Half a Year of Blogging: An A-Z Reflection

I can’t quite believe it, but six months ago I started this blog. From October to present, I have uploaded a post every month and have endeavoured to make my content interesting, entertaining and visually appealing. In the beginning, I found the transition from the rigid style of traditional academic writing, into the slightly more ambiguous blog format a little challenging, but the experience has been so enjoyable. Without further ado, here is the A-Z of my nascent blog – a few thoughts on the journey thus far.

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is for advertising!

 

At the beginning of the academic year, Dr Donna Alexander stressed the value of scholarly blogging to us. She told us about several people she has personally known who have benefited through their presence online and their scholarly blogs, whether that be from attaining a useful contact for research or as an impressive addition to a C.V. Dr Alexander is not alone in her praise for scholarly blogging. In a Guardian article linked on Blackboard, Sarah-Louise Quinnell lauds blogging saying that, it ‘has a great deal of value to the academy, it allows authors to comment and debate on current issues.'(2011).  She continues,

‘I believe the personal blog provides an introduction to that person. Someone could be  publishing regularly in high impact journals but it’s not easy to tell what they are like to work with. By putting my blog out there I am offering my readers an introduction to not only my work but the things that inspire it and the things which make me, as a researcher, as person, as a potential employee tick.'(2011).

In short, blogging is a way to advertise yourself. Its more relaxed and dynamic format enables one to both showcase research interests whilst allowing for creative flair. I am delighted to have my blog as an addition to my C.V. going forward from the MA programme.

brush-calligraphy-alphabet-bis for blog!

Obvious, but necessary! The world of scholarly blogging was new terrain for me back in October, which naturally came with a lot of uncertainties. What are the main criteria? and What makes a successful blog? were questions I had from the outset. ‘How to write a blog post’ by Sophie Clewis was a helpful starting point, in which the author gave a few pointers for blogging newbies. She advised being authentic, not making posts too lengthy and, most encouragingly, to just give it a go (2016). The feedback we received at an early stage from the teaching team of our MA programmes was also very useful. Dr Maureen O’Connor said that my posts were ‘lively and engaging’, but advised me to include more links. Going forward from this, I endeavoured to make better use of the plethora of content a blog enables you to embed, so I added more GIFs, images, screenshots etc.

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is for creative!

One of the best aspects of blogging is the creative freedom it allows for. In one of my early posts, inspired by a research seminar given by Kathy D’Arcy and a poetry reading with Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Eilís Ní Dhuibhne, I decided to take a more creative approach to my November blog post. Although this post seems slightly tangential to my main area of research, feminism and the representation of women in Marina Carr’s plays, it was refreshing and I think beneficial to deviate slightly at that stage. I still had not decided what I wanted to focus on for my MA thesis and I do believe exercising the creative side of your brain is very important. Even in traditional academia, there is a creativity to be found in how your work is presented. How you interpret other scholar’s work, how you assemble your own argument and how you compose a thesis title is all very personal. Here is a look back at the poem I composed and you can find the write up that accompanies it here.

A Complication
And with that I have missed a step-
Sharp intake of breath
A surge of unpleasant adrenaline
Shaken out of what Burke calls ‘indifference’.
I am Alice slipping into an alternate reality
Only mine is less colourful
The ‘escapism’ a prison of ‘what-ifs’
A single narrative shattered
Into a million detrimental conclusions.
Now I’m spiralling,
Momentum builds
0-60 in the blink of a rabbit’s eye.
‘Worry-guts’
‘Nervous Nellie’
‘Fusspot’
They say my ‘nerves’ are at me
‘Anxious Amy’, the perfect alliterative couplet
It’s all a bit glamourised these days
But the haze, the dense fog of uncertainty
Is far from a nirvana
All apologies for bursting your bubble.
I crash to a halt and the curtains open.
If all the world’s a stage, I’m in the wings-
Desperately trying to recall my lines.
Where is my script?
Why is it blank?
Apparently this thing they call life
Is an improvised narrative.
Like Cohen I struggle with these demons,
Middle class and tame
It’s a complication –
Kill your darlings.

