A tale of two conferences, I: the International Medieval Congress (Leeds)

A tale of two conferences, I: the International Medieval Congress (Leeds)

I’m writing this on the train back from York after a week of what I’ve been calling (rather awkwardly) ‘medieval fun-times’. It’s been a very busy few days for many people in the world of medieval studies: the early summer period, after undergraduates have gone home, is peak conference season, and this year was no exception. In fact, French medievalists got something of a rough deal this year, as the International Medieval Congress overlapped significantly with the Society for French Studies’ annual conference. I can only imagine that quite a few French medievalists were on the early train from Durham to Leeds on at least one occasion during the week.

For my part, my involvement this year was solely with the IMC, having responded to the late call for papers and sneaked myself into Session 1541, ‘Science at Court: Poesis‘. Unfortunately, the actual audience for my paper turned out to be fairly small: we’d been given the infamous ‘graveyard shift’ of 9am on Thursday morning, which sounds like a pleasant slot until you realise that the IMC disco had taken place the night before. I do feel for the organiser of the panel, the wonderful Tekla Bude: panellists and moderators outnumbered audience members, even accounting for the fact that one panellist simply didn’t show up. In any case, though, I hope that my presentation was of use to the panel; as ever, producing a conference presentation to an interested, but potentially non-specialist audience was a wonderful way of ensuring that I myself was confident in my conclusions and capable of communicating them concisely. I was speaking about a single work, namely the Kalender, a short treatise on calendar and the computus produced in 1256 by one Rauf de Lenham. If you’re interested, I actually recorded my presentation, so please do feel free to take a look at the video below. (The handout that I reference on several occasions is available here.)

All in all, I feel as if the presentation went well; the discussion afterwards (not included in the video, I’m afraid) was particularly productive. It’s worth underlining, though, that the IMC itself was very much a learning experience for me: as the IMC was my first ‘non-PG’ conference, it was very strange to find myself presenting alongside established academics as well as fellow postgrads. The IMC is a very different beast to anything I’d experienced before, not least because of its sheer scale: with over 2,000 delegates, it’s far larger than, say, the Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference or Approaching the Medieval. This of course translates into an immense variety of sessions, and therefore difficult decisions had to be made about which sessions to attend and which (regrettably) to sacrifice. There was always a choice to be made; at no point could I confidently say that session no. x was the only session that would be relevant to my research interests. I like to think, of course, that this is the reason why my talk was comparatively poorly-attended, and that the audience size of three was nothing at all to do with the fact that I was talking about the form and function of thirteenth-century Anglo-Norman calendrical treatises.

The scale of the conference did also pose some additional problems for me: as a self-confessed introvert and ‘Aspie‘, I felt somewhat overwhelmed at first, and frequently had to make time for myself, a decision that led to me missing a couple of very promising-sounding evening panels. The disco was an immediate no-no, although I will admit that I would have liked to have had the opportunity to ‘watch your bibliography boogie’.  In writing this, I’m reminded of my good friend Debbie White’s wonderful blog post on surviving academic conferences as an introvert; I’d certainly echo her advice, as well as adding that free access to the University Library (thanks, IMC!) can be exceptionally helpful in having somewhere quiet to go when you need it.

Also of use in de-stressing: opportunities to play circular chess, with period rules! (I lost.)

This isn’t another ‘Asperger’s blog post’, though, and at its heart a conference is defined not by the libraries it’s near, but by the panels that you attend. The approximate format of most panels at the IMC will be familiar to many of us who work in the humanities: 90-minute panels, with each speaker given 20 minutes and a 30-minute Q&A slot afterwards. I was lucky enough to attend some exceptional papers during my time at the IMC, many of which were given by fellow postgrads whose enthusiasm shone through. If you’d like to have a peek, I was busily (semi-)live-tweeting most of the panels I sat in on (more on that in a couple of weeks!); I’d particularly recommend The IMC did also, though, look beyond the traditional three-paper-panel setup, and embraced a broader range of formats, particularly during the evening sessions. Two roundtable discussions stood out for me: the first was on the topic of ‘chronology, temporality and otherness’ and proved to be an excellent way to bring together specialists in a whole range of different disciplines within ‘medieval studies’. It was very refreshing, as a ‘literature person’ who works in a Medieval Studies cluster largely dominated by historians, to be reminded of how we can talk to each other in a productive and mutually enriching way.

