Archive for the ‘PhD’ Category

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The Benefits of Reading, According to Ms Dutton and Mr de la Mare

April 15, 2013

Here’s Ellen Dutton‘s latest Stop Motion animation, on the benefits of reading. I thought it would be nice to set this alongside some of the thoughts Walter de la Mare shared in his anthologies for young people. Here’s an extract from Come Hither, a book of poems and prose extracts he published for young people in 1923, which was republished again as recently as 1990:

That is one of the pleasures of reading – you may make any picture out of the words you can and will; and a poem may have as many different meanings as there are different minds. (p. xxv-xxvi).

And these are from the introduction he and Thomas Quayle gave to their Readings of 1927:

That is really what it comes to: there is not really time enough in our short lives, with so much to be done, to waste much of it or our minds on what will not prove of lasting joy and use and service to them. (p. xx).

One simply cannot pay too much attention to what we see around us and in particular to living and beautiful things. And more especially when we are young. If possible, then, when you read about anything in a book, see it as clearly as you can in your own mind; then do your best to find that thing in the world around; then compare it with what the writer has said about it. Make your own discoveries. Explore! (p. xx)

A good book, indeed, is the next best thing in this life to a true friend. It gives all it has to give solely for the asking – and wants nothing in return but just a thankful blessing on the man who wrote it. (p. xxi).

The methods of information literacy for young people may have changed, but the sentiments are very much the same. As de la Mare and Quayle put it, “To be able to read is to be able to explore – as far as we will and can – the World of Books.” (p. xvii). Capital ‘W’, capital ‘B’.

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Serendipity, or, Why There’s No Such Thing as a Waste of Research Time

February 21, 2013

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 14.21.59

Today my main goal is to complete the marking of the Historical Bibliography essays submitted a week and a half ago, and I am rewarding myself (and keeping my focus) by breaking after every four essays and sorting through some of the extra research photos I took in Oxford a couple of years ago.

What do I mean by “extra” photos? Well, the purpose of the trip was to build up a swatch of handwriting samples from the de la Mare papers to compare with the writing in the annotations in the books at Senate House. I finished this with a couple of days to spare and instead of heading off into the summer sunshine like any normal person might, I took some photos of some of the pocket books in the archive. I didn’t need them for the handwriting sample, but I thought they might come in useful at some point later in my research.

Analysing de la Mare’s handwriting proved to be pretty dismal as far as dating is concerned. There’s a clear shift in the last couple of years of his life, and his teenage writing is very like his mother’s and becomes more distinct when he starts work at the oil company, but that leaves a span of around fifty years in which nothing changes so drastically that I would like to look at an annotation in one of his books and date it with any feeling of confidence beyond “not very old and not young either”.

So, in the end, the trip felt a little bit of a cul-de-sac. I proved a negative: that handwriting analysis was not going to be helpful to me. I learned a little bit more about that sort of analysis, and I got some good practice in the palaeography of de la Mare’s quite distinctive hand. Nothing more.

I assigned sorting through the “extra” photos to be my marking displacement and wake-up task. (It’s really important to refresh yourself regularly while marking, so that no student suffers impact from boredom with the process on the part of the marker).

Fast forward to this morning. And lo! Notes from one of the early notebooks about what he’s reading. The very thing I have on my seek and locate list for the summer, as described by Whistler:

At about this time too he began making exercise books on waste sheets of paper from the Oil Office. The first is in an alphabetical notebook for November 1892. (The Life of Walter de la Mare: Imagination of the Heart. Duckworth, 1993 (2003 imprint), p. 50)

I’ve not got images of them all, and I hope the years I don’t have are waiting for me in the boxes at the Bodleian, but it’s pretty exciting to find some of the very things I am seeking sitting on my own hard drive.

Thank goodness for the Bodley’s policy for researchers to take their own images. And thank goodness I didn’t go off in the sunshine once I’d finished my main research task. What was the focus then turned out to be not so important, while the marginal, the extra activity, could be really very useful indeed.

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Image: flicking through images on my hard drive

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Contemplative Reading

January 22, 2012

This term I’m on leave from teaching classes, in order to focus on my own studies. I’m working towards the Upgrade from MPhil to PhD, with the smaller (but important) deadline of the Progress Review approaching fast.

There’s still marking, of course, and meetings with personal tutees, and dissertation supervision. Students on the MA LIS undertake a piece of student-led research which is examined for the MA. (Students who complete only the taught element of the course finish earlier and are awarded a Postgraduate Certificate).

In general, though, the order of each day at the moment is contemplative reading and writing. I’ve had wonderful meetings this week with colleagues and current dissertation students, but in the main it’s just me, the books and the computer screen.

And the final proofs of Practical Cataloguing are here.

Definitely, therefore, all about the reading.

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