2024 – Spring

It claws at you

Author: Anonymous

It claws at you. At the back of your mind. Always. You don’t notice it, not really. Not usually. You are so used to it, that its constant nagging only really becomes noticeable when it becomes unbearable.

The first time it becomes unbearable you are surprised. Its poison slowly taking over your mind but quickly, quickly, quickly paralysing you from the inside out is unexpected. You stare at your page for hours on end, its poison hand in hand with the fear of failure numbing your brain. 

You learn that it is not as you thought. You did not take a bite out of a poisoned apple, but you were drip-fed the poison over two decades of constant belittling. The constant 

‘you are not good enough’
‘you are not trying hard enough’
‘you are not intelligent enough’
‘you are not enough’.

And later, when you find out why,

‘it is in your head’
‘it is not real’

Sometimes behind your back and from your peers, but oftentimes to your face and from your superiors. Those supposed to nurture. They plant the seeds and watch their weeds invade. 

But you don’t often notice it, not really. You have grown used to it. Over the years. The constant nagging becomes unbearable when you find something you love. When this something you love should be something you hate. But against all odds, you love it. You care. 

You have hopes and you have dreams, but you know that fulfilling them is unlikely. 

But for now, you fight. And you hope. 

2024 – Spring

Ask-the-Students: What Crazy Invention Would Be Useful to Improve Your Time at UNIL?

MUSE asked students to anonymously submit their opinions* on what crazy invention would be useful to improve your time at UNIL. Here are the answers we got from them! Some are genius, some should just be common sense… Conclusion: students are tired.

*Replies have been edited for clarity.


A napping area with beds to take a nap in between lessons

something a bit like a coffee vending machine, but it gives anti-procrastination juice instead

A printing network that works and is straightforward to use

Sleep cabins for brief power naps, available for individual student use 20-30 minutes at a time, up to five times per semester 🤪🤪

Common evaluation grid for literature essays

it would be really cool to have an audio file for every class reading we have to do. This way we could just listen to the readings on the go, instead of rushing to read everything the night before because we forgot about it 🙈

Not exactly a crazy invention, but just more toilets at Anthropole. There have been too many incidents where all of the stalls on the same floor were occupied when I needed to use them. Not sure how it would be done logistically though

a super cheap meal option at the cafeteria. like it could just be the same pasta with the same sauce everyday. but it would be cheap, like 2 francs. i’d spend less time cooking without having to spend 10 bucks every day

Coffee machines and (accessible) microwaves on every floor

Caffeine pills for when you’re in a rush for class and don’t have time to drink coffee at the cafeteria :’)

2024 – Spring

A Non-linguist’s Interest in Sociolinguistics, Sexuality and Synths: Interviewing Elvis Coimbra Gomes

Authors: Andreia Abreu Remigio & Alicia Saner

Andreia: Hello Elvis!


AAR: Thank you so much for meeting with us today and accepting to share a little bit about yourself with our readers! It’s an honor to interview a staff member who was in our shoes some years ago. Your area of interest seems to encompass many topics, from language to mental health and sexuality. I’m sure people will enjoy learning more about your research. How are you doing today? Only a couple days before Spring break! (The interview was conducted on March 25).

Thank you for the invitation. It’s really a pleasure to have students interview someone who is not really a permanent staff member [laughs]. But yeah, I’m doing fine; a little tired though. I’m looking forward to a little break.

Alicia: You’re brand new to the Department but first-years all know you from IELL. Could you tell us more about yourself? Who are you? Where are you from? Where have you studied and worked?

I was born in 1990 and raised in Gstaad in the Canton of Bern to Portuguese parents. I did all my mandatory schooling in Gstaad, but then after 9th grade I didn’t have good enough grades to continue my studies. My parents would say “if you don’t study, then we’ll send you back to Portugal,” which I’ve always found very ironic, because I’ve never lived in Portugal. So, I did a raccordement in Château d’Œx and then I was able to do my gymnase in Burier. I ended up at UNIL where I studied English and Film. I also spent a year at the University of Montana in the US during my BA, which was literally the best year of my life! It was really fun and that’s when I saw the usefulness of what I was studying.

Before then I didn’t really know why I was at university and why I was studying literature and film. One of the reasons I wanted to be here was because I wanted to be a movie director. But I quickly realized that the Department of Film History and Aesthetics here wasn’t going to teach me the required skills to become a movie director. And I decided to study English because I wanted to write better songs in English. Those were really the naive reasons of a young adult who didn’t know what to do with his life! And then in the US, I took a class on literary criticism where we learned about Marxism, feminism, queer theory, etc. And that’s when I realized that the things that I was learning were useful. So I shifted to linguistics during my Master’s, because I got a bit sick of literature. I just didn’t see the point of doing literature, whereas linguistics has that practical aspect that I really liked. By learning how language works in society, I could also make sense of how I was using language in my daily interactions and how people were using language with me. I actually took one of the first classes Anita taught at UNIL, on language and gender, and I wrote a paper about OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) for it. Then I wrote my Master’s thesis on OCD with Anita. Since there were only a handful of linguistics studies on OCD at the time, it gave me the idea of doing a PhD about that topic.

