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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Postgraduate Diary: Return of the Natives

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The yellow AA signs are out, and girls in short skirts wander up and down the streets handing out flyers for the hottest bars in town. A strange cuddly kangaroo waits outside the union, ready to pounce with a hug on anyone younger than 25. Dads sweat at the steering wheels of their cars, whilst their children struggle with downloaded maps. In their orange/blue/green/purple t-shirts, freshers' helpers fall over each other in their desire to help point the way.

Yes, it's that time of year again. A university town, especially when it has a relatively high proportion of students as mine has, is ghostly quiet during the summer. For these three months, it is possible to get seats in the cinema, to go out without feeling surrounded by people who are (surely?) to young to be in the nightclubs, to go shopping without lines of girls stretching across the street, woven together into an unbreakable arm-in-arm chain. And so I can't help but feel slightly resentful that 10,000 people will march in this weekend, like some colonial horde arrogantly reclaiming land that is not natively theirs.

But then again, with the invaders comes a current of happiness that is maintained in a high buzz of voices throughout the year, even during the permanent dullness of winter, dipping perhaps only just before exams. I live in a village three miles out of town, so I escape to the countryside each night, when the buzz spills over into drunkenness. But even if I lived in the town, I expect I could cope with the odd stray traffic cone, a small, if irritating, piece of evidence of the high spirits students bring with them, along with their bootloads of scrappy posters and laptops. Speaking to a policeman the other day, he admitted that they have far more serious trouble - fights, drugs - in the holiday periods when the locals have free reign, than when the students, noisy but usually good-natured, are around.

And, after all, I was a real (i.e. lazy) student once, as opposed to a postgraduate working 9 to 5. We were having a general reminisce the other day about the period which threatens to remain, in spite of the weddings and kids and the steady money of good jobs to come, the "best days of our lives." Rather worryingly, we realised that when we started university, this year's new students were probably only twelve, barely out of primary school. In spite of this horrifying age gap, I still hope to be able to pull off the old trick when I start teaching again this term. As my students line up nervously along the wall outside the seminar room, I try and join in the banter: yes, I did get most horribly drunk last night; no, I haven't read all the books on the reading list sent during the holidays...The look on their faces when I sit down, open my files, and take the register is a memory that will remain with me throughout the year, a welcome score on my part to remember when, later, I am parrying emails trying to persuade me that, really sorry, the essay has not yet been finished because they really have been laid in bed all week with a cold, and not leaning all week at the bar...


Posted by Alistair at 4:39 pm


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The students came back to my town at the start of September; I know exactly how you feel. My daily 5 minute, 3 mile (5K) trip to the Metro – wonderful for the three summer months – has turned back to the 20 minute nightmare as I fight for space on the road with the 30,000 students.

My experiences in the halls at my night classes have been exactly the opposite of yours. I am much older than most of the students and it is quite possible that they think I am the professor when they see me before classes begin!

3:52 am  

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