Tuesday, 5 April 2016

This and that

A brief one today: it's been a hard few days and it's getting busier. Since I last blogged I finished reading a PhD dissertation, which I'm examining on Monday, and ploughed through the validation documents of a Greek university I'm visiting for 36 hours later this week (no time for tourism).

I've been to the annual conference of the Welsh Writing in English Association, which was as always wonderful, exhausting and simultaneously refreshing (illicit flasks of espresso martinis furnished by esteemed delegates really help those evening sessions fly past). I was co-organiser last time, so this year I relaxed: chaired a keynote and took the minutes at the AGM but didn't present anything. I'll do a proper write-up of AWWE16 once next week is out of the way. This week so far has been meetings (yay, Estates Sub-Committee) and lectures. I did my Rousseau/Werther/Precepts/Romanticism/Subjectivism/ lecture this afternoon which felt good from where I was standing but who knows what anyone else thought. Opinion was strongly divided over whether Werther was a) an idiot emo stalker whose death was good riddance or b) a satirical creation designed to mock the Romantics. Option c) a heroic representative of principled idealism and manly sensibility who was part of the great wave of liberation movements received precisely zero votes. But it was great playing Mozart ('not as bad as Young Werther' was one opinion), Beethoven and Massenet, discussing the Enlightenment and the Romantic turn, showing pictures of Strawberry Hill and Sir John Soane's Museum, and comparing the prefaces of Werther and Clarissa to examine the designs texts have on readers, then talking about Northanger Abbey, the Augustans and all sorts of things. One of the most enjoyable sessions I've had in ages.

Tomorrow it's a lecture on the Sonnet mastery of which I promote as the equivalent of the footballer's Baby Bentley: Renaissance Alpha males' must have accessory, though we then discuss women's takes by looking at Edna St Vincent Millay and Wendy Cope.

What's had to give amongst all this is my uncle Brendan's funeral on Monday, which is just awful. He had a hard life and died too young. If I was teaching a class I'd ask a colleague to cover it, but a PhD viva can't be rearranged: it wouldn't be fair to the candidate or the external examiner.

In the meantime: a few pictures (click to enlarge) from Gregynog, where my conference was held. The rest are mostly of ridiculously hot academics and sheep.

Guest speaker Niall Griffiths and Petri, a Finnish Phd student who spoke about Niall's work. They're watching a bat circling us.

A diving thrush

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