Everything I do, I’ve watched someone else do first, filched it, and tucked it away, magpie-likeChiara Delpiano Cordeiro for Varsity

Ecocritics Timothy Morton and Donna Haraway depict speculative epochs in which the category of ‘human’ is deconstructed–

Wait. Sorry folks, that’s my dissertation. Let’s try that again.

In Staying with the Trouble, Harway urges humanity to exist within the ‘Chthulucene’, a state in which the human and non-human are enmeshed in “unexpected collaborations and combinations, in hot compost piles.” We must, Haraway says, “make oddkin.”

Yep, it’s terminal.

“I am not so much an academic weapon as a pedagogical cudgel”

When I say I have thought of nothing except my two (yes, two; I am not so much an academic weapon as a pedagogical cudgel) dissertations for the last month, I am not exaggerating in the slightest. My emotions present themselves to me in perfect MHRA. When I said I was hungry, I cited my sources (Stomach, 2024). A fellow English Tripos sufferer told me she’s been having nightmares in which she submitted her passport photo instead of her dissertation, helpfully labelled ‘fig.1.’ I tried to describe my situationship by comparing it to the Chthulucene (pro tip: don’t tell your long-suffering friends who are trying to advise you that you feel like the Anthropocene and you would prefer to be ecologically enmeshed). That one’s even crazier if you consider that my other dissertation was about lesbian identities and code-breaking, and still I plumped for the project about tentacles as a metaphor for resisting global warming.

Though I slammed my laptop shut after submitting said dissertations (one minute to the deadline – don’t say I don’t live dangerously) and swore never to think of them again, I can’t help but do just that. I feel like Haraway and my merry band of Ecocritical readings will follow me wherever I go. They’re a part of me now. You could almost say I’m enmeshed with them in the way that Haraway wants us to be enmeshed with the non-human: one big, happy compost. Or maybe I’m just thinking about compost because it’s 1pm and I’m currently rotting in bed, sipping tepid Cava that was opened twelve hours ago through a straw.

“Like the British Museum, I’ve been pilfering bits of myself for years now”

It’s funny, the troubles that stay with you – and I’m not just talking about the hangover from drinking the lion’s share of a bottle of Cava the night before. When I look around my room, I see the evidence of three years of enmeshing: there’s pilfered clothes, a Christmas Cactus which flowers at exactly the same time as its sister plant in Glasgow, and paint tubes on my nightstand because an architect left them there and I’m trying to cement my status as artsy. Oh, and there’s a kazoo. A kazoo that forms a set of five because my college wife thought that what halls were really missing during exam term was a wheezy, saliva-fuelled quintet. The room forms an esoteric jigsaw; appropriate, I think, as the framed photograph of my grandad’s finished jigsaw catches my eye (he was truly rubbish at jigsaws so every completed one went into the hall of fame). I’d say I’m as much of a jumbled collection as my bedroom. Like the British Museum, I’ve been pilfering bits of myself for years now. Unlike the British Museum, I don’t have the Elgin Marbles rattling around my ribcage.

“To paraphrase Emily Brontë, everyone’s more myself than I am”

I pull the sweaty slop that is my duvet around me, thinking about how Marilyn Hackman said “bed is just a swamp to roll in.” I found that poem when my best pal in high school told me I was a lesbian and that I should probably read up on the subject. I turn up the Joni Mitchell, murmuring a quick prayer of thanks to the Spotify gods that the mothership (Blue, 1971) has come back for me. My long-lasting love affair with the song ‘California’ was brought about by my much shorter love affair with the girl who recommended it to me. I chomp ponderously on the tofu sandwich that has enough garlic to cement my status as Edward Cullen’s arch-nemesis. I salt and crush my garlic every time because an old friend taught me it unlocks flavour. We don’t speak anymore, but hey, there’s the garlic trick. I try to write, trip, and fall helplessly into watching Sound of Music thirst traps instead (because if there’s one thing Cambridge has taught me, it’s new heights of procrastination). Everything I do, I’ve watched someone else do first, filched it, and tucked it away, magpie-like; I touch my nose whenever I see a magpie because of someone else’s superstition. To paraphrase Emily Brontë, everyone’s more myself than I am. It’s as inescapable as a 3am kazoo cover of Bohemian Rhapsody, heard halfway across Newnham.


Mountain View

Notebook: Auden, Pret, and dissertation stress

I’m not really me – but that’s alright. As a finalist currently orbiting the melodramatic black hole that is graduation, it’s oddly comforting. If I’m not so much myself as a Chthonic puddle of people I’ve met, then maybe leaving some of those people behind isn’t so bad. After all, I’ve got Joni and garlic and a porter at my door while I clutch a kazoo behind my back. And two finished dissertations. And lesbianism. My grandad’s photo of his completed jigsaw catches my eye again and I think about how he thought it was worth framing. Maybe I wasn’t too far off when I said I wanted my situationship to be a Chthulucene. Maybe I wasn’t thinking big enough. What do you reckon – see you in the compost heap?