, but for the last couple of months I’ve been totally reading for pleasure, lots of comics, sci-fi, fantasy and pulp fiction, with lots more ‘literary’ books as well, but all of them post-1960’s at least. I’d been worried about getting out of touch with Victorian literature, and resolving ‘I’ll start reading more Victorian lit after I finish this book’… Luckily, I have been jolted from my procrastinating, by a book of course. I bought Elaine Showalter’s A Literature of Their Own the other day, it’s something I’ve read bits of in classes and wanted to read the whole thing, and only one chapter in it’s done the job.

I have resolved to keep a reading diary, and each week I have to read at least one book that I think will be useful to my course. It doesn’t have to be Victorian, theory and earlier and later books are fine, as are all genres, but I must read one book that isn’t obviously nothing to do with what I will be studying. I’m going to dig out all the random classics I’ve acquired and not read yet, the Arnold Bennet one will be interesting, considering how scathing Woolf was of him, and I have a list of more minor Victorian authors to keep and eye out for as well. To help today I bought some Ruskin and a collected edition of modern women’s poetry, as well as A.S. Byatt’s Elementals, not Victorian at all, but perhaps rather inspired by some work of the fin du siecle, so that’s ok. It’s the first entry in my reading diary too.

Hopefully, by the time I get to uni I’ll have read over 50 books related to my course, I even before I find out what the reading lists for it actually are, I am super prepared. Forcing myself to keep some sort of academic frame of mind will be really useful, I just wish I knew someone I could actually talk to about some of the books I’ll be reading. I forsee this blog having lots of reading-related ramblings, I’m really looking forward to it.

The end of an era

I’ve finally finished my dissertation, I handed it in on monday. It’s ok, it’s not as good as it should have been, but it’ll do, I don’t think I’ll get an awful mark, and I did work really hard on it.  I should be much more pleased than I am, now all I feel is relief, but to be honest I don’t want to finish uni, I never have. All I have now is one more essay to give in, which I’m actually struggling with simply because the effort to do anything other than sit in my room reading is enormous, and of course the books I’m reading aren’t the ones I need to write about. But once that’s in on monday it will all be over, three years of uni, and I’ll have a mediocre degree and no job, and no prospects.

Everyone else seems to be going on to some sort of MA or something, or at least fine with working, and having an idea of what they want to do. I didn’t get accepted for any PGCE courses, then decided I don’t want to be a teacher anyway, but it was far too late to apply for anything else, even if I knew what else I want to apply for anyway, which I don’t. I’d love to do an MA, all I want to do is study Victorian literature forever, but I don’t want to be a lecturer, so an MA would just be another year putting off the real world, and another £5000 debt, or whatever it is.

I’m looking for a job, it’s not going very well. I’ve got lots of experience, but only in retail, and only as a sales assistant, and there just aren’t any sales assistant jobs out there, without even adding in the fact I have green hair and a tendency to be unable to control my moods, no ‘high end luxury fashion retailer’ is going to want me. I applied for a job in Harrod’s, god knows why because if I get as far as an interview they’ll have made up their minds not to offer me the job as soon as they see me. To be honest the whole idea of working is terrifying, I have enough trouble making myself get dressed in the morning, working 8 hours a day, every day, is something I can’t even comprehend. I can see I’m going to end up on the dole, but then I won’t be able to afford to go home and see my family. All of this is very miserable, but there’s nothing I can do to avoid working for at least a year, and all the time I’ll be hearing about how much my friends are enjoying their MA’s, great. Growing up is rubbish.

My expanding family

I haven’t been very active for a little while, because I have been super busy. Firstly, my essays are all starting to be due in, I’m just about to give one in today, and I have another due in on Friday plus my dissertation is due next week. It’s all going well, though it is also fairly stressful. I’ve very much looking forward to knowing they’re all ok and given in.

The other thing is that my personal life has been hectic, not least because my mum gave birth on Friday. My little sister was born at 6:45, Friday May 1st, after an incredibly short labour, weighing 7 pounds 3. She’s called Keturah Ellie Violet, though she’ll mostly get called Kitty, and is absolutely lovely, with masses of amazing dark hair. I’m thrilled with her, she’s really well behaved and very cuddly. Of course I spent four days at my mums to help look after the other children and see her, I’m quite sad to be back because I had a really lovely time, and I can’t wait  to go back in a couple of weeks to see her again.

Here she is just after she was born:


I’ve got a lot of work to do on essays over the next few days, but I’m hoping to get a proper post done within the week, until then my personal life will have to do.

Change of Plan

I’ve recently come to the horrible realisation I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I’m going along the route to become a teacher, but it’s actually a relief that I didn’t get into uni to do a PGCE this year, and that seems a pretty big sign that maybe I don’t want to be a teacher. I’m at least back to enjoying my degree, but even if I could get the financing to do an MA, and stay in education, I don’t think I could be a lecturer, it’s all speaking in public and talking to people. My mum thinks I should be a librarian, I don’t know, at least I could do. Really I want to write book reviews for The Guardian, and have my zine take off, neither of those will happen, this year at least I’m going to end up in a dead-end retail job.

