Was he rescued? Online Research Portfolio

We were asked to do a blog in October. Honestly, I did not really understand what would be involved. However, I am a huge fan of video-essayists on Youtube, so I thought this would be my chance to put out some of the thought-provoking critiques that I enjoy reading others write. Video essay is a format of Youtube video in which deals with erudite subjects in a more relatable and digestible manner. For instance, they will talk about something complex like meta-narratives in post-modern literature, but they will do it by looking at Deadpool. This is what I hoped to do. Of course this blog is a college assignment, but also I felt it is almost important to realise that it is available to anyone to read. So, why not do some good, and make it enjoyable to read while also helping people without the privilege of a top-tier education to understand something they might not otherwise.  After reading over the blog I think it reflects my mindset throughout the year quite clearly. The way I came up with topics for the blog was very much what you would expect from knowing me for a little while, which is to say; completely erratic. I would hear a lecturer mention an idea while daydreaming about some movie or song, et voila! A blog post.

I began my posts with a discussion of my fleeting view of academia, and how unfair the division of funding seemed to me. It was something that only became clear to me when we went from classes of three hundred to less than a dozen students in a room. The teachers we able to speak a little more honestly about the situation they were in as academics. While some were more vocal than others, they (however inadvertently) humanised themselves.

"It has become clear that there is no money 
offered to some things, for instance 
projectors, for the arts while more 
pecuninarily profitable fields like medicine 
and science have whole new multi-million 
Euro buildings."

This was something that had annoyed me during my undergrad degree, but I did not know the extent to which the roots of the inequality spread. Once I heard about this problem it prompted me to think about whether this was an issue more generally or just within colleges. This led me to look for statistics on reading levels. I knew that books become less and less popular with the rise of instant entertainment online, but I wanted to know how bad it was and whether it varied from country to country. I also thought it would be a good idea to contrast these numbers with how much the average person in these countries watches television or is on a computer.

"According to The Guardian


“Men are more likely than women to avoid 

picking up a book, with 11% of men and 5%

 of women surveyed saying they never read 

for pleasure. A quarter of the UK’s adult 

population – more than 12 million people – had

 picked up a book to read for enjoyment less

 than twice in the past six months.”

While another survey of British households
 by communications regulator Ofcom said UK 
adults spend an average of eight hours and 
forty-one minutes a day on media devices"

Reading for enjoyment is one thing, but I really doubt more than a handful of people read academic journals or Cambridge companions for fun. I recently heard a statistic that, if I knew it at the time, would certainly have made it into my post.

Towards the end of the post, I started to spiral a little, which often happens when I write without a real concrete goal. I went on to think about, even with the disparity between the sciences and the humanities, did another outside of the collegiate echo chamber care at all? In fact,  I still wonder that. I started to contrast pop culture supernovas like ‘Flappy Bird’ and the Kardashians with more scientific innovations on the basis of their monetary value and their cultural relevance.

Even incredible scientific breakthroughs don’t
seem to be highly valued in comparison to inane
 pop culture. For instance, the Voyager 
spacecraft left the solar system recently,
 marking a new epoch in human exploration 
beyond the solar system. This went largely 
unobserved. Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian has 
81.5 million Instagram followers.

I ended my first post rather bleakly with a T.S Eliot quote, which in hindsight may have been a little overly dramatic. However, in a Trump world, with funding for the arts being completely cut from the US budget and far-right, anti-art parties on the rise everywhere, this might be a more impactful as relevant as time goes on – although I wish that weren’t the case.

My next post was something I felt needed to be articulated for years now; which is to say, a justification of hipster subculture. Along with millennials more generally,

hipsters have been a source of rebuke and mockery in conservative news outlets for years. What I found odd about these critiques is the sense that the writer did not really understand the ideas behind it and simply thought it was a bunch of rich kids in Brooklyn buying over-priced kale sandwiches and listening to Solipsynthm (yes, that is a real genre). Instead, I found it be a group of people deeply invested in improving their own era with focuses on anti-capitalist farmers markets and cottage industries facilitated with an unparalleled understanding of social media and the internet more generally. The first issue I wanted to address was ‘If they don’t look the same, how do I know what a hipster is?’  This question arises largely due to the ever changing nature of the sub-culture. Where other sub-cultures are highly distinguishable, the hipster does their best to defy clear categorisation. This refusal to be easily pigeon holed has lead the majority of people, even those who may have belonged to sub-cultures in the past, to see them as inauthentic and lacking any real substance as a group.

