My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, "A Few Figs from Thistles", US poet (1892 - 1950)

Monday, 7 May 2007


I've often been curious about the various techniques employed by fellow-students in revising for exams. Some of them have, in the past, seemed highly unproductive and others slightly crazy yet oddly profitable. It seems I am not alone in my current approach to committing case names to memory, using a system of flashcards which I believe to have been quite effective in learning music theory as a child. Of course, I have yet to see if my method will prove in any way successful until I have taken the scheduled exams in a couple of weeks.

In a conversation with Accidental Law Student (at a not-very-sensible hour on a Sunday night) on the pleasures and frustrations of trying to speak of life's clich├ęs in a fresh and unclich├ęd way, I was amused and slightly surprised at myself for dredging the word 'ostranenie' from the murky depths of my memory. It wasn't so much that I had managed to broadly recall a concept - that happens all the time: I had retained the precise Russian term along with all of the relevant associations I had attached to it, together with rather more irrelevant details such as the exact location and circumstances under which I had committed these details to memory. Of course there would have been nothing at all unusual about this had I spent hours, weeks, months diligently studying Russian Formalism: this, however, was the profit of an evening's agitated attempt to memorize all of literary theory the night before a second-year exam. Having failed, I fear, to recall anything else of worth from this last-minute endeavour I find myself wondering with some disillusion...

...what will be the single, utterly useless fact that I retain out of a few weeks' cramming on an entire year's postgraduate diploma in law?

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