I’m asking for some advice and hopeful one of you out in the blogosphere can help.
Can anyone recommend a good writing software, preferably free, such as Scrivener etc?
It’s mainly for short story writing.
Thank you in advance 😀
It might sound strange calling a blog post “What a Year” in the middle of June but my academic year has recently drawn to a close. Today I received the results of all my hard work, tears, often shouted “I can’t do this” and head-stuck-in-a-book weekends. I passed. Not only did I pass but I averaged a 1st for my first year at university doing my English degree. I’m completely over the moon ecstatic and somewhat amazed at myself.
A year ago, I was counting down the weeks until I started uni. Nervous about whether I would: –
Ok. So sometimes it did feel like they were talking a foreign language and sometimes I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about but that was ok. The lecturers were always happy to explain or go through anything whether after class or in their appointment times, which in all honesty they were always pushing to get us to come and see them! Biscuits were usually offered and a nice chat so I have taken them up on this a couple of times.
I did manage to read all of the books throughout the year although I didn’t understand some of them but that was ok too. Everybody has their own take on a book, whether you like it, hate it or simply don’t get it, you’re never going to like everything you read. That’s just a matter of taste and preference. The books were always interesting though and at times a little bit weird, (I’m thinking Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead).
Well I wasn’t the only “old person”. There was quite a large number of mature students and the class was a real mix of ages. Everyone was really friendly and I have got to know some lovely people. We have quite the group of older students who meet up in the library for coffee and a chat, whether it’s about assignments, kids or the specials coming out in Aldi. God, we’re so rock and roll!
I was nervous last year before I started. I suppose you could call it fear of the unknown. Apart from a short course with the Open University a few years back, it had been 26 years since I was in education and that’s a bloody long time! I cannot begin to explain though how glad I am that I attended an Open Day last summer and was blown away by what Staffs Uni said to me. It didn’t matter that I had no A-levels. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t fresh out of college. I had life experience and a willingness to learn and that’s what mattered. My life seemed to open up at that point and I haven’t looked back since. There have been talks from past graduates about their career paths, trips to the theatre, a weekend away in Yorkshire to see the Bronte parsonage and so many more highlights.
So, for anyone out there thinking about starting university or going back to education, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. Don’t be nervous. Yes, it’s life changing but in such a good way and the people you meet and the experiences you have along the way make it all worthwhile.
The Romantics believed in making everything beautiful. Everyday themes such as nature, death, poverty and childhood were taken very carefully into consideration and with a simple language were made for the everyman. They also had an appreciation of everything around them and wanted to beautify what they saw and put a sheen on everyday things. The beauty
and use of simple language meant that the lyrical ballads of Wordsworth and Coleridge were for everyone to understand. In Edmund Burke’s essay on the Sublime and the Beautiful, he states ‘the passion caused by the great and sublime in nature…is astonishment…that state of the soul in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror’, (Burke, section 1, 2017). The poetry of the Romantics was enriched by using the themes of poverty, death and childhood in a way that shocked the reader into some sort of cathartic state. During the period of the 17th and 18th Centuries, the Enlightenment movement, known as a time for reason and rationality, stood in the way of the Romantics who thought that the Enlightenment period was selective and short-sighted. However, the Romantics focused on every aspect of life. Wordsworth wanted to show society’s failings and how there was a need for change. As modernists, the Romantics had a true awareness of living in the now and commenting on social change for the good and bad.
In 1789, the French Revolution made a big impact on the Romantics. The middle classes killed off the aristocracy and saw the feudal system come to an end. This can also be seen in the poem The Female Vagrant, where Wordsworth focuses on vagrancy and the beginnings of industrialisation. The poem starts in the first person and has a rhyme scheme of ABAB, rhyming couplets at the end of each stanza and is written in iambic pentameter. Wordsworth tells the story of the young women’s life from small child to desolate vagrant in the form of a story. It has a breathless quality and encapsulates the imagination of the reader to a subject that was often ignored. The start of the poem shows how idyllic her life was, ‘Light was my sleep; my days in transport roll’d:/ With thoughtless joy I stretch’d along the shore’ (Wordsworth, 2013, p32). These two lines show the beauty in her surroundings and the lightness and simplicity of her life. As commercialism begins to roll in, the woman’s life is shattered when her father does not sell to the new landowner. Wordsworth is illustrating the change in society and encourages the reader to question it and sympathise with a plight that was happening in all parts of the countryside. Using punctuation designed to enrich the reader’s sympathies, we see the woman losing her home, ‘I could not pray:-̶̶-through tears that fell in showers,/ Glimmer’d our dear-loved home, alas! No longer ours!’ (Wordsworth, 2013, p33). This is designed to evoke sympathy in the reader and to understand what was happening to people’s lives. In Patrick Campbell’s Critical Perspectives, he states that the poem:
stresses the ‘sensational’ nature of the subject. For the ballad burns with social indignation both against grasping ‘townee’ landlords out of harmony with their human and natural surroundings, trying to ride roughshod over rural values with ‘proffered gold’ (Campbell, 1991, p107).