"An issue with this craze is
that it isn’t as obviously defined as say,
punk or hippie. These earlier popular trends
 had obvious trademarks which set them apart
 as being a distinct counter-culture, such as
 spiked hair and unruly beards. Hipster sub
-culture has always been intrinsically linked
 to ‘the new’, whether that be a pseudo-ironic
 rehash of 1940’s culture or the newest Apple
 watch. If anything, the changeable nature of
 their very identity is the part which they so
 commonly denounced."

After my preliminary description of the group, I felt it might be a good idea to compare their appropriation of various subcultural signifiers to the use of other sources in art forms. As I mentioned earlier in this portfolio, I’ve always liked the idea of showing complex ideas through the discussion of more relevant and relatable topics, and I saw the perfect opportunity here. It seems to me that there is a good comparison to be made between the hipster’s collagic use of cultural symbols to collage more generally and artistic fragmentation. I also felt that by connecting what is currently being ridiculed and lambasted to something generally praised for its innovation, I could give it some cultural authority by osmosis.

The reason I bring this up is that the whole
 phenomenon reminds me of the collages of 
modern art and the Poundian idea of ‘making 
it new’. If we look at some of the canonical
 works of the early 20th century like Eliot’s
 ‘Waste Land’ or Pounds ‘Cantos’ we can see
 a literary collage from history along with
 both high and low culture. This collection
 of fragments is what makes their work unique.
 We would also never call something like 
‘The Waste Land‘ (Eliot) or Pablo Picasso’s
 ‘Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and
 Newspaper’, (Picasso, 1913), unoriginal

The remainder of the blog post discusses the idea that change is natural in culture and to critique a group because they embrace change seemed odd to me. In hindsight I feel as though perhaps some of the performative gestures of the hipster are more pro-modern than modern, which is to say closer to empty pastiche then to any meaningful parody. While that does perhaps diminish their value as gestures, it does not make them totally devoid of meaning because perhaps pastiche and collage is all that is left once everything has already been said, and anything that has not been said is too daft to bother with.

The next blog post was a good deal more conventional than the two prior. It certaintly was not inspired by any genius on my part. I nipped into a charity shop in the city before heading on a round trip to various relatives on the run up to Christmas, and picked up a fairly innocuous book, aptly named The Art of Travel. I feel as though it wouldn’t have affected me as deeply if I were not traveling while I read it. Nonetheless I really did enjoy it and felt I needed to give my own opinion on the subject. I also felt that it would link nicely with Nietzsche whom I had just been introduced to in class a few weeks prior. Another thing I was questioning at the time, was what exactly was the point of literature or the arts more generally? In the book, de Botton talks about a few holidays he went on and what writers/thinkers helped him to enjoy them more. This understanding through the proxy of an author fascinated me, and seemed like a legitimate use of literature in a digital age.

 Monsieur de Botton has done a great deal for me 
to understand how it can help humanity in its own 
way... When we read Van Gogh’s letters
 from Provence or Orwell’s account of Parisian poverty
 we are given perspectives of places we may never 
have been. What a really great novel allows us is
 the perspective of the world to the extent we feel
 as though we know it. 

I felt as though an author could show you everything to be seen in a place in the few hours it takes to finish a short book, even if you could never afford the holiday. Equally a writer can give you the experience of a dangerous or at least uncomfortable adventure through a landscape without having to worry about the danger. The example I use here is Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London because it gives you a tour of parts of France and England which may no longer exist and I would certainly not like to visit in real life but love reading about someone visiting.

We can be shielded from the harshness of 
traveland yet still experience it.

After this, I felt it would be a good idea to provide a counter-point to everything I had been saying. Even in a short piece, I think it is a good idea to give a thesis and antithesis to allow anyone reading it to create their own synthesis. In the case of this particular blog post I felt that there is a danger of over preparing for a holiday with reading, that you could have so much foreknowledge, potentially of things which might not even still be there,  that it would ruin the experience for you entirely. I used Nietzsche’s idea of being excessively historical for this. This is something I still very much agree with, although I am going to be travelling to Scotland this winter so some Lanark and Robert Burns might not hurt, while Irvine Welsh may completely put me off the experience.

