New Job and Early Spring

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I’ve just completed my first week of work in my new job and I must say that I loved every bit of it! Not only I’m working on an estate that I know well and care about, but I’m also lucky enough to be surrounded by ancient woods and rich wildlife. On Friday I spent the early hours at work with a lovely little robin who kept tweeting and hoping right in front of me. I can’t begin to compare it with my old job, where I started the day by having to listen to empty gossip and complains about the superficial matters.

Talking about the weather, there are daffodils and snowdrops appearing throughout the estate. I also saw hares playing on the grass and flowers blooming in the bushes. It seems like Spring is almost here, yet we are told that snow is coming our way during the week. I wouldn’t mind having some snowy days before it gets warm as we hardly had any this year, but at the same time, I do really love Spring!

 

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On a completely different topic, January was a good reading month. I enjoyed all of the books I’ve read, especially Penguin’s Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales. I’m actually searching for similar books as this is something that I very interested in, so if you have any recommendations, send them my way! Although I’d like to focus on Scottish folklore, I’m currently reading a book of Welsh supernatural stories. The writing is not great, but the stories are rather intriguing.

Talking about Scotland, I’m visiting friends in Glasgow in a couple weeks! I’m going for the weekend only, but this will give us time to catch up, visit Loch Lomond and explore the town. I am planning on going for a longer period of time, but right now a weekend is the only time I have to spare.

I hope you have an excellent January and I’ll be back soon with a January wrap up or more pictures of the woods!

leaf3 Ana

 

 

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Favourite Instagram Accounts

As I’ve mentioned before, I am more active on Instagram than I am in any other kind of social media. I find that people tend to be more creative on this platform, and accessing as well as using it doesn’t require much effort. I tend to follow accounts that feature books, nature, historical sites, and/or an appealing lifestyle, basically anything that I find soothing or inspiring. Without further ado, here are six of my favourite accounts:

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Susanne Waglen – Not only she has the best taste on clothes and decor, but she also happens to have the sweetest and most photogenic cats! Honestly, I don’t know how she gets her cats to stand still for the camera. Susanne’s account is beautiful and has been one of my favourites ever since I found it.

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Katy Who – Katy’s pictures are stunning; they make me want to pack my bag and just go. She’s also incredibly sweet – although we haven’t exchanged messages outside the comment section, she comes across as a kind and caring person. Oh, I also wish I had her hair!

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Vals (The Memory of the Trees) – This account incorporates so many things that I like: nature, books, hot drinks, pretty outfits, and Scotland. This Italian girl is based in Glasgow and has an incredible eye for what’s worth capturing. She makes me incredibly excited to make my way there soon!

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Tally Potrafke – Tally is a German student living in Scotland, and by now I think you can see a pattern of beautiful countries and amazing hair! She’s someone I have never spoken to, but just have the best feeling about what kind of person she is! Her account is beautiful to look at and generally makes me happy!

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Marta (April Morns) – Marta’s photos are simple but striking. I tend to be a bit funny when it comes to people photographing their food, but she does it delightfully! Marta also features nature, interior, and very cosy shots. There’s something very peaceful about her account and way of life.

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Emily (Harry and Frank) – Countryside, handmade objects, food, and an adorable dog! I don’t think I need to say much more than that. I hardly ever use the feature that shows you what other people have been liking and commenting, but I definitely should since this is how I found this beautiful account!

What are your favourite Instagram accounts? Did you already know any of the ones I’ve mentioned? Feel free to recommend me some!

leaf2Ana

New Year

The second half of 2017 was interesting. I came across some great opportunities and took them, but also faced quite a few challenges. The last three months were mentally and physically draining, which is why I decided to take it easy in 2018. Also, if you live in the UK, you probably remember that a rather nasty flu was taking over just after the Christmas period. Well, it hit me pretty hard, meaning that I spent NYE hallucinating due to an incredibly high fever and was bed-bound for over a week. However, this whole situation made me think: it can only get better. And it did! I was offered a position to work for the English Heritage, took some defining decisions regarding my personal life, and here I am giving this blog another go! I feel like I was putting too much pressure on myself when it came to this blog, so I decided to detach it from Twitter and focus less on the “serious” content. I’m not going to make any promises about the frequency of my posts, but right now I feel like I want to write more about my life, what I get up to, what I read, and some articles related to the English Heritage and how it’s like to work in a historical propriety.

IMG_3073At some point in the second semester of 2017, I made an Instagram account dedicated to books. I now post pictures of my country walks and other similar things as well, but the book photographs are still very much present! It’s been fun and I use it frequently – let’s face it, it’s easier to keep up with than a blog. I also had a great time discovering some accounts, so I’m planning on sharing my favourite here sometime soon.

