A long weekend – a golden time for all things ‘bookish’

As a republican – of the Australian let’s-cut-those-antiquated-ties variety, not the American political party type – I realise my excitement about a long weekend for the Queen’s birthday is not quite right.

I can’t help it, though. Long weekends are like gold and I’ll take them where I can get them.

My idea of a well-spent long weekend is not about relaxing and kicking back. I cram long weekends with things-that-need-to-be-done. I (try to) to catch up with the things-I’ve-missed-doing.

I have plenty to be keeping me busy over the next three days.

There are the usual chores and regular appointments. I have some bits and pieces from work that I need to play around with. I’m catching up with a couple of friends for a screening of the RSC production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona.* I want to do some writing. I need to do some reading. I’d quite like to catch up on the exercises for Blogging 101 that I haven’t managed to do.

My priority for this long weekend, though, is to finish sorting my study. My ‘Authority to Enrol’ letter arrived this week. I can’t wait to get started.

Before I do, I need to be sorted.

My desks need to be clear. My filing needs to be done. My books need to be ready.

I need to make some space for library books because as soon as I have a new library card…there will be guests to accommodate.

Looking towards the Tropical Grove from the reading terrace at the Reid Library
View from a favourite working space

The home library

I’ve spent the last few weekends pulling my library into a semblance of order. It’s a long way from where I need it to be, but it’s coming along. The real work will happen over the Christmas/New Year break. In the meantime, I’ve been sorting and shelving.

I’ve been thinking about a cull. Thinking. I must stress that. It’s just thinking so far. I can’t remember the last time I cleared space on shelves…

There are a two or three titles that I know I will never go back to. Never. I didn’t enjoy reading them and I wouldn’t suggest to my friends that they sit down with them, either. They should probably go. The only emotional attachment I have to them is negative.

Now that I think about it, they can leave the premises this afternoon.

There are also some books that are in an appalling condition. They should probably go. Probably. Some of them. Maybe.

I’m wondering whether others could reside in an archive quality, acid-free box for a bit.

Would that do them any good? Would it do them any harm? Should I already have done this?

The books I’m thinking most concerned about are my grandparents’ prayer books and missals. They are old and in poor condition. I have no plans to cull them. I just don’t know what to do with them. I use them sometimes when I’m writing. They are a link back to people and beliefs that I’ve lost. I treasure them but they are not looking well.

Even if I had them rebound, I think they’d need some better accommodation than I am currently offering them.

Two Books of Common Prayer and two Missals
Family relics

Let the games begin

Signing up for a PhD while working full-time is a tad daunting. It’s not an impossible task but it will be tricky.

I gather I have about six-eight years to get the work done. I’d like to think I can get it done perhaps a little ahead of time. If not, I’d like to be done within the six years.

I might be dreaming. I might not. We’ll just have to wait and see.

It would be an awesome 50th birthday present to myself if I’ve kept to my planned timeline.

I’ll need to maintain a pretty structured approach to my weeks. Weekends will need to be guarded jealously. Long weekends – especially when uni is open – must be utilised.

I’ve said it before, long weekends are golden.

Family, friends and fun…all need to be in the mix as well.

I’m excited about my topic. For now – because I know it might need to be tweaked as I get into the research – I’m working with the title Representations of late medieval and early modern English women’s agency.

Here is my overview.

This project will explore the forms of agency available to women through examination of historical and literary representations in vernacular texts from the late medieval and early modern period in England. For the purposes of this project, agency will be taken to be the capacity of an individual to act of their own volition. Women’s actions and responses will be examined to investigate the proposition that agency is available within specific ways and contexts; that historical and literary texts test social structures. A particular focus will be the experience, description and expression of agency in the context of emotional communities – where the domestic as well as the civic is politicised and emotionally discursive.

While women in positions of privilege are likely to offer the greater amount of direct textual material, examples representing women in less privileged positions will be sought. In particular, textual representations of opportunities for women to actively respond to situations, engage in negotiations and decision-making processes, and determine access to their bodies will be explored. It is in these activities that the forms of agency available are directed by context.

Texts about, for and by women will allow for the consideration of a broad evidence base. The late medieval component will use texts ranging from romance and lyrics to legends of women saints and accounts of pilgrims, letters, wills and testaments, and sermons and treatises. Consideration of the early modern period will expand the project’s focus to include plays, poetry, creative prose and life writing.

There are some great texts and references that I came across during my Masters and I’ve found some more while doing the preliminary reading and developing the topic. I can’t wait to get started properly.

Would it be too keen to be at the enrolment office when they open on Monday morning?

