Blog Journal/Portfolio

 

typewriter-At first when I was faced with the prospect of blogging for this MA I was very nervous. I found it very daunting. I use social media quite often but I am not used to publishing my own writing online. It felt exposing to put my work out there for the world to see. I was also very nervous about presenting the writing in an academic way. Of course over the course of my undergraduate degree in UCC and the MA programme I have written countless essays. But this is the only format in which I had presented my academic writing. I suppose due to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter I had come to see this type of writing as very casual. I wasn’t sure how to merge the two. I am still not sure if I managed this transition smoothly but I tried. I accepted the challenge and jumped in to it with a sense of curiosity and excitement. I was trying something new and the world is certainly moving towards this type of medium. So I want to try to embrace it rather than fear it.

My first blog was based on my Theories of Modernity module. We looked at  Nietzsche’s essay On the Disadvantages of History For Life. I found that the best way to approach the blogs was to start with a topic from the MA programme that I found really interesting. I was hoping that discussing this topic would help me to write in an academic way. I was also hoping to get across my interest in what we were learning. I wanted the entries to be both academic and personal.  I thought the Nietzsche essay was fascinating. It takes on the subject of history and how we view it. Here is an extract from this blog post.

It was a really interesting piece because it brought up loads of interesting questions around our relationship to history. Nietzsche explores the effect history has on human beings. In this essay he is acknowledging the need for history in order to live an active life but he is also saying that history can become a problem if we dwell too much on the past and forget to live in the present. He goes on to explain that for some people the past is something that they cling onto so tight that it becomes a chain they cannot break free from.”

I also liked how this essay concerned itself with the individual and the wider world. It started with the personal relationship to history and then he expanded this theory to include society as a whole.  I then went on to describe the three ways in which Nietzsche believes we view history. I also chose to write about this essay because it presents a theory to the reader but it does not enforce it on them. Nietzsche isn’t saying that he has all the answers, he is simply offering us an opportunity to examine our view of history and how it affects our lives. This extract is the end of my first blog entry.

 “Nietzsche does not presume to know exactly the right balance between what people should remember and what they should let go of but he does say that every once in a while if we keep trying, a balance is struck that serves history and allows individuals and society the freedom to progress towards a fuller life. “

Secondly I blogged about Freud and his theories on femininity. We studied Freud as part of this course but I also studied him and these theories as part of my undergraduate degree so I felt quite familiar with the topic. It was great to be able to reexamine these theories again. That is the advantage of this assignment it allows you to use what you have learned and combine it to different areas.

“In order to fully understand Freud’s theories of feminism it is important to understand that Freud was first and foremost a storyteller. He drew from Greek mythology in order to explain his theories and concepts. He relied heavily on symbolism and metaphors in his work. He did not intend his work to be taken literally. It is to be examined as literature and involves a search for a hidden meaning. It begins with the masculine experience. Freud did not begin to look at infantile sexuality from the female perspective until a much later date. His essay on femininity was published much later in his career and I think not accidentally after the death of his mother. So in order to understand Freud’s views on women we must first understand his views on men.”

I included a blog that was an extract from an assignment I did for my Contemporary Literary Research Class. I chose to put this up as a blog entry not so much because of the piece itself but because this assignment was an exercise in peer marking. Once again I was unfamiliar and so a little reticent to try this task. I did not want to comment on anyone else’s work and I certainly didn’t want them to comment on mine. However I learned a lot from this exercise. We had to read through our partners work and then fill out a form that had different questions on it. The comments related to clarity, understanding, referencing and grammar. Of course I made mistakes but I learned from them and I also learned that it was not as scary as I thought to share my work with others. Perhaps this is why I chose to blog about it because I was reminded once again of the advantages of putting your work out there.Through this exercise I was also able to learn from another persons work. They had an entirely different view of the poem then I did and this allowed me to see it in a new light. I especially enjoyed this because I took a seminar class in third year on Yeats. I really enjoy studying his work but I thought I knew all there was to know and this assignment helped me to remember once again why I love Yeats poetry. There is always something new to discover each time you return to Yeats poems. Here is an example of my blog post on The Doer Of Good. 

In Declan Kilberd’s essays “The London Exiles: Wilde and Shaw” and “Oscar Wilde: The Artist as Irishman” Kilberd examines the contradictory nature of Wilde’s character. He looks at the way in which Wilde plays with his Irishness, wanting sometimes to shirk it off and others to embrace it.”

