Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A-Z: Z is for Zombies (and Pride and Prejudice)

26 posts, 2 blog awards, 23 new followers (which pretty much doubled my followers), and a nice collection of new e-friends! I have to say that time has actually flown by pretty quickly and I've impressed myself with my ability to post every day. For the most part I've even managed to comment on at least a few other blogs every day too.

For my final "All Things Grad School" A-Z post, I am just going to talk briefly about something actually related to Grad School, well, kind of, and then I will move on to tell you about my next blogging adventure and a fun contest!

If you are familiar with Jane Austen (and by that I mean knowing slightly more than simply that she wrote Pride & Prejudice) you will know that her novels have been adapted and adapted and then adapted some more. One of the better-known novel adaptations is Pride & Prejudice and Zombies. I haven't read it; I likely never will, but it is intriguing none-the-less. I own Sense & Sensibility and Sea Monsters, but after reading the first few chapters, it was just too ridiculous and, honestly, not all that well written in terms of the incorporation of new text with Austen's treasured classic text. These adaptations, however, are extremely relevant to my Master's Thesis which will inevitably explore the reason(s) that there has been a resurgence of Austen popularity in the last two-three decades.

Ok, moving on. So now that A-Z is over, what am I going to do? How am I going to get people to keep visiting my blog and commenting? Well, DL Hammons, owner/operator of Cruising Altitude 2.0 and member of the A-Z 2013 Team, has this genius idea called a Blog Blitz so I signed up. If you take a quick peek to your immediate right, you will see the badge that goes along with taking part. I am the 303rd person to sign up so I figure visiting those blogs will keep me busy.

Starr Bryson over at The Insomniac's Dream is also hosting The ABC's of Swearing which is pretty damn cool so I'm going to take part in that as well.

Cheers, everyone. It's been a slice!

Monday, April 29, 2013

A-Z Challenge: Y is for Your/You're

Holy smokes, after this post there is only one more A-Z post on the schedule! I'm still contemplating blogging backwards from Z-A during the month of May. I just can't quite decide if I'm up to it or not. Anyway, back to today's version of "All Things Grad School" (that's my theme) dedicated to the letter 'Y'.

It took me forever (again) to come up with a topic for Y. I had another one of those light bulb moments while randomly spouting off y words in my head. When G came around early on in this blog challenge, I used  'Giddy', which was definitely fitting, but after the fact I realised I really should have used G for 'Grammar'.

Why? Well, because I am a self-certified member of the Grammar Police Task Force. My duty is to serve and correct.

I just graduated with my Bachelor of Arts Honours with English as my major. Poor grammar makes my ears and eyes bleed.

So here's a little lesson:
Your name is Lovely and you're reading my blog.
They're at home telling their friends to click over there and read my blog.
It's alright if its topics do not particularly interest you, comment anyway.
I am never going to say that even just two comments are too few.

Easy, right?!

The other day I won concert tickets (yay me) in a facebook contest. I posted a thank you message on the radio station's facebook page. Their response, "your welcome." AH! I almost gave the tickets back (almost)!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A-Z Challenge: X is for Xenodochy

I'm pushing the time limit on my X post for A-Z today because my W post is really important to me and I want as many people to read it as possible. With that said, if you are visiting me and haven't read my W post yet, please do. Here's the link back: W is for WUSC.

I did a decent amount of research to find a suitable X word for this post. I wrote down a few options before I found Xenodochy and realised how perfect it is for my "All Things Grad School" theme.

Xenodochy is defined as the reception of or extending of hospitality to strangers or foreigners.

I'm moving to Fredericton to get my Master of Arts Degree at the University of New Brunswick in September and one of the reasons that I chose UNB out of the three schools I was accepted to is because of the reception I received as a potential student.

Before I had even submitted an application to UNB's English Graduate Studies, I emailed the professor that I was hoping to work with as my thesis advisor. She responded almost immediately and when I told her that I was working on a SSHRC application (a $17,500 research grant) she offered to look over it for me and offer some constructive criticism. Um, yes, please! She helped me every step of the way through my grant application and had never even met me.

After I had applied and was accepted into UNB the Director of Graduate Studies told me if there was anything I needed, including help finding a place to live in Fredericton, that I simply needed to let her know.

I feel welcome in Fredericton and I'm not even there yet.

Ok, I know xenodochy really refers to the actual physical reception of a stranger, but in this day and age, cyber-reception/hospitality is just as relevant and therefore, I feel, still applicable to this term.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A-Z Challenge: W is for World University Service of Canada (WUSC)

Of all my A-Z posts, this one is the most important to me. World University Service of Canada (WUSC) is my life. I've been volunteering with WUSC for eight years and every year since I initially got involved my life has changed substantially for the better.

WUSC works towards a world in which all young people can grow up in safe, secure and supportive environments; have access to high quality education opportunities from early childhood to adulthood; are able to secure fair, decent and fulfilling employment; and can actively participate in all aspects of their society's development.

Every year through WUSC's Student Refugee Program (SRP), Brandon University sponsors a student from a refugee camp in Kenya, Malawi, or Thailand to come and gain a post-secondary education. It is these students that have continually changed my life over the past eight years. Each and every one of them climbs in and finds a comfortable place in my heart to call their own. The cross-cultural awareness that my eyes and mind have been opened up to is unfathomable and indescribable. All I can say over and over and over again is that WUSC and the SRP and these men and women have changed my life, made me a better person, taught me about humility, and renewed my faith in humanity time and time again.

The conditions in refugee camps are atrocious. Think of the worst living conditions you can imagine and multiply that by ten; those are the conditions of a refugee camp. Imagine what the conditions of their original homes must have been to force them to seek asylum in a place as awful as a refugee camp. That is where the students that live in a special corner of my heart come from.

When I meet them for the first time they are quite timid, so very thin, and incredibly thankful. The timidness slowly fades away as time passes and so does the thinness, but they never cease to be thankful for the opportunity to study in Canada, for the opportunity to change their lives, for the opportunity to have a real future. In actuality, though, it is I who am thankful. Thankful to know what it means to be a Muslim in Somalia, thankful to hear stories about witch doctors in South Sudan, thankful to taste real Ethiopian injera, so thankful to have these epitomes of the human spirit in my life.


Their success is my success. Their pride is my pride. Their happiness is my happiness. Their lives are my life.

I've been volunteering with WUSC at Brandon University for eight years. I'm leaving for Fredericton and the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in a few short months. As soon as I made up my mind to accept UNB's offer, I immediately contacted the WUSC committee at UNB Fredericton and got put on their mailing list. No matter where this world takes me, WUSC will always be a part of my life.