The next blog post is on the weaponisation of nostalgia and intertextual ‘in jokes’ in modern film. It is actually something near and dear to me, and something I feel could be expanded into a full-length paper at some stage. In the past few years with the new tidal wave of reboots, remake and sequels a decade after the original, we have seen nostalgia being used to great effect as a marketing ploy. This is true outside of cinema too. ‘Pokemon Go’, one of the most downloaded apps ever, relied almost entirely on the nostalgia of its player base for their success. What I feel needs discussing is now this sense of nostalgia is being commodified and used to sell media, without the media having any of the merits of the original. These bursts of nostalgia create a false sense of inner knowledge in which a character will say something, or an object will be seen which hankers back to an earlier text in the franchise. For this post I felt Disney was who I would focus on, particularly the new Star Wars movie, which is unforgivably guilty of the aforementioned sins.

The most recent films have been different,
 however. In the 7th film, Star Wars: The
 Force Awakens, there was a certain moment 
as Rey and Finn are trying to find a ship 
to escape Jakku when we get a glimpse of
 the Millenium Falcon. That moment links it
 more to the original movies than anything 
else until then. There are several more 
‘throw back’ moments throughout the film 
which are all clinically created to give 
the viewers a shot of nostalgic, keytar 
playing, sleeveless denim jacket wearing,
 endorphins.

My final self-propelled blog post was on Bob Dylan’s Nobel prize win. While he did not win the prize for any specific song or idea, I felt it best to give special attention to one in particular. While the song I chose is certainly not my favourite Dylan song (that honour goes to The Time’s They are A-Changin’), it did fit into the literary framework I picked best. The song I chose was  All around the Watchtower. This is easily one of his most influential, sprouting covers by Jimi Hendrix and U2, but it also contained some of the most poetic and cryptic lyrics of any of his works. As with my other blog posts, I took this as a chance to compound academic and pop-cultural ideas. In this case, I compared Ezra Pound’s Imagiste manifesto and the lyrics to Dylan’s song. I found that due to its aggressively succinct twelve line shape, All around the Watchtower fits rather will into the format outlined by Pound.

“Use no 
superfluous word, no adjective, which 
does not reveal something.”. Obviously given 
that it is a song it couldn’t stick to the 
spartan shortness which Pound himself gave 
an example of in “In the station of the 
metro”.The song does however, remain concise 
despite it’s length in its incredible 
complexity in only a couple of minutes and at
 only 12 lines I think even Pound would 
approve.

I feel as though perhaps I could have given a proper example of an Imagiste poem here to contrast better with the song. This would have allowed for better points of comparison I think. Nonetheless I am quite happy with this post as it was both timely and served the general purpose of this blog reasonable well.

The next post I put up was on the ‘Edit-a-thon’. Before I heard we were doing it I had a misconception that Wikipedia was essentially an uncurated wasteland of bad referencing and ill informed opinions passing as fact. Clearly I was mistaken. In the post I talk about how I ended up writing about Pound (who you may have noticed is a favourite of mine). I wanted to write about Tolkien, but had forgotten that the only people more inscrutable and meticulous than academics are passionate nerds.

Not only was the Wikipedia page incredibly
 detailed and immaculately kept, but 
there is an entire separate wiki dedicated 
to his works. Considering the cult following 
his books have I should have known the 
Wikipedia pages would be bulletproof.

I went through Pound’s Wikipedia page with a fine toothed comb and found something that interested me and which had been seemingly ignored. Fortunately, it fell within the realms of things I know rather a lot about. On the day, the college’s dire WiFi did it’s best to prevent everyone from finishing their work but we all managed to get through it. I’m quite happy with the post although it was on an assigned topic and so I could not put the same set of ideas into it as I had with my other posts. None the less I found the experience useful and writing up on it was all part and parcel of the experience.

The conference was something that stressed me out more than anything I have done all year. Even thinking about it now puts me on edge. The fact we had to use the Pecha Kucha format was what really put me over, I think. I found it pretty easy making up the slides, writing what I wanted to say and saying it. What I could not do was get the timing right. No matter how much I practiced I always with ran into another slide or left dead air (I haven’t decided which is worse yet as both are agonising). I’m really happy with the post I put up for it, not to toot my own horn but I think it’s quite well phrased in some places. I do have to say that this blog post came a little while after a meeting with Prof Jenkins where she helped explain where my pitfalls have been in terms of my writing. This quote in particular, I like:

Once the actual day came around I had reached
a sort of existential calm, as if I was 
riding in the eye of the anxiety storm which
had been raging for the whole week leading up
to it.

