Coursework Conquered: a photo-essay.

I invite you all to pause, and raise a glass. Mark the date in your collective calenders; a red letter day that some of us (see: myself) considered a distant dream. But on the 13th January, in the Year of Our Lord MMXVI, I did submit my final coursework research article. The Heavens opened and the stars aligned as I watched the online time stamp mark the successful upload. Cue jubilant celebrations in the form of my wearily stumbling upstairs, off to my bed and sleeping for a consecutive five hours. And upon waking, wearily stumbled back downstairs to enquire whether it was morning or night.

My sarcastic comments aside, this actually was quite the day, marking as it did the first time since the Autumn Semester concluded that I was free from research and work. It was an occasion worthy of a William Wallace circa Braveheart ‘freedom’ scream. Whilst I may not have expressed my relief in such a manner, there is no denying that I welcomed the conclusion of assessment. This intense feeling of relief that comes after making deadlines and submitting assessments is one which I think many fellow students will understand.

Now, do not get me wrong, I actually came to enjoy the weeks of research and studying, pouring over numerous textbooks and printed articles, scribbling copious notes and having ‘eureka!’ moments when I found evidence to support my arguments, or when my jumbled collection of ideas and plans neatly came together in a persuasive argument. I do feel however QCAT – my university’s online library catalogue service – and myself became so closely acquainted through my many visits that we may as well have been involved in a tumultuous relationship. (A relationship which was punctuated by my seedy affairs with Jstor and HeinOnline, alas.)

Anyway, I discovered that I actually do enjoy the research/argument academic malarkey, especially when I am essentially critiquing everything via CLS. (For a self-confessed cynic such as I myself, CLS is the legal critique-equivalent of a match made in Heaven.) It was fascinating to develop my legal knowledge and understanding, and challenging perspectives to discover a new way in which to think, and to see issues differently.

Some of my reading, for example my research into HIV-influenced legislation and policy, left me feeling upset: how could the law, a supposedly neutral body, permit such marginalisation and discrimination against those in society who required its very protection from societal stigma and perpetrated myths? Another article focused on the relationship between law and politics, and I examined the cases of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and Maguire Seven. Reading about the appalling miscarriages of justice was terrible; reading the obiter dicta of the trial judges, and judicial comments made upon successful overturning of convictions was simply horrifying. My parents kept reminding me that as a ‘ceasefire baby’, I have to understand what times were like during The Troubles. The political tension, the perpetual fear, the anti-Irish sentiment in mainland UK, bitter divides in NI and those horrific photographs of bombing aftermaths. I can understand this reasoning, and its influence on the judiciary during these times to seek convictions, but I cannot understand or forgive the shameful treatment of those innocent people by institutions which are supposed to prevent miscarriages of justice: the police and the judiciary/court system.

No doubt in time I will write blog posts about the above – an exercise in catharsis of sorts. However, I wanted to use this week-anniversary post as a means of sharing my coursework travails and student-Christmas experience in a different way: a photo-essay. So without further ado, allow me to present ‘Coursework Conquered‘.

  1. Cracker coercion.
passive aggressive Christmas cracker
I did take time off during Christmas, perhaps urged on by this passive-aggressive suggestion courtesy of a Christmas cracker.

2. Caffeine Consumption: Permitted.

IMG_8841[1]
Some of you may know that as part of a charity fund-raising campaign, I gave up coffee from 1st-25th December. The 26th marked my return to caffeine consumption. Petition to rename St Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day in honour of this moment?
3. Back to the note-taking board.

IMG_8837[1]
Legal Theory was up first. I opted to write about the  ‘The Case of the Speluncean Explorers’ question. First things first: re-read and carefully annotate the article. (Stylish stationery is a must.)
4. Christmas Presents.

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These are three fabulous legal texts which I was very fortunate to receive as Christmas presents from my parents. You can take the girl from law…
5. Whose Opinion is it, Anyway?

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I began scribbling plans re structure, such as identifying the legal theories influencing each judicial opinion. Which I promptly stuck on the back of my file, for some reason. (Spoiler: I disagreed with Trupenny CJ, and argued my agreement with Foster J. Not that I support cannibalism, mind you. I prefer purposive interpretation. I’m veggie, anyway.)
6. Did someone say, ‘Jurisprudence’…?

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And so back to the books I did go, re-reading umpteen passages in search of concrete evidence and quotes to support my arguments. (Douzinas and Gearey conclude their chapters with literary/poetic passages, which in the middle of midnight reading caused me to wonder whether I was hallucinating.)
7. A break from reading? Let’s…read.

IMG_8911[1]
As I wrote my Legal Theory essay, I took breaks to update my notes and plans for my second article, for my Understanding Human Rights module. I went from listening to the Serial podcasts to an old favourite, Welcome to Night Vale, and dug out the book of same. Hence why one of these books is not like the other.
8. One down, two to go.

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Before long, my Legal Theory article was written, edited and submitted. I could not relax or celebrate, though. It was one down, but two to go. Cue hitting the books once more, this time to find evidence to support my argument that human rights discourse can permit the marginalisation of HIV positive persons. It made for grim reading. (And those many Jurisprudence books made an appearance, too.)
9. With a little help from Bright Network.

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In between researching, I was also carrying out duties required of my position as Secretary for QUB Children in Crossfire, promoting the EU Studies Fair, and submitting internship applications. Phew. Mercifully, help was at hand: Bright Network sent me this lovely notebook to help keep me organised.
10. I know how you feel, Kelman.

CLS Kelman quote
Simply put: apparently legal theorist Mark Kelman understood the struggles of final year law back in 1981.

11. Hello Foucault, my old friend.

Foucault ten lines one sentence
Undoubtedly, Michel Foucault was a very intelligent man. But truly, did he require ten lines to formulate one sentence? I was very tried and rather stressed when I initially read this passage, and it was late in the night. I cried from frustration, I kid you not. Some twenty years from now, I will look back upon this as ‘the night Foucault caused me to cry from beyond the grave, because he never knew when it was acceptable to stop.’

12. A Tale of Two Texts.

Foucault this is not what I want to talk about
It is always amusing and exasperating when an academic writes copiously, before commenting ‘this is not what I want to talk about’. Guess who is the academic in question? Mais oui, it was Foucault. Mon cher prof. (It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…)

13. Two down, one to go, and the end is almost in sight.

CJP Leaning Tower of InJustice
Before long, I had written, edited and submitted by Understanding Human Rights coursework, with the erstwhile vow that I would never concede such prejudice as practised during the HIV epidemic. Then, it was on the last chapter, aka Courts and Judicial Power. Cue tackling this leaning tower of political-legal texts.

14. If you completed coursework, and didn’t post it on Facebook, did you really complete your coursework?

Victory is mine fb post
When I submitted my Courts and Judicial Power coursework, I was feeling, shall I say, bitter about the horrible miscarriages of justice. I attempted to cheer myself up by reverting to The West Wing. Cue channelling my inner Josh Lyman with a rendition of the infamous ‘victory is mine’ speech.

15.Diary Confirmation.

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Official photographic representation of my date of freedom.
16. Let’s take a break from reading by reading, Part Two.

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Just some of the books I am eagerly looking forward to reading for pleasure in lieu of research. There isn’t any rest for the wicked! (If by wicked you mean a voracious reader.)

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