When journeying to Leicester on Monday morning, I was somewhat daunted by the prospect of the future week, a week where I would be experiencing the working life of the research associates on the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh project here at the Univeristy. It was a relief, therefore, to be greeted at 9:15 by Barbara Cooke in front of the impressive David Wilson Library (a building I would later come to refer to as my ‘home’ for the week, as well as an establishment holding a wide rangeing stash of books on the subjects of feminist theory to the politics of inequality in Russia). Barbara had very kindly and willingly – though perhaps unwisely – agreed to show me the workings of her role at the university over the coming five days.
Having already browsed the blog and muddled my way through a few of Waugh’s works, I felt somewhat prepared for the week’s ventures which began with a more detailed discussion on the project, as well as an overview to the tasks I would be undertaking.
The day consisted of various introductions and meetings, including one discussing the impending week and what it was like studying English at the Univeristy of Leicester, and one concerning the International Evelyn Waugh Confrence held next April, which handed me a real insight into the organisation of events, especially on such a large scale. This also allowed a discussion on the process of editing novels and texts, a subject which was completely new to me, and from the conversation I gained a greater understanding of the editorial world.
I had the oppotunity to further some research into the confrence by responding to several abstract papers – a 250 word summary of a proposed paper – which allowed an awareness of the variety of papers which would be discussed, as well as how broadly international the conference was, with essays submitted from America, Canada, Spain and Japan to name a few. The essays also ranged extensively on subject matter, with some discussing film adaptions and others discussing paticular themes, such as the portrayal and importance of manners in Waugh’s work. The experience was further enhanced by being refered to as ‘Dr Caldwell’, an event which has reinforced my potential goal of further academic study, if only for the title.
Time was also spent over the course of the week updating the online bibliography of Evelyn Waugh (currently only available to project editors, but this should change), sourcing and linking some of the numerous articles he wrote for The Tablet, a weekly Catholic magazine dating back to the 1840s, as well as The Spectator. With over one thoasand articles to locate, the enormity of the project became much more apparent, as did the variety of subjects the author wrote about.
As well as updating the bibliography, I also aided the completion of the archive of the online newsletter, found here. On the site, all of the editions of the Evelyn Waugh newsletter can be found in accessable PDF form, with details on the contributers, contents and publication date.
Not all of a research associate’s time is spent on the large project, so I learnt; a significant segment is dedicated to individual, personal research. On several occasions, therefore, I wandered into the university’s extensive library and explored the third-floor-orange-zone for literary criticisms on Shakespeare and Ford, two playwrights I will be studying in September. There, I found a whole host of books and essays on Othello which I am convinced will prove to be very useful in the autunm. The extensive online resources were convient too, and I struggled to find a text which wasn’t anywhere in the building (whether that be virtually or physically).
I also enjoyed a campus tour of the university, where I was shown buildings such as the student union and gym, though how often I would attend the latter of the two establishments is debatable. During lunchbreaks, I explored both the campus and Queens Road, frequenting many of the bakeries and cafes.Thankfully, the weather was more than pleasant on most days, so I was able roam also the expansive Victoria Park; war memorials, rugby posts and all.
The entire experience was a tremendous learning curve for me, and I feel that I have gained significantly from it. The sheer scale of the project is enormous, with academics from across the globe uniting to create many exciting resources and new editions of Waugh’s work.
I would like to thank eveyone at the university who made me feel so welcome, though especially Barbara, who managed to put up with Barbara throughout the week. Furthermore, I urge anyone who hasn’t observed the project’s new resources to do so; they are both extensive and incredibly interesting – resources, I feel, which would be profoundly useful to anyone with even the slightest interest in Waugh.