I feel it makes the most sense the group the two research seminars in together as a single point of discussion. While the subjects varied wildly attending them represented something wholly homogenous. The purpose of us attending the seminars, other than to learn something new, is to see the value of inter-disciplinary discourse. In each, we can see the ideas which the PhD candidates, professors and visiting academics are developing.  I found them really useful to see the creative process of the lecturers. In each of my blog posts, I spoke a good deal on the topics of the seminars. However, it might have been a better idea to develop what I learned from them in terms of developing my own academic viewpoint rather than the literal knowledge I took in.

The ideas I carried through the creative parts of my blog are something I would like to continue in my writing in future. I still question the value of dusty tomes of secondary criticism sat on exclusionary library shelves, and so think that the internet is the best place to publish my ideas. I have been lucky enough to receive an exceptionally good education and I would like to use that privilege to explain interesting, useful and often highly complex ideas through comparison and metaphor as I have done here. There were several blog posts which I developed but never felt comfortable publishing. This may have been due to my worry that they were being graded. In the coming months, with the portfolio behind me, I am going to try to release them once I have finished editing and refining them. The blog has been a great place to hammer out ideas and I hope to continue using it for my particular agenda in mind.

 

 

 

Work cited

Pyke-Terrett, Luke. “In defense of hipsters and ‘making it new’.” Web log post. phoenician sailor blog, WordPress, 16 Sept. 2016. Web. 29 October.

Pyke-Terrett, Luke. “Do people still value academia within the humanitaries?.” Web log post. phoenician sailor blog, WordPress, 16 Sept. 2016. Web. 28 November.

Pyke-Terrett, Luke. “Alain de Botton and the authorial travel companion.” Web log post. phoenician sailor blog, WordPress, 16 Sept. 2017. Web. 17 January.

Pyke-Terrett, Luke. “All around the watchtower; a musical imagiste masterpiece.” Web log post. phoenician sailor blog, WordPress, 16 Sept. 2017. Web. 18 February .

Pyke-Terrett, Luke. “Wikipedia Editathon.” Web log post. phoenician sailor blog, WordPress, 16 Sept. 2017. Web. 3  .March.

Pyke-Terrett, Luke. “Reflections on Textualities Conference 2017” Web log post. phoenician sailor blog, WordPress, 16 Sept. 2017. Web. 17 .March.

Pyke-Terrett, Luke. “Research seminar – Virgil, Marlowe and Medieval Dido” Web log post. phoenician sailor blog, WordPress, 16 Sept. 2017. Web. 29 .March.

Pyke-Terrett, Luke. “Seminar; Kubrick, George, and the question of adaptation.” Web log post. phoenician sailor blog, WordPress, 16 Sept. 2017. Web. 29 .March.

Pyke-Terrett, Luke. “Literature and IT review.” Web log post. phoenician sailor blog, WordPress, 16 Sept. 2017. Web. 29 .March.

 

 

 

 

Literature and IT review

Currently title-less, my thesis will focus on the themes and motifs used in medieval Grail quests, and apply a theoretical framework created by these motifs, to specific works of literature from the past two hundred years.  I would like to discuss the Christian elements of the myths but also the pre-Christian pseudo-Grail myths which lend themselves to the creation of the motifs which carry forward through the myth more generally. From my initial reading, it is clear that the themes found throughout the evolution of the Grail mythological sequence are a lot more universal than you would initially imagine. Firstly, the obvious layer of knights and heroics is, strictly speaking, really only a covering over the complex web of themes and motifs which perforate the entire genre of Grail quests from the earliest myths up to much more modern texts. After making those themes and identifying the prerequisite elements of a Grail quest, I am going to go through a number of sources from the 19th century onwards to show how and why they used those themes and elements.

