Tuesday, 29 April 2014


I sent the intro to S and got back a lot of comments. I don't understand all of it, but basically 'its not very readerly' and doesn't explain properly why I have done the work etc. etc. etc. Plus, my research questions are badly worded - he doesn't want 'keywords' in there because that's just a method. I remember inserting that word as a result of a previous discussion with him. So its another rewrite. And I'm running out of time.

So ..... I walk away. I don't need this. Or I rewrite again and end up with loads of stress because there isn't the time. Or I forget S and his comments (which isn't easy or advisable as he is one of the markers) and just submit something and hope to scrape through.

I have never been able to write the essays in the style they want. And I have never understood whether what I have written is any good or not. After I finish this (now, or after the results or whenever) I wanted to write books. But I can't even write a decent intro to a dissertation I'm really enthusiastic about.

Maybe I should just give in, retire, be old and gaze into space.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Introduction

I.m aware I've been selling this blog short on lack of detail but I really have been working hard on trying to get it into shape. I have written an introduction now, although it might well change again after S has seen it. But for everyone who has stuck with me this far, here it is:

1          Leonard Cohen Un Canadien Errant

‘And I thank you for those items that you sent me
The monkey and the plywood violin’

1.1        Lyrics

The couplet quoted above is an example of the compelling cryptic writing of Leonard Cohen. He has been labelled "the poet laureate of pessimism", "the grocer of despair" and "the godfather of gloom"   and his work called ‘music to slit your wrists by’ (Lisle T. d., 2004)   (Ratcliff, 1990, p. 5). These judgements are partly because of the monotone in which his songs are often delivered but partly because of lines like ‘your love is some dust in an old man’s cough’ and ‘they chained you to your fingernails’. However, Cohen, listed as one of the ‘top ten great singers who can’t sing’ is sometimes quietly humorous, referring to himself as having been ‘born with the gift of the golden voice’ (McCormick, 2009). His fictional conversation with a deceased hero includes the line ‘Hank Williams hasn't answered yet’.
108 lyrics, recorded on 12 albums from 1967 to 2012, are sometimes regarded as belonging to the folk or rock tradition but are sufficiently diverse that the work does not fit into any genre other than that of popular music itself. The lyrics are popular with other singers and Cohen’s website lists 2756 covers, including numerous versions of ‘Bird on a Wire’, ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Suzanne’  (Jarkko Arjatsalo, 2014).

1.2        Life

Leonard Cohen is a Canadian singer-songwriter who has released successful albums across the world over a period of more than 40 years. He was born in Montreal in 1934, and was a poet before he became known in the late 1960s as a writer of songs. His perfectionism about his writing is highlighted by a conversation with Bob Dylan, who said he wrote one of his songs in fifteen minutes, whilst Cohen admitted to two years for ‘Hallelujah’, although the real answer appears to be more than five years (Simmons, 2012, p. 320).
Spirituality is an important referent in Cohen’s work, which uses Christian imagery such as ‘crucifix’ and ‘Joseph looking for a manger’. His Jewish heritage influenced his use of Holocaust themes in lyrics such as ‘Dance me to the end of love’   and ‘First we take Manhattan’ (Simmons, 2012, pp. 318, 340).  Despite being ‘embedded in (Jewish) religion’, Cohen also took an interest in Scientology, and in 1996 was ordained a Buddhist monk, , saying that he finds it ‘deeply satisfying that .... the Kaballah is remarkably parallel to that of ..... contemporary Zen’ (Simmons, 2012, pp. 74, 196, 390, 438)
In 2004, at the age of 70, when his career both as a writer and a performer might have been considered coming to an end, he discovered that his business manager had stolen up to 13 million dollars from his retirement fund  and that the only financial option appeared to be touring again  (Simmons, 2012, pp. 427, 451). Cohen was reluctant but a London promoter offered to pay the bills for rehearsals ‘as long as you want,’ saying that if he decided not to tour, he wouldn’t owe anything (Simmons, 2012, p. 453). Perfectionism was once more apparent as Cohen spent around 1 million dollars before agreeing to start a tour (Simmons, 2012, p. 457). The first tour, a world-wide success, ‘not only restored (his) funds, it improved them considerably’ and since then, there have been other tours and a 2012 album ‘Going Home’ (Simmons, 2012, p. 482).

