Writer’s Block #33

Take a break from your studies and start your summer holidays early by diving into the last Writer’s Block of this academic year! The short stories, interviews and poems are ready to be read and enjoyed. Click on the cover below, and take a look inside!

We’re always looking for new submissions for our next issues. So send your work to us at submissions@writersblockmagazine.com!

Continue reading “Writer’s Block #33”

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Writer’s Block #26

We are so, so excited to present to you the first Writer’s Block of this academic year: Writer’s Block #26. This issue is all about revolution, something that has been very prominent at the UvA this year, with lots of submissions from our own editorial board as our own little rebellion! So sit back, grab your beverage of choice, and enjoy! Click the cover to see an online version of WB #26.

And don’t forget, we’re still looking for submissions for the next issue! So go, go, go, and send your work to us at submissions@writersblockmagazine.com!

Continue reading “Writer’s Block #26”

Writer’s Block #25

With great pride (and a tinge of sadness) we bring to you our final Writer’s Block issue for this academic year: Writer’s Block #25. And of course, being an anniversary issue, it features a lot of cake. So go ahead, dive on in! Free cake guaranteed!*

Click here for the online version of WB #25.

As always, we’re still looking for submissions for the next issue! So go, go, go, and send your work to us at submissions@writersblockmagazine.com!

*Free cake not actually guaranteed.

Writer’s Block #24

The time is come at last: Writer’s Block #24 is here! It’s been available at several UvA locations for a little while now, and we’re happy to present you with a digital version here as well – you can find it in the link below.

We hope you enjoy it and you are encouraged to send in some work of your own! Writer’s Block is always looking for new pieces of writing, because without submissions there is no WB. We hope to read some of your writings soon!

Click here for the online version of WB #24.

It’s The Hard Knock Life

The biggest obstacle for me in my hopefully-soon-to-be-finished BA trajectory has been the course “Wetenschapsfilosofie”. Twice. After having done two of its exams in the first exam week, I am once again feeling the anticipating fear and despair in my gut of having to wait for the results and getting to know whether or not I will have to delay graduation for another year. Now I’m not exactly a straight-A-student to begin with, but this is just one of those courses that is aimed at making you fail.
There are several reasons why I feel that the course is set-up in an illogical manner, and is meant to give you a hard time, rather than actually allowing you to learn what it teaches. I would firstly like to explain the structure of the course for those who have not yet had the pleasure of taking it: Philosophy of Science is divided into two parts: a general part and a part that is specific to your actual course, like English in my case. The general part is taught in Dutch (more on this will follow) and the English part is sub-divided into two modules: Linguistics and Literature. The general part lasts 16 weeks and the Linguistics and Literature modules each last 8 weeks and they follow each other up respectively. Like so:

linguistics

It seems to be constructed in a fair way, but in practice this structure simply does not work very well. Both the general part and the English part (in specific the Linguistics module for me) require a great deal of hard work, attention and effort in order to keep up with the material and getting good grades. If you’re someone like me, who has to also take an elective, work at a part-time job, have personal projects and a half-assed social life as a result, you will find that Wetenschapsfilosofie is too much in too little time. For the general part, you’re force-fed an average of 30 pages per week on complex topics in an academic language that you’re not used to (Dutch), while simultaneously having to put at least as much effort in the English part, for which you must have a 5,5 for each module – no compensation allowed. Luckily, the general Dutch part can be compensated by the English one, but for a non-straight-A-student, this is Mission: Impossible, meaning that it all works out in the end, but you have to work your butt off astronomically.
As I mentioned before, I take issue with the general part of this course being taught in Dutch. It does not make sense in any way to have a course that is taught to all studies in the Humanities department in a non-international language. Yes, part of my reasoning is because I want to be taught in English, a language I’m used to, but I have heard from more than one international student that it is very difficult to follow this course in a language that they don’t know very well (gee whiz, why would that be?). I find it odd that such an essential part of a course, content-wise and audience-wise, is not taught in a language that is understandable for everyone. Because not only does this affect the grades of international students badly, but those of others as well – there are more studies that are predominantly taught in academic English and not in academic Dutch. I just hope for future Wetenschapsfilosofie students that someone somewhere who is in charge of changing this course will make some effort into improving this issue. Mostly because it is so easy to improve: change the Dutch material into an English equivalent. I’m sure there are plenty of study books that are just as good, if not better than the Leezenberg & de Vries book.

I would only like to conclude that I genuinely enjoy the material taught in Wetenschapsfilosofie – yes, even the linguistics module, terrible though I am at it -, but the course is made in such a way that unfortunately I’m not really allowed to savor the knowledge I’m ramming down my brainpan at lightning speed with the delicacy of a raging rhinoceros.

 

Ines

On Authors In Focus 1

“Authors in Focus 1” is a six-credit course on Oscar Wilde’s novel, plays, short stories, and mostly his mysterious personal life. Last week, the main reading was a selection of Wilde’s short stories. In class, whilst we were fervently discussing and analyzing the reasoning behind the choices made in the stories and how these choices may have been a reflection of Oscar Wilde’s personal life, I felt how the classmate sitting next to me grew more and more frustrated. At a certain point–I believe it was when The Selfish Giant was dubbed a pedophile and this was connected to the possible homoerotic encounters Wilde had with young men–my classmate held up his hand and asked something along the lines of “What if we’re reading too much into it?”