 

*I’m never sure about films of stage productions but I’m looking forward to it in any case.

A trio of lectures – feeding my mind, filling the well

Deadlines are coming at me from all directions. They’re flying in thick and fast … and there’s no dodging them.

I’ve been a touch frantic in the past week. This, perhaps, explains how a whole mug of tea ended up on the study rug rather than by the computer. Perhaps.

As I’m not known for my coordination, it is possible the rather promising brew was always doomed.

The present collision of deadlines is unusual.

I am no stranger to the intersection of a few due dates but the current fortnight is a doozy.

My response? Set-up to-do list, remember that fretting about timelines makes me tetchy (sorry, loved ones), catch up with friends, remember to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, sit on a couch by the window in a favourite cafe and write while waiting for an appointment,* take in a few lectures.

Pakenham St trees
Remembering to enjoy the sunshine

Why? Breaks that require me to stay alert and give time for reflection and planning are more helpful than simply ‘switching off”.

I find that if I choose television as a break activity I struggle to get back to working effectively. Engaging with other people and ideas creates space between one set of tasks and the next. So does the processing time that driving across town allows. I gather I’m not alone with this.

The bonus: once I’m on campus I find I am ready to focus and I tend to be quite productive. I think I’ve made that observation previously.

It was tricky, but I made it to three lectures this week. I’m glad I did.

The Bodleian and the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays

Wednesday was Pip Willcox’s talk for UWA’s Institute of Advanced Studies: ‘for Harry, England, and … everyone: the many lives of the Bodleian First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays’. Pip Willcox is Curator of Digital Special Collections at the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. She gave an account of the Bodleian’s ownership of a specific copy of the book, the physical features of the book, and the project to digitise the Folio.

It’s probably no surprise that I’m a book geek. I find the history of books as objects – and the history and process of creating books – fascinating.  I wanted to make it to the lecture as soon as I saw the abstract. The story of this particular copy has drama and intrigue. I wish I had time to go into the details.

The digitised product Willcox was speaking about looks to be a wonderful resource. The project website is still available at http://shakespeare.bodleian.ox.ac.uk and the digitised version of the folio is available at http://firstfolio.bodleian.ox.ac.uk. I can’t wait to have some free time to get in and look around properly.

Bresnick on Blake, Goya and Kafka

Thursday brought another presentation sponsored by the IAS featuring the composer Martin Bresnick, Professor of Composition, Yale School of Music. The title of the talk was ‘Listening to Images, Hearing the Text: new music that engages the visual and the literary’.

Bresnick spoke about his work as a composer – particularly in relation to the development of his multimedia piece developed from ‘For The Sexes: the Gates of Paradise’ by  William Blake and his response to Francesco de Goya’s ‘Caprichos Enfaticos’.

The evening included a live performance of ‘For the Sexes: the Gates of Paradise’ by Lisa Moore. The combination of music, spoken word and a projected animation of Blake’s illustrations of the poem was intense and visceral. It left me wanting to go back to Blake and read more by and about him. I’ll also look out for an online version of the multimedia piece. Not just yet, though. I need time and space for that.

The recorded  extracts from ‘Caprichos Enfaticos’ were powerful, and disturbing. Again, I want to go back to look at the full piece. That will definitely be down the track.

There wasn’t time for a performance of the third billed piece, on Franz Kafka’s ‘A Message from the Emperor’ but Bresnick’s account of the piece was intriguing. Something else to look into … again, at a later date.

Qaisra Shahraz on Building Bridges

The final lecture in the trio was an author talk by Qaisra Shahraz on ‘Building Cultural Bridges through Literature’ that was sponsored by the UWA Centre for Muslim States and Societies.

Shahraz moved to Britain from Pakistan when she was nine. She writes novels and has a commitment to building bridges, using literature to celebrate diversity. Identifying as as British, Pakistani and Muslim, Shahraz spoke about how each of these identities is important to her as a person and a writer. Reading from her novels, she shared a world that is alien and familiar.

This third talk came as a welcome change of pace. Making the dash from work to uni didn’t appeal and I was tempted to cut my losses and head home. I’m glad I braved the freeway at peak hour.

I walked away with a copy of her first novel. I’m afraid it will linger on my shelf before I get a chance to read it. I will want to take time and not be distracted by other things.

Even if I’m tempted … I must resist for at least the next few weeks!

 

Playgound
I need time to play

*The window in question for this particular post was at Bread in Common. On Saturday morning the sun was streaming in, the sky was clear. It was perfect for writing and working out a plan of attack for the weekend and the week ahead.