The poem then becomes a social commentary on the effects of capitalism marching forth and destroying everything that gets in its path. Wordsworth’s journalistic style in this poem emphasises this effect to catch the reader’s attention and show the true consequences for the people in the countryside. In line 89, Wordsworth refers to the end of the cotton cottage industry, ‘The empty loom, cold hearth, and silent wheel’ (Wordsworth, 2013, p34). This was another example of the poverty that was to come to those who were producing cotton in the ‘old way’ and were pushed out by the factories and mass production. The discourse used from lines 109 to 145 is designed to shock the reader, as the woman experiences, ‘disease, famine, agony and fear,’ (Wordsworth, 2103, p35). The full extent of the horrors experienced by those who were homeless are laid bare and Wordsworth does not want to shy away from them. In line 189, the woman cannot bring herself to beg, saying ‘Nor to the beggar’s language could I frame my tongue’ (Wordsworth, 2013, p37). In the final stanza, the woman can tell no more of her story as the sheer weight of her desperation becomes unbearable, ‘Oh! Tell me whither ̶ for no earthly friend/ Have I. ̶ She ceased and weeping turned away,’ (Wordsworth, 2013, p39). Throughout the poem, Wordsworth does not let the reader feel anything other than sympathy for the woman. None of what happens to her is her fault and in this way the challenge of aesthetically enriching the poem by representing poverty is done with great consideration.
Wordsworth stated that the ideas behind his poems were, ‘…to choose incidents and situations from common life and to relate or to describe them throughout…in a selection of language really used by men’ (Wordsworth, 2013, p96-97). This can clearly be seen in the poem Simon Lee. At the end of the 18th Century, the feudal system came to an end. Simon Lee had worked for a wealthy landowner of a country estate, who had since died and left no one remaining thus putting Simon Lee and his wife into extreme poverty. Wordsworth is showing the effect of the end of the feudal system and the poor were now adrift with the new structures in society. The poem has an ABAB rhyme scheme and is made up of 13 stanzas with differing metrical feet in the fourth and eighth line of each stanza. It also has a nursery rhyme style so at the time it was written, would have made it easy for people to read. The poems begins with, ‘In the sweet shore of Cardigan,/ Not far from pleasant Ivor Hall’ (Wordsworth, 2013, p44) and this gives the reader a soft and gentle introduction to the whereabouts of Simon Lee. Wordsworth is setting the scene to entice the reader in before telling the tale of his misfortune. In lines 15 and 16, the reader is told that although Simon Lee has lost an eye through his hunting feats for his lord and master, his cheeks are rosy and he appears happy with his lot. The shorter sentences in stanza’s four and five, ‘He has no son, he has no child/ And he is lean and he is sick’ (Wordsworth, 2013, p45) evokes pity with Simon Lee and his situation. The switch to first person narrator in stanza nine is where we see a call to the reader for their sympathies. The use of ‘O reader!…O gentle reader!’ in lines 73 and 75 is like a cry out to the reader for their understanding. Wordsworth enriches the poem by turning to the reader in this journalistic way and commenting actively on it. This was also a way of experimenting with the challenge of representing poverty. Poverty is something we can all see but generally tend to ignore. In the last three stanzas of the poem, the narrator steps in to help Simon Lee cut down a tree. The language used is gentle and evokes emotion in the way that when he is helped by the much younger man, he cannot express his gratitude enough, ‘The tears into his eyes were brought,/ And thanks and praises seemed to run’. (Wordsworth, 2013, p47). This brings a ‘happy ending’ to the poem but by making a powerful statement. Wordsworth became conscious of the environment and as such poverty became something that was not just political but something he wanted to change. It became a rallying cry for social change. This is a realistic ballad and Wordsworth made it beautiful by capturing the heart of the reader in a way that would have brought hope to the poor.
