[ePortfolio]Summing up: An Internal Monoblog Retrospective

I’ve had an interesting relationship with the blogging. I published a total of nine posts since I started, the last three of which hit in the space of a week. I honestly planned on keeping a more regular schedule this month but then, for obvious reasons, I spent more and more time inside. Without the routine of going into UCC at least three times a week, it became difficult to even think about college stuff. So now I need to string together a portfolio.

The first post was straightforward enough. The title was “First impressions on Maud Gonne’s letters” (which really should have been of, not on). This was a nice easy start but I published it on November 28th, months after I should have started.

You see like many of my classmates, I started a blog in the middle of our first blog class but I wasn’t happy with my URL and wanted to change it. I first tried to change the URL but then I deleted the blog instead and made up a whole new one. My concerns about that meant it took me ages to get something up.

Anyway, I’m quite happy with my first post.

I’m interested in marginalised voices, both those marginalised in their own time and who have been marginalized or forgotten since. What I learned while reading the letters was that Maud was entirely independent. I don’t think either of them were minor figures in their own time, especially not Gregory. I think that only happened after their deaths. In other words, by doing the preliminary reading and writing the post, I learned.

I like its structure too. The first few paragraphs are an introduction to the book and my interest in it. Then I write about some of the letters from the periods I’m most interested in before I finally loop back to the start and outline how my reading has furthered my understanding of the subject. I finish off by writing about the physical book and how I got it.

I have hundreds of books at home on loads of subjects, including books printed before 1980. Many of these are out of print so blogging about them gives the blog some distinction. In other words, if a post focuses on a lesser-known book, I should include details of how I got it, since I think most bloggers focus on the content of a text rather than its vessel.

It established my tendency to read outside of what is commonly read and to share my impression/opinions/feelings on material that is seldom covered. Reading it again now, though, I don’t really like the tone. I think I adopted a formalised voice that doesn’t really sound like how I actually talk. Maybe it was because it was my first time posting something to the internet despite having been immersed in that culture for well over a decade. Maybe it was because I confused an academic style for a pretentious and highly stylised one. My next post, published nearly two months after the first, is different.

In December of last year, the module co-ordinator Maureen O’Connor reviewed all the blogs. She sent us feedback, I gave her little enough to work with. All I had at the time was that single post about the letters, but I was also lacking in technical detail. I got a nice new theme and set up a Twitter widget (and a Twitter account). I had an about me section but I thought I should dedicate a post to talking about myself and why I’m doing it, explaining the title, etc. This was the subject of my second post, in January.

“My name’s James. I’m doing an MA in Irish Writing and Film at the university in Cork, Ireland. I suppose I do have to do this for the course but really it’s high time I started a blog. I write a lot of stuff in notebooks and such to the extent that even when I start writing personal stuff I slip straight into the flow of paragraphs and arguments. I also lecture my family and friends on stuff that I really should just be writing out long-form.

So if you read the blog, support it and so on, you’re saving many people a lot of time and energy. Also, I’m gonna make it interesting too. I mean interesting to me, of course, but I hope that’ll be interesting to you as well.

That’s why I’m calling this internal monoblog, because really I’m writing the sort of stuff I’m thinking about every day.

All right, I think that’s enough. Back to blogging!”

I think the biggest change is the tone. I can’t remember my thought process when I was writing it but I certainly don’t see any pretension here. I have contractions here and I just use my first name, which establishes a casual, almost conversational tone. I say “I’m doing an MA” instead of “I am studying” or “I am attending.” I like how I say “I suppose I have to do this for the course” as if the whole blog was a happy coincidence with the Masters. I think there’s more personality in here, even though it’s barely half a page.

Now to the title. It’s true that this is the sort of thing that’s in my head but it can be hard to write it out, I absolutely think that I have enough material to make blog posts regularly. The fault is not in my ideas but in my energy and commitment reserves. I’d honestly intended to get one post a week but between work and college, I hardly had the ability to to read anything extra, then my work my thoughts into a blog. Still, I do think this post was an important development. It established the voice I’d maintain through the rest of my posts amd together with the Gonne posts, I think it’s an effective mission statement.

The third post came out shortly after, just a few days. I’m happy with this one too. It’s a fairly long post and it’s a good synthesis of my interest in Irish and French short fiction, the supernatural/Gothic and the short story while developing the theme of marginalised voices.