If you are interested at all in making a monetary contribution to WUSC, please visit my fundraising website. WUSC is strictly not-for-profit and all donations over $10 CAD will receive an official charitable tax receipt. 

Help me help these students; you won't regret it, I promise!

A-Z: V is for Volunteering

Only 5 more posts to go in A-Z (including this one). I still don't have a topic for Y, but I'm sure I'll figure something out. Moving on and keeping with my "All Things Grad School" theme, here comes V...

I volunteer a lot. When I was about fifteen, I started to volunteer a little. As the years passed, I started collecting more and more organizations for which I volunteered. I'm twenty-nine now and I don't volunteer a little anymore.

I know I volunteer a lot, I've known it for years, but I didn't really realise how much until I put together my grad school C.V. and noticed that the Volunteer Experience section was the longest. Right now I am active with five organisations, two of which I have been part of for two years short of a decade (yep, that's fancy talk for eight years). I volunteered in Gaborone, Botswana, Africa for four months, I've run two lengthy independent campaigns to raise funds for two separate causes. The first time I shaved my head (that link takes you to the video of the shave) and raised $4000 and the second time I ran a half marathon and raised $5000. I ship used textbooks to Africa. I sell daffodils for the Canadian Cancer Society. I help students from refugee camps settle into their new lives as post-secondary students at Brandon University. I love it all.

Volunteering is a huge part of my life. I don't think I will ever not volunteer in some capacity. Before I move to Fredericton this fall, I will have to give my resignation to all of the boards that I sit on, find people to take over some of my more personal projects, and say goodbye to all of the students that I help every day. That last one will be the hardest. I'm not sure how I'm going to do it, but I know I have to. It's time to move on...

...and volunteer in a whole new city, at a whole new university, with all kinds of new and fascinating people. I'll hardly have time to eat and sleep while doing my Master's, but I'll find the time somewhere to volunteer; I have to.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A-Z Challenge: U is for University of New Brunswick

This is A-Z. My theme is "All Things Grad School". The grad school I am going to is the University of New Brunswick which is perfect for my U post!

The University of New Brunswick (UNB) has campuses in both Fredericton and Saint John, New Brunswick. I'll be attending the Fredericton campus since that is where the Department of English is housed. There's a decent chance I'll visit the Saint John campus from time-to-time, but "home" will be UNB Fredericton.

Seriously, who wouldn't want to go to a school where the campus looks like this?

UNB was founded in 1785 making it the oldest public English-language university in Canada and one of the oldest universities in North America. It's average class size is 31 students and my guess is that my Master's level classes will be below that average. Small class size means more one-on-one time with professors and if there is one thing a good student wants, it's a lot of one-on-one time with professors.

I've never been to Fredericton. The furthest east in Canada I have been is Gatineau, Quebec (that's not very far east at all). Most importantly, though, is the fact that I cannot wait!

You're welcome to come and visit me; I'll leave the invitation open. You'll find me in a back corner of the Harriet Irving Library buried under a stack of books!

ANOTHER AWARD: Very Inspiring Blogger

So, Susan from Scribblings because she is the lovely person that she is, has nominated me for another blog award! Isn't see just the sweetest?! The first award she nominated me for about a week ago was the Liebster Blog Award and now she has nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, aw shucks!

The rules of the award are as follows:
1. Display award logo on blog.
2. Link back to the person who gave you the award.
3.State 7 things about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 other bloggers.

The first three rules were easy, but it's the fourth that I struggled with, well, because I just don't frequent enough blogs. I'm really just a newbie at all of this and I don't have a lot of followers myself (one of the reasons I was given the Liebster, actually). It's taken me a while to come up with 15 blogs to nominate and some of them are for reasons way above and beyond the simple fact that they blog. I chose to go forth with the "inspire" part of the award as opposed to the "blogger" part of the award, so here goes:

1. Ramblings of a Daydreamer because she's Canadian (like me), takes part in so many fun blog link ups, reviews what seems like a new book every week, oh, and did I mention she's published three novels?! Marie's daydreams and dedication to all things literary not only inspire, but astound me.

2. March House Books because she showcases vintage children's books and I find that simply divine. I am especially inspired by her Things Found in Books posts which have actually made me have a much greater appreciation for well read (a.k.a. used) books. I used to be that person who always wanted a crisp new copy, but now give me a book that's been loved and passed on any day. I recently helped my Mom move to a new house and in that process took all of my old childhood books with me. I think I may just take Barbara's lead and blog about them :)

3. The Drafty Garret because she crawled into my heart and expressed what I feel without even knowing me on my very first visit. I've bookmarked her blog so that I can spend more time on it, but for now, Mel has inspired me.

4. 365 Random Acts of Kindness because, well, he's doing 365 random acts of kindness, one for every day of the year. How is that not inspiring?! I actually don't expect Kevin to participate in the Very Inspiring Blogger award by paying it forward because he's really only blogging (I'm pretty sure) as a means to broadcast his mission and raise funds for charity (for every follower he's donating $0.10). Regardless of whether or not he participates, I want to help him reach as many people as possible with his kindness so please visit his blog.

5. Don't Call Me Marge because she's one of the first bloggers I started to follow and she always speaks her mind in a no-holds-bar kind of way. She's also hilarious and has, in fact, inspired a few of my blog posts. This is Marjorie's post: 5 Reasons I'm Smoking Hot and Why You Can't Have Any and this is mine: 5 Reasons I'm Damn Fine and Why You Can't Have Any, Unless.... These posts were written in January 2012, but the point is she inspired me and that's what this award is for - blogs that inspire!

6. Musings of a Book Lover because she is hosting one of the reading challenges I am participating in and, in turn, has inspired to me to do some Reading Outside The Box. Thanks, Kate!

7. The Adventures of Nagzilla because she is doing A-Z of her favorite things and she has a The Sound of Music graphic to mark the occasion. Every time I visit her blog I sing "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things" in my head and it puts me in a better mood.

8. Austenprose because, well, they are ALL Jane Austen ALL of the time. They have over 7,000 followers and about as many blog hops, read-a-longs, contests, going on at the same time, so I doubt they will acknowledge this award, but they inspire me daily to follow my dreams of being an Austen scholar so I had to include them here in the hopes that you will check them out!