I would like to go through the actual source material of the Holy Grail myth to give myself a grounding in the field. My first text will be Chrétien de Troyes’ Arthurian

Romance, introduced and translated by D.D.R. Owen. This book is the first in a series of major Grail Quests written in French. Only one of the stories within the text deals directly with a Grail quest, and so will be the main focus. This text gives some of the basis for the later Arthurian myths which I will be using for the foundation of the theory I am going to apply later in the thesis. This will help to further contextualise the text within its period and allow for a greater understanding of the motifs utilised by de Troyes. I am also going to use other translations of the text to allow me to spot inconsistencies in the phrasing of certain key terms in the English translatory tradition of Arthur. The other two editions I will be using are the Oxford world classic publication translated by William. W. Kibler, and an Everyman library copy translated by Ernest Rhys. The other major primary source I am going to use is the six-part collection of Grail myths,  Lancelot-Grail: the Old French Arthurian Vulgate and post-Vulgate in translation by Norris J. Lacy. This represents the greatest primary source for the entire Grail canon and provides essential details for the remainder of my work. The secondary source which I am going to use to analyse that section of the canon comes from William W. Kipler’s The Lancelot-Grail Cycle, which contains a series of essays dealing further with motifs within the Grail canon presented in the Vulgate Cycle.

In order to track the growth of the motifs visible in these Arthurian myths back further I am going to use J. L Weston’s book The Quest of the Holy Grail,  in which she connects the themes and ideas in the Holy Grail canon to the anthropological work The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer. Both of these texts are absolutely essential to understanding the ideas of the Grail myths in a broader context. Weston’s book is even named Eliot as being a major influence on his work.

Of course, it would be foolish to ignore the obvious, so I will be using A Companion to Romance: From Classical to Contemporary edited by Corinne Saunders, as some of the essays are extremely pertinent, particularly W. R. J. Barron’s essay Arthurian Romance and Helen Cooper’s Malory and Early Prose Romance. Another companion I am going to use is The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Literature 1100-1500 edited by Larry Scanlon. To finish a section of the Grail research I am going to need to use  The Grail, the Quest and the World of Arthur which was edited by Norris J. Lacy, which represents one of the most significant additions to the scholarship on the subject.

There are a series of secondary sources I will use which represent a sort of middle ground in my research between the original Grail Quests and more contemporaneous works in the same tradition. The first text, which is absolutely indispensable, is The Arthurian Handbook which discusses the entire history of the Arthurian romance and deals, to an extent, with Grail myths. It also acts as a middle point in my research as it discusses the progression of the themes into contemporary literature. Another text which I will use for the same purpose is The Holy Grail; History, Myth, Religion by Giles Morgan. This book acts as an overview of the entire history of the Grail myth, from de Troyes to Malroy. It then follows these ideas through the Renaissance all the way to modern cinema. However, the text is rather short and, while it does deal with what I would like to write about generally, it doesn’t give any of the more modern texts as close a reading as I would like.

For the latter part of my thesis, I am going to be using several texts from the past two hundred or so years which contain elements of the Grail Quest motifs modern texts. First and foremost I am going to discuss T. S. Eliot’s The Waste land and J.R.R Tolkien’s

The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Simarilian. All of these texts contain a huge deal of Grail material, which I would like to expound upon. Fortunately, there is a good deal of scholarship done on The Waste Land. The sources I will be using most heavily are  The Waste Land: Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism, which was edited by Michael North, and Lawrence Rainey’s books  Revisiting The Waste Landand The Annotated Waste Land with Eliot’s Contemporary Prose / edited, with Annotations and Introduction. Each of these texts give a good deal of detail on the hyperspecific references Eliot uses within his poem and will allow me to find Grailic meaning within them. Unfortunately, there is not as rich a vein of Tolkien reputable scholarship, which is good because I don’t need to worry as much about repeating what other’s have said, but simultaneously I have to do more leg-work in finding useful connections. IT will make up a minimal part of my research due to the abundance of resources available in hardcopy in the Boole library. That being said, I will use jstor to find additional sources later in my research. There is wide breadth of Tolkien scholarship which is not available in the library in UCC and so I will try to find some useful sources on any of the online journal sites.

 

 

 

 

 

Work Cited

 

Chrétien de Troyes.,. Arthurian Romances. Transl., Intr., Notes By William W. Kibler,. 4th ed., Harmondsworth, Middx., Penguin Books, 1991,.

De Troyes, Chretain, and D.D.R Owens. Arthurian Romances. 2nd ed., London, Everyman’s Press, 1987,.

Kibler, William W. The Lancelot-Grail Cycle. 1st ed., Austin, University Of Texas Press, 1994,.

Lacy, Norris J. The Grail, The Quest, And The World Of Arthur. 1st ed., Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013,.

Lacy, Norris J. A History Of Arthurian Scholarship. 1st ed., Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006,.

Lacy, Norris J et al. The Arthurian Handbook, Second Edition. 1st ed., Hoboken, Taylor And Francis, 2014,.