“Gothic often means short fiction, which I love because in general it’s more manageable to write and to read. I enrolled in the Irish literature (and film) Masters to give breadth to my reading. I like Yeats, Joyce, Wilde, McGahern, Colfer, Toibín, Swift, Doyle, and Johnston but I want to discover lesser-known works too.”

I write a bit about my year abroad which automatically brought me near to a tradition little known in Ireland.

“When you learn a language, you learn to instinctively get the spirit of what’s being said without always being able to literally translate it into your own language. Hence, my renderings of titles in English is a little off from time to time. I’m willing to risk that, though, because these titles are excellent in either language. They had names like La morte amoureuse (The Amourous Death) by Théophile Gautier, Les Diaboliques (The Diabolicals) by Jules-Amadée Barbey d’Aurevilly and La Fée aux miettes (which literally means The Fairy in the Breadcrumbs; I don’t know why, I haven’t read it yet) by Charles Nodier. These collections, combined with the low price, designs and tactile appeal of French books, sparked my academic interest in short fiction.”

I think the main reason the post is so long is that I had to describe the plots of the stories. Neither of them is especially well-known, I don’t think, so the additional context is absolutely necessary. I really enjoyed reading the stories and summarising them in such a way that they reflected my critical interests. Adding the paragraphs of critical work afterward really beefed up the word count.

Once again, I end a post with a section on coming attractions. Thankfully, I didn’t set anything definite. Like with Gonne and Gregory, I expressed my interest in making future posts without committing to a specific timeline.

“France and Ireland each have a rich culture of tales and short stories and I’m lucky enough to own several books of stories drawn from each tradition. I’d like to write more posts like this where I compare French and Irish literature since I have a background in both. Despite the differences between our countries, I think there’s ample room for comparison between the two. I’ll probably also write about them in isolation too. Classic French literature doesn’t have much translation into English aside from a few outliers, (e.g. Hugo, Dumas, Baudelaire) and Irish fiction is awash with lesser-known stories from other writers than those listed above. Hopefully I can introduce you to some of them.

This post was a fitting end to this opening series of posts, even though they were spread out over months. They form an uneven start but by the end of the third, I think my confidence and my technique were really coming together.

We had to write reports on the research seminars that happened during the year. We also did a live Wiki-session in February and had to blog about that too. These middle posts were driven less by my own interests and more by the requirements of the course. That’s not to say that I didn’t like the posts or that they’re in any way insincere. In fact. I was quite glad of the challenge to insert myself and my personal interests into the work of others, so to speak.

Again, I really like the structure of this post on ALex Davis’ T.S. Eliot lecture. there’s a short opening paragraph on when it was and what it was before I launch into my engagement with the lecture.

“I’ve taken two modules that Alex taught during my BA. The first was in second year. It was called Nineteenth Century Literature. He taught some classes on Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone as an example of Victorian detective literature but also as a sensation novel. i.e. novels to shock and delight their readers by engaging with violence and criminality. In Final Year, I took the module he and Professor Lee Jenkins taught on Modernism ( both of them have written books on Modernism, in collaboration and separately). These were two of my favourite modules from their respective years so I was curious to see him lecture on both of them in tandem. I think he said this is going to be part of a book he’s writing, so I’m certainly looking forward to that.”

I also like that I had the confidence to comment on the presentation style. My remarks were positive, obviously, but I think most people would focus on the content rather than its delivery, especially since I compared him to favourably to other lectures I’ve had, who may have been in the room (I don’t know).

I give an account of the lecture but I also find ways to integrate my own views into the report, for flavour.

“I’ve always liked the idea of artists who work as critics. I believe that critical work is itself a form of expression akin to creativity and I wish more professional critics, be they tenured academics, newspaper reviewers or YouTube people with a Patreon, had the means to produce creative works. Eliot’s work in each field informed the other and he showed that it’s quite possible to do great work in both disciplines. I find it interesting that authors’ creative work tends to outlast their critical work. There’s a lesson to be learned there, I think.”

The next post came on the 10th. I like this one too, even though at 966 words, it’s probably a bit long for a seminar report. I do like the introduction though. Again, it starts with a straightforward declarative statement before I set out my experience with the topic (or, in this case, my lack thereof). Then I introduce the visiting researcher, though this time I do so more smoothly.

Given the beautiful fluency of Brooke’s poetry, this post marks something of a return to the style of my first post, but balanced with the more casual style.

