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  • Shanley McConnell

Life Update: University Courses, Graduation & Continued Study.

They said the forecast was sunshine; bright & solemn. But it is grey outside, and far more beautiful than the burn of something so bold. This weather is less sad than sunshine. The light, less harsh, and the sky, resting & awake. It is Marianelli. A piano theme for the cello & typist.

I have tried to write this Life Update again and again. Sometimes I wonder why it is so difficult to find the words; I hold the power of them in unclenched fists and open palms. They are a speech----a song, steady and strong, and silence-----silence is the space all around. And I want to give them to you-----to me. To look back on an April in 2018, and remember what it was like before. Before plans & promises came to me in return tickets & exchange trains. Before the second drafts & scripts were the written films of late nights & lengthening drives. Before work was the wonder of a new building built with brass and dark wood. Before rejections were the entrance of an old elevator, and the exit to an empty garage where a ladder and a box of burnt-out bulbs waited for an unknown repurpose.


But I have tried again, and here is a little update about the academic side of my life.

University Courses From Final Semester


My dissertation is nearly complete. I will hold the whole of it in my arms. Carry the weight of all my thoughts up three flights of steps to the office at the back of an old building. To give away, and pray that someone finds something true underneath all its format, font and structure.

I'll tell you a bit about it if you'd like?

It researches the value of child narration in adult fiction literature. More specifically, it examine the way an author employs a young protagonist to be his or her simplified and seemingly nonjudgemental voice in order to criticise both racism and ethnic prejudice.


If you're interested in reading a few of the novels analysed in the dissertation, here's a list below:

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Dai Sijie
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

I've recently completed a course called Scottish & Irish Literature, and it was brilliant. I loved the diversity of the texts, and George MacDonald's "The Day Boy and Night Girl" was one of the sweetest, short fairytales I've ever written on. The most recent essay submitted for the course allowed me to explore a thesis/topic of my own choosing; the work in my dissertation supported this despite the diversity of these texts. It examined the way Victorian Era Literature fused romantic ideals with realistic concerns. Drawing upon the scholarly research of Marah Gubar, the essay examined the way MacDonald's fairytale centred its narrative on two children. By characterising its eponymous "Day Boy" and designative "Night Girl" as "complex, highly socialised individuals," who, like adults, not only struggled with thorny issues of pressing contemporary relevance, but also questioned the agency one could have as "an acculturate subject," MacDonald was able to address contemporary, societal problems in a strategic, non-judgemental way. If you're keen to have a read of the short story, you can find it online in a PDF file. I'd be happy to find it for you.


Graduation


I've worn a cap & gown once before. In high-school. Actually, it was after high-school. See, I'd moved across the world before in my penultimate year of high-school to be placed in a second-year university program. So it was really somewhere in the middle of the ocean, between Rome & Paris, that the champagne-glass clinked and we cheersed the childhood years.

This graduation is a ceremony for three years here in Dundee. It is a celebration of choices. The ones my family has made, the ones I now choose to make. This graduation brings together my family; three generations of us gathering to remember years and a life-time of loves and legacy. After graduation, I will continue studying creativity & writing. In November, I sealed a secret in envelope and tape, sent it south, and waited. In February, I received an email inviting me to an interview for the MSt Creative Writing Program at Oxford University, and a few weeks later, a road-trip was planned; my dear mother & I driving towards a 'maybe.' We have become good at that, I think.

This degree-----these three years-----had prepared me for this, and still, I found myself speechless at times. I remember the interview well, and yet, it was a blur of questions and chaos as I tried to recall every little thing I loved about the literary world. The interviewees were so lovely; their passion for the program evident.

To be honest, I remember when those glass doors closed. When the cold morning, and the nerves wore away. When adhrenaline decides to relax, I think, it is only inevitable that one does the opposite. I left, and my big, blue eyes watered away the mirror just above high-tea at Browns. I think sometimes it is okay to cry. To feel overwhelmed. To inhale and exhale, relief and stress. We have all faced the maybe, the possible, the risk. We are friends with why-nots and what-ifs. We open our hearts and hands to wonderful things, and we wait. In the waiting, I think it is okay to feel all our wondering.

About a month ago, I received an acceptance letter in the mail. I cannot express how honoured by this opportunity, and I promise, I'll do my best to make each one of you proud. To write & read wonderful things. To share them with you.

And that's all I really know for sure. There is still a lot of uncertainty. Because the program is commutable and part-time, I'm not quite sure where I will live next. A job will determine where I decide to settle for the next year or so, and I've written CV after Cover Letter after Application form. I'm sure many of you share, or have shared, in this process before.

Thank you, thank you, my friends, for all for your support. Now you're all caught up on my University & Graduating Plans! Please don't hesitate to message or contact me me if there's anything I can do to come alongside you as you continue to pursue 'maybes' and inspiration.


With all love,

Shan

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