I’ve asked myself this question many times. As most of us English students (or any students of literature) have experienced, it happens on occasion that we will have to analyze or deconstruct a work that is close to us. A piece of writing that we feel ought to be taken for what it is, because it meant something to us at a specific time in our lives. Or maybe because we enjoy it so fully that taking apart and observing the reasons behind the enjoyment seems unnatural. I am surely not the only one who has refrained herself from picking her favorite Victorian novel for that final paper, just because I didn’t want to stop loving it.

This is not to suggest that analyzing narratives is a bad thing–otherwise I wouldn’t have studied English. No, to me, taking stories apart and uncovering as many elements as you can is definitely one of the most enjoyable activities of the Engelse Taal & Cultuur studies. In fact, there are many books that I have reread in which I read more, understand more and appreciate more. If it weren’t for Rudolph Glitz’s first few classes of the course then called “Literature in Theory”, I would probably have given my copy of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw away after writing my very first essay on it. Now, it’s proudly standing amongst Stranger in a Strange Land, Waiting for Godot, and a whole bunch of bandes dessinées that helped me shape myself to become who I am today.

However, the point raised by my classmate in my Oscar Wilde class (which is a fun and intriguing course, I recommend it to any English student) could not get out of my head for a few hours after class. How is it exactly that analysis counters enjoyment? What is it that triggers in us the feeling to protect certain works from being taken apart–when taking them apart could potentially enlighten us more? My answer for now is that books and stories are so strongly connected to memories that when we take them apart, we might forget the feeling we had a long time ago. Maybe someone ought to write an essay on this. Or maybe someone already has.

 

Ines

Header image taken from Wikipedia

Introduction to the Deep Dark World of Cyberpunk Fiction

cyberpunk by mjbauer

My academic year started on a rather chaotic note. Four days before the first semester was to start, I realised I hadn’t enrolled in any courses. Thankfully I ended up managing to enroll in whatever courses caught my eye (that is, in my 1-second glance of hurry-up-hysteria). Consequently, I found myself stranded in a classroom with a PowerPoint on in the background, displaying grey buildings, computer screens, and an overall immense amount of green little numbers in diagonal columns (you know, like the ones they have in The Matrix, which turns out to be my first and foremost point of reference when trying to say anything remotely intelligent about Science Fiction cyberpunk or whatever dystopian genre you find to your liking). Now, if you’re like me, naively trying to broaden your horizon but then finding yourself gob-smacked at all the talk of technology and cybernetics, with a face that can convey you have NO IDEA what is going on and would VERY MUCH like a PRECISE definition of WHAT THE HELL cyberpunk is… well, then you’re in the right place.

My parents have always encouraged me to read. It was the thing to do before bedtime: “only ten more minutes and then lights go out,” was a regular. At the age of eleven I had mastered the secret ‘under the duvet cover with a flashlight’ move. I like emotional books. Humorous ones occasionally. Science fiction was an utterly unknown genre to me. Not that the aforementioned qualities can’t be found in SF, the latter certainly can, but in the context of technological infrastructures and cyborgs I seem to not be able to appreciate these notions, because the whole thing has to be real for me. Well, all right then, “what is real,” you might ask.

Questions similar to “what is real?” come up in class, but they often seem hopelessly unsolvable to me. I mean: are we really going to delve into subjects like that? The notion of consciousness has also been quite a conversational topic, but its complexity mainly poses a really good excuse for me to drift off into the realms of Half-Awake and Half-Asleep. There, I think about the latest Siri Hustvedt book I just bought, plan on how to factor ‘me-time reading’ into ‘cyber-time’ reading, because yes, rather than the dystopian notion of technology taking over ones life, the reading of cyberpunk fiction has taken over mine.

After about three classes I finally managed to somewhat consciously follow what was going on. The reading was Burning Chrome, written by the grandfather of cyberpunk, William Gibson, and I had read the story, but apparently neglected to understand the part where the main characters were in cyberspace, This meant that they didn’t have bodies, which meant that the sentence “Bodiless, we flew through space” did, in fact, make sense. Eureka! I felt on a roll after this one, read back my notes from the first class and what did I find hidden within my illegible writing? The answer to your prayers: the definition we’ve all been waiting for. No, cyberpunk is not a Sex Pistols song recorded in space. Rather, it contains the word “punk” because it embodies everything describing countercultures, shifts in lifestyles and societal rules. The punk era consisted of putting diaper pins in ears rather than in babies’ diapers, so the function of pins here, was warped. The “cyber” aspect of course stems from “cyberspace”: an imitation of the real world consisting of information. This combination of punk and cyber makes for a highly dystopian genre causing much time and space confusion. It is up to you to choose whether you want to be confused in a realm of floating around in identity crises, organized information systems and despondent thoughts about humanity. But I think my chaotic mind calls for floating around in the here and now, casually reading a SF book here and there, but mostly enjoying the daylight outside which frequently permeates my light reading.

 

ISA

Header image by mjbaur on deviantart.