“Smith’s elegiac sonnets prominently feature the theme of voice, not only in isolation as it usually manifests in poems but in concert with other ones. Echoes are a recurring motif in the sonnets. On reflection, I think there’s a certain loneliness to overlapping echoes, since they are, after all, the imprints of humans on the land. I imagine a series of echoes overlapping in a cave. If the stones could hold those echoes for millennia, playing them over and over, then surely even the most isolated of locales would develop a flock of cacophonous sounds, keeping company through the ages.”

On the 26th of February, I posted my report on the Wiki-session. Wikipedia was the first of the major websites I became aware of as a child but I’d never edited it before. I haven’t really got all that much to say on the wiki post. I’m perfectly happy with the work but it was hardly inspired. I think it would have been easy for all three of those February posts to be boilerplate in style. Thankfully, the first two seminar reports weren’t because I was engaged enough by the topics and speakers. The Wikipedia one was fairly bland though. I’ll include an example just for completion:

“Knowing absolutely nothing about the Bishop, I decided I would mainly be proofreading his entry. Sleyne was a minor figure in a small city late in the seventeenth century, so it’s not like there are a great many editors constantly working on it. By the same token, there wasn’t much I could have added to the page, since there is virtually nothing about him on the internet besides what I could find on Wikipedia. A historian looking for a lesser-known figure on whom to write a thesis could do much better, I’m sure. Luckily, I have always enjoyed editing language itself so I was able to make four separate edits.”

The last three posts were written in March. It’s been a trying month for all of us. During the second half of the month our mini-conference was cancelled and when the colleges closed, we all got split up. Sadly, my enthusiasm for college work hit a serious slump these past few weeks, as the days have run into each other. Fortunately, earlier in the month I wrote three really good posts within a week of each other.

The first was about J.M. Synge’s The Aran Islands. It marks a turn back toward Irish writing which is, after all, the focus of my degree. I really enjoyed this book. The post follows the usual opening formula:

“I’m reading a book by JM Synge about his travels in the west of Ireland. Synge is known for Playboy of the Western World. I can’t name any of his other works, although obviously I know that he was involved in the Abbey Theatre. I’d not read or seen any of his work so I came to this book without preconceptions.”

Since the book isn’t a novel, there’s no place to summarise it like I’ve done elsewhere. Like the Gonne letters, I picked out sections that interested me. In this case, it was an evcition.

“He presents the authorities as intruders come to ruin the community, in contrast to the pleasant and engaging way the islanders treat him. What follows is a harrowing description of an eviction witnessed at first hand. Everything is removed from the house, the door is closed up with rocks and its inhabitants left outside. I know evictions of this sort happened constantly under the union but I’d not read a description of one before.”

It relies less on quotes and more on my reactions to what I’ve read.

The next post is the one I’m most proud of. It best represents what I’d like the blog to be. I take a short story by Walter Macken, which I found in a collection long out of print and retell the story mainly in my own words, using quotes for emphasis.

“At the end of the story, Macken openly displays the depths of Gaeglers’ personality. He invites the Spares to his digs, serves them duck soup from an unseen pot. When they are finished, he brings out from the kitchen a different pot containing boiled water and “in front of their paling eyes he reached into the pot and pulled out the body of a dead cat and held it wet and dangling in front of them” (40). They run outside and get sick as he watches. He comes back inside and eats his own soup as the story ends with the following:

“That’s the cream of the joke, Gaeglers thought. It’s real duck soup, and nice duck soup, but nothing could possibly persuade them to the contrary. Not now” (41).

The ending really proves the effectiveness of Macken’s irony. All the previous hints were just subtle enough, to the point that they effectively double back and draw attention to their subtlety. Still, he doesn’t give any details of Gaeglers’ plan until the Spares learn about it. It’s another sign of Macken’s narrative restraint. It’s a level of depravity I hadn’t expected, but which makes total sense in hindsight. It hints that Gaeglers’ powers go even further than what Macken has implied earlier.”

I used this formula because it’s effective and simple. I think it would allow me to keep a regular schedule, since I could get a number of worthwhile, quality posts published while also doing one or two more complicated posts every month or so. I hope that all those who read the post were entertained and informed. Near the end of the post, I left a link to an article about Macken’s son, who has worked to inform people of his father’s legacy. I thought it was a good way to make the post more interactive, since readers could choose to take their interest further, if you so desired.

I think that all the work I’ve done during the MA was a sort of training for blogging. I doubt I would have even started one otherwise. Today is the last day that my work here can go towards my MA but I’m confident that I could keep it going after that, if I chose.

I hope you all hear more from me in the future.

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