Morgan, Giles. The Holy Grail. 1st ed., Philadelphia, Running Press, 2011,.

Owen, D. D. R. Arthurian Romance. 2nd ed., London, Everyman’s Press, 1987,.

Saunders, Corinne J. A Companion To Romance. 1st ed., Malden, Mass., Blackwell, 2004,.

Scanlon, Larry. Cambridge Companion To Medieval English Literature 1100-1500. 1st ed., Cambridge, England, Proquest LLC, 2012,.

Weston, Jessie L. The Quest Of The Holy Grail. 4th ed., London, G. Bell & Sons LTD, 1913,.

Tolkien, J. R. R, and Alan Lee. The Lord Of The Rings. 1st ed., Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 2002,.

Tolkien, J. R. R, and Alan Lee. The Lord Of The Rings. 1st ed., London, Harpercollins, 2014,.

Seminar; Kubrick, George, and the question of adaptation.

Today’s seminar with Prof. Graham Allen was really interesting and complete baffling to me. I went to it because I really enjoy how Graham delivers lectures and also because adaptation studies is something that fascinated me. The subject of the lecture dealt primarily with Peter George’s book Red Alert and how Kubrick adapted it into Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. I actually haven’t read Red Alert or seen Dr. Strangelove so what I could learn from the seminar is totally limited to the scope and the contextualising Dr. Allen could provide.

In terms of content, Dr. Allen was delivering a paper he was submitting to be published in a film journal. In his paper, he is refuting a claim made by highly influential cinema academic Peter Kramer. In his book, rather uncreatively named Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, he says that Kubrick only really takes a shell of the original text when making the movie. Kramer argues that Kubrick is fixing the issues with the original text when he wrote the screenplay. However what Dr. Allen is arguing is that the changes (which were considerable) were done as a collaborative effort between George and Kubrick.

One instance Dr. Allen used to describe the gradual change in the script over its years of re-writes is the use of an analogy from Kipling’s The Jungle Book. In this analogy, he uses the idea of a mongoose attacking a snake before the eggs can hatch, because for the time being he has the advantage over the single mother, but would succumb to the whole family. This fable makes it through draft after draft of the screenplay, however, it was eventually cut. This was done, according to Dr. Allen, due to the genre change which took place. The serious allegory would have been out of place in the film and so was replaced with deranged ramblings. Kubrick along with George also removed the moral compass from the story, again because it wouldn’t fit with the tone of the movie.

 

What Dr. Allen pointed out was that in the few years between George’s publication of Red Alert and the release of the movie, intercontinental ballistic missiles had been perfected by both powers in the Cold War, and so the politics of mutually assured destruction (the idea that direct war was impossible if both sides could nuke one another) had gone from a possibility to a reality. This meant that the vast amounts of the story changed by Kubrick, with the help of George, may have been done to deal with the changed global situation at the time of the release of the film, on top of the change in genre.

 

While presenting, Dr. Allen also told an anecdote from when he presented it in Leicester, where Peter Kramer was present while he spoke. Allegedly Graham went up to him beforehand and told Kramer he would be disagreeing with everything he had said in his book. While Graham spoke, Kramer got progressively more annoyed and anxious until at the end he announced to the crowd that he would need to reconsider his work. Obviously, Dr. Allen was chuffed.

 

 

 

Work cited

Krämer, Peter. Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. 1st ed., London, British Film Institute, 2014,.

George, Peter. Red Alert. 1st ed., London, Blackmask.Com, 2008,.

Kipling, Rudyard, and Malvina G Vogel. The Jungle Book. 1st ed., New York, Baronet Books, 2008,.

Research seminar – Virgil, Marlowe and Medieval Dido

This was my first research seminar. The room was entirely unfamiliar, I had stolen it to teach a class the summer before so it was funny to be on the other side of the big desk.  The talk was being given by Meadhbh O’Halloran, a PhD candidate. The seminar itself wasn’t on a subject I wasn’t entirely familiar with so I was fascinated to learn something entirely new. Meadhbh was presenting on the various interpretations of Virgil’s Dido in medieval and Renaissance plays.