9. Write W.A.V.E. Media, but really, I just want to mention this website/blog's founder, Lyn Lomasi because her dedication and multi-tasking-blogging abilities inspire and astound me every single day. I have no idea how many freelance sites she writes for in addition to running her own company and raising her children as a single mother. Lyn is literally, Wonder Woman. Her website (which includes a vibrant blog) "offers guidance to writers for success in existing opportunities" and has a blogger application if you are looking for actual paid work as a blogger (who'da thought we could make money doing this?!).

10. Bridge and Beyond because it's a blog dedicated to "warm[ing] those in need through knitting, crocheting, and quilting." Scarves, hats, mittens, afghans, you name it, they provide it to men, women, and children in the Central Ohio area. I live in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, quite a way from Ohio, but Sandy's and her "crew's" efforts inspire me with their endless outreach.

11. Sun Scholars because she has one of the most vibrant blogs I have seen and never fails to post at least once and most time numerous times a day with a fantastic activity for children. Now, I don't have children, but I still follow her blog because Rachel and her posts kind of make me want to start a family so that I can do all of her fun ideas with them!

12. My Overstuffed Bookshelf because 1. she reads at least 100 books a year, 2. the graphic on her blog page is divine and reminds me of my bookshelves, and 3. she is hosting a 150+ Book Challenge. I didn't sign up for her book challenge because I just can't see myself reading that many books, next year, while I am doing my Master's, yes, but this year it's doubtful, not to mention reviewing them all. Heck, everyone who has signed up to take part in her challenge is an inspiration in my book (pun intended!). Sometimes she posts more than one book review each day! I aspire someday to host my own reading challenge, but until then, I'll just follow along with Amy's book adventures.

13. rewritten because the first post of hers I stumbled upon was a bouquet of words dedicated to a health care professional in the treatment room she frequents as a patient. The post was not a pity party for herself or the other patients hooked up to IVs for hours on end, it was the exact opposite, a celebration of the people family that she has made spending her time in that room. Inspiring? I think yes! Zoe also does some really cool posts with word lists that inspire me to explore my own vocabulary a bit more.

14. Short Story Ideas because she has a fantastic creative writing exercise for fiction that she has posted every day during this challenge. I was turned on to her blog because another wonderful blogger (Ida Chiavaro from Reflex Reactions) nominated her for a Leibster. Like I told Kristen in my first comment on her blog, I write poetry and I write non-fiction, but fiction frightens me. She has inspired me to tackle some fiction!

15. My Dear Trash because their passion for turning other people's trash into treasure in addition to their relentless love and pride for their families is unparalleled in most circles I frequent. Whether it's a roll-top turned candy desk or a collection of vintage ties, Kelly and Laura inspire me with their ability to repurpose objects that most people wouldn't give a second glance.

Phew! That took me a few days of visiting and compiling, but I finally came up with 15 blogs that inspire me and thus are worthy of the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Please pay them a visit sooner rather than later!

I almost forgot about Rule 3 and the required list of 7 things about myself.
1. I have a younger sister and her name is Denina (bet you've never heard that name before!).
2. I have two dogs and their names are Winston and Chewie (as in Chewbacca from Star Wars).
3. My nickname is B.
4. My boyfriend and I have countless pet names for each other including Pookie.
5. Every one of my Dad's siblings has a middle name that starts with L.
6. I prefer Ms if I require a title in front of my name.
7. I was named Brandy because my Mom liked this song.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A-Z Challenge: T is for Thesis

For the last eighteen posts of A-Z I've been blogging about "All Things Grad School". My thesis is basically the be all and end all of everything related to my upcoming adventures as a graduate student.

My program is twenty months and for the first eight I will be taking classes, for the last twelve I will be working on my thesis: a 90-100 page research paper. Once it has written approval from my thesis adviser and a Departmental reviewer, I'll have to defend my thesis orally. The oral examination board is comprised of my thesis advisor, an internal examiner, and an external examiner.

Now, I don't want to make this post too boring so I am going to try my best to explain my thesis proposal as simply and quickly as possible.

The working title of my thesis is "Jane Austen's Heroines: Why We Still Love Them Two-Hundred Years Later" that will look at Austen's heroines individually and collectively and explore the numerous ways their characters can be interpreted. These interpretations will lead to a conclusion that explains the popularity of the Austen heroines in the "post-feminist" 21st century.

Clear as mud??

I'm sure most of it likely is quite clear except, perhaps, for the post-feminist part. I will admit, I didn't even know what post-feminism was when one of my professors suggested I propose a thesis that incorporated it. I had to do a substantial amount of research in order to write my own research proposal. In brief, post-feminism means after-feminism implying that feminism no longer exists in our society which may or may not be the case depending on who you ask/read. Do I think we live in a post-feminist society? Maybe. Will I have a more solid response to that question once I do significantly more research on the topic? Definitely. Enter graduate school and spending the better part of those twenty months in the University of New Brunswick library.

I thought arguing Austen's popularity from a feminist stand point was difficult; what am I thinking trying to argue her popularity from a post-feminist perspective?!

Monday, April 22, 2013

A-Z Challenge: S is for Sense and Sensibility

If you've been following along on my A-Z adventure you should have noticed that Sense & Sensibility is the only Jane Austen novel that I have yet to discuss. In keeping with my "All Things Grad School" theme, Sense & Sensibility simply cannot be slighted (S is such a spectacular letter, don't you think?!).

Sense & Sensibility (1811) was Austen's first published novel and is my second favorite in the list of 6. Put S&S toe-to-toe with P&P and S&S is the better novel hands down (that was a fun sentence). Ok, P&P might have better characters, but S&S is so full of wit and hilarity that it's by far the better story and Marianne gives Elizabeth a pretty good run for her money in the character department. I mean Colonel Brandon in flannel waistcoats? Come on! It doesn't get any funnier than that!

I'll just leave it short and sweet for this 'S' post and say that if you have never read an Austen novel, read Sense & Sensibility. If you have only read Pride & Prejudice (like most people), read Sense & Sensibility. It's worth it!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A-Z Challenge: R is for Reading

The challenge is A-Z. My theme is "All Things Grad School". The letter is R. My word is 'reading'.

In September I will be starting my Master of Arts in English. In short, that means I will be reading - all day, all night, all the time.

I. Will. Always. Be. Reading.

For my 'R' post I have decided to give my lovely readers a bit of insight into what I will be reading over the next year during my studies.

I am required to take six classes in addition to the mandatory course: Research Methods and Bibliography: Approaches to Graduate Studies. I mentioned the other courses I have decided on in my O is for Options post. I've only fully decided on four of the required six so the reading list will get longer if that is even possible...

The first class I've decided on is Medieval (Re-) Visions of Classical Antiquity.