The second roundtable discussion, held on the Wednesday night, was organised by the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship on the topic of gender and harassment in the academy. It perhaps goes without saying that my attendance at the roundtable was as an ally, rather than as a victim: women in universities, as the discussion made abundantly clear, are subject to an enormous range of aggressions and challenges that stem in no small part from the very structure of academia itself. (For instance, there’s been a great deal of discussion recently on the topic of ’emotional labour’, the burden of which disproportionately falls on women.) The participants at the roundtable were forthright and open in their discussion of some issues which I, as a middle-class, male participant, had never even crossed my mind: doesn’t having a ‘harassment policy’ imply a normalisation, even an acceptance, of harassment? Why is childcare so under-discussed at academic conferences? What about breastfeeding mothers? How should trigger-warnings, the subject of so much derision by people who (like me) have never really been ‘triggered’, be used?

Leaving Leeds on Thursday night, then, I certainly felt as if I had developed as a medievalist, both in terms of what I know and how I’ve come to know it. My conference experience was very positive indeed – after all, I did literally ‘buy the T-shirt’ – and it was enriched still further by the spirited discussion on the nature of the conference itself, encouraged so ably by the IMC committee. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for the kind of methodological contributions championed by the SMFS and by the informal #disIMC meet up; after all, it’s important to think not not just about the conclusions we reach in medieval studies, but also the methods we employ in order to reach them.

Next week, I’ll be talking about an altogether different conference experience – a one-day, and much smaller, symposium held on Friday 7th July in York. Stay tuned!


Digitisation, archive.org, and ways of reading

Digitisation, archive.org, and ways of reading

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to any readers of this blog that I spend quite a large amount of my time thinking about books. These ‘books’ can take many forms, from manuscripts produced in the twelfth century to the latest works of criticism, but one of the most significant recent development in the books that I study has been the gradual decoupling of the ‘book’ from any notion of physicality. It’s hardly noteworthy to say this, but books, as we interact with them every day, often have ‘pages’ only insofar as the word ‘web’ is attached to the front of them.

Many university libraries, recognising the eminent advantages of digital resources, have adopted a ‘digital-first’ acquisitions policy. In practice, this usually means locating the resource in the university library’s (online) catalogue, entering your Single Sign-On (or equivalent) password, then hastily being redirected to the website of the publisher in question, where you’ll be able to view the book. A brief exploration of the various publishers’ websites at this point demonstrates that the publishers have chosen from a wide variety of display options: some opt to display the online ‘book’ in a form closely resembling that of the printed original, complete with a two-page view and page layout that is identical to the hard copy, whereas others integrate the text of the work onto a single web-page, with the only hint that the work was physically published being occasional (p. 56) bracketed numbers appearing between words. This decision on the part of publishers obviously has a significant impact on how we cite sources: while it’s common practice to give a reference to the hard-copy original, even if you only consulted an online edition, this becomes much more difficult when there is almost no indication of page references. Happily, many publishers offer the ‘halfway option’ of allowing you to download (at least part of) the text in question as a PDF file. The prevalence of file attachment ‘paperclips’ in my EndNote library should go some way towards demonstrating how liberal I am when it comes to this particular approach.

Guilty as charged.

But for medievalists, ‘digital texts’ doesn’t just refer to freshly-minted works put online alongside, or to replace, their dusty paper counterparts. One of the biggest paradigm shifts in manuscript studies has been the shift towards the digitisation of ancient and medieval manuscripts: on the British Library’s site alone, around 2,000 individual works have been put online and are available to view, for free, to anyone with an internet connection. Incidentally, the BL’s image viewer, like those of Oxford and Cambridge‘s University Libraries, defaults to a single-page view, itself raising interesting questions about whether this represents a different experience to that of having a physical work open to two facing pages.

Enormous amounts of (digital) ink have been used in discussing the relative ‘usefulness’ of digitising manuscripts, and many of the comments and concerns raised mirror those found in the debate around digitised textbooks and course materials. Digitising a work certainly does make it more accessible, but does it discourage surface reading and push us towards an appreciation of spectacle over substance? Are there aspects of a book, particularly of a manuscript, that simply cannot be appreciated in an IIIF manifest or a downloaded PDF? What about digitisation projects that go beyond merely making copies of the original, such as one of my PhD supervisors’ Exeter Manuscripts Project[1]