 

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is for diversity!

Ancillary to this creative freedom, I have been so inspired by the blogs of my peers. It’s wonderful that everyone’s blogs are so unique, from layout to content no two are the same. Whist I have loved keeping up with as many blogs as possible, I particularly enjoy ‘Dance In Slow Motion’ and ‘Literary Others and Me’.

 

 

 

Zoe blog
https://danceinslowmotion.wordpress.com/

 

Haley blog.png
https://othersandmeblog.wordpress.com/

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is for ‘Eroding Patriarchal Stereotypes: Water as a powerful female metaphor in literature.’

This was a piece I composed in January inspired by the Seamus Heaney poem, ‘Limbo’ we had looked at in class. By this stage, I was captivated by the work of Marina Carr and was almost finished reading Portia Coughlan in which water features quite prominently as a means of reclaiming female agency. From Margaret Atwood’s quote about water, ‘[it]always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it’, I began to analyse more closely the function of the River Belmont in the text (43).

In Marina Carr’s Portia Coughlan, the River Belmont arguably becomes a symbol of agency. As Melissa Sihra articulates, ‘the domestic sphere is a site of danger and violation’, the river operates as a ‘liminal site, in its propensity to motion, and its tendency to cross, and to re-shape the fixed boundaries of male-owned property in the play’ (22-25). Like Portia, the river exhibits potential to rebel, as a ‘potent metaphor for the resistance to fixity and the solid, where the force of the water offers the possibility of exceeding boundaries, of flooding and diluting dominant structures. Characteristic of water is its excessive drive to overflow, to transgress demarcated boundaries’ (Sihra 25-26).

This blog post was very helpful when I talked about the play at Textualities 2017.

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One of my slides from the mini-conference. I drew heavily from the work I had done on the blog post.

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is for feminism!

Feminism is a prominent theme running through my blog and a very frequent tag I’ve included when writing my posts. The working title of my MA thesis is ‘”A woman of rock, carved out of the rocks around her”. Marina Carr – A Vehicle for New Modes of Representation’, it is clear I am very interested in how women are depicted in literature. Outside of my academic life, the subject has been important to me in particular since reading Emma Woolf’s, The Ministry of Thin: How the Pursuit of Perfection Got Out of Control (2013). In retrospect, although back in October I had no idea of what I wanted to focus on for my thesis, I think the representation of women has always been at the back of my mind. It was what I gravitated to when prioritising what research seminars I wrote about, what readings I attended in Boole library and ultimately what led me to committing to focusing on Marina Carr for my MA thesis.

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is for graphics!

 

They have been numerous and they have been varied!

FotorCreated

 

brush-calligraphy-alphabet-his for hobby!

I have grown to love posting content and when my MA thesis is complete I hope to continue blogging, perhaps making it a bit more personal and uploading more creative work.

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is for inquisitive!

As I have already alluded to, the blogging sphere has really peaked my interest in a wide variety of subjects. Fiosrach, the name of this blog, is the Irish word for just that, inquisitive. From the outset of my MA programme in Irish writing and film, I have endeavoured to keep an open mind about what I wanted to focus my research on. I attended lots of different research seminars from Professor Claire Connolly’s, ‘Lane-ism: Travelling Irish Roads with Anthony Trollope’ to Dr Maureen O’Connor’s, ‘Animal Souls and Votes for Women: Vegetarianism and Suffrage in the Work of Fin-de-Siècle Irish Feminists’ it certainly has been a learning curve of a year!

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is for job application!

 

This blog has been a lot more than just another run-of-the-mill assignment. When I first heard that scholarly blogging was a requirement of EN6009, I must admit I wasn’t too enthused! For once though, I am happy to admit I was so wrong! Although putting together an interesting post every month to a standard I am happy with has been difficult at times, with other assignments and work commitments to juggle, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. My blog is now a portfolio of sorts to showcase my work, my personality and my (admittedly basic) proficiency with IT and will hopefully benefit me in future job applications. This year in general has encouraged me to interact more with the online world as a means of benefiting my chances of pursuing a career in publishing and I have reaped some positive results already. As a result of following publishing Ireland on Twitter, I found out about an editing workshop in Dublin which I am attending next month.