She gave an amazing amount of contextualization to the subject. This really helped me as a complete novice in the subject to understand the more complex ideas she went into later in the talk. She started off by introducing Dido (perhaps the only thing I knew before going into the seminar) as being the heroine of book four of the Virgil’s

Aeneid. After Meadhbh explained the cultural significance of her counterpart Aeneas in medieval Britain. Geoffry of Monmouth said that Aeneas’s great-great-grandson Brutus was exiled from Rome and so came and founded Britain naming it after himself… kind of. This made Aeneas the granddad of Britain, and so someone to respect. In the Aeneid, Dido and Aeneas are lovers but he has to leave to found Rome and marry the daughter of the then king of the region. The is essentially the whole point of the story as it was commissioned to be a Roman epic, to equal Homer’s work, on the subject of the birth of Rome. It was never really meant to be a love story, rather a tale of duty and glory. During the medieval and early modern period, there were several adaptations of the encounter between the two on to the stage. These were often used by Jacobian rulers

who wanted to solidify their position by using the myth of Brutus to connect themselves with the crown of England. Apparently, the vast majority of the peasantry in Britain believed that several canonical fictional characters who were grounded in history were real eg. Arthur, Aeneas and Merlin. I don’t think we can laugh at them too much, an awful lot of people believe Sherlock Holmes was a real person and we have the benefit off the internet and widespread literacy. What was important about the two characters is if Dido kept Aeneas in Carthage, he would never found Rome and by proxy, England. This led to her being portrayed as a hysterical woman who wanted to stop Aeneas on his quest. She is usually a secondary figure and rarely given any real characterisation. However, there were about 40 plays written around Europe with Dido as the key figure.

 

The example Meadhbh is focusing on for her PhD research is in  Marlowe’s ‘Dido, Queen of Carthage’. In Marlowe’s version, we see a totally polarised dynamic between the two lovers. Even in the title, it’s made clear that she has her own thing going on beyond her relationship with the Trojan expat. Meadhbh explained that there were two different views of Dido in the English tradition, the Jacobian one I’ve already explained and an earlier Chaucerian idea which favoured Dido over Aeneas. Marlowe is clearly a torch bearer for Chaucer’s thought on the subject. In his version, Dido is not even attracted to Aeneas until she is struck by Cupid’s arrow. The play was even written to be played by a children’s troop, literally cutting Aeneas down to size while Dido would almost certainly be played by a young boy anyway (which was customary at the time). This does more than have him look short, his voice would have been ridiculous for a hero and stage presence were reduced too. Meadhbh gave several examples of lines Marlowe wrote for Aeneas which made him seem even more impotent and childlike. He even strongly considers staying in Carthage and ignoring the remainder of the quest given to him by the gods.

I found the talk incredibly interesting and actually learned an awful lot. I had a little knowledge on Virgil from my undergrad in classics but it was fascinating to see how the characters change over time. The idea of the influence of older traditions on more modern ones fascinate me. That is essentially what my currently MA thesis is on and likely what I will write about for my PhD. I regret not going to more now but I will certainly try to go to as many as possible during the summer. While not strictly connected I felt it would be appropriate to include the only thing that came up when I searched ‘Dido’ for the pictures to include. I wonder could you include this version of Dido as a modern adaption… probably not.

Reflections on Textualities Conference 2017

To say I was frazzled when they told us we were running a conference would be a dramatic understatement. What was worse, we were going to be presenting in ‘Machu Pichu’, or so I called it for the first two weeks. In fact, it’s called Pecha Kucha. Not that that makes any more sense than the other name, at least I had heard of Machu Pichu. Apparently, it means chit-chat in Japanese, which is odd considering they started doing it originally in Finland (I think). In my panic,  I had been researching for my dissertation for about a month before we were given the date for the mini-conference, so information was abundant. I was actually dramatically over prepared, and wrote almost ten pages of things I could say on the day, which sounds sensible until you remember you have less than seven minutes to speak, and only end up saying about 30 sentences in that time. Of course, even with the tiniest handwriting, I would never fit all I had to say on cue cards, so I didn’t bother with them at all.

I very quickly realised that I would only really be able to focus on one chapter of my thesis. It made the most sense to me to start with the Chalice, which sort of encapsulated the entirety of the rest of my thesis idea. It also meant I could use the question asking part of the presentation to get suggestions for texts to include in the following chapters of the thesis.