These are questions that I really don’t have the qualifications to attempt to answer, although I would invite thoughts in comments below. ‘Old-school’ digitisation, to use what might be a rather oxymoronic term, has been useful to me, though, with respect to one particular resource. The resource in question is the Internet Archive, a monumental initiative – ‘website’ would surely be too narrow a word – that aims to create a publicly accessible record of a vast swathe of internet and printed material. The initiative is probably best known today for the Wayback Machine, which has been quietly ‘crawling’ web pages since the late 1990s in an attempt to allow us today to view a web page as it appeared on a given date in history; one can, for instance, view the BBC News website from 1998 or the Magic: the Gathering homepage, circa 2005. Particularly useful to me has been a different project coming under the same umbrella: their text digitisation initiative. Much like Google Books, this project aims to produce digital copies of out-of-copyright works, although the default viewer is a stitched-together, two-pages-at-a-time  simulation of individual scans. Whenever I need to consult a nineteenth-century work of scholarship on twelfth-century computistical texts, I know with some certainty that the Internet Archive will have my back. There is one caveat here, though: whereas the seventeenth-century pamphlets being digitised by Google may well serve as a historian’s primary resources, this sort of material is (for my purposes) resolutely secondary.


One side-effect of these overlapping digital initiatives has been the creation of a slightly odd ‘lacuna’ in availability, broadly speaking, for anything published between 1910 (when copyright starts being an issue) and 1990 (when digitisation started becoming a Thing). In other words, ‘old’ materials, including many of my primary sources and some early secondary ones, are available digitally, as are ‘new’ materials, but many items that sit in the awkward space between these two dates are still only available in printed form. It’s easy to distinguish between the digital ‘reading experiences’ for new texts and the experience for ‘old’ texts and ‘originals’: newer ‘digital’ texts have fully-searchable text files and bespoke websites, whereas older ‘digitised’ ones will often be hosted on a much broader platform (such as the Internet Archive) and be high-resolution images rather than PDFs. I do sometimes wonder whether this is having an impact on how I judge and classify the large amount of Victorian scholarship I interact with. So, my question for today pertains to a specific aspect of digitisation: does viewing a work through a website such as archive.org encourage us to read it differently, or else (in the case of criticism produced ‘pre-lacuna’) to see it as belonging to the same ‘world of production’ as the manuscripts they purport to criticise?  How has digitisation affected our work patterns more broadly?

Answers on a postcard, please. The best commenter wins their very own IIIF manifest.

It seems prudent – and not just because I’m meeting with her this week! – to mention at this point a recent contribution on this topic by Emma Cayley, the supervisor in question. Writing in the latest issue of the Modern Languages Open journal, she lays bare her own love of both her own ‘paper-sifting, archive-wading, parchment-venerating’ upbringing and, alongside this, her interest in ‘digital editions’ that do things which mere PDF copies of books cannot. (pp. 12-13).

Header image: an extract from the TEI encoding project I’m currently working on as part of the Values of French project at KCL. This, incidentally, is an example of a ‘digitisation-plus’ project, aiming to open up the text in question, the Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César, in new ways by using the power of XML.

Responsible adult supervision

Responsible adult supervision

It’s been three weeks since the start of the PhD, and things are starting to come together. The disparate mental maps I have of different parts of town are starting to coalesce together into a coherent whole; I’ve found a pleasant spot in which to work (surely the subject of a future post!); and, perhaps most importantly of all, I’ve figured out how the inter-library loans system works. That said, after the first week of inductions and meetings, my second week as a postgraduate research student was something of a shock to the system: suddenly finding myself alone without any meetings in the next few days to give me concrete writing goals, I spent a couple of days in the library in something of a minor panic, unable to write more than a few words at a time without flicking over to Facebook or Twitter and frequently deleting more words than I actually put down on the page.

Three things shook me out of my slumber, beginning with the discovery of the wonders of PGR study desks. While I had already booked one of these, a combination of all the necessary books being in the library and uncertainty surrounding where ‘Research Commons’ actually was had seen me confined to the central (and to my sensitive brain, very loud) Forum Library. One fortuitous morning, though, I took the plunge and was rewarded with a desk that, while not strictly mine, did come with a locker and the right to boot anyone else off it if I needed to use it. The silence in the Reading Room was precisely what I needed, and over the next few days the first piece of writing started to take shape.

