Thursday 27 October 2005

Getting IT Together

A very important part of doing research is being organized, and keeping your references and notes in a format that makes the information easily retrievable and easily editable. One way people do this is a card index. Nothing wrong with this at all. It has worked for generations of scholars quite well and I'm not denying its simplicity and effectiveness.

But there are a couple of software programmes that allow you to easily organize your references, keep each piece of bibliographical information in a place that can then be organized easily, through a template style, into whatever format you want (such as MHRA, or Chicago) at the click of a button. You can also keep all of your notes attached to these records, and then do a simple search within the programme for everywhere you noted an author's name, or a title, or a word. I started out using Endnote, which is not a bad piece of software. It is not a great piece of software either, and there is a learning curve. It's very much geared towards the sciences and making changes to suit your own needs takes nerves of steel and plenty of patience.

Then I found Bookends. I find it excellent. It is easy to use and integrates with my word processor seamlessly. The advantage is that I don't have to worry about compiling a bibliography, because as I write and insert my references in footnotes, each of these references is linked to Bookends. When I want to format them, Bookends will compile the bibliography based on the references I have inserted in each footnote. All pain free. And their support forum is excellent. The main man, Jon, will reply to questions in sometimes lightening speed - I'm serious. I've had replies within five minutes from him on queries, all cleared up effortlessly.
Now all you have to do is throw Word out the window and get yourself something sleek and sexy like Mellel. Writing a thesis in Word is simply not very clever. And if you're clever enough to write a thesis, you should be clever enough to get rid of Word. Buying Bookends and Mellel was the best software purchase I ever made.
Now if only I could remember what my thesis was about....

The Chief-Super

The SuperV had his Inaugural last evening: Lunatics, Lovers, and Poets: Some Compact Imaginations. The reference is to A Midsummer Night's Dream (Act 5 Sc. 1): 'The lunatic, the lover, and the poet | Are of imagination all compact'. It was a fine analysis of medieval literary theory as it can illuminate Chaucer's poetics, in particular the House of Fame, which he describes as the most revolutionary piece of poetry in the English language.

It all made me want to go and work. That's encouraging. For me. The work is coming along, but it needs to come along a little faster. These last couple of weeks have been busy, hence the radio silence.

I'm writing a lecture for the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Trinity College Dublin (the alma mater), which I'm giving on Tuesday. The subject will be: 'Chaucer and Italy'. I'm looking forward to it. Very much.

Thursday 20 October 2005

The People who Blog!

Pete Townshend, the rock star, has his very own blog right here on Blogger: It's called The Boy Who Heard Music and he's blogging a serialized novel!

Wednesday 19 October 2005

In Remembrance of Things...

The great Mary Carruthers is here as a visiting professor at Balliol College and is doing the Eastman Lectures on historical perspectives on the arts of memory and the arts of thinking. I went to her second lecture yesterday and it was fascinating. There are a series of workshops too, and apparently we get to try it all out and see if we can remember every prime minister and the Psalms, the usual stuff. That's going to be fun.

It's now time to get back to work. If only I could remember what it is my thesis is about...

Thursday 13 October 2005

85,000 PhDs

I heard on the radio today that Europe produces 85,000 PhDs a year. That seems rather a lot doesn't it? I'm a bit dizzy thinking of it. One doctorate at the moment is dizzying me.

Prizes all round too: Banville won the Booker. I haven't read it, but have heard terrible things about it. Really terrible. And ould Pinter won the Nobel Prize. There's a big 75th birthday celebration season at The Gate in Dublin.

Sunday 9 October 2005

The Pope and His Theologians

Have a listen to the wonderful Denys Turner talking with Irish radio presenter Andy O'Mahoney on theology, knowing God, the incarnation, and the diminished role of the theologian in the contemporary church. I could listen to him all day.

Saturday 8 October 2005

Book Crisis

So I went in to my local bookshop yesterday and someone has obviously sold off their medieval library. There are loads of nice things - I immediately picked up A Preface to Chaucer, by D.W. Robertson, Jr. - but one thing that I really want is Manly and Rickert's The Text of the Canterbury Tales, 8 vols (Chicago Univ. Pres, 1940). The problem is that it costs £250, which is a lot of money. I might be able to get something off that, but it would still be a pretty hefty whack of money. I think that I am going to have to leave it, but I know I'm going to regret this.
I really am.

Friday 7 October 2005


I would like to recommend The Bull, a new play now on for the Dublin Theatre Festival, by Michael Keegan-Dolan. It is quite simply outstanding. It has changed the way I think about theatre - and dance and music, for that matter. He's an extremely talented Irish choreographer and this is his second show for the Theatre Festival: last year he was responsible for the amazing Giselle. Read this interview with Keegan-Dolan, and click here for more info on the Dublin Theatre Festival.


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