The required readings include: Roman do Troie, an Anglo-Norman text by Benoit de St Maure, composed at the court of Henry II, Duke of Normandy and King of England, and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
-Historia destructionis Troiae, an internationally influential pseudo-historiographical text by Guido delle Colonne's, written in multicultural Sicily, a European centre of translation and scholarship.
-Il Filostrato, an Italian urbanized text by Giovanni Boccaccio, connected with the Angevin court at Naples.
-Troilus and Criseyde by Geoffrey Chaucer, a response to the political crisis of the mid-1380s in London.
-Testament of Cresseid, a late fifteenth-century proto-postcolonial text by Robert Henryson, composed on the even of Renaissance humanism in Scotland freeing itself from English cultural and political hegemony.

The last two texts, Chaucer's and Henryson's will be read in Middle English and Middle Scots - fun!...or not.

I'll also be reading the medieval legend Troy re-written as an epic, courtly romance, sholarly historiography, complaint d'amour, and philosophical (Boethian) anti-romance. Newer adaptations of Troy that I will be reading come from the likes of Spencer, Shakespeare, and as recent as Margaret Atwood.

Running Reading Total: 6 (if I only count Troy once) or 14 (If I count eight versions of Troy)

The second class I've decided on is Learning One's Letters: Education and Culture in Victorian Literature. 

The tentative long list of primary texts (UNB's words, not mine) includes: "Democracy" and "Literature and Science" by Matthew Arnold, Villette by Charlotte Bronte, Great Expectations or Hard Times by Charles Dickens, The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell, Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes, "Science and Culture" and "Universities Actual and Ideal" by Thomas Huxley, The Water Babies or Alton Locke: Tailor and Poet by Charles Kingsley, Autobiography [selections] by John Stuart Mill, The Idea of University by John Henry Newman, Sesame and Lilies by John Rushkin, The Princess by Alfred Tennyson, and What Books to Lend and What to Give by Charlotte Yonge.

Remember, those are only the primary texts; there will be supplemental texts in addition to these.

Running Reading Total: 22 ...or 30

The third class is African American Literature and the Sociology of Race.

The primary texts are as follows: Quicksand by Nella Larsen, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Black No More by George Schuyler, Native Son by Richard Wright, The Street by Ann Petry, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Blind Man with a Pistol by Chester Hilmes, Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor, and The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead.
But, that's not all, oh, no. These are the secondary texts: Excerpts from The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois, "The City" by Ernest Burgess, "Marginal Man" by Robert Park, Excerpts from An American Dilemma by Gunna Myrdal, Excerpts from Black Bourgeoisie by Franklin Frazier, "The Negro Family" by Daniel P. Moynihan, Excerpts from The Unheavenly City by Edward Banfield, Excerpts from The Declining Significance of Race by Julius Wilson, "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: An American Grammar Book" by Hortense Spillers, and "The Chitlin Circuit: On Black Community" by bell hooks.

Running Reading Total: 43 ...or 51

The fourth class is Creative Writing: Prose, but it doesn't have a reading list so we're still at 43 or 51.

I am going to go out on a limb here and make an educated guess that the remaining two classes will have, at the very least, ten additional texts each.

Running Reading Total: 63 ...or 71

...and so very many more!

Friday, April 19, 2013

A-Z Challenge: Q is for Qwerty

No, I didn't just type out the first six letters on the keyboard for my 'Q' post in the A-Z Blog Challenge. My theme is "All Things Grad School" since I am starting my Master of Arts in September and I am pretty darn excited! Qwerty is the University of New Brunswick's (that's where I am going) graduate student-run literary magazine. Pretty cool, right?!

Qwerty publishes innovative poetry, fiction, and visual art from emerging and established artists, has been around for 17 years, and has published 28 issues. Now that is exciting!

Taken directly from the Qwerty website: "We have no qualms with publishing genre fiction that subverts convention, experimental work that inverts tradition in pursuit of innovative storytelling, or images that play on the senses in unusual ways." Heck ya, count me in! They accept submissions from around the globe so if you'd like an opportunity to be published take a look at the guidelines and then submit away.

I'd really like to get involved with Qwerty's editorial team when I get to UNB, but at the very least I'll be sure to subscribe.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A-Z Challenge: P is for Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion

Alrighty people, it's time for 'P' and in keeping with my "All Things Grad School" theme, Jane Austen has two novels that I have to mention. I have to mention both of them because by the end of A-Z I will have discussed all of her novels so I have to include both 'P' novels here. Plus, P&P is pretty much everyone's favorite Austen novel and/or the only Austen novel they've read and Persuasion is her most unique novel in the grand scheme of all things Austen.

I'm not going to do reviews or plot summaries for you, though. If you haven't read Pride & Prejudice or watched any of the adaptations (and there are a tonne), crawl out from beneath the rock you are living under and do it! I recommend Bride & Prejudice because I dig Bollywood, but really any of them will do; just remember, Hollywood always ruins Austen's endings. Pride & Prejudice has the best characters of all of the Austen novels, but in terms of story line it ranks fourth our of six on my list Austen novels. Read Persuasion too, but you'll really only notice the difference (well, maybe you will) if you read at least two of her other novels.

Actually, P&P and Persuasion kind of toggle back and forth between fourth and fifth place on my list. Perhaps I should just say they are tied for fourth place.

So, no reviews, no plot summaries, but what I will do is give you a little itty bitty (so it's not too boring) tid bit of my undergraduate Advanced Topics paper. The basic context is that I did a feminist reading of Austen's novels and presented a thesis that argues that each of the five early heroines (Anne Elliot in Persuasion is the sixth) are convinced to give up their atypical nature and become the embodiment of the feminine ideal, one of propriety and subservience . It is only Anne, the eldest leading lady, who clearly understands who she is and what she wants out of life and is therefore not "tamed."

Ok, with that said, here's the premise for my analysis of P&P:
"In Pride and Prejudice, while there is no direct evidence of taming, the reader is left wondering whether the arrogance of the hero will inevitably provide the heroine with a life of misery rather than happiness."

...and here it is for Persuasion:
"In distinct contrast to the young and consequently naive heroines in Austen's preceding five novels, Persuasion focuses on Anne's maturity along with the success and happiness that can result when woman waits until she is fully aware of her own thoughts and emotions before uniting herself with someone else."