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2017 was also a decent reading year. I managed to read 54 books in total and enjoyed the great majority. I am currently reading a selection of poems by Robert Burns and will then start a collection of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales. The second book made its way into my reading list when I started to study Scottish Gaelic. I am doing so on my own, but the website LearnGaelic has been incredibly helpful! Who knows, that might be something else for me to incorporate into this blog!

I hope you have a wonderful 2018!

leaf1x Ana

Walpole and Hogg | Short Reviews

For a few weeks now, the majority of the books I have read are of the Gothic genre. I had put novels aside while I dedicated myself to non-fiction books, but after reading The Monk by Matthew Lewis I became eager to explore other similar works. The Monk remains my favourite, with Zofloya, or The Moor and The Mysteries of Udolpho not far behind. However, today I’m sharing my thoughts on The Castle of Otranto and The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.

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The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Regarded as the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto was first published in 1764. It was presented as the content found in an old chest, and a story based on a collection of letters originated in Italy between the eras of the First and last Crusades. Some aspects of this story reminded me of Le Fanu’s Passage in the Secret History of an Irish Countess; secret passages, a young woman in distress, the mighty man with dark intentions behind his seemingly friendly facade, etc. The story relates the lengths pursued by a sire to secure his bloodline when faced by the prophecy which means to claim his reign. There is also a romantic tangent to awaken the reader’s sympathy towards certain characters and their destiny. Although the story provokes the reader’s curiosity, the execution of the plot is not as distressing as some of the pieces that followed Walpole’s work. The Castle of Otranto is a mystery that incorporates controversial and frightening aspects with a touch of supernatural.

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The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg

The blurb on the Oxford World’s Classics edition describes this novel as “sardonic and terrifying”, which is somewhat deceiving if the reader is expecting a gruesome and graphic tale. In fact, I expected it to explore more of religious fanaticism and bloody crimes, but most of it happens behind the scenes, with the reader being merely informed of the events. There are two parts in this novel; the editor’s narrative and the main character’s narrative, which is a combination of a publication and a handwritten journal. The story focuses on George Colwan/Wringhim, the second son of the Laird of Dalcastle who is sent to live with his mother’s religious advisor (a man suggested to be his true father). George’s self-righteousness and obsession with Christianity acquaint him with a man known as Gil-Martin – who possesses the ability to change his appearance on command and, although George believes him to be Peter the Great of Russia, is implied to be the devil. It is hard to say if such a man existed within the story or if he was a figure of George’s imagination. At times, it seems like George and Gil-Martin are a single person, and George’s madness was the source of his dual personality, but mentions of angels and demons also hint to a supernatural theme that does not exclude the presence of the devil in this novel. The plot surrounds George’s early life, his acquaintance with Gil-Martin, his crimes, and the consequences of his actions up until his death. It is clear that this book inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write The Strange Tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and the aspects that explore good and bad, right and wrong were intriguing. I was, however, expecting more details on how George executed his crimes. The reader should bear in mind that, although it touches controversial topics, the story itself more of a psychological mystery with postmodernist ideas.


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If you’d like to explore Gothic Novels as well as other Classics with a small group of people, do check my new group on Goodreads, Analysing and Discussing Classics. The aim is to read a book every other month focusing on themes, structure, motifs, language, style, context, etc. and start a discussion on the designated topic in the forum. Our first book is The Italian by Ann Radcliffe, which is to be read during November as the discussion takes place on the last weekend of the month.

Studies, Reading List, and Book Club

A few things have happened since I last updated this blog: The Shelley Conference 2017 took place at the Senate House (you can see my report here), I started a Critical Reading course, and whatever free time I have is spent reading. Although I intended to organise my posts for this blog, it did not go further than some notes on my notebook. I simply did not have time to work on informative posts, but I decided to come back regardless and be more informal until I am able to give more attention to future projects.

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Critical Reading Course

A few months ago I decided to enrol myself in another course. The University of Oxford Department of Continuing Education offers a great selection of online courses, which is perfect considering that commuting to Oxford every week would be somewhat tricky right now. It started six weeks ago, and I’m enjoying it tremendously. Although I have always enjoyed reading critically, I was never confident enough to share my opinions, often finding that I could not formulate my thoughts in a comprehensible way – this is something that this course is helping me with. We have been going through different writing techniques as well as a variety of ways to analyse a text. I was pleased with the feedback I got from my first assignment and look forward to the next.