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is for Kathy D’Arcy!

My first ever blog post was a review of a fascinating research seminar I attended, ‘Re-articulating Irish Women’s Poetry: An Experiment in Creative Knowledge Texts’, given by Kathy D’Arcy. I entitled it, ‘Ms D’Arcy and the Prejudice against Women in the Literary Canon’, unable to refrain from the obvious Jane Austen pun!

The forgotten female voice is ubiquitous in both the literary and wider world of the past centuries and even in contemporary culture and D’Arcy’s findings, although dismaying were not shocking to me. It sometimes seems reductive to attempt to thread together these arbitrary narratives, many of which are too truncated to create a blazing resurgence of the forgotten female writers of the past decades which one might want. Equally, it seems unjust and limiting to pen a searing indictment of the male dominated literary canon as a response to this female ostracization; doing so both fails to make a salient point and in my opinion, alienates a male readership.

I was particularly excited by the creative mode in which D’Arcy used to convey her frustrations:

D’Arcy’s personal account of how she found traditional academia stifling to the ‘I’, the personal voice, juxtaposed with the idea of female writers stifled in the literary world, presented the creative mode as an ideal resolution. 

Going forward from this post, I was inspired to take a creative approach to my next blog post, hence the poem I wrote. It also sparked more of an interest in me to delve further into feminism as a possible research topic.

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is for layout!

When I was designing my blog, I knew I wanted a very clean, simple format. My entries, therefore, appear from most resent to older posts as a list on the homepage accompanied by a snippet from the post to give the reader a general idea of what the post entails. My Creative Commons Licence, search bar, categories and embedded Twitter appear at the end so as not to clutter the layout. I do think that this is a vital part of how appealing one’s blog is. I hope that having a clean layout makes my blog look professional and entices readers to return.

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is for Marina Carr!marina-carr

Before I began my MA in Irish writing and film, I must concede that the term ‘Irish playwright’ only connoted names like Beckett, Friel, Murphy and Syng. Out of a vast and intimidating reading list that popped up in my inbox over the summer months prior to the commencement of the programme, Marina Carr’s name came as a new discovery and, probably lured by the whimsical title, Woman and Scarecrow, I decided to read her play. From there my interest flourished. After we had our class with Dr Marie Kelly, my mind was made up that I wanted to focus on Carr. My unbeknownst preparatory work in the form of numerous blog posts connected to feminism led me quite naturally to hone in on the representation of female in Carr’s work.

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is for navigating!

In a way, the blog has been a diary of sorts over the last six moths. It has allowed me to record ideas, engage in discussions with my peers and allowed feedback from lecturers instantaneously. I believe it has been a springboard to getting me to where I am now in the research process.

feedback

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is for one hundred artworks!

In January, I attended a talk in the Glucksman entitled ‘Can 100 Artworks Tell the Story of Modern Ireland?’. It was centred on the book edited by Dr Eibhear Walshe, Fintan O’ Toole and Catherine Marshall, Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks (2016). Although I did not write a post directly on this event, it was beneficial to me when thinking about Irish writing and other forms of Irish art. During the night, each of the speakers articulated the call and response between the different pieces in the book and also highlighted that creativity is what it is to be human – being human in your own way. I was delighted to see that Marina Carr’s Portia Coughlan was included in the selection.

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brush-calligraphy-alphabet-pis for progress!

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Sometimes, when I think of the summer months and the thesis looming, it seems particularly overwhelming. The prospect of writing such an extensive piece of work, far exceeding anything I have done previously is disheartening. When I start to think like this, like I have achieved nothing thus far, looking at my blog can be a useful mediator. As well as completing course assignments, I have also put up a blog post every month, participated in a Wikipedia Editathon, began my research journey and devised a working title for my thesis and presented my work thus far at Textualities 2017. Dear future Amy reading this, be Buzz in this picture, not Woody! All is not lost.