So, I got a funding opportunity in London in 2017, and I defended my thesis in 2021 while I was in quarantine because of COVID [laughs]. Anyway, Queen Mary University of London was very chaotic. It was not well organized, compared to Lausanne. But I was really lucky, because I did my PhD with 24 other PhD students. We had a big office that we shared and there was a really nice communal family atmosphere. My supervisor had 4 other PhD students who were all studying language, sexuality, and gender. We had discussions about the theories we were reading, the data that we were analyzing, and it was just an overall very stimulating environment. And on top of that, I was lucky because my funding was coordinated between King’s College and Queen Mary. At King’s College I had my co-supervisor, Olivia Knapton, who was the only linguist working on OCD at that time. And at Queen Mary I had my supervisor, Erez Levon, who is a big specialist in language, gender and sexuality. Being in London at that time was really the perfect moment for my PhD.

And then I came back to Switzerland! Since I didn’t have a job, I signed up for the HEP (Haute École Pédagogique). While I was studying there, I was also chargé de cours here in the English Department where I helped out our linguistics team with IELL and also taught a seminar on discourse analysis. I kind of stuck around and now I am replacing Jennifer Thorburn who is on sabbatical leave. But my contract is ending at the end of July and then… I don’t know what will happen to me! [laughs]

AS: So you’ve experienced the Department from both sides! How different did the Department feel when you were a student? Did you have a feeling one day you’d be back?

Definitely not! [laughs] When I was doing my Bachelor’s degree, I didn’t even know what a PhD was. But to answer your question, I’ve always preferred the English Department compared to the Film Department. The English Department welcomed our own interventions. It was never like “I’m the teacher and I’m giving you the knowledge and you sit there quietly, and you just absorb what I’m telling you.” The English Department, at least that was my experience, encouraged the sharing of impressions, and ideas. And that was, I think, one of the best ways to explore the different theories and the different books. That’s also something that I try to do in my own teaching. Now that I am part of the teaching team, my opinion hasn’t changed much of the Department.

AS: We were quite impressed to see that you’ve participated in Switzerland’s Got Talent while you were still an MA student! What was more stressful, performing on national television or defending your mémoire?

That’s a good question! [laughs] In terms of emotions, I think it’s very similar, in the sense that you experience anxiety and the fear of failure. But on television, I think the stakes are a bit higher, because you can face social repercussions, right? If you fail on national television, people might recognize you on the street and laugh at you. Whereas for the mémoire, my family was present, and I was in a safe space. In terms of the stress levels, I think it was the same. Although with Switzerland’s Got Talent, one of the things that people don’t realize when they watch the clip is that I arrived at 12:00 PM and I had to wait until 8:00 PM before entering the stage. I remember waiting for 8 hours while reading Derrida for the Critical Approaches assignment! I have that memory of being stressed, trying to focus and relax with Derrida [laughs].

AS: So that would be your advice against stress, reading Derrida?

No, no, no. [laughs] Do something to distract yourself. I like to watch horror movies when I’m very anxious because it levels out my anxiety. But that’s just me, other people do yoga and meditation, play video games, or something else.

Elvis on stage at Switzerland’s Got Talent

AS: Do you still write songs and play the guitar nowadays?

Unfortunately not, because my priorities have changed. Back in the day, I wanted to be a rock star. And now my priorities are basically my job, so I don’t really have time to write songs, although I have about five different songs that I’ve started writing. But I just never got the energy to sit down and finish those songs. I think I also don’t have the motivation for it. I’m not going to gain any money from it. Why invest much energy in that when reading about linguistics is as interesting as writing songs?

AAR: So you used to write songs and you used to write poetry. Your poems can still be found on MUSE’s website…

Oh God. [laughs]

AAR: Do you remember them, and do you still write creatively?

I don’t write creatively anymore, no. I journal whenever I feel down or anxious. Writing is always useful to have an objective perspective on your problem, because if you don’t write it, the problem stays in your head. Writing really allows you to shift your perspective and to tackle the whole thing in more objective terms. It’s nice to know that my poems are still on the website! [laughs] I think one of the poems was about my guitar…

AAR: There was one about Derrida!

There was one about Derrida, yes! I experimented with the notion of understanding and not understanding. Derrida is one of the intellectual figures that I really like, as well as Foucault. I have all his books on my bookshelf [points to office bookshelves]. I refer to them as “Tonton Jackie” and “Tonton Michel,” just to remove them from their pedestal and remember they’re just human beings. Coming back to my poems, I think there was one about my guitar and another one where I tried to embed three poems in one. When reading the even lines and then the odd lines and then the whole poem, it creates three different poems. Those poems were written when I was taking a class on creative writing in the US, because I thought it would be really useful for my songwriting. But I haven’t written any poems since then. Life happens, priorities changed.

AAR: Now you devote your time to linguistics! You once told me that you consider yourself more of a social scientist than a linguist. Can you tell us more about that?

My relationship to linguistics is very complicated. I started off as a literature student, and at the beginning I thought linguistics was difficult to understand. Though I never failed linguistics, unlike medieval that I failed twice [chuckles]. I also associated linguistics with those structuralist schools of thought like Chomsky, or syntax trees, all these technical things that don’t fascinate me. Even when I started doing sociolinguistics, and discourse analysis, I always struggled to identify as a linguist. When I was writing my MA thesis and my PhD thesis, I would have lengthy discussions with my supervisors about “am I doing linguistics? Is discourse analysis linguistics?” My supervisors always told me, “if you don’t trust yourself, at least trust us because what you’re doing is linguistics.” So that’s why I’m not a linguist, I don’t walk around with all the theoretical linguistic knowledge. I know where to find the information in my notes or in the slides that I created. But it’s not the kind of thing that I keep in my mind all the time. So I prefer to refer to myself as a social scientist, who uses linguistic and sociolinguistic theories to better understand social and psychological phenomena. I’m not interested in linguistic theory per se. I don’t care about comparing grammatical structures of different languages. I’m interested in how people make sense of their lives, how people make sense of the different social, social and sexual norms that they have to navigate in their daily lives, how people describe their symptoms when they are ill, what kind of ideologies they draw on when they construct their identities. These are things that we do all the time. Having a theory that allows me to explain those different processes has turned me into a more empathetic person towards other people, but also towards myself. I understand the world differently. And this is something that literature didn’t give me in the past. I was reading Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, John Donne, Baldwin, all those different authors. But it wasn’t enough for me. It was fun to interpret those books but… how can I be sure that my analysis is sound enough? There was something lacking, and that’s what linguistics gave me: a practical kind of knowledge that is based on empirical observation. And then, of course, with linguistics, it’s not just about language structure, but also sociology, psychology, etc. It’s highly interdisciplinary and that’s what I like about what I’m doing. I’m an interdisciplinary scholar. I’m not an expert in linguistics, I’m not an expert in sociology, I’m not an expert in psychology. I’m somewhere in between, and I’m trying to understand how the different theories work together. That’s why I have a hard time identifying myself as a linguist.

