Category Archives: Literature (General)

Attending Shakespeare Lectures May be Traumatic

File:"Titus Andronicus" foto de Paula Nogueira.jpg

Image: Paula Nogueira

While no Groningen student has been stressed by their lectures on Shakespeare, things are different elsewhere. Some day Shakespeare may even be bard from university syllabuses.

Shakespeare contains gore and violence that might “upset” you, Cambridge University students have been warned. The “trigger warnings” – red triangles with an exclamation mark – appeared on their English lecture timetables. Lectures including Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus contain “discussion of sexual violence, sexual assault”. BBC

See full article here. 

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Booker Prize for Lincoln Novel

Image result for lincoln in the bardoThe Man Booker Prize, which is worth £50,000,  has been won by George Saunders for his novel Lincoln in the Bardo. This is the first novel from an American writer who previously published short stories. The novel is based around the funeral of Abraham Lincoln’s eleven year old son.

‘The form and style of this utterly original novel, reveals a witty, intelligent, and deeply moving narrative. This tale of the haunting and haunted souls in the afterlife of Abraham Lincoln’s young son paradoxically creates a vivid and lively evocation of the characters that populate this other world. Lincoln in the Bardo is both rooted in, and plays with history, and explores the meaning and experience of empathy.’ – Baroness Young, chair of the judging panel.

See http://themanbookerprize.com/fiction

 

Staff Publication: Joyce and Law

Dr Tekla Mecsnober’s chapter on Joyce and law has just been published in a volume from The Florida James Joyce series.

Making the case that legal issues are central to James Joyce’s life and work, international experts in law and literature offer new insights into Joyce’s most important texts. They analyze Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Giacomo Joyce, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake in light of the legal contexts of Joyce’s day.   (Publisher’s Description).

Poetry & Politics: A Minister Reads Kipling

The British ambassador to Burma was forced to stop Boris Johnson mid-sentence as he recited a colonial poem in the country’s most sacred temple… Rudyard Kipling’s Mandalay is written through the eyes of a retired British serviceman in Burma and also references kissing a local girl.

from The Independent

The Guardian

Students will know Kipling from the first year syllabus where his poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’ appears.

‘Mandalay’

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!”
Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

‘Er petticoat was yaller an’ ‘er little cap was green,
An’ ‘er name was Supi-yaw-lat-jes’ [Burmese queen] the same as Theebaw’s Queen,
An’ I seed her first a-smokin’ of a whackin’ white cheroot,
An’ a-wastin’ Christian kisses on an ‘eathen idol’s foot:
Bloomin’ idol made o’ mud
Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd [i.e. Buddha]
Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed ‘er where she stud!
On the road to Mandalay…

When the mist was on the rice-fields an’ the sun was droppin’ slow,
She’d git ‘er little banjo an’ she’d sing Kulla-lo-lo!
With ‘er arm upon my shoulder an’ ‘er cheek agin my cheek
We useter watch the steamers an’ the hathis [elephants] pilin’ teak.
Elephints a-pilin’ teak
In the sludgy, squidgy creek,
Where the silence ‘ung that ‘eavy you was ‘arf afraid to speak!
On the road to Mandalay…

But that’s all shove be’ind me – long ago an’ fur away
An’ there ain’t no ‘busses runnin’ from the Bank to Mandalay;
An’ I’m learnin’ ‘ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:
“If you’ve ‘eard the East a-callin’, you won’t never ‘eed naught else.”
No! you won’t ‘eed nothin’ else
But them spicy garlic smells,
An’ the sunshine an’ the palm-trees an’ the tinkly temple-bells;
On the road to Mandalay…

I am sick o’ wastin’ leather on these gritty pavin’-stones,
An’ the blasted English drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;
Tho’ I walks with fifty ‘ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,
An’ they talks a lot o’ lovin’, but wot do they understand?
Beefy face an’ grubby ‘and –
Law! wot do they understand?
I’ve a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!
On the road to Mandalay…

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren’t no Ten Commandments an’ a man can raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin’, an’ it’s there that I would be
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea;
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay,
With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!
O the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

Stephen Greenblatt: Original Sinner?

It makes sense that Cultural Studies has succeeded the New Historicism at the top of the humanities heap, because it’s even more unserious, even more indefinable, even more open to recherché (not to say inane and capricious) topics of “study”; to an even greater extent than the New Historicists, the typical practitioner of Cultural Studies combines a breathtaking cultural and historical illiteracy with a tendency to lean on pseudo-radical tropes about Western imperialism and so forth. In sum, it’s an intellectual and scholarly disaster. And its spiritual father is Stephen Greenblatt.

Stephen Greenblatt is one of the best know literary critics and the editor of The Norton Anthology. Not everone is a fan though.

Article in New Criterion

Historical Fiction

Dame Hilary Mantel is roughly half way through her Reith Lectures on BBC Radio 4.  Best known for her Tudor novels Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies (both of which won the Man Booker Prize) Mantel reflects on the nature of historical fiction and whether the genre requires special defense.

The podcasts of the lectures and their transcripts can be found here. Students will be unsuprised to learn that this talented author has Irish roots.

Image result for hilary mantel wolf hall

Critical Thinking

Thinking like a scientist is really hard, even for scientists. It requires putting aside your own prior beliefs, evaluating the quality and meaning of the evidence before you, and weighing it in the context of earlier findings. But parking your own agenda and staying objective is not the human way.

Link: 5 Reasons It’s So Hard To Think Like A Scientist

One of the things that this article warns about is the seduction of anecdotal evidence. I’ll give some of that now.

It seems to me that some students treat simple texts as if they were simplistic and obvious. A text that offers a quick interpretation is often more poorly analysed than an obviously challenging one. Parts of courses (or instructions) that seem clear are often ignored.

5 Reasons It’s So Hard To Think Like A Scientist