In the 18th Century, children were commonly regarded as little more than mini-adults or savages. Yet the discovery of ‘the child’ by the Romantics showed how we can learn from children. When attitudes began to change towards children, they were seen as impressionable uninformed beings requiring protection and attention. The Romantics idolised children and believed that the child was the real poet. In Johan Huizinga’s book Homo Ludens, the importance of play in culture and in particularly in poetry are described as, ‘To understand poetry we must be capable of donning the child’s soul like a magic cloak and of forsaking man’s wisdom for the child’s.’ (Huizinga, 2016, p119). Huizinga’s philosophy and the idea of becoming the child resonates with the Romantic’s way of thinking and exploring the simplicity of childhood. In the poem We are Seven, Wordsworth represents childhood very simply. With an ABAB rhyme scheme and made up of quatrains save for the last stanza, the poem is very musical and nursery rhyme like which enriches the reader’s awareness of childhood, as it mirrors the child’s thinking. The simple tone of the poem is in stark comparison to the idea of death which is discussed by the man and the child. In line 4, the narrator asks: ‘What should it know of death?’ (Wordsworth, 2013, p49) clearly defining the child as simple and unaware but as the poem continues, it is the child’s simple logic and understanding of an afterlife which is endearing to the reader. The description of the child in the second and third stanzas capture her innocence and bring her to life. In lines 11 and 12, she is described as ‘Her eyes were fair, and very fair,/ ̶ Her beauty made me glad.’ (Wordsworth, 2013, p49). The language used here shows how the child is not overcome by sadness; her eyes are bright and alive and this affects the man talking to her. It is enriched by the pause put in before the second line, showing the narrator considering her face and the innocence he finds there. The conversation that follows between the man and child regarding the whereabouts of her siblings is simple in language and form. The short sentences show this and the questioning by the man is simple and childlike. When the child says that two of her siblings are dead, line 47 is rich in simplistic rhyme befitting the child, ‘Their graves are green, they may be seen.’ (Wordsworth, 2013, p50). The poem shows how the child’s view of death illustrates that death is not really the end. The child is not angry with God for taking her siblings, showing a belief in the afterlife and that she will see them again. Indeed, she states in line 52, ‘Till God released her from her pain,/’ (Wordsworth, 2013, p50). She is almost grateful to God for her sister’s demise and does not blame Him for it. Wordsworth also uses nature in the poem to enrich our experience, setting the scene in a cottage by a church-yard. Children understand nature for what it is so the child is unaffected by living next to a church-yard and playing around the grave stones. This resonates with her beliefs about death and using the countryside setting enriches the reader’s experience. The final stanza is made up of five lines and not four as the preceding stanzas are. The child is convinced and will not concede defeat to the man’s superiority that her siblings are gone. Wordsworth’s use of five lines here is used to demonstrate the tenacity of the child’s belief. This shows us that to go back to an innocent way of thinking can teach us more about life as it is unsullied by the trappings of adulthood.
As modernists, the Romantics had a true awareness of living in the now. Their poems reflected the social change and a need for social justice. The challenges of representing the themes of death, poverty and childhood in poetry are aesthetically enriched by the language, form and underlying message. Wordsworth shows that the new way of thinking was something he could express for everyone. In Simon Lee and The Female Vagrant, Wordsworth highlights the fall-out from commercialism and the end of the feudal system, the way this affected people’s lives and challenges society to stand up and take notice. The style both are written in, reflect the then social climate and enrich the reader’s experience. In We Are Seven, the theme of childhood is portrayed in very simplistic tones to reflect the child in question. Although the poem is nursery rhyme like, the reader becomes aware that the child’s logic, whilst simplistic in nature, is more powerful than the man talking to her, as she is more open minded and does not require a logical explanation as the man does.