The next blog post that I did shows that I was indeed getting comfortable with this method of writing. At the time I was reading Ken Follets Fall of Giants and I was really enjoying the book. Follett was a relatively new discovery to me and I would tell anyone who would listen to me about the delights of this book. I love when you discover a good book and you don’t want it to end. I always pass these recommendations on to others so I thought what better way then to use it as a topic for my blog. I knew that because I wanted to blog about something other than what I was studying it was a sign that I was beginning to get more comfortable with blogging. I wanted to include something from my own life. It did feel a little bit strange and more personal than before. It was as if I was leaving the door to my home life ajar and people could look in if they so wished. As you can see from this piece of my blog entry I did still really  want to share Follet’s book with the world.

This book is an epic piece of writing that is nearly a thousand pages long. I will admit at first I was a little intimidated by the size as well as the scale of what Follett was trying to cover in this book. However I quickly became absorbed in the narrative. Follett crafts such interesting, well rounded characters. He also disperses them around the world, placing them at the heart of the action”

Another blog that I wrote is entitled Feminism, a Dirty Word?  This blog is the perfect example of that balance I was aiming to strike between personal and academic writing. The issue of gender has wondered its way into many of my blog entries. I did not intend that at first but as anyone who has studied English knows this issue does comes up a lot in different areas and texts that we cover. I also feel very passionate about it and I get frustrated when people dismiss it and say that there is no longer any need to talk about gender issues these days. I read an article about Beyonce’s new music video. It said that she had sampled a speech from an author that I very much admire called Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I also think this talk is very inspiring and thought provoking. This seemed like the perfect issue to write about because I was already thinking about Adichie for my thesis topic. It blended many things that I ‘m passionate about and it is also an academic subject. The blog also gave me an opportunity to think about and expand on my thesis topic. I have found the process of blogging very useful for developing my thoughts on certain subjects. It allows me to put down my ideas in a more relaxed format so that I can expand them further without feeling the constraints of essays and word limits. I used the blog to express some of my opinions but it is clear that they needed to be fleshed out a bit more before I can write a dissertation on any of them. Here is an example of my blog on feminism.

I also worry about young girls being made to believe that their body is something to be objectified. Believing that they are only pretty objects to be looked at and that their sexuality is the only commodity. When the attention is focused so much on this women forget to value other things such as their intelligence, humour, kindness and creativity. R&B music also concerns me because a lot of the lyrics tend to be very misogynistic and demeaning towards women. It also sends the wrong message to boys about how they should treat women. This is as unfair to young boys as it is to young girls.”

This blog entry also allowed me to experiment with other mediums such as videos. For the first time I included a music video in my blog entry. I will admit that I still think I am doing something wrong when I mix other mediums into my academic writing. I am so used to the traditional form of writing and structuring my essays that it feels strange to experiment with these other forms. I really enjoyed this aspect of the blogging. It allowed me to get creative with my writing and I was glad to have this opportunity to explore new ways of writing.

“I do not expect Beyonce to change the face of the music industry for women with one album of course. I realise that part of the problem with the term feminism is that we all have different idea about what it means. I can, and I suppose have picked apart many of the things I object to about Beyonce being considered not just an icon but a feminist icon. That however might be part of the problem. Like I said at the start of this blog millions of people have been debating feminism for years and years but the topic is after all still in its youth. It has quite a journey to go on before the issue is resolved. I also have a long way to go in my understanding of these issues. I do believe however that it starts with supporting other women and not tearing them down. I am delighted that Beyonce like myself wears the title of feminist like a badge of honour. I hope that others, men and women will be inspired to do the same.”

This was one of my favourite blogs to write because it allowed me to express my opinions in a way I wouldn’t have been able to do before. I was also able to try something new and play around with technology while also contributing to my academic writing.

As part of the MA programme there is a series of seminars where UCC Lecturers and visiting lecturers get a chance to present their research to the class. I very much enjoyed attending these seminars. The papers were very interesting and varied. It provided an insight into what interests other people in terms of research topics. The MA students were instructed to blog about some of these seminars during the course of the year. I chose to blog about Mina Loy because we had also had a class on her poetry as part of our course. Loy was not familiar to me and I really enjoyed learning about her. Choosing this seminar also allowed me to blend what I had studied in class with what I had learned in the seminar. The paper was presented by Sarah Hayden. She was very knowledgeable and passionate on this topic and it was certainly infectious. Here is an extract from my Blog on Mina Loy and her work.

As a result of discovering Loy I too have become interested in more of her work. We were encouraged in our class to look deeper into her work. We were told to look not just at what was on the surface of her work but to look deeper and spend longer with her writing. I was particularly struck by her feminist manifesto and her poem “The Effectual Marriage.” This poem examines the roles for men and women and the damaging effects of stereotyping gender roles. It shrinks down women’s roles until the women’s whole world becomes a small narrow space. The man’s domain is out in the world and the women’s is in the kitchen. This domestic space appears smaller and the women is trapped inside it. There is a kind of mocking appreciation for the status quo. Despite the kitchen being the women’s space all the objects within it belong to the man. The women is once again an object for a man’s amusement. She is the muse. She is there to be of service to the man. This poem has a very ironic mocking tone. Loy is holding society under a light and letting the reader see it more clearly”

The seminars were a good way to inject different topics into our blog posts. I was also intrigued by the other posts that were done on these seminars. I was able to see many different takes on the topics that were discussed through looking at the various different accounts.