AS: Your work on OCD has also led you to organize a conference, which is a very interdisciplinary and tangible project! Students taking “The Language of OCD” can validate their credits by presenting a poster at the “OCD in Society” conference. Can you tell us what “OCD in Society” is and how it came about?

I organized that conference for the very first time in 2019 when I was in London doing my PhD. And the idea came out of the observation that most studies on OCD were done in psychology and used statistical tools. At the time there were very few qualitative studies on OCD that explored how people with OCD made sense of their illness, how they struggled to find therapy. All these meaningful practices were not really explored. So I thought, why not organize a conference where the goal is simply to bring together different scholars from different disciplines who have an interest in studying OCD from a non-quantitative perspective? The 1st edition welcomed linguists, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, literary scholars, and even artists. That was very important to me because in London there is this community of OCD sufferers who are artists and whose artwork I wanted to showcase. Now I’m organizing the 4th edition of the conference and unfortunately, I cannot invite artists, because we don’t have enough funding. But the topic of the conference is connected to that seminar that I’m teaching, so I just thought it would be nice if students could actually contribute to the knowledge of OCD from a qualitative perspective. Instead of writing the typical essay or doing the typical oral presentation, they can create a poster that summarizes the research project that they will do during the semester. I’m sure that whatever they will do will be new and groundbreaking, because up until today, there are only 12 or 13 linguistic studies on OCD!

AAR: Are you working on any research or is that on the back burner for now?

Unfortunately, I’m not paid to do research [sighs]. I have a couple of articles in mind that I would like to publish. One of them is part of my PhD thesis that looks at how people who identify as LGBT+ talk about their obsessive fears of not being LGBT+ and how that is connected to heteronormativity. The other paper questions how normativity is researched in queer linguistics. Basically, we often refer to normativity as a spectrum ranging from what is normative to non-normative. However, that doesn’t capture expressions that denote quantification and signal a non-normative status like “this penis is too short”, “these breasts are too huge”, “he is not trans or straight enough”. These examples seem to imply that these extremes are not normative. What is normative is somewhere in the middle. So instead of seeing normativity as a straight spectrum, I also see it as a U-shaped spectrum. I think that they are two sides of the same coin. I’m really interested in theorizing how language is used to express such normative stances. How people negotiate the extremes to decide what is normative. I would love to write an article about that.

AS: In a nutshell, you’re busy with school! Subbing for Jenn, teaching at the language center… Can you tell us about the other classes that you’re teaching and that you’ve taught? Do you have a dream class that you would like to teach someday?

I’ve already taught my dream classes! [chuckles] At UNIL I’ve taught IELL, both the lecture and the tutorials. I’ve taught “Introduction to Discourse Analysis” several times. I taught a Master seminar, “Language and Sexuality” last year, “The Language of OCD” this year, and “Language and Health” last semester. When I was doing my PhD thesis or even being a student here at UNIL, I would have never thought that I would teach a class on OCD since that’s not what linguists usually teach. But here I am.

AS: How would you describe your teaching style?

I’m always thinking about how I can teach my students specific things in the most efficient way. At the end of their degree, humanities students are very often not aware of the skills that they learned for their future jobs. I try to make students conscious of the acquired skills. Last semester, some of my students had to do an oral presentation, so I showed them what good oral presentations are and then I gave them an assessment grid where different skills were evaluated, not only the content of their presentation, but also their body language, and paralinguistic features. I think those are just important skills that students need to be conscious of when applying for a future job.

AAR: So you’d say that the HEP was influential in the way you teach now?

Oh yes, definitely. The HEP does have its issues [laughs], but there are some classes, especially one about assessment strategies, that completely revolutionized my way of thinking about assessment. Some people are against assessment grids for various reasons. But I have seen how valuable it is to explicitly state what students will be assessed on and to use that grid to give targeted feedback. I also witnessed the efficiency of learning by teaching. So that’s something that I try to use as much as possible in my seminars. I ask students to explain to each other what they understood from the reading. They then share their impressions, and I’m always there to guide the interpretation, based on my own knowledge and previous experience.

AAR: One of the reasons we wanted to interview you is precisely because you’re a temporary member of staff and are leaving in August. What do you have planned for the future?

[Laughs] I sent my CV to the HEP. I had job interviews. I’m still waiting for a response. I also sent my CV to two different gymnases. I’m hoping that the English Department will still need me, so that I can extend my contract, but up until now nothing is settled. In August I’ll only have 20% at the language center and I have to fill the rest with something else!

AAR: Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: lightning round! Favorite color?