In short, Persuasion is really the only romantic novel of the bunch. So, what do you think of that?!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A-Z Challenge: O is for Options

Until a few hours ago, I couldn't think of a decent topic for an 'O' post to save my life. As I searched through the University of New Brunswick website for something, anything, that started with the 15th letter of the alphabet I had one of those light bulb moments and the word 'options' just popped into my head. Just as a refresher in case this is the first post of mine that you are visiting, my A-Z theme is "All Things Grad School", so O is for all of the options that I've had and still have to choose from while beginning this learning adventure.

Options 1: To go or not to go to grad school - I've always known I wanted to pursue a higher education. I aspire to be Dr. Brandy (the PhD kind, not the MD kind) someday. I just finished my undergrad honours degree and I am increasingly feeling under-stimulated at my job. Go to grad school.

Options 2: Which grad schools do I apply to - In Canada a lot of the English Master's programs require a certain knowledge of a second language. I speak, read, and write, English only, therefore, I am pretty limited in terms of where I can apply. I narrow it down to three based on the lack of a language requirement and my interest in the courses being offered in 2013-14. Apply to York University, University of Victoria, and University of New Brunswick. 

Options 3: When I get accepted into all three schools, which one do I choose - Ok, so yay me; I receive admission from all three schools, but now I'm faced with one of the most difficult decisions I've ever had to make. I have to decide which one of these schools offers the best program for me. I hum and I haw and I ask the opinions of a lot of people and inevitably go with the one my heart's been guiding me to all along. Accept UNB's offer. 

Options 4: Which courses do I register for - The UNB Master's in English has one mandatory course and requires that I choose six more. There are 10 classes total for me to choose from. I've picked four and still need to decide on two more. Register for "Medieval (Re-) Visions of Classical Antiquity", "Creative Writing: Prose", "Learning One's Letters: Education and Culture in Victorian Literature", and "African American Literature and the Sociology of Race".

Options 5: Separate course work and thesis or not- I can either complete all my course work in my first year and then dedicate my second year strictly to my thesis or I can work on both simultaneously throughout both years. I think I'd be a crazy person to work on courses and my own thesis at the same time. Do all required courses in Year 1 and spend Year 2 on only my thesis. 

Options 6: Where to live - There is a graduate student residence at UNB, but the area of Fredericton that surrounds the university is also almost completely residential and rentable to students. I'm not planning on taking any furniture with me so residence would seem like the most viable option, but I've heard that even though it's a grad student dorm, it's still quite noisy. Noise is not really my cup of tea so perhaps an apartment would be better. Then again, an apartment building might not be any less noisy and I'll likely be spending most of my time in the library anyway. I have no clue where I am going to live yet.


Is this like the Oscars? Should I give a speech? I'm kidding, but I am thankful to Susan from Scribblings for taking an interest in my blog and nominating me for this fun award.

I did a bit of digging into the history of the award and there are so many different theories on the origin and details that it's really quite silly. Basically, it's awarded to people who have very few blog followers. I did what Susan did and nominated 11 (well 12, actually) other bloggers with less than 200 followers. I'm supposed to ask them 11 random questions (I guess so they can generate a blog post), list 11 random facts about myself, and then answer the 11 questions that Susan asked me.

So, here are the 11 (12 actually) bloggers that I am awarding the Liebster too:

1. A month of...Blog because it shows so much dedication and motivation. The photos are pretty great too! I also love travelling and sharing my journeys with others so it is no wonder I took a liking to this one. The blogger also committed to reading Northanger Abbey (my favorite Austen novel) - enough said!

2. The Ramblings of a Multi-tasking Mama because she commented on my E, F, and G posts before I even visited her blog! She also refers to her children as The Fashionista and Agent Smelly which can only mean she is one cool ma'ama jamma.

3. Maggie Winter from Expat Guide to rural Brazil because she had the cojones to comment on my blog that she is not a Jane Austen fan! O, the horror! She has some awesome tips for travelling Brazil too.

4. Alana Mander from Dream Believe Write because the title of her blog caught my eye in the A-Z Challenge link up. She has also been away on a holiday during some of A-Z but has managed to post anyway! What a planner!

5. Ida Chiavaro from Reflex Reactions - now I know she was nominated by the same person who nominated me, but I feel the need to shout out to her again because she took the time to visit my other blog 21K for Change and comment on my final post there. She's also doing this really cool thing with healing words on her blog!

6. Rebeccah Giltrow from Rebeccah Writes because her blog was one of the first ones I bookmarked when I started visiting A-Zers. Every day she is introducing a new writing constraint/exercise that is quite intriguing!

7. Ginger and her blog Just Add Ginger because everybody loves a red-head! Seriously though, her blog caught my eye because one of my best friends is a ginger as well. It doesn't hurt that she loves all things beauteous and writes with passion!

8. Chuck Allen because I think EVERYONE should visit his website, especially his A-Z blog because it is, by far, the coolest set up of any A-Z blog I have seen yet. His theme is pretty darn cool too! He also added Austen's collection to his reading list after reading my K is for Kindle post and might take up RAKing after reading about my 29 RAKS for my 29th Birthday on January 29th. I actually have no idea if he fits into the "under 200 followers category" because I couldn't seem to figure that out from his websites, but none-the-less, he deserves some kind of recognition! A lot, in fact.

9. Melanie Schulz because she is doing what she loves and loves what she is doing - writing! Her blog is full of short (as in quick reads), witty anecdotes and you should check them out!

10. Naomi from Naimeless because she is a dear friend of mine, a spectacular writer, and the name of her blog has always captivated me. (Again, no idea how many followers she actually has - darn you wordpress).

11/12. Starr Bryson from The Insomniac's Dream basically because she is doing this: The ABC's of Swearing and I think all of you should sign up! She's taking a stance against blog censorship and hell, let's just toss freedom of speech in there too. You know what, Don't Call Me Marge (the whole reason behind the creation of this new blog challenge) doesn't have enough followers either so I think she deserves a Liebster too!

Alright so that was Step 1.

Step 2 is to ask them each 11 random questions...
1. Coffee or Tea?
2. Cake or Pie?
3. Chocolate or Vanilla?
4. Rom Com or Horror?
5. Pepsi or Coke?
6. Blackberry or iPhone?
7. Salty or Sweet?
8. Star Trek or Star Wars?
9. Classical or Heavy Metal?
10. Poetry or Prose?
11. This one is a two-parter because I kind of nominated 12 people instead of 11. If you could spend the day with any writer, dead or alive, who would it be? What is your favorite work of theirs?