None of this is helping my life be less shit. I am having to actually work to be happy, but it’s not so bad, at least I have lots to do, I’m loving the Jung I’m reading, and all the Sappho stuff, and yesterday I wrote a manifesto for my zine, God, it’s so pretentious, I seriously have this vision of the zine being something like one of the tiny magazines the Modernists published. I’ll be just like T.S. Eliot!

Music is helping so much at the moment,it’s a chliche but it’s true, especially loud shouty stuff, Against All Authority, Capdown, Random Hand, Propagandhi, and I have tickets for Propagandhi and Catch 22 now, as well as Streetlight Manifesto. I’m holding these out in front of me as little rewards for writing Chapter 1, or getting through my Virginia Woolf essay, or whatever.

This has been a pretty pointless entry, next time expect musing on Tiger Army and the figure of the beautiful dead woman in Victorian poetry to make up for it.

Jung and Identity

I’ve been reading lots of Carl Jung for my dissertation, I’m writing about identity in The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman, and Jung seems to fit very nicely with several things I’ll be discussing, especially his concept of archetypes. As far as I can tell Death basically is the positive mother archetype, in fact I think the mother archetype is the reason Death is female within Gaiman’s universe, and Puck and Loki are of course trickster archetypes. The idea of the rebirth archetype will be very useful too, not just because of the number of rebirths, but because of how neatly it fits with the idea of the Cambellian hero-figure, a theory that has already been associated with The Sandman in several critical studies, and something I will be mentioning to some extent, but it is not just Dream that is reborn, and the rebirth archetype is much more than just physical reborht.

My reading has lead me to look at the personality types that have been extrapolated from Jungian theory, so of course I’ve seen what I am – two different test have told me I’m INTJ, so I more or less trust that, the personality types are one of the bits of Jungian theory I’m more convinced by. The description of INTJ is ‘the scientist’, which is not really how I think of myself, I always knew I’d come out as introverted, that was pretty obvious, but I’m apparently much more rational and judging than I thought, which is interesting. One of the things that would be interesting to do would be to sort various characters in The Sandman according to the +personality types, but I know it would have no actual value to my dissertation. At the moment it seems like lots of interesting things have no actual value to my dissertation.

The other concept that really interests me, and has ever since I first heard of it years ago, is the concept of anima and animus. For a start – how on earth does that work for people who do not identify as male or female? I don’t know if I’ll be able to discuss anima/animus in my dissertation, but the concept is interesting in light of a character such as Desire, who is both male and female, and that’s before even getting into the fact that of course the Endless aren’t people, they aren’t human, so really they don’t function like people, thinking of them as archetypes really does work well though.

The idea of the ego and the shadow could be useful too, because Jung wrote that the shadow of Jesus/God is the devil, and Lucifer is a fairly important character in The Sandman, and Gaiman does seem to follow the idea that God meant for Lucifer to fall, and so the ego really did create the shadow, just as Jung says. Again, really interesting, but I’m not sure how exactly it would fit into my dissertation.

Still, at least I’ve actually got a bit of the passion for my dissertation back, writers block is always bad, but when it’s writers block for a 10000 word dissertation due in just over a month it’s really, really bad. Hopefully now I’ll be able to get a proper start, next stop, a blog entry about Judith Butler and performativity.

A cup of tea, a bath, and a nice book

Recently I was telling a friend how I was going to have a cup of tea, a bath and read aromance book, we found it amusing how much I was fitting into the stereotype of the intelligent, introverted girl, probably single, maybe ‘alternative’, to be honest there are similarities with the stereotype of the old lady, and I fulfil this too to some extent, I really do drink gin and tonic, and I do knit and sew, and I like cats and poetry. I really do tend to prefer staying in and reading, the othe night there was a concerted effort to get me to go to a club, it failed and I spent the evening reading Aurora Leigh, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Especially recently I have been noticing how introverted I really can be, mostly because I have been going out a lot, I’m back at uni now, and especially last week I ended up in the pub with my friends nearly every day, and it was great, but it was exhausting. It was supposed to be, it is all part of my new resolution of keeping busy, but the weekend of hardly leaving the house and working my way through the reading for this week at uni and my dissertation was nice.

I’ve always had reading as a major occupation, there was a time in secondry school where I didn’t really have any friends, but I didn’t mind because I always had a book, so, sitting outside in all weathers as we weren’t allowed in school during lunch, I became known as ‘the girl with a book’. I confused one of my teachers at college when they asked what I was reading and I showed them Lolita, maybe they thought at that even at 16 it was a bit unsuitable.  Even earlier, at primary school, I would sometimes stay in the classroom on my own to read or draw, rather than go out to play, and I really did read under the covers with a torch. Nothing much has changed, I still always have a book in my bag, at the moment I am reading Aurora Leigh, The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf and The Virgin in the Garden by A.S. Byatt. Reading three books at once isn’t unusual for me.