Closely linked to the discovery of Quiet Desks™ was the realisation that I needed to do something other than work and rowing. While I haven’t really spoken about rowing very much on this blog – I’m a cox, which for the uninitiated means that I’m the short one who tells rowers what to do – I will admit that, while fun, it can be a draining task, and hence not always suitable for relaxing. With that in mind, I signed up at the Fresher’s Fair to two of the most unashamedly geeky societies that Exeter had to offer: the chess society and the Doctor Who society (with their incredible slogan of ‘Exeterminate!’). Having gone to both of these during my third week, they’ve proved to be excellent ways to properly wind down, and at some point during the screening of The Tenth Planet (a First Doctor classic, and one that marked the first appearance of some very ropey-looking Cybermen) I started to realise that I was relaxing, and allowing myself to benefit from the opportunities that Exeter has to offer. The chess society has been slightly more of a challenge, as I’m currently being destroyed in every game I play, but I’m confident that I’ll get there in time.

Yesterday, meanwhile, was the day of my first joint supervision, which served as the final clattering bell in my research-awakening alarm clock. After producing 1,800 words that served as a general introduction to some of the key issues that I’ve spoken about elsewhere on this blog – what is ‘Anglo-Norman didactic literature’, and why should we care? – I went into the 2pm Friday meeting eager for feedback, and looking forward to discussing some further thoughts on the topic with my supervisors. Indeed, it did all seem to go rather well: I left the meeting with some really useful advice, and there was general agreement that my work seemed to be on the ‘right track’. The challenge now, we agreed, is to ‘beef it up’, engaging more with some of the questions that I only referenced briefly ahead of our next meeting in four weeks’ time. It felt bizarre to be the one who was setting the agenda for the meeting, especially when the two people in the room with me were far more knowledgeable than I was, but I left feeling reassured that the short- and medium-term targets that we had agreed on were achievable and measurable.

It’s been a busy week, but as I come towards the end of it I’m feeling, for the first time, like I might just be able to set some proper, concrete ‘goals’ for the next week come Sunday night. The next seven days will be, in many ways, more of the same, with MA courses I’m sitting in on jostling for space with revisions of the first piece of writing (and, potentially, putting together a proposal for an undergraduate reading group – watch this space!). In any case, I suspect I’ll spend quite a lot of time like this.

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Cover image: Cambridge, Cambridge University Library, MS G.g.1.1, fol. 390v (detail), one of the texts I’ve been looking at over the past week …

Academic Diaries: 2016-17

Academic Diaries: 2016-17

My own academic diary for the upcoming academic year is an old favourite: the Palgrave student planner, modelled in last week’s close-up shot. While in France I like to use a French planner – it just makes the whole living-in-France thing a little more authentic – but in the UK I struggle to resist the old favourites. If they did medieval-themed planners, on the other hand …

Palgrave or not, though, it looks like the planner will certainly be needed! (Perhaps even doubling as a real planner this time.) Exciting Emails™ have started to come through, many of them bearing news of equally Exciting Dates™ that are, one by one, christening the still-crisp and undamaged pages of my planner as I inscribe and colour-code them. My favourite event invitation that I’ve received so far is the ‘Postgraduate Research Induction’, which is described, perhaps rather ominously, as a ‘compulsory requirement’ (as opposed to … ?). Admittedly, its description in the email does include the word ‘networking’, which might be a warning of what is to come, but I’m nevertheless looking forward to meeting the people with whom I’ll be sharing three years of fun / hard graft / writing crises.

Between now and then, plans for the remainder of the summer are starting to come together. First up, at the end of this week, will be the end of my teaching job. As ever, I’ll be sorry to leave, but hopeful of the opportunity to come back next year with a little more experience under my belt. This second year of work has been particularly rewarding, as I’ve begun to take on responsibilities for writing the course materials. One thing that’s just the same as last year, though, has been how much I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to really connect with my students, and to enjoy the looks of joy on their faces when they finally ‘get it’!

Once the job is wrapped up, the next step for me will be to — well — ‘slow down’ for a bit. One common theme among the advice that I’ve been getting recently has been the need to enter the PhD well-rested, and it would indeed be foolish to go against advice like that! This will actually be slightly tougher for me than you might expect. As my dad likes to say, I have two speeds: flat out (i.e. going really fast) and flat out (i.e. on the floor). To be honest, slowing down isn’t something I’ve ever been very good at doing, so any advice on this front, dear reader, would be very much appreciated. My current plans include sleeping (a lot) and reading (a lot); while admirable aims, as I’m sure you’ll agree, they don’t really tally with the whole ‘doing less’ thing.