Step 3: list 11 random facts about myself...
1. I've made a hobby out of doing RAKs (Random Acts of Kindness).
2. My mom is my best friend.
3. I am addicted to playing Candy Crush Saga on facebook.
4. I have an anxiety disorder.
5. I absolutely love learning, likely more than pretty much (but not quite) everything.
6. Poor grammar makes my eyes and ears bleed (ok, that one is a lie, but I do hate it).
7. I grew up in a small town of less than 1000 people.
8. I try really hard to, but I really don't like wine.
9. I have never smoked a cigarette in my life.
10. My heart is in Africa.
11. I want to travel to Italy someday.
12. I have slept with...(kidding, I'm not really going to tell you that)!

Step 4: answer my nominator's questions...
1. What was your childhood ambition? Well, I don't really remember all that well, but I found a drawing I did once that was supposed to be of a teacher apparently. I guess that's what I aspired to be.
2. Did you ever wish to have a different name? If, then what's that? Yes, I used to refer to myself as Sheena after watching a film of the same name. (I should watch that film again now that I mention it!) Perhaps I also aspired to be Queen of the Jungle.
3. If you were the most powerful person in the world, what would you do? Two words - world peace.
4. Who's your favorite author? Alice Sebold (bet you thought I was going to say Jane Austen).
5. Sea or mountains? Day or Night? (hey, now, that's two questions) Sea and Day
6. If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be? Wow, I really have no idea. Maybe Stephen Harper so I could have a better understanding of his politics and therefore despise him a little less.
7. What's your most precious childhood memory? For this I'd have to say the fact that my mom never ever said that she was happy when it was back to school time. She always loved having us at home and made sure everyone knew it. I'll cherish that forever!
8. Tell me something you would like to share with me: I am passionate about the plight of refugees and their right to an education. World University Service of Canada and its Student Refugee Program are my life's passion.
9. What three words best describe you? Altruistic, Intelligent, Creative
10. What made you start blogging? Basically, I started because I love writing and I wanted people to read that writing. It also turned into a public place to share my adventures.
11. If you could have three wishes what would they be? Yikes, um...that no one in the world would go hungry, that everyone was able to exercise their human right to an education, that every child in the world was loved unconditionally.

Phew, that was a long one, but so much fun! I hope you'll take the time to visit each of the bloggers I've nominated here as well as Scribblings. Pop on back for a visit with me sometime too!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A-Z Challenge: N is for Northanger Abbey

It's A-Z. Mine's all about my upcoming adventures in grad school a.k.a doing a Master's thesis on Jane Austen. It is finally time for 'N' and my favorite Austen novel, Northanger Abbey.

Let me guess, you've never even heard of Nothanger Abbey? It really wouldn't surprise me. It's the Austen novel that is least talked about and least adapted for television/film. Depending on who you read/believe Northanger Abbey was either the first novel Austen wrote or the fifth. What everyone seems to be in agreement with, however, is the fact that regardless of when she wrote it, it was published posthumously in 1818 along with Persuasion.

So, if it's Austen's least popular novel, why is it my favourite? I can only assume you are asking yourself that so I will provide an answer. First, though, I think a bit of context is in order.

I read all of Austen's novels in order of publication while working on my undergraduate Advanced Topics paper (basically a thesis without a defense) which means Northanger Abbey was fifth in my reading list. The premise for my paper, in laymen terms, was to rip apart the romantic, happily-ever-after love story that many readers see in Austen's novels. My paper argues that Austen was in fact making a mockery of marriage as a social convention especially as it pertains to young women. This mockery is done in a very subtle manner and is therefore easy to miss, but that subtlety is the brilliance that is Jane Austen and also the reason I love her work.

So, back to the reason that Northanger Abbey is my favorite novel. Of all of her novels, Northanger Abbey is the least subtle in terms of the parody it makes of propriety, believing in happily-ever-after, and popular Gothic novel story-lines. Northanger Abbey is hilarious! There are instances where the author as narrator directly speaks to the reader giving her opinion on the value of novels during a time when the novel was given little credit as a literary form.

I think Northanger Abbey gives the reader the closest look into Austen as a person than any of her other published works. For a reader like me that believes Austen was an early feminist, the likes of Mary Wollstonecraft, this novel is really just kind of magical. It also contains the most mystery and suspense of all the Austen novels as well as being set in the most magnificent building of all the novels. I mean, a haunted abbey?! Come on!

I know I really didn't tell you much about the plot or the characters, but just read it. Read Northanger Abbey. I'm 99.99% sure you'll love it!

Monday, April 15, 2013

A-Z Challenge: M is for Mansfield Park

Wow, it's time for 'M' posts already and because 'M' is the 13th letter of the alphabet and there are a total of 26 letters in the alphabet, that means we are half way through A-Z! Good on us! So far, I'm having a blast!

In keeping with my "All Things Grad School" theme, M is for Mansfield Park. I'll be studying Jane Austen for my Master's thesis and Mansfield Park just happens to be Austen's third published novel (1814). Like all of Austen's novels, Mansfield Park centres around a major female character, in this case, Fanny Price. At age ten, Fanny moves from the home of her economically poor parents to be raised by her alternately rich Aunt and Uncle whose home goes by the same name as the novel's title. From the onset, her cousin Edmund is the only member of the family who takes a liking to Fanny and therefore treats her with kindness. Inevitably, Fanny falls in love with Edmund and after a few misguided infatuations with other characters, Edmund realises his love for Fanny as well. All ends happily (so to speak) in Austen's novels.

I won't get into my theory that Austen's novels actually make a mockery of "happy endings" and marriage in particular because I'm sure it would bore you to tears. On the other hand, if you care to read it, leave me a note in the comments and I would be more than willing to email it you.

Mansfield Park is Austen's longest novel and it also, in my opinion, is her most boring novel. When I was reading Austen's collection of complete novels, Mansfield Park was the hardest to get through. Interestingly enough, though, it was my analysis of Mansfield Park that my professor felt was the strongest in my paper. If you've read an Austen novel or even watched a film adaptation, you know that her work is known for its central strong female characters. While Mansfield Park does centre around a female character, Fanny Price just doesn't have the strength and independence embodied by Austen's other leading ladies. Mansfield Park and the dear Fanny Price find their place at the bottom of my Austen novel ranking.

I have yet to watch the 1999 film adaptation of Mansfield Park or the 2007 television adaptation. I have them in my possession, though, and hope to get to them soon. Perhaps the screen versions will hold my attention better.

Have you read or watched Mansfield Park? What did you think?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A-Z Challenge: L is for Lizzie Bennet Diaries

I'm making it just under the wire today for the A-Z Challenge. It's 11:40 p.m. and by the time I actually post this it will be quite close to midnight.