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is for quest!

Much like progress, this blog has been a quest of sorts. I have achieved what I set out to do, find a research topic and come up with a working thesis title.

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is for readings!

Over the course of the academic year, I have attended a number of readings in Boole Library’s creative zone, which have inspired blog posts. As I have already mentioned, for example, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Eilís Ní Dhuibhne’s poetry reading inspired me to compose my own poem. Other readings that have just inspired me in general to try and produce high quality work have been an evening with Mike McCormack, Claire-Louise Bennett and Conor O’Callaghan and most recently a reading by Lionel Shriver.

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is for social media. Twitter-icon

Social media has been very beneficial for me in trying to promote my blog. This was something I was somewhat uncomfortable with in the early stages of the process, but gradually became easier. I realised that, although it sounds obvious, it helps when people read your blog, they can offer valuable insights and additions to your research which you might have overlooked. Social media also played a vital role in highlighting the Wikipedia Editathon and Textualities 2017.

What was perhaps the most eye-opening part of the experience was the attention the event drew, mainly thanks to documenting my progress on Twitter. My tweets were favourited by library staff, politicians and Wikimedia Ireland. The exercise was a great testament to the benefits that can come from sharing your work on platforms other than traditional academic ones, something that Dr Alexander has stressed a lot in class.

For the latter event I was on the social media team and creating platforms across different forums made a huge impact! It attracted people to our event and created conversation with #Textualities17.

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is for Textualities 2017!

The interdisciplinary conference held by the three MA programmes, Irish Studies, Irish Writing and Film (woo!) and the MA in Modernities was the event I was most dreading in the taught section of my MA programme and every second that went past in the Doomsday clock in my head marked a second closer to the living nightmare. I knew that preparation was the only means of controlling this worry, so prepare I did!

With my script made out, visuals done and flashcards at hand, it was practise, practise, practise before the big day. As well as rehearsing at home on my own, I also recruited some dedicated loved ones and spent some weekends being an imposter in the engineering building looking at my presentation on the big screen and going over and over my script – Westworld style!

Here is me in UCC being a loon: 17357672_1680197051996606_1090021880_o (1)

Reading everyone’s blogs subsequent to the event, it was reassuring to see that everyone pretty much felt the same about the event. For me, writing the post after the conference was a useful way to try and be objective, to calmly analyse what was done well, rather than worrying about perceived errors.

I tried to make eye contact with people around the room and not rely too heavily on my flashcards, as Dr. Anne Etienne suggested to us. My time at the podium went surprisingly quickly and before long it was time for the Q&A session. As mentioned in one of my subsequent tweets, this was the aspect of the conference which I found most difficult. When you are put on the spot and don’t have a lot of time to think about your answer and articulate it necessarily the exact way you would like, it can be quite stressful.

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is for

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I’m nearly at the end of the taught section of my MA programme……and you’re nearly at the end of this blog post! Phew!

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is for Vegetarianism! 17571878_10155096141787359_694344945_o

My favourite research seminar I attended was, Dr Maureen O’Connor’s research seminar entitled, ‘Animal Souls and Votes for Women: Vegetarianism and Suffrage in the Work of Fin-de-Siècle Irish Feminists’. My post entitled, ‘“You are but an outcast after all”: Silence of the Lambs and the Ladies’ was a further exploration of the close link between vegetarianism and feminism. As a member of both camps, I am passionate about both movements but never actually connected them prior to this seminar. The reason is perfectly articulated in the quote by Margaret Cousins Dr O’Connor gave on the day,

‘The cause of freedom is single and indivisible. No one facet of it can be sacrificed to expediency in favour of another without radical danger to the whole cause and to those who place expediency before principle’, certainly positions me to believe that all feminists should be vegetarians (186).