1.3        Awards

Cohen has received many awards, including those from literary bodies, popular music institutions and the Canadian Government. In 1985 he received the Canadian Author's Association award for poetry and  in 2011 he received the award for literature from the Prince of Asturias Awards, with the citation ‘Considered one of the most influential authors of our time, his poems and songs have beautifully explored the major issues of humanity in great depth’ (Canadian authors, 2014)   (Fundacion principe de Asturias, 2014)
Cohen is well respected in the music industry and in 2010 was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, whose exclusive membership is described thus ‘Out of the tens of thousands of successful songwriters of our era, there are fewer than 400 inductees who make up the impressive roster enshrined in the Hall of Fame.’  (Songwriters Hall of Fame, 2014).
The Companion of the Order of Canada is that country’s highest civilian honour. Cohen’s citation includes the words: ‘Known for his striking imagery and evocative descriptions of the human condition, Leonard Cohen has the distinction of creating a body of work that has remained contemporary and significant through three decades of shifting musical and aesthetic tastes’, describing him as ‘a Canadian icon and a venerated dean of the pop culture movement’  (Leonard Cohen, C.C., G.O.C., B.A., LL.D., 2002)
Cohen has also written several volumes of poetry and the American Academy of poets states that ‘Cohen seamlessly re-institutes that ancient notion of the lyric as belonging to both verse and song.’ (Leonard Cohen, poet, novelist, musician, 2014)

1.4        Aims and research questions

The intention here is to make a small contribution to starting the task of carrying out methodical linguistic analysis of Cohen’s lyrics.
·         What  information about the linguistic features of Cohen’s lyrics is provided by keyword analysis?
·         What information does keyword analysis provide about the portrayal of the first person narrator?

1.5        Outline of dissertation

In the next chapter of this dissertation, I will briefly review the existing literature in the fields of stylistics, corpus stylistics and the analysis of the lyrics of popular music. Chapter 3 will describe the acquisition of data for the Cohen and comparison corpora and then describe the methodology for comparing them. The analysis sections of the dissertation will first describe the manual stylistic analysis of a small number of lyrics and then proceed to assess the  keywords across the lyrics.  These two analyses are complementary and there will be a description of the extent to which the two approaches support each others findings. The final chapter will contain a discussion of the results. 

Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter 2014

We've had house guests and day visitors and loads of food. I always make too much but people are happy to eat up the next day and there's always the freezer. Nothing much goes to waste around here. TSH's new grandson was here for the first time and seemed to enjoy all the people and activity. Teething has started but he was very quiet in the night. Now its almost back to normal as only TSH's mother (aged 94, still healthy and independent) remains.

No dissertation work for quite a while but its always in my mind and I played 'Songs from a room' yesterday to cheer myself up. Knowing that I sorted out the styles and I now have a single smart document with a Table of Contents which looks quite professional makes me feel a lot better.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Its all about Style

I had an awful day yesterday. I started to create the dissertation from all the bits I have everywhere. And the numbering in Word proved challenging and then didn't work at all. So I asked Google and discovered that only really stupid people do the numbering the way I have been doing it since Word was invented. There is a thing called 'styles' which I remember dimly from a training course, except it seemed too complicated and there were always experts like secretaries to help with all that stuff. I never thought I would need to know. But now I do. Yesterday's searching just confused me more and more. And I thought 'Well, if I don't get an MA, then so what? I'm too old and my mind has gone.' But I really want an MA. I'm a 'completer-finisher' in management parlance.

This morning I decided on one last try and found this: And the scales dropped from my eyes and I 'got it'. TSH says he doesn't mind if Jim Henderson, who wrote it, is my new hero. And I showed it to TSH and he's already changed his normal style so that it comes up in the right font. We are a changed household.

Best novel I've read in ages: 'The Distant Hours' Kate Morton.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A little break

We visited Port Sunlight, which has an art gallery, a beautiful town built by Lord Leverhulme (founder of what became Unilever) for the factory workers, and a museum explaining it all. I have lived all my life in North West England and am ashamed that I have never visited before. Great day out.

We also went to Chirk castle, which is always an enjoyable visit, especially in the spring, with camellias and magnolias. And then Bodnant, which is fast becoming a truly great garden. It has been redesigned in the last five years or so, with overgrown areas cleaned out and replanted, whilst keeping the spectacular old trees. It has terracing in front of the house, with a long water feature, from where there are views of Snowdonia. The bad news is that the very special Head Gardener has been poached by Sissinghurst. Our loss is their gain.

TSH went photographing steam trains.

No time for any actual dissertation work.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Clash of personas

So I am trying to sort out the dissertation. I have thousands of words in different Word documents and most of them have comments from S which need addressing. And there's still the issue of getting it all into one document with the numbering and headings and correct Table and Appendix numbering.

And meanwhile I have a very busy year with holidays and family parties to arrange and plan the outfits for. At this time of year when its getting warmer but I still need a light coat, what do I wear to feel comfortable and look smart? I like long tops but my lighter coats are too short. A new light but long coat, maybe?

I need to start cooking for Easter. Simnel cake tomorrow, brownies and carrot cake next week. All to be gluten free for TSH's daughter.

Will the dissertation get finished? It has to - I have worked too hard to fail now.