Thank you so much for all the love on the last post and in the comments on Instagram: it’s so great to know that this series is of interest to so many of you. This week may be a little less exciting in terms of big news, but it was really enjoyable nonetheless! I’m also sorry this comes a little later than the last post, but it’s been a busy few days!
The beginning of the week was fairly uneventful, as my boyfriend was frantically working on his coursework for his Masters degree – he handed three pieces of work in on Tuesday, meaning he’s now done with the taught element of his course and can focus on running conferences and writing a dissertation and other fun stuff.
This week has been fairly varied work-wise: I started off the week with some Poetic Realism in the form of two novellas by Gottfried Keller, Kleider machen Leute and Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe, focusing on small-town bourgeois characters. I’d particularly recommend the first novella for those looking for something comic, as it follows the exploits of a penniless tailor who impersonates a Polish nobleman and causes havoc in the process. Unfortunately with revision, it’s all packed into such a short timeframe and so I have to rush through texts and topics without being able to read widely around the area. This topic was also one I covered way back in the autumn of my second year, meaning it’s over two years ago since I wrote the essay, and so very little of my original reading is left in my head…
With no time to spare, I moved onto the Petrarchan love sonnet in the Spanish Golden Age, spending most of the week on Garcilaso de la Vega before moving onto Quevedo. I’m really conscious that my original essays from second year only cover a small amount of poetry from a very specific angle, so I had to go back to the original texts and choose a few poems to analyse afresh in a lot of detail, in order to be prepared for questions on a range of topics. There’s no point only looking at, say, the use of antithesis if that doesn’t even come up in the exam! However, this stressed me out quite a bit at the beginning of the week, because one of my biggest anxieties about work is my level of Spanish. I haven’t done very well in language work over the course of the year and have a particularly nasty block when it comes to oral exams, and over the course of my degree I’ve had to read most of my Spanish texts in translation simply due to lack of time. I was using a bilingual anthology for the Garcilaso sonnets to start with, but began to freak out when trying to read the poems for which I had no translation – as soon as I looked at the words, anxiety began to take over, nothing seemed to go into my brain, and I gave up. It confirmed my secret (not so secret now…!) fear that I wasn’t really equipped to do my own research in the future, and that my supervisor would soon find out that I wasn’t actually any good at all when I struggled to read obscure plays and documents in Spanish.
I decided to wave the worries away for the time being, and stress about that after finals if I really had to, which was a good move, as I managed to regain my focus and return to the poems. Miraculously, once I began to systematically, slowly work through the sonnets with a monolingual dictionary, everything started to make a lot more sense, and soon I found myself understanding them without feeling the familiar pull of dread and anxiety. It made me realise that the sheer lack of time here at Oxford is responsible for so much lost confidence, as you’re skimming over concepts, texts and problems that you’d really need double the time to get through in an ideal world. I began to enjoy the work a lot more and mainly relied on my own analysis and ideas to evaluate the poems, rather than on secondary literature, which really reminded me that I do want to keep doing this in the future. It also helped me regain the confidence that I needed to approach the Quevedo poems, which are considerably harder to understand.
Something else I like to do to destress is exercise, although due to Easter and travelling I haven’t been able to go to the gym of late, which I think would really help. I have an iron-clad Zumba commitment every Wednesday, however, with one of my closest friends, which has frequently been the absolute highlight of my week and something I only ever miss if an injury makes it truly impossible to go. Lately I haven’t been able to focus and keep pace in the classes as much as I’d like, but that’s probably a natural side-effect of being in a period of intense revision. This Wednesday, I was a little cheeky and decided to head to GBK with my friend afterwards, and completely lost track of time catching up over bottomless elderflower drinks. I find it really helpful to have friends who aren’t doing Finals, as it helps you keep hold of your perspective and not let the conversation drift back to work every five minutes, as that invariably leaves you stressing about how much you still need to revise for each paper. It’s also completely invaluable to keep seeing people who really build you up each time you speak, as it’s such a stressful time that any encouragement is worth its weight in gold. I returned home feeling elated and confident, which is exactly how I need to be feeling right now!
I’d love to say that this was the only extended break from work I took over the course of the week, but that would be a major lie! Thursday saw my first ever lunch at Gloucester Green Market, which was amazing, and all the more so because I was expertly guided towards the best food by a new friend who was somewhat of a dab hand. We sat on a bench in the sun and talked about some of the weirder things about Magdalen, how it frequently seems unreal, before heading inside for a pot of tea as I’m slightly pathetic and get cold very easily.
On the way back home, I was thoroughly distracted by one of the most talented buskers I’ve ever seen on the streets of Oxford – and there are many! I allowed myself to forget work for a few minutes and just listen to the unassuming woman with a guitar. Music makes up the backbone of my life, and I think it’s really important to support new artists who are trying to do something a little different, and so I bought both CDs that were for sale and signed up to the musician’s mailing list. Of course, everyone has wildly different tastes, so this may not be your cup of tea in the slightest, but the song I heard can be found here if you’re interested in giving it a listen.
I recently remarked on Instagram that I had essentially been living in a single pair of ripped jeans, and decided it was high time to remedy this. I’ve also lost weight over the last few months and this means some of my favourite clothes no longer fit – was there ever a better excuse to replenish a wardrobe? I had originally hoped to do a little lookbook with my new #haul, but that was not to be – I am, however, quite pleased with my new finds, especially as I’ve been pushing myself to be a little more adventurous with brands, shapes and colours this time around. I will save my comments on how mainstream fashion only caters to one body type for another time, but I definitely noticed how much easier it is to shop for clothes when your body is closer to the prescribed ideal, and the corresponding effect on your self-esteem.
The end of the week was filled with lots of fun clothes and make-up shopping, including these lip pencils I purchased in MAC. I have neither the time nor the inclination to write a full review at the moment, but I’ve included some swatches in case anyone was interested. There was also a small blow to my cheerful mood: on the way home from town, I was waiting for a bus and a disgruntled man saw fit to shout at me for being a “f-ing foreigner”. I’m not sure what motivated him to do so, but it certainly put a downer on things for me, reminded as I was that, despite having been born in this country, despite feeling extremely at home in Oxford and as part of the city as anyone else, that’s all some people seewhen they cross me in the street. I was glad to be heading to G&Ds, Oxford’s most popular ice cream parlour chain, to see my college mother – and indeed, apart from the gentleman at the table behind us who requested we listen to his poetry, it was a relaxing evening, and certainly took my mind off the incident in the street.
On Saturday I headed to Frimley, where my family live, but not before having a super quick lunch with my best friend, as he’d just arrived back in Oxford when I was about to leave. The journey home was smooth and sunny, and I was delighted to be back with my mother and sister. Unfortunately, I couldn’t spend as much time with my family as I would have liked, because I was still occupied with Garcilaso and Quevedo until the end of the week.
I was feeling a bit unsure about posting this because I was worried it wasn’t very exciting – although what can beat last week’s post in terms of exciting news?! I suppose some weeks will inevitably be less exciting than others, and that’s okay. It’s really, really lovely to be home, and I’m already looking forward to updating you all about what I get up to this week!
Thank you for reading the second instalment of my lead-up to Finals – let me know in the comments if you enjoyed it!