Archive for the ‘works in progress’ Category

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A Brief Update

29 July 2011

I haven’t abandoned this blog, though various other commitments have prevented me from writing more in-depth reviews of the books I have been reading. However, I’ve dusted things off long enough to tidy up my Publications list, which should now be fully updated with all of my current and forthcoming publications.

I hope to have more pertinent content soon. No firm promises on what sort of content it will be or when it will appear, but I do have quite a few books in the queue!

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Conferences: Fiction and British Politics

4 November 2009

Though I’m heading off to the Berlin Wall conference this weekend, I already have one eye on another conference I’m slated to present at in mid-December. The University of Nottingham’s Centre for British Politics is hosting a one-day conference on fiction and British politics, and rather predictably I’m giving a paper on Yes, Minister. (For the curious, here’s the official conference flyer.)

Since my article on the impact and influence of Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister went to press before I found out about this conference, I decided to look through the rest of my research on the series to see if there was another aspect of fiction and British politics that captured my interest. And then I recalled that my earliest interest in researching the series had been sparked when I read that on 9 January 1986, when Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine walked out of Cabinet over the furore known as the Westland Affair, Margaret Thatcher spent that evening watching the first episode of Yes, Prime Minister. That juxtaposition of political fiction and political reality ended up becoming the basis for my planned paper: ‘Yes, Prime Minister and the Westland Affair: A Tale of Two Resignations’.

As it’s a one-day conference, I’m sure the whole thing will be a bit of a whirlwind. (I do wish it was longer; there’s certainly enough material on fiction and British politics to fill up several days’ worth of panels and papers and plenary lectures.) All the same, I’m greatly looking forward to it — the scheduled conference papers sound fascinating, as do the invited guest speakers. Two conferences in two months is daunting, but I wouldn’t miss either of them for the world.

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Conferences: The Berlin Wall and Master Keaton‘s Germany

28 October 2009

In a few weeks, I’m slated to attend and present at the “‘November 9, 1989’—The Fall of the Berlin Wall, Twenty Years After” conference at the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio. [Edited: Since the conference link has expired, here is a suitable news piece on the conference.]

My paper addresses one of the conference themes of how artists, writers, directors, architects, musicians, and performers have captured the contradictions and conflicts of the post-Wall and post-Cold War period in realistic forms. The work I selected is a Japanese manga and anime series called Master Keaton. (The Wikipedia entry on the series is not the most extensive source of information, but it provides a good English-language introduction.) ‘Exploring Master Keaton‘s Germany: A Japanese Perspective on the End of the Cold War’ will look at how the Master Keaton manga and anime series present post-Cold War Germany as a struggle to redefine both personal and national identities, complete with echoes of Japan’s own struggle to redefine its national identity in the wake of World War II.

One of the more challenging (or aggravating, from the researcher’s perspective) aspects of scholarly writing about Japanese animation is that most of the existing research tends to be written by fans who find it difficult to write like academics or by academics who have very little understanding of the social or cultural nuances of anime fandom. It’s only in the past few years, possibly as late as 2005 or 2006, where fannish academics started to push anime and manga as genres worthy of serious study. Many academics tend to be far too caught up in justifying their focus on the medium instead of actually addressing their chosen topic. In an effort to prove that they’re not just writing about ‘porn or Pokémon’, they’ll clutter up their research with literary criticism jargon to make their conclusions sound more impressive (when they could have been phrased far more simply and effectively), or completely isolate the source text from Japanese culture and attempt to interpret it through a Western perspective to make it more accessible to Western readers. (At the risk of singling out one particular academic for criticism, Susan Napier’s writings about anime tend to exhibit both of these flaws to a greater or lesser degree.) But there are some well-written papers on the genre, including Matthew Penney’s 2005 article on the influences of military Germany on Japanese pop culture, so I hope that my own research will make a decent contribution that might be publishable at some point.

Regardless, it’s a little intimidating to contemplate. I’m trying to pull together a discipline I understand (general Cold War studies) with a series I thoroughly enjoy (Master Keaton), supplemented by research in areas where I’m much less grounded (postwar Japanese sociology), and presenting it to an audience that may not be at all familiar with the genre. A fun challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.

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ADMIN: Diaries and Memoirs Collection Page

11 June 2009

In an effort to keep myself organised, I’ve added a new page to this blog that contains information on my collection of British political diaries and memoirs. Most of them, clearly, are from elected politicians, but I also have an interest in writings by civil servants or diplomatic officials.

I’ve been building this collection for the past few years, trying to acquire good condition volumes and the occasional signed or first edition copy. Like most collections, it’s very much a work in progress. I do have limits on how much I am willing to spend on individual acquisitions — recently, I passed up an absolutely beautiful signed first edition of Jim Callaghan’s Time and Chance because the price was a little too dear. With a little luck and persistence, though, I hope to build a fine little library in which I can take pride.

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Publications: ‘Downing Street’s Favourite Soap Opera’

4 June 2009

One of the things that’s been keeping me occupied of late has been the publication process for an article that is in press with Contemporary British History. ‘Downing Street’s Favourite Soap Opera: Evaluating the Impact and Influence of Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister‘ was born out of my (perhaps excessive) love for that particular 1980s satirical sitcom, and I’m beyond thrilled that it’ll be in print in the September 2009 issue of CBH.

I’ve sent in the appropriate copyright forms and am waiting for the page proofs, which should be ready in about a fortnight. I’m used to editing the page proofs of other people’s articles (I do it for a living, after all), but marking up my own will be an interesting challenge. I may ask a co-worker to skim through it just in case I’ve missed something in my zillionth read-through.

Of course, this whole process has reminded me of two other papers that are sitting on my hard-drive, silently nagging me to stop ignoring them and polish them up enough to submit elsewhere. One needs a more in-depth literature review; one needs to be ripped to shreds and pieced back together in a better and more logical format. But that’s a post for another time.

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ADMIN: Publications Page Now Available

19 July 2008

A short administration post, just to mention that I’m in the process of compiling a list of publications as a separate page on To Bed With a Trollope. I’ve marked ones that are forthcoming and provided appropriate links to those already in print — some of which may require separate subscription access, particularly for journal articles and the like.

More book reviews will be coming this weekend and next week!

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ADMIN: A Bit of Spring Cleaning

24 April 2008

I’ve been doing some tweaking of site pages lately, and in the process I inadvertently stripped the About This Site and Current Reading List pages out of the sidebar. They’ve been restored, and a new page has been added — Research Notes, which will feature bits and pieces of files that I am currently using for my research projects. Most of these files will be password-protected, but if you leave a comment and ask for the password I’ll generally be more than willing to provide it by e-mail.

I haven’t done much in the way of updating lately, but now that a few of my current projects are starting to pick up speed, I ought to have a few more things to post about very soon. Many thanks to those who’ve come across my blog and started reading — I intend to build up momentum again in the very near future!