I hate those kind questions! [laughs] I’m just going to say blue without knowing if that’s my favorite color. I like it because I think that’s the color that I often wear, but I don’t think consciously that’s my favorite color.

AS: What’s the last book that you’ve read?

The last nonfiction book I’ve read is called The Identity Trap by Yascha Mounk. The whole book criticizes left-wing politics for their extreme take on tribal identity politics by arguing that this furthers the rise of far-right ideologies, and suggests a way of finding a common ground between different social groups by endorsing universalist values.

And the last fictional book I’ve read was a graphic novel called In, by Will McPhail, which is a very beautiful, very simple graphic novel about meaningful relationships and how important it is to have banal social interactions and not being afraid of sharing something personally with each other.

AAR: The last TV show you watched?

Yesterday, I finished the 4th season of You.

AS: Cats or dogs?

Oh God. [laughs] I didn’t grow up with animals. But I now own 2 little cats because of my girlfriend: Balou and D’Artagnan, and they’re very cute. So I’ll say that I’m a cat person in becoming. [laughs]

Balou & D’Artagnan

AAR: Controversial opinion?

Yeah… The song “Wonderwall” by Oasis is overrated.

AAR: Favorite album of all time?

Oh no! I like so many things that it’s impossible to put one at the top.

AAR: Recent album that you liked, then?

One that I listen to very often on repeat now is Blink 182’s One More Time that they recently released. But it’s not my favorite. I will recommend a music genre, instead. I’m really into synthwave, it’s a genre that uses music styles from the 80s, with contemporary themes. I love groups like The Midnight, Ollie Wride, FM-84, At 1980, Max Cruise, The Strike. The Weeknd also has some synth wavy songs. The 1975 sometimes go into that mood. Any synthwave that uses saxophone is a treat for me.

AS: Favorite place to vacation?

[Laughs] It’s really difficult. Again, I don’t think in terms of favorites because it excludes the rest of things that I like. It’s a very post-structuralist way of thinking, because if you have a favorite then you also have a non-favorite!

AAR: You’re thinking too much! [laughs]

I know, I know, but that’s my intellectual journey! I’ve read all these different theories and I’ve tried to incorporate them into my life. But if I had to recommend a place: a road trip through Portugal, not just going to the touristy places like Lisbon, Porto or Algarve. Go through the whole country, because the landscape is constantly changing and that’s really beautiful. I would also recommend a road trip across the West Coast of the US, through Montana, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, and Washington state. That’s really a lovely road trip.

AS: Tell us one thing your students would never guess about you.

I bungee jumped two years ago. [laughs] And then, I suffered from a kidney stone and the doctors thought it was because of the bungee jumping… like I’d dislocated the kidney stone!

Elvis mid-jump!

AS: Favorite place in Anthropole?

[pauses then laughs] I don’t like the Anthropole as a building, so I don’t think that I have a favorite… No, yes, I do have a favorite place in the Anthropole, it’s the cafeteria. I like talking to our mamas downstairs, and it’s nice because they talk to me in Portuguese and they always call me like então menino, “what’s up little boy”, and that’s so endearing. It gives me those really familiar “mama” vibes that I got from my mom! [laughs]

AS: If you had to compose a theme song for the English Department, what would you name it?

Hmm, that’s a very good question. [pause] “Talk, Talk, Talk!” Because we always want students to participate in our lessons, and when I was a student that’s the thing that I liked most about the English seminars. So yeah, it’s also a wink to Rihanna’s “Work, work, work.”

AS: To the same beat?

[singing] Students gotta talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, we just want them to talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk…

AS: Thank you so much for sitting with us! It was a real pleasure to get to know you better. Is there anything else you’d like to share with MUSE?

Yeah! So, keep doing the work that you’ve been doing for all these years, right, one generation after the other. I think it’s really important. And, a message to all students: just be mindful of the skills that you acquire, because even if you’ve spent hours analyzing language or literature, those analytical skills are important. You stand out from students of the other faculties who don’t have those linguistic analytical skills. If you can somehow highlight them in your CV, I think that would be really great!

2024 – Spring

Three mirrors.

Author: M.W


if we spoke we lied
the truth was false too
i needed to see my reflection in your eyes
if we saw delphie s oracle she would tell us what is not and it would become tell me i
will become i will i promise


It came upon me like the heart of an oncoming storm
Or a vision of a fate like death
That if you saw the woman in my mirror
You would not know who she was.
If you saw the woman that I am
In the privacy of my own mind
You would understand her no more than you understood
The slim facets of her you glimpsed that summer.


There is no heaven here, nor salvation.
In the cold tomb of the Capulets.
There was none neither in your arms
Only dead birds, limp feathers.

The flesh beneath the scab is only ever half healed.
You never let it scar.
You don’t want to find another heart to fidget with,
And find yourself at the end of the summer with twice as many scared arms.

An old woman will pick up a ruined doll from a playground at dusk,
She will cradle the young thing’s face.
Wipe away the bootprint stains
And give it back some grace.

2024 – Spring

August confessionals.

Author: M.W


Do you know what Taylor?
I get it.
I need to know if it’s chill
That she’s in my head.
Because I’ve been to this well before
And the water I pulled up
Was not nearly clean.

And in pouring it down the other one’s throat
I drowned them in could have been.


I wonder if I should stop this —
Writing about us.
How many autopsies
Can you carry out
On a three month old
Killed by your own neglect
Before trying to resuscitate it.

As if, were it alive,
You would escape the inferno
of your guilt.


Muggy, nearly suffocating September evenings.
Two dead birds decomposing on the concrete.
“This has come before, it will come again.
And then, surely it will end.”