Burke, E. (2017). Extracts from A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas on the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757). Handout given on 3rd March 2017 by M. Jesinghausen
Campbell, P. (1991). Wordsworth and Coleridge Lyrical Ballads Critical Perspectives. Hampshire: Macmillan Education Ltd
Huizinga, J. (2016). Homo Ludens- A study of the Play Element in Culture. Ohio: Angelico Press
Wordsworth, W. & Coleridge, S. (2013). Lyrical Ballads 1798 and 1802. Oxford: Oxford University PressLink to my website
Matthew Winston’s essay is looking at the way in which Hunter S Thompson wrote as a gonzo journalist compared with the more mainstream sports journalists. He also discusses how Thompson’s writing didn’t fit in with the all-American ideology and that Gonzo journalism was more concerned with the dark side of the sports world (Winston, 2015, p403). I will review his technique, the structure of the essay, the style used and his principle argument. Winston uses a number of quotations from other well-known sports journalists to support his argument and I particularly liked this effect, as it gave the essay a more analytical feel. Moreover, the use of these quotations engaged me, particularly because they were comparisons to Thompson.
The essay starts with quite a lengthy introduction followed by four sections. Each section discusses a different side to sport and sports journalism in America. In the introduction, Winston gives us an overview of what Gonzo journalism is and how Hunter S Thompson was at the centre of it. His definition of Gonzo journalism telling us that:
focusing on counter-culture and the social history of the 1960’s, drugs, dissident politics, the critical utility of radically subjective approaches to reportage and other “heavy” issues of cultural politics and literary journalism. (Winston, 2015, p403)
This use of language emphasises the cultural aspects of the time in which Thompson was writing and his non-conventional approach to journalism. The introduction also highlights the methods and style of gonzo journalism and how complex this style of writing is. Winston also refers to “Thompson-the-character” (Winston, 2015, p404) and this use of punctuation gives Thompson a separate persona, as though he is two different people, which reflects the style of journalism in which he was writing from conventional journalism to gonzo journalism.
The first section of the four referred to earlier is entitled “Mom, Apple Pie, and the Flag” and discusses the ideologies of the All-American Dream. Winston’s use of discourse here is significant in that it encompasses everything America stands for. Winston discusses in this section how sacred the faith of the American sports ideology is and that it cannot be exploited (Winston, 2015, p405). He quotes from sports journalist Michael Oriad to emphasise his point: “Football in the periodical press by the 1950’s was not simply American but America itself” (Oriard 2001 cited in Winston, 2015, p405). This use of quotation from a renowned sports journalist serves to reinforce his argument regarding the conventionality of sport in America and how Thompson’s style of journalism was in no way mainstream.
The second section of the essay is entitled Eating Heroes Like Hotdogs and Winston references Thompson’s literary works and characters from them to emphasise the side of the sporting world that no-one within that world wanted made public. He also describes Thompson’s writing as “…unconventional uses of rhetorical devices and outlandish imagery…” (Winston, 2015, p408). The language used here shows a writer working beyond the realms of tradition and conventionality. Winston touches briefly here on Thompson’s work, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 (Thompson, 1983) which focuses solely on the nature and celebrity of the sports world. Thompson was highlighting in his writing the pressure felt by the athletes to win for the advertisers through sponsorship and endorsement deals. Again, Winston is using this piece to highlight the negative side of the sports world and makes good use of it to emphasise just how unconventional gonzo journalism was in America.
The third section is entitled Violence in the Parking Lot. Winston discusses Thompson’s article regarding the Kentucky Derby and how money is all important, “Thompson shows an event that may be steeped in tradition…but is nonetheless…a sporting event about money”. Winston uses a lot of quotes in this section from Thompson himself regarding the dark side of gambling and money changing hands at major sporting events. I like the way Winston quotes directly from Thompson as it gives him a voice, as though we hear his side of the argument. A lot of Thompson’s quotes used in this essay are quite long but I do not think they detract from the essay; they add more credibility in this way.
The final section is entitled The Notes Seem to Tell the Story. I particularly enjoyed this part of the essay as it focused on how Thompson wrote. Winston explains here about how Thompson put together an article with a series of notes, “…I just started jerking pages out of my notebook, numbering them and sending them to the printer.” (Vetter 1974 cited in Winston, 2015, p413). This quote from an interview with Thompson evokes an image of a chaotic, unorganised writer who can seemingly write successfully in this way. Winston relates this quote to how gonzo journalism can be fractured and fragmented memories of a drunken mind, half remembered and chaotic (Winston, 2015, p414).