For now, though, I’m focused on the last week of teaching, and more specifically, on my upcoming classes on higher education. On a slightly inauspicious day for the subject, I suspect that my students — as always with this topic — will have plenty to say.

Academic Diaries: The Student Planner

Academic Diaries: The Student Planner

When I was younger, one privilege I got to enjoy was the ‘back-to-school’ shop. As the years went on and I became more responsible for my choices of study, I became fascinated by the range of options open to me in terms of stationery and filing: would I use plastic wallets this year? Which colour folder would I use for each subject? (Green for History; white for English; blue for French; red for Chemistry.) Narrow- or wide-ruled paper? Black or blue pen? Single- or double-underlining as standard? These were all choices that I was fortunate enough to have the ability to make, but even if my options had been far more restricted, I believe that my interest in the physical objects of study – pens, notepads, erasers – would have remained. I do, after all, care about this topic enough to own a book called Adventures in Stationery.

Capture d’écran 2016-07-05 à 20.59.26
No, really.

Those back-to-school shops with parents are now far in the past, replaced by panicked dashes to Rymans or Decitre (depending on the country) whenever I run out of something. Times have changed too, as synched laptops and smartphones have made it easier than ever to plan your time efficiently, and apps have been born with the specific goal of saving you from writing down the same event at the same time every week.

Even today, though – and perhaps surprisingly for someone who types all his essays and has designed his own desktop icons – I haven’t gone completely over to the digital dark side. There’s one area where I’m still resolutely Luddite: the academic diary, or to be more specific, the academic planner.

When I first got a planner of my very own in the halcyon days of 2003, at the start of Year 7, I developed something of an irrational attachment to it, as the extent of damage to it at the end of the year would go on to prove. At that point, the idea of commiting my classes and homework assignments to the digital æther hadn’t even crossed my mind: my Nokia 3410 didn’t have any sort of calendar, and the concept of ‘online scheduling’ was reserved for high-powered executives whose briefcases were being replaced by Blackberries. Even as the Internet expanded beyond the walled garden of AOL and the concepts of first broadband, then wifi encroached into our lives, my friends and I remained devotees of the school’s homework diary. Things only really began to change as the iPhone came along and people around me increasingly started to use words like ‘app’ and ‘calendar event’ without sounding like they were from some alternate universe; even as the homework assignments went digital, my method of recording them remained firmly pen-and-paper-based.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Faculty welcome lecture: French? Spanish? Both?

Things only really started to change when university rolled around. Once it became my job to manage my own time, I began to find myself getting very interested in maintaining an immaculate diary. This didn’t necessarily mean that I wrote everything in it in time, nor did it stop me from occasionally forgetting meetings, but it did mean that, every Friday morning after lectures, I would ensconce myself into the corner of the MML Faculty’s café and note down – colour-coded – events that I hadn’t yet transferred to The Planner. These events didn’t necessarily have to be coming up: I would often find myself filling in rowing outings from weeks earlier, just to make sure that I’d recorded it. The colour-coding occasionally created its own problems, and required creative solutions to overcome them, whether it was double-shading a single box or creating a new highlighting system entirely, but looking back at it now I’m very glad that I took the time to do it.

By now, I suspect it’s become clear to you – as it did to me – that I wasn’t writing for any real practical purpose. At best, knowing what was coming up that week was a pleasant bonus. Rather, I liked knowing what I had done, where I had been, and how I had spent any given day. In that sense, the phrase ‘academic diary’ is perhaps more true than I realised. When I was younger, I did actually keep a diary, but having fallen out of the habit, I found myself missing the little snippets of information; the nuggets that remind me of what I was doing at a given point in time. That cluster of rowing outings in April reminding me of frantic preparation for Bumps with Clare M3; the revision sessions with my friend Dominic in the University Library … I’ll always be able to find out the when and where of them, and that is something that I find really valuable.

So planners will last, but they are also – in their own way – ephemeral. Whereas a Google calendar will continue infinitely into the distance with every click of the ‘next month’ button, my Palgrave student planner stops at the end of August, calling out for me to buy a new planner; to begin anew. And perhaps this strict division of time into neat year-long chunks, reinforced by the structures and rituals that fill Les Black’s slim volume, comes full circle to impose itself on my digital ‘self’. Every September since 2010, a new planner has been accompanied by a new set of essay formatting guidelines, as the enforced renewal inspired by the fresh pages of a new academic diary seeps its way not only into where I record my ideas, but how I present them. Proof, if ever I needed it, that the physical academic diary, as the embodiment of each new year and the key to each one past, really does matter; or, perhaps, simply proof that I need to stop writing blog posts while getting ideas above my station.