The tepid bathroom tiles do not answer me.

2022 - Spring

The Awaken One

Author: Gislain

A slight subtle move, barely noticed… at first. A small gentle pulse, slowly leaving the hidden side of the heart; less than a low murmuring rumble, but still… echoing throughout the whole chest and silently crawling its way along the shivering nerves.

It’s awake.

Emerging from its long lasting slumber, it raises its head and stretches its neck, its back and tail, twisting and rolling as the dreams fade away. It coils around a now constricted beating core, sneaking in-between the drunk liver, hissing lungs and the addicted spleen, bumping against the bars of its thoracic cage.

It’s locked still.

But yearns to free itself. So it grows, enlarges and soon fills every inches of space. It strikes in despair at the walls of its prison like a trapped animal; and beats, bangs and bashes, smites, slaps and punches… until one rib dislodges itself from the spin. One, two, three… and the beast is free. Gnawing its way up to the base of the skull, up to the inner ear, it whispers to the soul in a long cold sepulchral breath:

“Let… me… out.”

One, two, three more sips to drown the pest and wash any thoughts away; its existence has to be forgotten once more. Four or five in the early morning, the hour glass is flooded and time is mired in sand. There is no escape. And the end is creeping closer and closer. The pressure both from in and out compressing the brain in anguish, forcing it to kneel and cower on itself. Six or seven, less than ten… that’s how many seconds it has left. And the mind knows; the mind fighting still in agony, the mind losing the game and still, itself; the mind trying to hold onto its dying corps knows what lies at the end.

If it wins.

It scratches, tears and rips the flesh with its claws, eating its way out to burst out of its host. Wearing only bloody skin and shadows upon its bony unworldly body; hidden in the shade, hidden on the dark side of the heart; it awaits its time. And under its gloomy glowing eyes smiles but a grin of pure darkness and warped teeth, drooling of anger and rage.

It’s hungry still.

2022 - Spring

I wish I was a ship Captain

Image: © Gislain

Author: Gislain

I wish I was a ship Captain
To sail afar and leave at sea,
To run away and once be free;
To escape shores I’ve known too long
To realms I may feel to belong.
My crew will hear: raise the anchor!
Do not turn back, have no rancor!
Full speed ahead, to the unknown!
New lands out there have to be shown.

If just I was a ship Captain
I’d have all I dreamed of, for sure
I’d feel the wind of adventure
Swells up my sails and shakes my ship
And sends me on my one last trip.
To islands of the purest sand
Under sky made of artist’s hand.
New shores never by man explored
Of mysteries too long ignored.

I wish I was a great Captain
To seek far off and primal woods
Hiding magic misunderstood.
Remote jungles so exotic
Colors and scents are erotic;
Dazing taste of forbidden fruits
Bringing back to humankind’s roots.
All treasures I could bring back home
Once I would have finished to roam.

I wish I was my own Captain
So I could choose where I’d sail;
So I could write down my own tale.
With the night sky as only guide,
And my dearest friends by my side,
I’d stir my vessel off its path
And fight against every wave’s wrath.
I wished I was, but I am still
A shipless sailor that hopes will,
One day, be Captain by all means
Riding his raft made of dead dreams.

2021 - Winter

lonely siren’s song

Image: “Cliff of Moher en profundidad” ©️ gpoo. SourceCC License.

Author: Mel A. Riverwood

Oh dear when I say that I’m ready to grow older
And when I trace kisses on the back of your shoulder,
Know that in my tongue it means ‘love, love, love’

To build a home from a word, one pain,
And so have a roof to keep out the rain
And stand in its ruins when the wrath of our joy will come from above.

			(If one day I could find that your hand fits in mine,
			On the isle of wonder, washed up by the tide,
			Then no deed nor sin shall have a meaning I know
			And there’s no way in hell that I will let you go.)

But still to this day I find my hands empty,
No crown on my head, and no “my fair lady”
My memories are one lonely memorabilia;
			(but no love comes from a pen,)

Oh I’m broken in lacheism,
Waiting in ellipsism,
I’m as mad as Ophelia.
			(so drown me then.)

The wind and the ocean speak in my tongue
And Death tries to lure me, to love her with song;
On this cliff I scream and if still no one comes I’m afraid I will fall.
			(and if we are to be phantoms, let our shrouds be paper-thin;)

And if no heart can find in mine a twin,
Let frost cover all of my loveless skin.
It seems that my fate was to be the loneliest monster of all.
			(but promise me one thing, dear.)

Let me haunt nightly shores
Where the dark water roars,
And may mariners cover their ears,
Let them grip their boat’s railing in fear

And whisper “don’t heed the call!
Let her cry in the squall,
She’s the loneliest siren of all.”
			(please tell me you 
						are the one 
								who shall 
										kill me.)
2021 - Spring


Image: Ⓒ Roxane Kokka

Author: Roxane Kokka


My aunt had always been a person of wonders. While growing up, I remember her running up and down the stairs in her huge old house, regardless of her age or the grey color of her hair. Not to mention, she had one of those wide staircases with tall steps, similar to the ones you see in old movies. She ran like that to answer her old greyish-beige whirred rotary dial phone. And she would have this old piano with all the white keys turned yellow that apparently survived a bombing (well, some of the keys actually broke but she never bothered to have them repaired). Nevertheless, that did not stop her from singing, and she had one of the most moving voices I ever heard. Without her needing to be in any sorrowful state of mind (especially around my siblings and me who she loved as if we were her grandchildren), whenever we asked her to sing, I was fascinated by how quickly she changed from laughing, gossiping and telling stories to singing songs with great nostalgia and melancholy, but nevertheless sublime tones in her voice. It was as though each sound that escaped from her lips managed to find a way deep down into your chest and fill you with awe.