The last module that we took on the course looked at film. It explored modernist and postmodernist works. I really liked studying film because as I have already mentioned I am intrigued by other types of mediums. I love books and I think of them as my first love but I am also interested in film. Studying film provides different insights. It is a very different animal to books. It requires you to look at different elements than what you are used to focusing on when studying a novel. We looked at postmodern film and how it differs from modernist works.

Magical realism is an important part of these texts. I was once again reminded of a text I studied during my degree. I took a module called Contemporary Literature and Culture and one of the texts was called Midnight’s Children by Salmon Rushdie. It is a post colonial text that relies heavily on magical realism. I could not get the parallels between this text and the postmodern films we were studying out of my mind. I decided to blog about the comparisons between this text and a movie called Good Bye Lenin! This piece of my blog entry explains some of the similarities between the two.

They both use politics as a major theme in telling their story. There are many real and fictional historical facts mixed in together. Good Bye Lenin is set in Germany and it takes place during the time that the Berlin wall comes down. It is a very significant time for Germany. Both of these stories use metafiction in the narrative. There are also elements of Pastiche and nostalgia in both stories. Rushdie evokes a longing for an old India where they could dream of independence in an idealised way. Alex in Good Bye Lenin! is also trying to regain a history that is long gone.”

Once again it was a wonderful opportunity to go back on some of the older material that I have previously covered while still getting to talk about some of the new texts I am discovering this year. This piece is where I discuss magical realism and how important it is both to postcolonial texts but also to postmodern cinema.

Magical realism is also a part of both stories and an important part of postmodern works. Magic realism allows the story to include magical elements into a real setting. These two contradictory terms are used to explain a genre whereby reality and fantasy live side by side. The reader must now determine the truth.”

In this blog I was able to use more images and videos in order to bring my posts to life for those who read them.

As part of the MA P programme we all presented our thesis topic at the 2014 Textualities Conference on the 28th of March. My presentation was on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. We were then instructed to blog about our experience at the conference. I found this very beneficial especially as I am not very practised at public speaking and I was very nervous coming up to it. The blog gave me a chance to reflect on the experience and I was able to see all that I had learned by taking part in the conference. It was also useful to see that I was very concerned about this event and I managed to conquer my fears of presenting in public. The blog entry was a further reminder of how far I have come in terms of putting my own work out there and it has really helped my confidence and self esteem. This excerpt from my blog shows what I learned from the Textualities conference.

“I learned a lot from doing this presentation. At first it seemed like a very daunting prospect especially using the Peach Kucha style of presenting. I found the constraints of the timing very challenging. It was difficult to time the points I was making to the twenty-second slides. Over all I was pleased with my performance. “

Although I feel I have more to learn about combining technology and writing and about blogging itself I really did find this experience to be very educational and informative. I am still learning to navigate between formal and informal writing but I do think that this process has helped me to develop these skills. I hope that these samples of my writing convey my journey through this MA programme and  that it gives some understanding of what I learned from being part of it.

 

 

 Work Cited

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi, “We Should All Be Feminists” Online video Clip, YouTube. TedX Talks, 12 April. 2013. Web. 19 February. 2014.

Beyonce Knowles. Flawless. Beyonce. Columbia Records, 2013. CD.

Declan, Kilberd. “The London Exiles: Wilde and Shaw” The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Derry: Field Day Publications, 1991. Print

Follett, Ken. Fall of Giants. New York: Penguin Group, 2010. Print.

Freud, Sigmund. “Femininity, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis” 1931. Print.

Freud, Sigmund. “Some Psychical Consequence of the Anatomical Differences Between the Sexes.” Psychological Works of Freud. Vol. 19 (1923-25): 243-258. London: Vintage, 2001. Print.

Good Bye Lenin!. Dir. Wolfgang Becker. Ocean Fim, 2003. Film.

Loy, Mina. Insel. London: Black Sparrow Books, 1991. Print.

Merlin, Holland. “The Doer of Good” Oscar Wilde Introduced by Merlin Holland, Somerset: Harper Collins Publishers, 2003. Print

Nietzsche, Friedrich. “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life” Nietzsche: Untimely Meditations. Ed 2. Danielle Brazeale. Cambridge. 1997. 59-77. Print

Rushdie, Salman. Midnight’s Children London: Vintage, 2008. Print.

 

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