Winston uses the final three paragraphs to conclude his argument. A brief review of how gonzo journalism is different from the main stream sports journalism but focusing on the social context. He then reviews the writing style of unfinished prose and narrative, commenting again on the differences between the two. Here Winston is bringing together all of his previous points to a short end, which ultimately brings the essay together satisfactorily but it is the final paragraph which I feel substantially ties everything together. Winston describes gonzo as “…this new exuberantly radical sports journalism, represents a perfect marriage of form and function” (Winston, 2015, p415). He also comments on the structure, style and form, technique and refers to certain aspects of it as poetry. This gives the reader a certain belief that if they had not read anything by Thompson before, they should certainly do so just because of how unconventional his writing was. Winston is somewhat in awe of this style of writing and has an undeniable respect for Thompson and this becomes clear as the essay draws to its conclusion.
Hellman, J. (ed) (1981). Fables of Fact: The New Journalism as New Fiction. London: University of Illinois Press
Nadel, A. (1955). ‘Disneyland: ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ and the Fiction of Cold War Culture’. In: McHale, B. & Stevenson, R. (eds). (2006). The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century Literatures in English (1) [Online]. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Available from: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/staffordshire/reader.action?ppg=1&docID=448742&tm=1483609214697 [Accessed: 16/12/2016]
Oriard, M. (2001). King Football: Sport and Spectacle in the Golden Age of Radio and Newsreels, Movies and Magazines, the Weekly and the Daily Press. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Thompson, Hunter. (1983). Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72. New York, NY: Warner Books.
Vetter, C. (1974). “Playboy Interview: Hunter Thompson.” Playboy Magazine, November.
Winston, M. (2015). ‘”How do You like America?”: Hunter S. Thompson and Gonzo Sports Journalism’, Journalism Studies [Online] vol. 16 (3) pp. 403-416. Available from: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.staffs.ac.uk/10.1080/1461670X.2014.937154 [Accessed: 16/12/2016]
As January is coming to a close, I have confession to make. Dry January did not go to plan. It was a catastrophe of gin and tonics followed by a complete and utter failure of wine and prosecco. Not sure whose silly idea it was in the first place. Certainly not mine, I’m sure. Never mind, onwards and upwards as they say! I did manage Sunday to Thursday in the first week so all wasn’t totally lost.
The small one’s bedroom still hasn’t been tidied from the post-Christmas chaos and onslaught of cardboard boxes, wires and plastic screws, all designed to piss off every parent at Christmas, still to be found in February lurking underfoot ready to cause sever pain and much cursing or lodged somewhere in the Dyson. This is a job for February half term I think. Yes definitely. The school year goes so quick. One minute the small one is starting juniors, the next minute it only a matter of weeks until Easter. The same can be said for me at University. The first semester is done and we’re well into the second with the academic year finishing at Easter. It seems only yesterday when I was contemplating going to university. Now here I am, halfway through the first year and loving it.
It’s been a fantastic experience so far. I’ve made some great friends and had some half decent grades back from the first set of assignments, (next lot due back this Friday…..aaaarrrghhh!!!!) And breathe…. Fingers and toes crossed. So Friday night’s bottle of Prosecco will either be for celebrating or commiserating…watch this space.
I shall be starting to look into what jobs I can do with an English degree soon. This needs thinking about sooner rather than later so I can get some work experience somewhere. So much is happening, it’s hard to keep up but at the same time it’s a very exciting ride. I’m trying to enjoy every minute although time is flying away so quickly, it’s hard to keep feet my feet on the ground.
Well that went really well! After half an hour of summing me up and checking out my previous assignment scores, the nice lady at the university offered me a place on the degree course this September! Can’t quite believe it! I still have to submit my ucas application through the usual channels but my place is secure!
I shall be a student full time and I can’t wait. The intake for mature students is quite high so I don’t think I’ll be the only oldie amongst the 18 year olds!
The lecturer has sent me a list of books that she thinks will benefit me. I have made a start this evening on The Great Gatsby; loved the film so hopefully the book will be even better.