As I said before, my aunt used to tell us all kinds of stories. Some were of pure invention, such as the fictional “naughty boy called Peter” who, according to her, was the one always ripping her sheets whenever my sister and I asked her about the holes in the bedsheets she lent us. There was also the story of that time she jumped out of a car window after the driver told her that the breaks were not working. I do not know if that story is true or not, but I would not be surprised if it were, especially after I found out a few years ago that she refused to go to the hospital when she broke her arm. That was a true story, along with the ones about her experiences of World War II and the Greek Civil War. There was, for instance, that time when a shooting took place in the street right outside her parents’ summer home she was staying in alone that summer, which was all on one floor and full of windows. She recalled hiding in the fireplace because it was the only part of the house that remained intact from the bullets shattering the windows, as they simply crossed right in front of it. My aunt also told me that if it were not for Hitler, she would not have been able to finish her education. As she was the eldest girl in the family, her mother did not want her to finish school in order to keep her at home to do all the hard work in the fields and chores around the house (this was, back then, the fate of most eldest daughters in Greek families living on islands or in the countryside). But her father, you see, was a headmaster and teacher, and during the war, when the island was under Italian rule and children were not allowed to go to school or work in the fields, her father, the only one allowed to enter the school, took her with him and gave her private lessons. My aunt also told me that, unlike most women of her time, if it were not for her marriage, she would have never earned her independence. At forty-five she broke free from her tyrannical mother thanks to her husband. At forty-five she was finally allowed to move out of her parents’ house and stop working in the fields like a slave or take care of her healthy parents as if she were a nurse. At forty-five she would never get beaten again by her parents for coming back home past midnight, even at the age of thirty.

My aunt died last year. The funniest thing was that I thought she never would. I knew she was mortal alright, but I always thought that she would die at a hundred and fourteen (like her grandfather) instead of ninety-four. She survived two wars while she was a teenager and young adult. She jumped out of a car running down a mountain out of control. At the age of ninety-two she broke her arm and refused to go to the hospital – my uncle had to drag her there. At ninety-three she was still running up and down the staircase in her husband’s big, old house. At ninety-four she had breast cancer and did not even feel concerned by it and apparently did not even need to – it did not put her life in danger. At ninety-four all of the doctors she saw were impressed with how much energy she had and how well her brain and speech worked for a woman of her age. She was quick and she was sharp. Even at ninety-four. I do not know what exactly killed her. All I know is that it was neither her cancer nor the current pandemic. And I do not want to know. I will always remember her as the strongest woman I have ever known. Invincible.

2021 - Spring

These Nuts

Image: “Forest near Vřesina” by Jiri Brozovsky is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Author: Katharina Schwarck


The fine morning was sunny when I woke up,

Discovered the craving of eating a nut.

I tried to remember what tree it was near

The place where I had hidden my nuts last year.


Was it an elm, a birch, or a tree that broke?

I found myself climbing the core of an oak.

After hours of climbing, seeking, and hurry,

I found myself clenching my cheeks in worry.


I touched my cheeks, and felt something round.

Little did I know, I had nuts in my mouth!

2021 - Spring

El Diablo

Image: “Abandoned Storehouses” by Diego3336 is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Author: Katharina Schwarck


This piece of writing was born in a Creative Writing Club session, with the prompt “Mixing Worlds and Characters”.


Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, lived a mean little creature, tall like three stacked apples, hair and cheeks the colour of a rotten cherry. No one had been able to defeat the little devil, for it had magic powers. One weakness, though, it had. It sang. It sang about its victories and sang about its plans. One day, as the goblin was strutting in the forest, it chanted


The miller’s daughter she was fair.

Found her crying in a prayer.

“I’ll give you anything”, she’d say,

“If you make to gold my hay”.


The miller’s daughter had married the king, and the goblin had been promised the princess’s first-born, which was expected in a year. This day, the creature was strolling through the grass, but little did it know, the fairies had set a trap. One safe step, a second, a third, and the little foot stumbled over a root. The creature fell and fell down the hill. It rolled and rolled, and cursed, and cursed. Underneath the hill, there was a pond. As it approached the bottom of the hill, it braced itself for the fall into the shallow water. The fall hurt much more. It slowly stretched its sore body and opened its eyes. It lengthened its arms and discovered two iron bars on both sides of its body. It lifted its head. The iron path had no visible end. The little devil turned onto its belly and found what had hurt its body were pieces of wood, which connected the iron bars, and black stones, that filled the gaps between the wood shafts. The creature pushed itself onto its knees. Its mouth tasted dust. There, it heard an ear-splitting noise, more powerful than it had ever heard. Lifting its head, it saw: the noise had come from an unknown being. A gigantic iron monster, that was spitting smoke from its head and which was speeding towards the creature like a flash. The goblin rolled itself over hectically, and saw the long, dark beast thundering by on its magic wheels. The creature scarcely admitted to fear, and it was only when someone lifted it up by its hood that it started screaming. It screamed and fought and bit and struck. It looked up and facing it was a tall man, fully clothed in black, with a black hat, and a black mask. His cape blew gently above the dust, and his right hand held a rapier. He smelled of dust, of sweat, and smoke. The man said calmly: “Entonces, eres tú el diablo”.


We do not know what happened after this, but people say the next day the goblin came to the princess’s door with a gift and promised to never show itself again. 