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Five years of essay formatting; or ‘yes, I really did make this.’

Academic Diaries: Les Back

Academic Diaries: Les Back

A fair chunk of the Sunday before last was spent reading. Much to my shame, this is something that I can’t say nearly as often as I’d like – the flashy lights of the Internet have definitely had some kind of effect on my cerebral cortex in this respect – but I was relieved to discover that, given the excuse, I can still find a great deal of enjoyment in a good paperback. In particular, I’ve always been a fan of non-fiction, and with the PhD starting soon I decided a few months ago to investigate what I should expect upon becoming a research student.

With that in mind, I’ve been spending time recently with a new book from the newly-launched Goldsmiths Press. Les Back, a lecturer in sociology at Goldsmiths, has been writing and curating his own observations on academic life for decades, and they have at last made it into print form after first seeing the light of day on the Internet.

When reading Back’s observations on the university and its machinations, it’s difficult not to think of Mary Beard, whose own blog on the subject has itself been the impetus for two books. Like Beard, Back is an insightful commentator, whose years of experience in the university have clearly played a role in forging his strident defenses of the university as a place of learning:

‘Universities are at their best when they are places where minds are allowed to wander, be it through the labyrinth of high theory or in the lowly task of making the familiar strange […] it seems important to stop being afraid of arguing for the vocation of thinking.’[1]

His comments on the institution of Goldsmiths itself are particularly illuminating. In telling the story of Richard Hoggart, the Warden at Goldsmiths when he first arrived there, Back dwells approvingly on the ‘intense vitality’ of the place.[2] The philanthropic origins of Goldsmiths have clearly left their mark on Back, whose affection for the founding values of the place shine through. Libraries are offered a similarly spirited (and, if I may say so, inspired) defense. These ‘places of serendipity’, as Back calls them,[3] distinguish themselves from Google by offering the potential for random discovery: such a visit from the ‘Library Angel’, aided and abetted by the browsing-friendly classification of the Dewey Decimal System, makes them truly unique and invaluable. Reading this chapter, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the adage about (public) libraries that Back himself would most likely approve of: they are, after all, one of the last places on the high street that don’t ask for your money in exchange for the right to spend time there.

Back is perhaps at his best, though, when he dwells on the more specific, and to some more quotidian, aspects of academic life. I confess to having felt more than a small spike of empathy upon reading the words ‘I have always had a weakness for a nice pen’, followed by an urge to laugh out loud at the notion that we ‘fetishise the tools of our trade.’[4]

His own commitment to outreach and to taking his field of research into schools and prisons is admirable, as is his frankness with the student who asks him how much he is paid;[5] the following chapter, ‘Bourdieu behind bars’, is an equally lucid testimony to the power of ideas and to the fabulous work carried out though the Open Book scheme.

Back writes with the knowledge and insight of someone who has spent years within with the university system, and the passion of someone who has spent a fair part of that time defending it. Ever since finishing Academic Diary, I’ve been continually drawn to it, and have a feeling that somehow it will shape my own understanding of the system around me as it develops. I could easily recommend each individual chapter to a different person at a different time, but the book as a whole deserves to be read and appreciated as a whole. Structured around the concept of the academic calendar, with each chapter concurrent to a different point within it, it enlightens and entertains in equal measure as we are led through the whirlwind of the university year. Back acknowledges the ‘renewal’ inherent every autumn term:

‘Every September marks the beginning of another year. Jay Parini says that academic life is renewed with the fall of autumn leaves, ‘shedding the previous year’s failures and tossing them out of the window like so much confetti’. It is a time to plan the year ahead. The academic diary is also a navigation device, a compass ensuring – as far as possible – that we are in the right place […] at the right time.’[6]

I certainly recognize something in these interpretations surrounding September: even now, the smell of autumn mornings has a very particular effect on me. The relationship between each academic year and the diary it represents, though, deserves its own study; for that, and for my own personal relationship with the academic diary, we’ll have to wait until next week.

Cover image (C) Goldsmiths Press.

1 p. 214 [↵]
2 p. 27 [↵]
3 p. 199 [↵]
4 p. 134 [↵]
5 p. 82 [↵]
6 p. 1 [↵]