Tous les articles par alicepotaufeu

That-which-should-not-be-named: the aborted research thesis

Between fear and fascination of animals: the case of the animal in Victorian literature

“You cannot have it both ways, you need to choose one and leave the other.” We are confronted with dilemmas on a daily basis. For instance, should we obey our sense of reason or our instincts? In other words, trust our “animal” side. What if animals could behave like humans and the other way around? Could we be both and not be compelled to choose? The topic that I would have liked to tackle for my Master’s dissertation deals with this quandary. I had to leave behind the wayside subversive messages in children’s literature.

Are humans and animals intrinsically different from each other? If a single undeniable distinction were to be made, it could be that humans speak and animals do not. In literature, however, some authors have given animals human voices. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) by Lewis Carroll, all the animals speak, the Cheshire cat for example. The fascination for speaking animals results from a fear of the evasive: as animals do not speak, there is no way for us to know their thoughts. Strategies are put into place to rationalise fear. For example, The Little White Bird, a novel written by J.M. Barrie in 1902, as a prequel to Peter Pan (1904), tells the story of Peter Pan’s birth, originally as a bird to eventually transform into a boy who will never grow old. Prior to the Victorian era, children were not considered as humans, thought to have no awareness and were compared to animals. We notice an evolution of mentality, as the little bird is given a soul, to become a living boy. Pinnochio (1881) by Carlo Collodi could be read in a similar light, the tale of an animated wooden puppet turning into flesh-and-bone child as a reward for his good deeds.
The Victorians dealt with their fear by establishing boundaries to distinguish the human world from the animal one. Humans have a soul; they are reasonable beings while animals are wild, without the capacity to think and are driven by their instincts. Is it that simple though? In The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mister Hyde (1886) by R.L. Stevenson for instance, the entire plot focuses on the definition of humanity. It suggests that we all have inside of us a Mister Hyde who has been repressing his instincts by society but who is ready to burst out and reveal his true nature. If the Victorians used metaphors or hid behind fictitious characters to deal with the fear of that which cannot be tamed, was it not to distance themselves from the truth, to avoid it? Often, that which is the most feared is that which is not seen.
Now consider this: what if we were deprived of our ability to speak, would it turn us into animals? My point was to show that we are not one-sided beings and we were allowed a wide range of traits: would it be a crime to accept them all, or would it allow us to realise our full potential?

 

Barrie, J.M., Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up or Peter and Wendy (1904)
Carroll, Lewis, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
Collodi, Carlo, Pinnochio (1881)
Stevenson, R.L., The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mister Hide (1886)

Food for thought… thoughts on food !

What does higher education imply? It implies great and long efforts made by the brain to reach athletic levels of concentration combined with reasonable amounts of stress. Even if we, English students, are not considered to be physically active, we do have our share of marathon writing of dissertations and races for grades and success. We could be compared to hurdlers, jumping over obstacles that fill our university life, which is as exhausting as it is rewarding.

There is, however, something that is neither emphasised sufficiently, nor taken into consideration in a student’s educational background. For instance, athletes are constantly asked what diet they are on to improve their performances. Yet, I have never been asked: ‘What kind of diet are you on to improve your intellectual performance?’ or ‘What type of food do you need to eat to pass your exams?’ or ‘Before writing a good dissertation, what do you reckon you should eat to find the right words?’  As amusing as these questions may sound, if our brain does not obtain enough or only poor quality fuel to think, our intellectual performances, like those of athletes, will not be very promising.

Eating complete and healthy meals is crucial, especially for students. However, cooking for oneself and bringing one’s lunch to campus can be challenging at times, whether living at one’s parents’ house, in a shared flat, on one’s own or with one’s sweetheart or abroad. It is true that we do not always have the motivation to go into the kitchen and actually make tomorrow’s lunch. Because it is considered a waste of energy? Because why bother when something can be bought at the cafeteria… Fair enough. But consider this: aren’t the countless hours spent on Facebook, scrolling to look at pages without content, the greatest time-consuming activity of the 21st century?!
Food awareness is essential and making one’s own food is a cheaper, healthier and quicker option than queueing up at the cafeteria and paying for a sandwich that has no or barely any taste, a greasy punnet of French fries or a four-hundred-calorie donut. I am not saying that we should all start cooking like three star chefs but if we feed our body better, our mental performances will improve. You are what you eat, as they say. Your body is the reflection of your brain.
Now for the practical approach. You might not know where to start and have no idea what to cook. Here’s where you can start: online. During my year abroad, being as helpless as one can be in the kitchen, I searched online what to do with my leftovers and came across this wonderful cooking channel called ‘Sorted Food’. Its goal is to help people being better cooks by proposing simple recipes with affordable and everyday ingredients. It is therefore perfect for students. The concept is easy: cooking is meant to be enjoyed as much in its making as its sharing. Eat healthy, study better and enjoy yourself more!

https://sortedfood.com/