Doing an English degree is amazing, the other day I had dinner with a friend and we talked about children’s literature for most of the meal, someone else who grew up on a mix of Victorian and 1950’s childrens books, and most of my friends carry books around with them. I’m sad about leaving the degree for itself, but I’m also sad to be leaving the experience of being around people nearly as obsessive about reading as me.I’m going to miss writing about books, I forsee this blog getting very full of literary stuff, mini-essays, my discoveries of new authors that have been dead a hundred years.

It scares me that in just over a year and a half I’ll be a teacher, trying to teach 11-16 year olds that Shakespeare isn’t as boring as they assume he is and poetry isn’t a load of old-fashioned rubbish. Of course all the poetry I most love is old-fashioned, and when it comes to prose I’ll either be corrupting them with Jeanette Winterson and Sarah Waters, or boring then with the Brontes, Jane Austin and Oscar Wilde. Well, maybe not, I think the National Curriculum will stop that, rather than enraged parents.

Still, next month my friends and I are starting a book club, so I’ll be supposed to rant at them about books I love, especially as were starting with a Sarah Waters book, Affinity. My least favourite of hers, but an amazing book,and certainly one I can talk about for ages. We’re going to have wine and cake and books, and I can see that stretching out for the rest of my life, only with more tea and cats as well, until I become a crotchety old teacher, surrounded by cats, still trying to make a load of 16 year olds appreciate Tennyson and Browning. It doesn’t sound too bad, tame maybe, but I’ve always said I’d rather be respected in my field than famous.

We all have to burn something…

Recently I have been thinking about feminism and politeness, two things that I’ve been thinking about on and off for a long time. Politeness is obviously deeply encoded behaviour, and I do think it’s important, and one of the aspects of my English Language A level I found interesting was all the stuff on politeness theory. However, as I’ve become more aware of gender roles and feminist politics I’ve begun to have some issues with politeness.

For example, waiting at the bus stop, and the bus arrives, an old man signals for me to get onto the bus before him – what do I do? If I get on, and smile, and say thank you I’m doing the polite thing, but I also feel like he’s only doing it because of enforced gender roles, because I’m female, and it’s not like I need to get on the bus first, I’m a healthy 21 year old, and I end up being resentful. If I don’t get on I look rude, and what with the great reputation many young people have that is that last thing I want to present, it was bad enough working in a charity shop and having old people express their surprise at how nice and polite I was. If only I could give every person who offered something like that a little talk about how just because I’m female I don’t need to be coddled, to have the door held open for me, to go first, to be helped with stuff when I’m not really struggling.Of course they are probably just doing it to be polite, not because they think I’m some helpless little woman.

Normally I opt for doing the easiest thing, accepting their help if it would be rude not to, smiling and saying thank you, and I hold the door open for anyone, no matter of gender, age, etc. It does still annoy me, I can’t help projecting my awareness of stereotypical roles onto other people, I probably should give them the benefit of the doubt really.

That’s one part of politeness that annoys me, but I feel a bit trapped by, on one hand it feels irrelevant, on the other hand for me the personal really is political. The other part is something I noticed today, and it made me more annoyed at myself than at the other person.

So I know this guy at uni, he’s friendly and stuff, and I was kind of amused talking to him last week, it was a mix of the ‘I’m a nice guy’ sexism and plain sex-obsessed stereotypical lad conversation, two fairly extended conversations with him over two weeks have taken it from kind of amusing as I wasn’t taking him very seriously to a bit creepy as the more he talks the more I think he’s serious. God, blatant misogyny is worse in real life than it is online, even is the actual words are nowhere as offensive. Crude jokes rarely bother me, two of my best friends are male and we make some terrible jokes, but I know they’re joking, today I was really not so sure, worrying when a proportion of the misogyny was directed at/about me. (Note to self: don’t let slip that you’re queer, polyamorous and in an open relationship around someone like that.)

The thing that’s made me annoyed is my reaction, I was polite, I ignored it more or less, and talked to other people and changed the topic of conversation, and was pleased that when the subject of my relationship came up another guy basically agreed with me that it’s not really a big deal. But – I was polite. If I was online I’d have been a hell of a lot less polite, I’d have made it obvious I was beginning to be a bit offended actually, and maybe I’d have got in a stupid argument, but I’d have done something. I’ve never thought of myself as a coward, or hypocritical, and now I kind of feel like I’ve let myself down.

So, next week, I’ll see what happens, and if it’s the same again, well, it won’t be. If he says the same sort of things he has been I’ll just make it very clear, in firm, polite language, how I feel. Hopefully this won’t end up in a silly, big argument, but if I have to sacrifice politeness to get my point across, and to do what I think is right, well, whatever.

This all comes back to my initial, and recurrent feelings, that somehow politeness holds me back, and holds feminism back, in the obvious ways such as enforcing gender stereotypes, but in less obvious ways such as the way we automatically, perhaps unconsciously censor what we say. Maybe this is just me, but I certainly think it’s something that I want to look into more.