Category Archives: Literature (General)

Deaths of the Poets

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What is the cost of poetry? Must poets be melancholic, doomed and self-destructive? Or is this just a myth? In our new Book of the Week, Michael Symmons Roberts and Paul Farley – both award winning poets themselves – explore that very question through a series of journeys across Britain, America and Europe.

This BBC Radio 4 series is currently being broadcast in 15 min episodes that are available for 28 days from now.

Realism and Racism

An excerpt from a message from a recent graduate, now living in the UK, where there is a debate about the importance of the ethnicity of actors and questions of authenticity.

I thought this might be of interest:

There’s been a lot of talk in the theatre circles here about casting, in period dramas and otherwise, as well as discussions and protests about cultural appropriation (for example the protests against Howard Barker’s play:, with most people making sweeping statements about the ‘purpose’ of theatre, and what it ‘should’ do.

The Cultural Revolution (and Aliens)

This year sees the 50th anniversary of the commencement of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Image result for the three body problemBy coincidence, this year also saw the publication of the English translation of the last novel in the science-fiction trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past by Cixin Liu. Relatively few novels become successful in English translation, but his The Three-Body Problem (2008) won the 2015 Hugo Award for best novel in its English translation (2014). The Three-Body Problem opens with a section that some readers may have found disorienting. It went back in time, rather than forward, and the alienness was the psychology of the Cultural Revolution rather than that of a culture from another galaxy. Its central character is an astrophysicist who witnesses the death of her beloved father, a professor who is killed while he is being ritually humiliated for his views of physics. The action of the novel does eventually encompass an extra-terrestrial civilisation and it traces its chronological way from 1960s China through to the present and into the future. Alongside its narrative is an account of changing politicised views of science in a milieu where the speculations of contemporary physics are actively scrutinised for their compatibility with party policy. It brought home to me that in an academic system that is strictly controlled by the government, mathematics and the physical sciences can be as ideologically charged as humanities subjects such as history, philosophy and literature.

See my related article on China and censorship in UK on November 1st (English Edition)

British Library: Online Literary Manuscripts

Online exhibitions include:

  • Literary manuscripts (this online exhibition displays important literary manuscripts from medieval times to the work of Austen, Blake, Wilde and Lewis Carroll);
  • Historical texts from ancient China to works by Elizabeth I and The Communist Manifesto.
  • Key documents related to Henry VIII (with videos and interactive texts).

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The British Library

Picture credit: Nic McPhee on Flickr / Creative Commons

Lionel Shriver Controversy About Cultural Appropriation

Officials in charge of an Australian writers festival were so upset with the address by their keynote speaker, the American novelist Lionel Shriver, that they publicly disavowed her remarks. …

Ms. Shriver had been billed as speaking on “community and belonging” but focused on her views about cultural appropriation, a term that refers to the objections by members of minority groups to the use of their customs or culture (or even characters of their ethnicity) by artists or others who do not belong to those groups.

Ms. Shriver criticized as runaway political correctness efforts to ban references to ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation from Halloween celebrations, or to prevent artists from drawing on ethnic sources for their work. Ms. Shriver, the author of 13 novels, who is best known for her 2003 book, We Need to Talk About Kevin, was especially critical of efforts to stop novelists from cultural appropriation.

Article in The New York Times