Monday 15 December 2008

Exteeeeeeeeeended Essay

I'm in the midst of my final days in Oxford for this year, and busy writing my thesis or extended essay or whatever it ought to be called. We do three of these, and one slightly longer one, so 'essay' seems too diminuitive a label, and 'dissertation' too grand. Extended essay is probably all the lauding it needs, and at 7000 words it is neither a trifle nor a mountain. But it is taking up most of my time, hence not having finished a book for a while - I have a feeling December will be a record low for the year, though I am currently enjoying The War Workers by EM Delafield, Harriet Hume by Rebecca West, and Every Eye by Isobel English. Slowly.

My essay title is:

'I - I only want to leave--':
The Imperial Visitor in Olive Schreiner and Katherine Mansfield

Yes. I'm a fan of using incongruous quotations for titles - this one comes from my favourite Katherine Mansfield story, 'Th
e Garden Party'. (This was my favourite story when I read the Folio Collected Short Stories of KM, and only afterwards did I discover that it's her most renowned - which proves that it is deservedly renowned!) Laura is at the impoverished family's house, and is saying that she wishes to leave the basket she brought - but in missing out the word 'basket', reveals also her desire to leave the house. I think I called this 'partial zeugma'. Oh, indeed.

Sometimes I get a bit wordy. I've already used the expressions 'anthropomorphised mercantilism' and 'Bona
parte's credentials are essentially fiscal'. Not to mention 'cannibalises'; 'intial corporeal dislocation', and, most profoundly, 'Time is a crucial as space'.

It's fun to be back at it. The Carbon Copy said he tried to read my undergraduate thesis on Virginia Woolf and Clothing the other, but stopped after two pages because it was, quote, 'boring'. Aah, with friends like these. To be fair to him, I don't think I'd last two pages on the Reimann Hypothesis. It always amazes me the subjectivity of the word 'interesting' - this blog bubble sometimes makes me forget that some people (I'm looking at you, Mr. Tim Henman) think reading is 'boring' - whereas I imagine there are leagues of sports fans and map readers and geologists who would be astonished at my lack of interest in their field... I bet none of *them* have ever said 'anthropomorphised mercantilism'. And, at the end of the day, is there any better method of judging success?

In all seriousness, anyone interested in Katherine Mansfield or Olive Schreiner, if my wordiness has whetted your appetite, I'd be happy to email you my essay afterwards - and be even more happy to hear your thoughts on the concept of visiting in their works.


  1. I would love to read your essay if you care to send it to me. One of my favourite authors is Katherine Mansfield along with all female writers of that period; but I have to confess, I have not read anything of Olive Schreiner, but always open to new authors.

  2. Example of zeugma: 'He took his hat and his leave'. I didn't know you could have a partial one!

    This does sound like a fascinating topic and I love the title, but I won't offer to read as I've seen enough student's work this year (although I'm sure yours will be a cut above the rest). 7,000 words is a goodly length so I'm not surprised your time is being eaten up. Bon courage for finishing! It sounds like it is coming together wonderfully well.

  3. I'VE never said the words 'anthropomorphised mercantilism', at least not conciously! Anyway, the essay sounds very interesting, and I second the request for a copy! Good luck with it!

  4. Well I've never said 'anthropomorphised mercantilism'either and I ner knew there was such a thing as a "zeugma" and I doubt I will be able to slide such a word into conversation in the near future. Despite my ignorance and simple speech I would also like to read your essay. No guarantee I will understand it though.

  5. Has Tim Henman seriously been quoted as saying reading is 'boring'? Or is this an attempt to think of a sportsman whose name you know in order to slander them? I'd have thought a footballer was a better bet...
    btw I couldn't quite be bothered to get into your psychological debate below, but will just pretend that I know the answer. I think that basically the question you are asking is either a no-brainer, or makes no sense at all when you consider how the brain works. Not that anyone really knows. But you could pay me to find out, if you like.

  6. Yep, Tim Henman said that.

    And what psychological debate?? I'm baffled!

  7. Simon, I'd love to read your Katherine Mansfield essay. I like the way she starts her stories as though they were already half-way through. Doesn't The Garden Party begin something like 'After all, it didn't rain'. So original


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