Danny Kaye

Danny Kaye (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With sincere apologies to BBC Radio 2, because that really was a terrible title.  The thing is, I’m running out of novel and interesting ways to describe similar weeks!

I have spent much of this week reading and writing about historical and literary theory – the likes of Jauss,  Bourdieu, Skinner, Thompson and Fish.  This is because I need to place my work on ‘knowingness’ in sixteenth century ballads in a wider theoretical context.  I’m not, however, all that happy swimming about in theory, as I find that major theoretical models seem to read too much into things.  There always seems to be a touch of the Emperor’s New Clothes about them – I always want to point and shout ‘Look at the king, Look at the King, Look at the King, the King, the King!  The King is in the altogether…’.  More apologies – a Danny Kaye moment.  Still, I’ve written 1700 words on the theory, and I’m nearly happy with it, which is good because I have my third panel meeting in ten days or so, and that’s my piece of written work for it.  It would be quite good if it actually came to an end though, rather than just stopping dead!

The other major strand of my work this week has been to continue re-drafting my chapter plan for the panel.  I think it’s getting stronger all  the time, although I dare say that there are still plenty of areas which will cause discussion in the meeting.

On Wednesday the second of my disks of scans from the British Library arrived through the post.  The single most expensive CD I have ever bought in my life, and what’s more, it’s going to take HOURS of work to transccribe the ballads.  But they really were beautiful, and although looking at the scans is not quite the same, it reminded me of the sense of awe I felt sitting in the BL reading rooms looking at the originals.  Little sixteenth century doodles…

Today I read ‘I Could Speak Until Tomorrow’.  It is an anthropological study of the oriki poetry of Nigeria, and although the parallels may not seem obvious, there are some spooky similarities with the way the ballads use obliqueness to cover further levels of meaning.  I found it very interesting.

The other major news of the week is the good-natured argument I have been involved in over the use (or in my case the leaving out) of the Oxford comma.  Personally, I can’t stand the thing.  The best description of it is definitely to be found in Lynne Truss’s ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves’.  For those that don’t know, the Oxford  comma is the one to be found before the ‘and’ at the end of a list.  It litters US writing.  My supervisor likes it, but I don’t.  In fact, I’d go so far as to put my grammatical hatred for it as second only to that for a misplaced or missing apostrophe.  He keeps putting it in and I keep taking it out again.  This state of affairs will probably continue until I re-write the work (in this case, the title of my theory piece) so that there can’t possibly be a need for it.  It will probably go to the panel as ‘Methodology’ as an avoidance tactic!

I’ve just been out in the garden listening to not one, but two, owls.  And the male is definitely singing.


It’s been quite a week.  First of all I had two days at home looking after my sick little boy.  Then on Wednesday I went into Manchester to have a supervision meeting.  I spent most of the day reading and managed to catch up with a few of my friends, which was nice because I hadn’t seen them for a long while.  The supervision meeting was very productive, with both my main supervisors setting me completely different pieces of work and discussing the work that I wrote on the Cromwell ballad flyting.  I was surprised about how positive they were about that.  It was barely even a first draft and I thought it was pretty rubbish, especially in terms of its flow.  However, I am very pleased by the detailed feedback I was given and its certainly given me something to think about when I go back to it.  But that will be a little while off.  I have to re-write my chapter plan, again, with some different case studies, and I have 2000 words to write on reception theory, speech act theory and knowingnesss.  So that’s what I spent yesterday reading up on.  I’d done some work on speech act theory before, so I started with reception theory and wrote a bit on that yesterday.  I have to say it’s been rather hard work, and I’m not entirely convinced by it all.  Theory is all very well, but when it meets practice it seems to collapse…  Oh well, it remains to be seen how it comes out in the wash.  I picked up some more texts in the library today, so that’s Monday and Tuesday sorted at the very least!

Today I was on a three hour course on ‘Evidencing Your Skills’, all about how to match your experience to competencies required by employers.  It was rather too long, I have to say, but it was a useful reminder of how to prepare for life beyond the PhD!  So I’ve set myself several targets from that, too.  The first is to contact the careers service at the university, as there are a few options I’d like to discuss.  I am also going to force myself to write some proposals for conference papers, as I haven’t done that yet at all.