Luckily for me, 

and therefore I am linking you lovely readers to a post that I did on one of my other blogs for a book challenge that I am taking part in. 

All I am going to add is the connection between the LBD and my "All Things Grad School" theme for A-Z. The LBD is a modern adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. I'll be studying Jane Austen in grad school. Connection = made.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A-Z Challenge: K is for Kindle

My 'K' post for A-Z was going to be about kindness, but then I started doing some research into interesting 'X' words and the word I decided to use for X would ultimately result in the same post as a "K is for Kindness" post. Can you guess what my 'X' word is?

Anyway, I decided to go with K is for Kindle and it fits into my "All Things Grad School" theme because the last thing I purchased for my Kindle was the Jane Austen Collection: 18 Works, Pride and Prejudice, Love and Friendship, Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Lady Susan & more! 

The & more refers to: Sense and Sensibility, The Watsons, Sanditon, Lesley Castle, The History of England, Collection of Letters, The Female Philosopher, The First Act of a Comedy, A Letter from a Young Lady, A Tour Through Wales, and A Tale.

Basically, I have an electronic copy of everything in existence that Jane Austen ever wrote. The best part about the whole thing is that I only paid $1.99 CAD for all of it! Crazy, right?!

As an incredibly interesting aside, when I received my Kindle and opened it up this is what it looked like:

I kid you not!

To be honest, I will always prefer hard copy versions of books, but I sure am glad I have a Kindle, especially when I find deals like this! What about you? Do you have a Kindle or some kind of e-reader?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A-Z Challenge: J is for Jane

Day 10 of A-Z and it's time for J. If I didn't use the letter J in my "All Things Grad School" theme to pay homage to the woman who will ultimately get me my MA, I would not be a very worthy student now would I?!. With that said, J is for Jane. The one. The only. Jane Austen.

You see, I have proposed to complete a master's thesis entitled, Jane Austen: why we still love her two hundred years later. I've already spent one year studying Jane's work in order to write my undergraduate advanced topics paper: Jane Austen on the Social Convention of Marriage. I've dedicated my studies to Jane. She holds my academic future between the lines of her novels.

Jane was a literary genius. For a woman in the early 19th century, publishing written work was quite unheard of and because of that, Jane received no fame and little recognition as an author. She published four novels while she was alive. Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1816). Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were both published posthumously in 1818. There is a lot more of her work in existence, but I will spare you the lengthy list.

It was not until 1869 when her nephew published A Memoir of Jane Austen that Jane started to be recognised publicly. It wasn't until the 1940s that she was recognised in academia as a great English writer. In the second half of the 20th century Jane became so popular that an entire Janeite culture emerged.

I may not be quite as fanatical as the Janeites, but I am definitely a Jane fan. Are you? Have you read any of her novels? Which is your favorite? If you haven't read any of her works have you seen the film adaptations - Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly? Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow? Bridget Jones' Diary (based on P&P)? Clueless (based on Emma)?

Or, perhaps, there is an author that you love as much as I love Jane?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A-Z Challenge: I is for Intellect

I actually didn't have an 'I' word for A-Z until yesterday as I walked to my car after work. My theme is "All Things Grad School" and as I ran through 'I' words in my head 'intellect' seemed like a fitting choice when it popped into mind.

To get into graduate school one requires a first class baccalaureate honours degree. Typically, first class means a grade point average (g.p.a.) of at least 3.70 (out of 4.30). My g.p.a. is 3.89 which is a whole lot of intellect if you ask me!

At my undergraduate institution degrees are classified in three categories according to intellect. Students can graduate with Distinction if they have a g.p.a. of 3.70 or better, with Great Distinction if they have a g.p.a of 3.80 or better, and with Greatest Distinction if they have a g.p.a of 3.90 or better.  Everyone reading this will have enough intellect to determine that I missed having "with Greatest Distinction" on my degree by 0.01. I know I shouldn't be disappointed. I am "great" after all, but 0.01?!, come on!

I tried to bribe the Office Assistant in the Senate Office (she's the one who prints all of the degrees) to increase my g.p.a., but she has another 'I' word going for her...integrity...so she wouldn't. I was not impressed (look at all these 'I' words, I'm suddenly coming up with).

As I work through the 20 months it will take me to complete my Master of Arts in English my capacity for intellect will only increase (and that, ladies and gents, was one more 'I' word!)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A-Z Challenge: H is for Hill

Day 8 of A-Z is brought to you by the letter 'H'.

For me and my "All Things Grad School" theme, H is for Hill, more specifically the one massive hill that the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Fredericton, New Brunswick (where I will be spending 20 months come September working on my MA) is right smack dab in the middle of. The picture below is a panoramic view of the campus.

The area of the city where the campuses of UNB and St. Thomas University are located is actually referred to as "The Hill".

While I haven't been to Fredericton yet, the way I understand the city's basic layout is as follows:

  • The bottom of The Hill hosts Fredericton's downtown core, home to all of the lovely features I mentioned in F is for Fredericton, art galleries, museums, theatres (for plays, not films), the legislative buildings, and much more. I anticipate spending a lot of time at the bottom of The Hill.
  • The top of The Hill hosts Fredericton's uptown, home to shopping malls and numerous other big box retail outlets. I doubt I will spend much time at the top of The Hill.
Close to Fredericton's downtown is Odell Park which borders the Fredericton Botanic Gardens. The hilly geography of the park makes it ideal for hiking, jogging, and cross-country skiing. Despite the fact that I will realistically be spending nearly all of my time inside buried under metaphorical hills of books, I do plan to get outside and enjoy the real thing from time to time. 

A lot of UNB Fredericton's majestic beauty is attributed to it's location on The Hill and I can't wait to call The Hill, home.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A-Z Challenge: G is for Giddy

Week 2 of A-Z, let's do this! Originally, G was going to be for Georgiana Darcy; you know the younger and only sibling of William Darcy...Pride and Prejudice...Jane Austen...my grad school thesis. It's all quite fitting for my theme "All Things Grad School," but I decided at the last minute (this morning) to change it to Giddy. Now that I think about it, the opportune word for G would have been Graduate as in graduate school, but I digress...

Google defines Giddy as: feeling excited to the point of disorientation.

Urban Dictionary defines Giddy as: feeling extremely excited as if you just saw a rock star, crush, celebrity, that made you seem speechless or incompetent of acting normal...

