Starting an occasional series by members of staff in English and American Studies, Howard Booth writes about his week.
Friday 23 March. ‘Have a nice holiday’ said one kind student yesterday. Answering with ‘Actually, I’ll be working throughout’ would have sounded churlish, though it would have been true. That will also be the case for many students who are writing their Long Essays and revising for their examinations this Easter. I spend the day at home trying to put the term to bed – flurries of emails about study abroad and about the teaching timetable for next year require attention. The main task for the day is peer-reviewing an article – that is, writing a report for the journal editor on whether it is of a sufficient standard to be included in an academic literary studies journal.
Saturday 24 March. Thoughts start to turn to the paper I’m giving at the departmental seminar at Portsmouth University on John Addington Symonds on Tuesday. Just as speakers come from outside to talk to us at our departmental seminar series - all staff and students are always welcome to attend these events! – so Manchester staff go off and give papers elsewhere. It is all part of what keeps the discipline alive, and without such ongoing research activity the content of all courses would soon degenerate. (Also the research of members of the department is measured periodically to determine our share of the government’s research money pot - so without research the departmental budget would be smaller, and we’d have fewer staff.) I haven’t looked at the paper for a while, so I need to get back into it and make final revisions. There is also a new introductory section to write. The paper will last between 50 minutes to an hour, so that means I need about 6500 words in total.
Sunday 25. If my day were a Sunday tabloid headline it would be ‘My Powerpoint Hell’. Actually it is more time-consuming than anything – lots of images to re-size.
Monday 26. Off to Portsmouth, reading Lawrence’s Twilight in Italy on the train. It is more than six hours door-to-door. I’m staying with an old friend who teaches there - it is great to catch up. The warm and beautiful weather continues.
Tuesday 27. I get a couple of hours to walk around Portsmouth after checking into the hotel that Portsmouth have arranged for me. Walking up the naval dockyards I see HMS Victory, currently without masts and rigging due to restoration work.
New naval ships, looking as if they are made of papier-mâché, are in the distance. Then it is back to the hotel for a final read though of the paper before I walk the short distance to the university. The paper goes down well – I think – and the question session at the end is very useful. (That is the bit you really have to work up to.) It is always a rather nerve-wracking business, so it is good to go off to dinner in the evening with Portsmouth and Chichester colleagues, a number of whom I know from Manchester – Rosie Paice did her PhD and had her first job at Manchester – or from when I was at Kent.
Wednesday 28. Get up early to clear the backlog of emails before heading back home to Derbyshire.
Thursday 29. At the university. Appointments, some by phone, with third year Long Essay students, a meeting with an MA supervisee and a longer meeting with a PhD student to discuss the draft introduction of his PhD. It’s a very full day. In the evening thoughts start to turn to the next paper I need to write – for a conference on D.H. Lawrence and the First World War in Arras the week after next. I’ve also got to mark twenty-five essays from my Lawrence course and to prepare for teaching. Varied and interesting, certainly – but no sign of a holiday!