And sometimes, if you pay attention, you can walk along the forest, and still hear the creature sing


The big man said I did harm

I laughed and spat, he rose his arm

“You must be punished, you are foul”

Struck his blade across my jowl

“Quit your evil, you disgrace”

Struck a Z across my face


For life, I’m marked with shame

Three scars, from his first name


2021 - Spring

Time’s Prickly Thorns

Image: Ⓒ Roxane Kokka


Author: Roxane Kokka


I cry out your name

In the ocean of silence


Never do I stop searching

In the bright sky of dark stars


I reach out my hand in the void of the unknown

Through Time’s prickly thorns that never cease

to creep in the empty spaces between us


in hope to catch yours


Time will take you away from my arms, eyes, ears, and mouth

But Time will fail to erase the memory of your lips and body against mine

2021 - Spring

Anthropole Conspiracy Theories

Image: Construction de l’Anthropole, mai 1986. (Henri Germond © BUD), source.

In an effort to bring our dear campus closer to students, MUSE went on a quest to gather all the craziest, weirdest conspiracy theories about our beloved building, the Anthropole. Why was it built this way? Is it haunted?

We sent out a form to compile the rumours or made up stories about the Anthropole, and the replies did not let us down. Thank you to everyone who participated. Here you go ?

Rumours and fiction about the Anthropole

It was built this way to prevent students’ revolts.

The side stairs were used to play hide and seek.

The architect had a stroke while drawing the plans of the building.

I do wonder the number of people who had sex in the building…

I LOVE to think that at night there’s a ghost, the ghost of the faculty of Arts roaming in the floors (just like Helena Serdaigle), she likes to wander outside with the sheep as well. That’s why everybody likes the sheep. Also, she doesn’t like the students coming from EPFL, they don’t feel at ease in Anthropole and avoid coming :-)

It was built this way so people meet other people in a “random” way.

Breaking News: People were secretely scared of Anthropole, that is why They created Covid so students were allowed to have online classes which relieved so many.

The statues are actually people who worked on building Anthropole and who fell into fresh concrete.

This isn’t a rumour but there are showers in the basement and people totally have sex there.

The stairs move and change their pathways from years to years, just like in Hogwarts…

The architect had a stroke while drawing the plans of the building.

I’ve heard that the Anthropole was built like a labyrinth to avoid big crowds. There isn’t enough space to gather lots of people at the same place and theoretically you shouldn’t be able to make a revolution, lol. And there’s a bloody experimental lab in the basement, the place is scary and who knows what they’re doing down there.

You cannot go there between 1 and 1.30 am, I mean around the building. It’s just a rumour, I don’t know why…

The stairs were built that way so people would meet there and socialise… They must have forgotten about silently taking the lift.

It’s actually pretty much confirmed, so not technically a rumour but a fact. I heard that the way the Anthropole was built was to avoid student riots. For example the many different entrances means that one can’t block one entrance and keep people from going in, also the fact that the bathrooms are small means that students can’t meet in big groups to secretly plan a riot. When I mentioned this once a friend told me that after 1968, for a while all student buildings where built to avoid student riots. Other rumour (that is more like a rumour this time) : that the ground 0 is infamous for people who want to go have sex in a hidden place (I bet other people will bring that up).

It was intentionally built so people got lost.

We experiment on innocent students in secret labs in the basement floor (the locker rooms are a ploy) and no one ever goes there.

It’s Hogwarts (editor’s note: I wish it was.)

The stairs move and change their pathways from years to years, just like in Hogwarts…

One day, I’ll meet Hermione.


*responses have been edited for clarity and length

2020 - Winter

A Series of Surprises

Image:  “Light Curtains” © Andrew Mason. SourceCC Licence.

Author: Sorcha Walsh

Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. Alanna woke up in a bed that was decidedly not her own. This did not, at first, produce any sort of unusual reaction within her. This was not, after all, the first time she had woken up in a bed she didn’t recognise. She turned over, expecting to see a strange man who was probably less attractive in the daylight, and mentally prepared herself to stealthily sneak out of the door. However, she was instead met with the sight of a woman, long brown hair mussed from a rough nights’ sleep, and her face half-buried in the pillow. Now this was new, even for her. Usually if she woke up in bed with a woman, there was a man between them. Far more disturbed now by this realisation, she decided it was time to leave, before the sleeping beauty arose. She sat up and swung her legs out of bed, and found that they landed squarely in a pair of slippers. Men’s slippers. She rolled her eyes. She’d promised herself she would stop homewrecking, weeks prior, and had mostly managed to keep that promise. They were pretty small men’s slippers, all things considered, her feet fit quite snugly inside of them.

She was suddenly struck with a sense of deep malaise. Her legs, surely, hadn’t always looked like that? And her head felt much lighter somehow, and, oh god, her hands, why were they suddenly so… hairy?

She stood up abruptly and ran out of the door, tripping as she went, coming to a hallway. Blindly, she stumbled her way to the first door she came to, which by some stroke of luck was a bathroom. She stared deeply into the mirror, aghast at the face that stared back. A strong brow covered deep-set eyes, crowned by a head of floppy hair. Below, an aquiline nose, below that a straight mouth and, between them, a well-groomed, full, silky moustache, accompanied by an immaculate goatee. Instinctively, she retched into the sink, and made her second unpleasant discovery of the day: she had been drinking Bloody Marys the previous night. When she stood back up, a third surprise awaited her: the brunette woman who had been sleeping was standing behind her in the doorway.