...or, in my case, feeling extremely excited as if I got accepted to graduate school with $30,000 in funding for the twenty-month program. Yep, giddy! If I had not been in my office at work when I read the acceptance email and funding offer, I would have jumped up and down and hooted and hollered as loud as I could. (I think that behaviour would have fit into the "incompetent of acting normal" category.) I did, however, post this Sugarcult song to my facebook feed to express how I felt.

Of course, I'm little bit nervous about leaving behind my comfy little life and taking on this colossal challenge, but I am way more excited giddy than nervous!

I am giddy because I am moving to a whole new city in a region of Canada that I have never even visited, flown over, yes, actually set foot in, no. I am giddy because every time I talk to someone who has been to Fredericton, they tell me that I am going to love it there.

I am giddy because for the first time in 10 years, I will be dedicating myself 100% to my studies. I did my entire undergraduate degree as a part-time student while working full-time. In those seven years, I yearned so many times to just be able to dedicate my time and brain power to school. I am giddy because in less than 150 days (148 to be exact - a little update to my C is for Countdown post) I will be doing exactly that, spending all of my time in libraries and coffee shops, reading, listening to classical music, writing, immersing myself in academia.

When have you felt excited to the point of disorientation a.k.a giddy?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A-Z Challenge: F is for Fredericton

Well, it's the end of the first week of A-Z, ladies and gentlemen and today, F is for Fredericton. In keeping with my chosen theme of "All Things Grad School," I'm going to tell you just a few fun facts (three f-words in a row - bam!) about Fredericton, the city that I will be living in for the twenty months it will take me to complete my Master's.

Fredericton is the capital city of New Brunswick, Canada. It's population is just under 57,000, slightly larger than the city I am moving from (Brandon, Manitoba).

Fredericton has been referred to as the Poets' Corner of Canada and if that fact isn't exciting to an English major like me, I don't know what is!

Fredericton is known for its Indie Rock scene (which really excites me because it's my favorite genre of music). In fact, the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival takes place in Fredericton from September 10-15, 2013. I'll be living there by then - pumped!

Other things in Fredericton that I look forward to:

  • Beaverbrook Art Gallery (they have Salvador Dali paintings!)
  • Playhouse (the main venue for Theatre New Brunswick - singing and dancing and acting, o my!)
  • National Historic Sites (there are twelve of them!)
  • Seafood (as in like real, fresh, East Coast of Canada seafood - yum!)

I really can't wait to explore the art, culture, and history of this city. Fredericton is going to be all kinds of fantastic fun! 

Friday, April 5, 2013

A-Z Challenge: E is for Emma

Day 5 of A-Z means we are just shy of being 1/5 of the way done. Yesterday I wrote about Downton Abbey, connecting it to my "All Things Grad School" Theme by showing you wonderful readers how the television series is similar to Jane Austen's (that's who I will be doing my grad school Master's thesis on) novel, Pride and Prejudice. It was a little bit of a stretch, but watching all three seasons of Downton Abbey got me even more excited to start my Master's so I figure it's completely relevant to my theme.

Today I'm going to discuss something a little more directly related to my upcoming studies. Austen's novel, Emma, was originally published in 1815 making it her fourth published novel. The most recent television adaptation was produced and aired by the BBC in 2009. The version that most people are likely aware of is the 1996 film starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma.

I don't want this post to get too extensive so I'll just say that Emma, like all of Austen's novels tells the story of a strong female character, in this case Emma Woodhouse. In brief, the novel showcases Emma's meddling as a matchmaker for her friends and has her inevitably fall in love with a man who has been a close friend of hers for the extent of her life, Mr. Knightly.

If I was ranking Emma among Austen's novels, I'd have to say place it in third, after top ranked Northanger Abbey and second place Sense and Sensibility, and followed by Pride and; Prejudice, Persuasion, and then Mansfield Park. If I was ranking Emma Woodhouse among Austen's leading female characters, I'd place her in second, after my (and most people's) favourite, Elizabeth Bennet.

People who read Emma tend to either love or hate the novel's title character. Have you read Emma? Did you love or hate Emma Woodhouse?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A-Z: D is for Downton Abbey

So far in the A-Z Challenge I've talked about Applications, being Broke, and my Countdown. These three posts have been directly related to the upcoming start of my Master's degree in September. Today's post will be a little bit different.

First, I'll provide a little bit of context as to why Downton Abbey is related to my A-Z "All Things Grad School" Theme. I'll be doing my thesis on Jane Austen (to be extremely vague). Austen's novels are all about British aristocracy and although her novels and Downton Abbey are set approximately a century apart, the aristocracy, namely related to gender dynamics, that both encompass is relatively the same.

Downton Abbey has two major plot lines that intersect with each other. One plot centres on the lives of the Crawley family, the other plot, on their servants. Lord Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, his wife, Lady Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, and their three daughters, Lady Mary, Lady Edith, and Lady Sybil live in Downton Abbey in the county of Grantham. The Crawley family employs valets, footmen, ladies' maids, a cook, and many other servants each with their own developed story within the context of the the show. Season 1 occurs pre-World War I with Seasons 2 and 3 set post-war.

The major theme occurring throughout Downton Abbey is the necessary plight to find suitable marriages for the three Crawley daughters. As they have no son, there is also the pertinent issue of whom Downton Abbey and its associated wealth will be inherited by. Sound familiar? If you've read or watched Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, Downton Abbey's plot should ring similar.

Pride & Prejudice: 5 daughters, no son a.k.a. no male heir
Downton Abbey: 3 daughters, no son a.k.a. no male heir

Pride & Prejudice: a mother whose goal it is to marry her daughters off and marry them off well
Downton Abbey: a mother whose goal it is to marry her daughter off and marry them off well

To add a little more similarity, I will talk briefly about the distant cousin in both plots who is established as heir and meant to marry one of the daughters in each case. In Pride & Prejudice, the distant cousin is Mr. William Collins. In Downton Abbey, the distant cousin is Matthew Crawley. Both are initially disliked by the families with which they are associated, but as the plot of Downtown Abbey progresses, Matthew comes to be accepted and very much welcomed by the Crawley family. William, however, never really fits in with the Bennett family of Pride & Prejudice.

I've heard critics say that Downton Abbey is little more than a trashy soap opera set in early 20th Century England, but I think it's brilliant. The intertwining plots, the character development, the beautiful sets, it all has be completely hooked. I watched all three existing seasons of Downton Abbey back-to-back and was incredibly disappointed to learn that Season 4 doesn't start until December 2013. What does make me happy, though, is that there is going to be a fourth season!

Have you watched Downton Abbey? Are you a fan? Read/watched Pride & Prejudice? Fan?