Writing

How to Write a Thesis by Umberto Eco, translated by Caterina Mongiat Farina and Geoff Farina

by
September 2015, no. 374

In 1977, before personal computers and the Internet, Umberto Eco published How to Write a Thesis. It has remained in print ever since, but only now is it available in English. The book hasn’t been updated and makes no concessions to technological change. Space is devoted to card indexes and manual typewrit ...

Here are some of the interesting things you may learn if you read John Sutherland’s Lives of the Novelists:

that James Fenimore Cooper was expelled from Yale for training a donkey to sit in the professor’s chair

that Evelyn Waugh once attempted suicide but was prevented from drowning by a passing shoal of jellyfish

that Fanny Burney underwent a double mastectomy without anaesthetic and lived to write a toe-curling description of what it felt like

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Graeme Harper is a big name in the academic field of creative writing. He was the first in Australia to be awarded a doctorate in creative writing (UTS, 1993) and followed that with a PhD from the University of East Anglia; he has held professorships in creative writing in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States. He edits journals and writes textbooks o ...

If you’re a theatregoer, then somewhere along the line you’re bound to have seen The Government Inspector, Nikolai Gogol’s comedy about a rapacious nobody being mistaken for a government official by the citizens of a nameless provincial backwater. (They too are nobodies, greedy to be somebodies.) You might remember (since it’s a line that will have evoked both your contempt and your compassion) that the fussy fool Pyotr Ivanovych Bobchinsky, a local landowner, who fails to exist to the point of being almost indistinguishable from his companion Pyotr Ivanovych Dobchinsky, says to the government inspector (who isn’t one):

I beg you most humbly, sir, when you’re in St Petersburg, say to all the different bigwigs there – the senators and admirals: You know, in such-and-such a town, your Excellency, or your Eminence, lives Pyotr Ivanovych Bobchinsky. Just say that: lives Pyotr Ivanovych Bobchinsky … And if you’re speaking to the sovereign, then say to the sovereign as well: in such-and-such a town, your Imperial Highness, lives Pyotr Ivanovych Bobchinsky.

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As contemporary author fan bases go, Margaret Atwood’s must be among the broadest. She is read at crèches, on university campuses, and in nursing homes. Feminists, birders, and would-be writers jostle to see her perform at literary festivals. Yet despite an Arthur C. Clarke Award and, in her own words ...

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British author Glen Duncan released his eighth novel this year, the title of which, The Last Werewolf, is fairly self-explanatory. Although a much more philosophical (and entertaining) read than one might imagine in our current supernaturally-dominated ‘box-office’ novel landscape, Duncan’s book was a marked departure from an author better known for h ...

It’s not often that literature makes the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald, but on 3 November 2006 the lead story was a report by David Marr about the National Library of Australia’s purchase of a collection of Patrick White’s papers, previously thought destroyed. Other media, both in Australia and internationally, picked up the story. The T ...

The business of authoring another person’s life is problematic and potentially dangerous. You need to be brave to write biography. It is not just the labour involved, or the obsessive research involving more travel and hours of work than can be deemed cost-effective; it also requires a self-exposing judiciousness. At every stage in the procedure decisions are made, not with the support of a committee or a line manager, but usually by the biographer alone. The rightness or wrongness of these decisions affects not only the selection and handling of the material, but also almost every aspect of the project, from the initial negotiations with descendants of your subject, the literary executor or interested parties, to the publicity that surrounds the book’s publication.

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‘Who do you think you are?’ an eminent paediatrician once thundered at me across a child’s cot during his weekly grand ward round. ‘Anton Chekhov?’

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Address to the reader is one of the conventions of the modern essay form, going back to Montaigne, who includes a statement of address by way of an introduction to his collected writings. A question or series of questions refreshes the direct address along the way, accentuates the sense of voice, and vitalises the connection by supposing the reader as an interlocuto ...

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