How I Survived Studying in Lockdown – and You Can Too

Digital drawing of person studying and stressed

│By Emily Priest, Digital Marketing MA student at the University of Portsmouth│

Deadlines. They are hard enough to deal with – the stress, the never ending reading lists, the work that keeps piling up, the ominously unfinished dissertation – but what happens when you add a pandemic into the mix? Panic and pandemonium. It was a seemingly impossible challenge yet, somehow, I managed to embrace the unique insanity of it all and make it out in one piece.

When lockdown hit in March 2020, lectures were cancelled and the library shut, but university work was still expected on time and many students were thrown into a panic. I was one of those students and although I didn’t have a final year dissertation to hand in, I still had valuable assignments that would make or break my final MA grade. How was I going to cope? At this time, little was on Moodle (the online learning platform used at Portsmouth) in terms of teaching materials so, like a lot of students, I felt more than a little stranded.

But I was determined not to let the situation beat me.

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‘Little Sure Shot of the Wild West’ – The Life and Legacy of Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley takes a shot in front of a crowd.

│By Eloise Sinclair, Gale Ambassador at Durham University│

In July 1889, Mr. Russell Harrison, the son of US President Benjamin Harrison, visited Buffalo Bill’s Wild West encampment. He was welcomed with a spectacular breakfast of “clam chowder, baked beans with a flavor of savory pork, corn bread, custard pie and ice cream”. After which, he was taken for “a ride in the famous Deadwood Coach,” and gifted with a 5-cent piece. This was no ordinary 5-cent coin – a hole had been pierced through its centre by one of Annie Oakley’s bullets. I first learned about the celebrated sharpshooter Annie Oakley and the role she played in providing the West with an identity during a trip to the National Cowgirl Museum in Texas, a visit which left me eager to learn more. By using Gale Reference Complete, a package of digital resources available at Durham, I was able to explore a range of documents detailing her life and legacy.

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Soviet agricultural experiments, hibernation, the bomb, and other curious facts behind Science Fiction stories

By Anna Sikora, Gale Ambassador at NUI Galway
Anna Sikora is a tutor, part-time teacher, and final year PhD student in the Discipline of English, National University of Galway, Ireland. She is examining the works of John Wyndham, author of over 60 short stories and 12 novels, including the famous The Day of The Triffids (1951) and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957). Anna is interested to see when and why science fiction authors began to show an awareness of environmental issues, and how this was demonstrated in their work. She is adopting some of the concepts of environmental criticism (ecocriticism) to ask how environmental concerns are articulated in fiction, and whether literature can, and should, influence our daily environmental choices or the ways in which we interact with the environment.

The Science Fiction American-Canadian author Judith Merril (1923–1997) wrote her short story “That Only a Mother” (1948) about widespread infantile mutations after reading an article dispelling the rumours of infanticide in Japan after the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings. Later, in an interview, Merril recalls how this short newspaper piece caused her mind to race, and her initial reaction was “Oh my God. […] There are mutations by the millions and people are killing the babies” (What If? A Film about Judith Merril). Merril’s reaction is fascinating as it shows how authors transform everyday reality into literary fiction, and not necessarily just science fiction. The double lesson we immediately draw (or at least should draw!) here as students, critics, tutors and lecturers of literature is this: yes, literary stories are often inspired by real events or people; and no, literary text are not historical documents.

Read moreSoviet agricultural experiments, hibernation, the bomb, and other curious facts behind Science Fiction stories