Tuesday, 16 April 2013

What have I been up to?

Evening all! Yes, it's 7.15 p.m. and I'm in the office, which is normal for me. But it's not normal for me not to post on here so late in the day. It's just been one of those rushed-off-your-feet ones. I've been here since 8.30, marking essays for the first-year Literature and Identity students. We gave them the Romantic classic The Sorrows of Young Werther and the not-quite-as-clever-as-he-thinks Noughties, which is suffused with conscious Romanticism, and asked them to compare the central protagonists. Young Werther kills himself: Eliot Lamb keeps quiet about a broken condom, and fails to deal with his high-school sweetheart developing a brain of her own. Autre temps, autres mores as they say, but there's a shared core across the centuries.

The essays were pretty good: few fails and quite a lot of A grade efforts. Even the fails weren't awful: people had gone astray rather than exposed themselves as incapable of being literary scholars. The only real screw-up was by, ahem, me. I finished the pile unexpectedly early and went off for lunch in the Sloppery, toting a copy of the London Review of Books as a prop to relax with in the spirit of a teacher who'd done a good job.

Except that I hadn't. I finished off the pile in record time because I'd accidentally stapled some unmarked essays to the back of a marked one. The students were, thankfully, amused rather than annoyed and I marked them after the class. The session itself was more fun than it could have been too. After a concluding discussion of the post-modern self in Lorna Sage's Bad Blood, I returned the essays and had a personal chat with every student. Some were a little upset, but all were mature and thoughtful. Some were even funny, which I don't think I'd have managed at that stage in my academic career.

So that's done. The rest of the week is dedicated to reading BA and MA dissertation drafts, and giving Paradise Lost tutorials. Easy!

Books in today: Grigson's The Faber Book of Epigrams and Epitaphs (inspired by my earlier post about popular mockery of prominent individuals); the unnecessarily expensive but very impressive Writing Wales: From The Renaissance to Romanticism (£55!) and a beautiful collection of Tom Gauld's cartoons, You're All Just Jealous of my Jetpack. I've a couple of Gauld originals decorating my office and once I shift this spare kidney on eBay, I'll get a couple more.

Soundtrack to the week? The new Low album (seeing them next week: yay), Suede's new effort, Jackie Oates' Lullabies, lots of Songs: Ohia, Kurt Vile's new album (good, but every song could be three minutes shorter without losing intensity), the new Vocalconsort Berlin CD of Gesualdo's sacred choral music, and the Hallé's great new Vaughan Williams 5th and 8th Symphonies. All highly recommended. 

And not forgetting this rather fine compilation of Thatcher songs

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