After that seminar and in order to compose a well researched blog post, I delved into Carol J. Adams The Sexual Politics of Meat: A feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory which highlighted the gendered nature of meat eating:

Consistently, the idea lingers that ‘in eating the muscle of strong animals, we will become strong’ (Adams, 33). Meat-eating therefore becomes a symbol of the patriarchy, of male power and prowess. Conversely, vegetables and other non-meat foodstuff are deemed effeminate. Perhaps it is this association that has underscored the popular myth of vegetarians as feeble, physically lacking and deviant for the sake of being deviant.

As noted at the end of the post, attending this seminar was a huge influence on my research:

Above all else, Dr. O’Connor’s research seminar made me consider the close link between vegetarianism and feminism. Moving forward and thinking about possible areas of research for my dissertation, it enhanced my interest in feminism and the people on the margins, particularly sparked by a line from an Eva Gore-Booth poem, ‘You are but an outcast after all’ (Regan, 380).

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is for Wikipedia Editathon! tweet

 

The Wikipedia Editathon was quite the curveball this year! Unexpected as it was, the assignment was so enjoyable. Dr Alexander made some salient points about Wikipedia, a word which has such negative connotations in the academic world:

 

when used sensibly, it is a body of knowledge that should not be overlooked, particularly if library access and databases are tools which are not at your disposal.

Like the reflection on Textualities, writing the post was a good way of self-evaluation:

I learned an abundance of new skills, small things, like learning how to screenshot on a laptop, relearning how to footnote and most importantly how to contribute to Wikipedia in a beneficial and effective way.  I would have liked to have added more to Carr’s page, but owing to time constraints and given that this was my first time, perhaps I set my sights a little high. I am very glad that the edits I did make all remained on the page.

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marks the spot!

You’re nearly at the end of the post. Fear not faithful reader.

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is for ‘you can do it!’

From the outset of EN6009, the ‘Contemporary Research: Sills, Methods and Strategies’ module this blog is a requirement for, Dr Donna Alexander in particular has been a pillar of support and positivity, getting us all through the module and made classes more enjoyable with her impressive repertoire of high quality puns! Ancillary to this, Dr Heather Laird, Dr Anne Etienne and the remainder of the teaching staff of the school of English have been so helpful. A big thank you to the department.

calligraphy-letter-zis for Zotero!

Zotero was introduced to me by Dr Alexander and has been beneficial in organising my sources for this blog and elsewhere. ‘Z’ is also for zzzzzzzzzz, something I hope you haven’t done from reading this post! Many thanks for reading

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Work Cited

Adams, J. Carol. The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. Continuum, 1996.

Atwood, Margaret. The Penelopiad. Canongate Books, 2003.

Carr, Marina. Woman and Scarecrow. Gallery Press, 2006.

-. ‘Portia Coughlan’. Plays One. Faber and Faber, 1999.

 Clewis, Sophie. ‘How to write a blog post’, 2016, accessed 20/03/2017 https://sophieclewis.com/2016/08/22/how-to-write-a-blog-post/

Cousins, James Henry & Cousins, Margaret. We Two Together. Ganesh, 1950.

‘Dance in Slow Motion’. Accessed 20/03/17, https://danceinslowmotion.wordpress.com/

‘Literary Other and Me’. Accessed 20/03/17, https://othersandmeblog.wordpress.com/

O’Toole, Fintan , Marshall, Catherine & Walshe, Eibhear [Eds]. Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks. The Irish Times, 2016.

Quinnell, Sarah-Louise. ‘Don’t doubt the value of blogging in academic publishing’, Guardian, 2011.

Regan, Stephen  [ed]. Irish Writing: An Anthology of Irish Literature in English 1789-1939. OUP, 2004.

Sihra, Melissa. ‘Renegotiating landscapes of the female: voices, topographies and corporealities of alterity in Marina Carr’s Portia Coughlan’. Australasian Drama Studies, Vol. 43, October 2003, pp. 16-31.

Woolf, Emma. The Ministry of Thin: How the Pursuit of Perfection Got Out of Control . Summersdale Publishers Ltd, 2013.

 

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