Books I Have Recently Read

The Monk by Matthew Lewis was on my reading list for the longest time, but I finally got around to read it a couple of months ago. Frankly, I am glad I waited. It exceeded my expectations and was the perfect book to read after taking a break from novels. Since then, I have been in the mood for Gothic fiction, therefore my list is comprised of other books of the genre. I’ve picked up a copy of The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre, which is a collection of Gothic short stories featuring Polidori’s The Vampyre. I would like to dedicate a post to this book as there are thoughts I’d like to share, but for now, I will just say that I genuinely enjoyed it. My next pick was Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. I was sceptical at first as I did not know where the story was going with the amount of information that was being given but pleasantly surprised by how it all ties up. The Mysteries of Udolpho is now one of my favourite novels (along with another one on this “list”). I then decided to read The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole. It did not appeal to me as much as The Monk did, unfortunately. I enjoyed it and can appreciate many aspects of this book, but it did not have a high impact on me. Zofloya, or The Moor by Charlotte Dacre, on the other hand, was utterly brilliant! It shares some similarities with The Monk, which is perhaps why I liked it so much. It was one of these books that I could not put down, yet did not want it to end – which is hard when it’s only a couple of hundred pages long! I am now reading James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, which started slow but has finally caught my attention.

Book Club

A long while ago I have posted about starting a Book Club with a friend. The project was unfortunately laid aside as she was no longer able to focus on it for personal reasons. I have lately thought about it and decided that it may be something I will revive on my own once I finish my course. As much as I would like to discuss what I am currently reading, I want to be able to truly dedicate myself to it instead of having a thousand other things in my mind. Hopefully it will work out – and hopefully, it won’t be long!

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The Shelley Conference 2017

It’s been a while! I have neglected this page again, but it does not mean that I have been idle. I am currently studying Critical Reading, going through a rather long reading list, and have finally decided the direction I want to take on my current research! Although I am yet to prepare a text for this blog, I thought it would be a good idea to share the report I have written for The Shelley Conference 2017.

Note: I would like to thank Anna Mercer for the opportunity and congratulate her again on this fantastic event.

It took almost the length of Shelley’s lifetime for another event celebrating his life and work to be organised – the last one took place on the bicentennial of his birth, in 1992. For this and other reasons, Anna Mercer was determined to organise this exceptional two-days conference. After realising that most of PBS’s contemporaries enjoy various symposiums, Mercer took it upon herself to side with Harrie Neal and organised The Shelley Conference 2017, celebrating both Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Under the guidance of Kelvin Everest and Michael Rossington, Mercer and Neal welcomed Michael O’Neill, Nora Crook, and many scholars from around the world to present a variety of papers exploring the many aspects of PBS and MWS’s lives, work, and collaboration with one another.

The Senate House, London, opened its doors for The Shelley Conference 2017 for the first time on the 15th of September. With a plethora of fascinating panels, it was a hard task to decide which ones to attend. Luckily Graham Henderson has recorded a few, which will soon be available online for those who wish to watch it [see Graham’s website on PBS here]. The Conference started with a short introduction by the organisers, who briefly talked about the programme and thanked those who made the event possible. They expressed the Shelleys’ importance in Literature and Culture, as well as other aspects that inspired them to design this conference. Mercer closed the introduction speech and started the conference with a beautiful reading of ‘Mutability’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley – a poem that perfectly suited the occasion.

To read the full report, click HERE.

Mary in the Middle | Blog

Last Saturday I decided to visit the Shelleys the National Portrait Gallery – for about a year we were never in town at the same time. Although it is my favourite wall in the museum, I do feel like the layout is rather odd. I am well aware that Byron is the real celebrity there, yet having his portrait between Percy and Mary doesn’t seem right.

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My first thought was that LB and Percy should change places, but that’s because of my personal preference, which is perhaps how LB ended up there in the first place. I shared the picture above on my twitter page and made a small mention of these thoughts, which when Graham Henderson from The Real Percy Bysshe Shelley pointed out that the same thought had crossed his mind when he visited the Gallery earlier this year. Graham took it to Facebook, encouraging people to make this happening by contacting the NPG. The hashtag which is now being used is #MaryInTheMiddle.

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Next year we celebrate Frankenstein’s 200th anniversary, so why not grant its author with a well deserved spot in the middle of that wall? After all, this is the work that made her famous, therefore it seems like a very appropriated time to make this change! Yes, Byron is better known and widely discussed, but perhaps this seemingly small gesture will put Mary under the spotlight that she deserves. I speak as someone who truly loves Lord Byron’s work, but also believes that Mary Shelley deserves more recognition for her genius.

If you agree with us, tweet @NPGLondon with #MaryInTheMiddle and voice your opinion on The Real Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poll.