Current undergraduate student, Zak Eastop, has had an article published in German Life and Letters, one of the leading journals in the field of modern languages in the UK. This is an incredible achievement by someone who hasn’t yet graduated!
We ask Zak a few questions about his recent success, life at university and what he plans on doing next…
Hi Zak – tell us a bit about yourself
Hi! I’m Zak, I’m 22 and come from East London. I’m in my fourth year and I study French and ab initio (beginner’s) German. I’m heavily involved in the university’s music societies. I conducted the BUMS Brass Band in my second year, as well as an opera double-bill with BOpS. I’m also the current principal trumpet of the Uni Symphony Orchestra and lead trumpet with the Bristol Hornstars. It keeps me busy for sure, though I also climb quite regularly (when the Gyms are open at least).
What is your article about and what inspired you to write about this topic?
Because of the nature of journal articles in the Arts and Humanities, my paper is on some pretty niche stuff. In broad terms, I start by reopening a discussion about Diderot’s influence on Schiller’s play Don Karlos, and then trace this influence through Verdi’s adaptation of the work, looking at how opera as a genre can improve otherwise flawed narratives by affording their composers use of other sign-systems…[yawn].
Really, the main take-aways are that Diderot is important, Schiller changed his mind a lot, Operas are weird, and Verdi was a pretty clever dude.
I had written a smaller essay on the topic for a second-year module on anti-establishment German Enlightenment theatre. It did really well and someone (I think jokingly) suggested I might one day like to write it up to full-length. During the long summer before I went on my year abroad, I spent around 300hrs reading and writing in the British Library and… well… tadah.
What support did you recieve from the Uni or department?
I acknowledge a few people in the first footnote of the paper but I can’t thank Ellen Pilsworth, Steffan Davies, Debbie Pinfold, Marianne Ailes and Rowan Tomlinson enough. All helped a huge amount, not just with this paper, but with the work I undertook that year, and their constant encouragement.
The mere fact I’m able to read Schiller (or any German at all) is in large part down to the language staff in the department.
Also, an important shout-out MUST go to Damien McManus in the library. While he wasn’t hugely involved in this particular project, the other work I have on the go wouldn’t be particularly possible without his help and I wouldn’t be able to work on the things I do without his assistance. He’s like an obscure literature magnet and will (and has) move heaven and earth to get you the book you need. That guy is a hero.
How did you find out that your work was being published?
I was the one who submitted it, so I knew it was being considered, but I was not expecting the email I got from Steffan Davies who, alongside being my utterly excellent personal tutor, happens to be one of the journal’s editors. At the time, I was on my year abroad, working as a teacher in a school in Vienna. I literally jumped up and down on the spot with joy and got some pretty weird looks from some of my colleagues. It was the staff room: a place which, as any teacher will tell you, is not often a setting for ecstatic displays of joyful celebration.
Can you offer any study tips or advise to other students?
You’re at Bristol – you aren’t a moron. Don’t be scared to have your own ideas. Make notes in a notebook, it’s better for information retention. Be organised, but not in a mad way. Be lovely to your lecturers and maybe engage them in conversation once in a while. Be interested and love what you study – if you don’t enjoy it then it is hard to care about. Download a citation manager – I like Zotero. It will change your life, trust me.
Most importantly though, back yourself.
This must be one of your university highlights- what else has made your time at Bristol so special?
A lot of my most dizzying highs were linked to performances in some way. The curtain closing on the opera double-bill I conducted was a wonderful feeling. We went over-capacity in the Winston and had a huge queue for tickets which went out the door of the SU… for Holst!? That was seriously special, as was conducting the Bristol Uni Brass Band’s winning performance at the Unibrass competition in 2018. However, my degree highlight was during my Year Abroad. I was lying in a hammock on the Danube Island in Vienna in the warm shade surrounded by a group of wonderful Viennese friends whom I would never have met were it not for my degree. That was a truly beautiful moment in my life.
What are you planning on doing next?
My overall aim is to try and add to the general theory about what constitutes an ‘adaptation.’ Why is it that when Colin Firth dresses up as a bit of a fop and runs around a field in the north of England, we call it an ‘adaptation’, but when Jodie Comer runs around assassinating people, it is just a show? Both narratives come from novels, but one is generally thought of as adapted and the other isn’t. What if the adaptation makes changes to bits of the original? Is it still an adaptation? I will also be continuing my work on Rabelaisian operas during my research master’s next year.
Finally, how have you been keeping yourself busy during lockdown?
Forget keeping busy, it’s enough keeping remotely sane. Solidarity with all the other students and staff in lockdown alone. We will get through this. Es geht sich aus.