MA Week Seven

Okay, catch-up posting begins NOW.  So this relates to the classes we had last week, which was week seven of the MA, week six being reading week, during which I did bugger-all reading, but managed to cobble together an essay on Virginia Woolf.  Week seven was mostly devoted to finishing said essay, and though it was due in on the Friday, I had to submit it on the Wednesday instead, because I'm still being dumb enough to spend two days of my week working in another city, halfway down the country.

So, last Monday we had a seminar on James Joyce's Dubliners.  Our tutor was dismayed to discover that of those of us that have had dealings with Joyce in the past, we weren't massive fans.  I've read Dubliners, which I liked, and I liked it even more this time round than I did as an undergraduate back in the dark ages; Ulysses which I found arduous but with moments of sheer joy, though I doubt I'll ever plough through from start to finish again; and Portrait of an Artist, which I really disliked.  I read that one in secondary school - it wasn't on the curriculum, I was just a nerd, and I found it very heavy, particularly on the religious side of things.  This was more or less the uniform opinion of our class - there wasn't a Portrait fan amongst us, though I can't speak for the other seminar group - maybe they all loved it. Our tutor, though, had some good points which made me look at it slightly differently (though I doubt I'll go back to it - sorry, John!) - he said that Joyce thought that language was a powerful tool and that priests manipulate that to control the people, and that he used language in his own writing to make that manifest.  You do associate Joyce with language, but I hadn't thought about it quite like that before.  Anyway, Dubliners: the stories we examined were Two Gallants, Clay, Ivy Day, Araby, Eveline, A Little Cloud, and The Dead. We looked at Joyce as a modernist, but also as a product of the Victorian era (Dubliners is his least experimental work); we talked about epiphanies, inertia, Joyce's 'scrupulous meanness' in the way he deals with his characters (I love that!), and his use of repetition both within each stories and throughout the collection, and how this adds more layers of meaning to each story.  (This came up the next week with Hemingway's Nick Adams' stories too.)  All in all, a good class, and it made me look at aspects of Joyce's writing that hadn't occurred to me previously.

Then we had that week's workshop, looking at two short stories - one very minimal, and one monologue in a local vernacular - both very interesting texts, and very different from one another.  The tutor had us do an exercise in which we had to mimic Ian McEwan's style - specifically, the sentence structures and rhythms of the opening paragraph of The Cement Garden.  I enjoyed it; I'm not a fan of on-the-spot writing, but McEwan's style isn't so far from the way I sometimes write, that it wasn't too difficult - and that type of exercise is one I haven't tried before, and I think I'll return to it. At the end of the class the tutor hinted knowledge of this blog.  So here's a shout-out to said tutor. (Picture me waving...)

Okay!  That was Monday.  Stay tuned for Tuesday. 


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