Reflecting back on my research blogs for the Writing Lives project has made me realize just how much I have learnt throughout this process. When I first began researching for the project, I felt privileged to be reading Adeline Hodges’ memoir that she had written as an elderly lady reminiscing on her younger life. I now feel more honoured that I have allowed others an insight into her life too. This is especially true as Adeline’s life was not one of fame or fortune but one of a working-class girl who attained a comfortable and happy lifestyle with a fantastically positive attitude throughout. It therefore feels more important to me that others can gain information and perspective of the past from her memoir.
I believe that through reading and writing about Adeline’s memories I have gained a new sense of understanding and consideration of life in the past and how much things have changed over time. Adeline writes about her working-class lifestyle and we can obviously see how hard times were for her and her family as they struggled with money, but throughout this she maintains a positive outlook on life, always reminiscing on the more simple things that provided her with happiness. She also emphasises the importance of family, as she writes, ‘My memories are varied, but the balance is more on the joy than the sorrows. I have had countless blessings showered upon me, not least of these is a family of which I am inordinately proud’. As we can see here, Adeline’s ‘blessing’ is her family and she does not focus on material objects or wealth but on the strong family bond that she has. In this modern day, in such a capitalist society, we can often become too engrossed with what objects we own and how much money we have. In my reading of Adeline’s memoir she has provided me with a simple but poignant understanding of life and what should remain truly important to us.
The Writing Lives project has allowed me to work on my research and blogging skills, which will be valuable towards my degree as well as once I finish university. In terms of researching I have really enjoyed being able to spend such a large period of time on one main text (Adeline’s memoir), and examining the language and content in detail has been such a rewarding process. I’ve learnt about cultural traditions I never even knew existed, for example wedding and funeral customs. This information, centered around an area in North East England, has been even more interesting to discover and read about, as my own family lived in Durham and Teesside, nearby to Dawdon/Seaham where Adeline grew up and continued to live until she passed away.
I had no real experience of blogging before taking part in the project, but I have found it such a good form of documenting research as it allows flexibility and an informal writing approach in comparison to composing an essay. You can afford to be less ‘wordy’ and make your blog posts interactive with hyperlinks and images to elaborate on your points. This also makes the website a more accessible source of information and people who are not necessarily from an academic background can read with ease and enjoy browsing, I can vouch for this as my own family and friends have enjoyed reading my blog posts each week.
One of the most important things I have learnt from Writing Lives is that you must stay true to your author’s words and allow their voice to come through in your writing. For example I liked including quotes from Adeline at the start of my blog posts, because I think this allows the readers to really feel connected to Adeline as a writer and not just read my blog as repetition of her words in an academic form. This project is focused on making working-class voices heard by using information and close reading to provide us with a more rounded view of the less ‘known’ past. By making memoirs like Adeline’s digital and accessible in an online form we can promote the importance of learning from the past and it allows the working-class authors a sense of eternalness, as their memoirs and lives will not be lost or forgotten.
411 HODGES, Adeline, ‘I Remember’, MS, pp.250 (c.42000 words). Brunel University Library.