“Is everything ok love?” enquired the smooth voice. Oh God. Alanna thought. A Brit. I’m in a poxy man’s poxy body and I’m living with a poxy poxy Brit. Just my luck. 

Out loud, she replied with an affirmative grunt, surprised by the resonance of which her voice was now capable. 

“I’m making toast, d’you want any?” said the oblivious woman.

“M-mh” said Alanna, suddenly grateful for the cover her bout of nausea had provided her. She needed to think, fast. Her first instinct was to attempt to avoid suspicion and adopt the persona of this… man. But really, she hadn’t done anything wrong. Her only crime, as far as she could see, was waking up. Really, it would be bad (not to mention inconvenient!) to keep it a secret. So she gathered all the nerves she could muster, stood up straight, and made her way downstairs, only to be met by yet another unpleasant surprise: a side-tackle from a ball of kinetic energy that she quickly deduced was a child. She stumbled slightly but picked the kid up and carried them downstairs, somewhat awkwardly, gripping them around the waist and holding their body out horizontally. Luckily, the child seemed to think of it as a game, laughing and crying out “Wheeeee” as they went down the stairs. At the bottom, Alanna put the child back down on their feet (more or less) and tried to find what she could only imagine was her partner. She looked down at her left hand. No. Her wife. Steeling herself once again, she made her way into the kitchen.

“Can I talk to you?” she said in her natural accent, cursing the awkward formulation. Her wife (?) didn’t seem to notice the awkwardness and continued buttering bread while nodding.

“Listen, there’s a problem. Or something. I’m… I’m not… I’m not this.” Alanna said, gesturing vaguely to her entire self.


“As in, I’m… I’m a woman named Alanna.”


There was a beat.

“So do you want to do, like, hormones and that?”

“No, you don’t understand. I am a woman and my name is Alanna.”

“Yeah, you’re a woman. Of course I support you.”

Alanna wanted to tear her hair out. This support, under any other circumstance, would have been charming, and for someone in the situation the woman imagined her to be in, extremely validating and reassuring, but she didn’t want hormone therapy so much as her body back.

“I woke up in this body today, but this isn’t the one I fell asleep in last night. I have no idea who you are. My name is Alanna Quinn, I live in Dublin. I’m twenty three tomorrow, I’m like five foot nothing, I definitely don’t have children and a wife. And I don’t know how this happened.”

Unexpectedly, the brunette woman burst out in near-hysterical laughter.

“Oh, that’s funny! You’re such a joker, Liam. Now get Posey ready for school.”

And just like that, her wife, whose name Alanna did not know, pecked her on the lips and flounced upstairs. She reeled back, stunned for an instant, and gave a deep sigh. This was going to be, somehow, even more difficult than anticipated.

2018 - Winter

App Review: Forest – “Stay Focused, Be Present”

Image: Forest © Julien Chalendard. Source – CC Licence

Author: Anonymous

App Review: Forest – “Stay Focused, By Present

Forest is a mobile phone app and Google Chrome extension that you can download for free on Chrome and on Android, and that costs to download on iOS. The premise of the app is fairly straightforward: “Stay focused, be present.”

How does it work? You build a (virtual) tree!

How do you grow a tree? By not using your phone!

The idea is that you decide how long you’d like to stay focused and not use your phone. Depending on the amount of time you select, your tree will be small or large. You press on “plant”, and from that moment on, your tree starts growing! In case you open your phone, the tree will encourage you to get back to work, for example by saying “Stop phubbing!”. If you switch apps, your tree will die. If you don’t want to kill your tree, you need to remain focused/not use your phone until the time is up! Some apps can be whitelisted, a feature you can customize to your liking.

Images: © Forest

With every tree grown you receive a certain amount of coins. Once you’ve collected enough coins, you can spend them either by buying new types of trees or bushes, or, if you’re premium, you can spend them in-game on the “Real Forest” app, after which Forest donates to Trees for the Future, a tree-planting organization.

My favorite part about the app is that it gives me statistics about how many trees I’ve grown, at what times, etc. It lets you create adorable little forests (pictured below) that give you daily, weekly, monthly and yearly views of your work. It also gives you a timeline (pictured above), in case you’d like more details. You can definitely use this app to track your working habits and, if used over a long period of time, at what times of day you tend to work more/better.

You can also sync it with friends so you can build a forest together!

Images: © Forest

I have not been using this app as often as I could. But, it has definitely come in handy on those days where I seem to always be reaching for my phone. It has become especially useful for me when I combine it with the Pomodoro technique, which I have been using for years! I highly recommend checking it out. The combination Forest-Pomodoro has personally helped me stay productive and motivated to work during the day (“a little 25-minute tree won’t hurt!”). One unfortunate thing is that I work ideally with a Pomodoro of 23 minutes, but the Forest app only allows multiples of 5 minutes. My solution has been setting for 25 minutes and starting my break even if I finish 2 minutes before the tree has grown.

One of my only complaints about the app is that I have it set so that my phone vibrates when the tree is grown, except that it never vibrates (or I just don’t notice). I could set a ringtone, but it’s not great for libraries and other study spaces. I haven’t found a solution to that yet :(

If you think that using an app to curb your phone usage is sad and that it’s pathetic to reach that point… That’s fair. Good luck to you!

If you think that this is something that could benefit you… I say go ahead!

If you’re on the fence and are an Android user or if you’re ready to get the Google Chrome extension, it’s a free download so you might as well try it out. Maybe it works for you, maybe it doesn’t!

If you like the idea and have issues keeping regular sleeping habits, you can check out their other app SleepTown where you set sleeping goals and build houses!

In any case, good luck with your assignments and happy tree-growing!