Emaze, which was recommended as a free alternative to Powerpoint, was incredibly easy to use and was the easiest part of the entire process. I’ve been teaching for about two years, so speaking in front of others wasn’t going to be a problem at all; my issue was going to be the automatic nature of the slides. The slides changed every twenty seconds, but you never knew how far into the slide you were, so unless the timing was perfect you could end up leaking a point into another slide, or have anguishing seconds of dead air while you wait. Everyone was allocated some sort of job to make sure the conference run as smoothly as possible. Thankfully mine was pretty easy, all I had to do was get a biography from everyone in the Modernities MA and post it to the page (which you can find here). Everyone was as diligent as always and sent on what was needed promptly.

Once the actual day came around I had reached a sort of existential calm, as if I was riding in the eye of the anxiety storm which had been raging for the whole week leading up to it. I was speaking in the second group, so there wasn’t too much time spent waiting around. It felt like it had been mere moments after the conference started that I was up at the podium. One thing that threw me more than anything was the steep angle of the podium. I had counted on taking a drink of water to centre myself if I got flustered, but there was nowhere to put it. It’s funny how much faith you put into something as small as a tiny ledge for water, and how much it can unnerve you. None the less, in perhaps the fastest six minutes forty seconds of my life, it was over. I feel as though I made a few mistakes with timing but everyone I spoke to was lovely about it. There were a few words in Welsh and French which I had been worried about. Fortunately, I’ve spoken French on-and-off for about ten years so that wasn’t too difficult (although our resident francophone did smirk at me) and there weren’t any Chrachach there so nobody could correct my butchering of Welsh. Being early gave me the chance to enjoy everyone else’s presentations without worrying about my own. There were really disparate choices of topic, from Joycean readings of Minstrel shows, to Feminism protest poetry, to the use of mirrors in ‘Black Swan’.

I feel as though I came out of the whole experience understanding a side of academia I had never really considered. I realise that it was a small conference and we knew everyone there, but I think having it this early in our academic careers, on top of running it, help alleviate the nerves for the next time. It was also fascinating seeing everyone’s ideas become a little more developed from when I’ve been speaking to them throughout the year. The wee pastries weren’t bad either.

Wikipedia Editathon.

We were asked to edit a Wikipedia page and frankly, I was daunted. Considering I was planning to write my thesis on Tolkien that was my first port of call.

Not only was the Wikipedia page incredibly detailed and immaculately kept, but there is an entire separate wiki dedicated to his works. Considering the cult following his books have I should have known the Wikipedia pages would be bulletproof. Next, I thought about the different parts of the course that both interest me and that I have a good level of knowledge about. The two authors who I have come back to, again and again, are Ezra Pound and T.S Eliot. However Ezra, for all of his madness and unforgivable bigotry, at the end of his life fascinated me more. I was particularly interested in how he fostered and developed the careers of so many writers. So, of course, I went through his Wikipedia page and found that it was, as expected, chock full of information with headings dealing with his writing and his personal life. What I didn’t see was anything at all dealing with his editing.

There was my opportunity. As I’ve said, I’m particularly interested in how Pound was about to propel authors he liked from relative obscurity into the limelight. Being as charismatic as he was, Pound was able to foster relationships with a number of publishers, along with various patrons who would fund him and his friends as they wrote what are now considered some of the best work of the early 20th century. His influence didn’t run out there, however. He also did a great deal of editing. The most famous example, and the one which I felt needed to be added to Pound’s Wikipedia page, was his work on The Waste Land. There’s no need for me to go into any particular detail on how he edited it, but Eliot’s seminal poem was shaped irreparably by Pound.

The edit-a-thon itself was actually a lot more relaxed than I had imagined it would be. I arrived into the west wing in a bog of sweat from rushing to find very few people with books and rather a lot of people with coffees. I initially had the thought to edit the Carmilla entry but after an hour and a half of working Pound’s page, I found I didn’t have the time. The referencing software used by Wikipedia was surprisingly intuitive and really didn’t interfere with the work at all. The actual editing didn’t take nearly as long as I had expected, as I had researched it all so thoroughly for an essay I had written in the past few months. The fact that the editing itself was finished sharpish was good before the internet cut off for about three-quarters of an hour in the middle of the session, meaning that I couldn’t actually get anything done at all. However once that was resolved I was able to get the remainder of the editing done. Of course along with the Wikipedia aspect of the session we were also asked to live tweet the event. I’ve been using twitter for around 8 years so that was really like second nature to me. Overall the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon was a success, from speaking to other people they seemed happy with the work they had done and were looking forward to doing more in the future. Wikipedia is an incredible resource for those without the luxury of a packed research library and should be maintained to the highest quality by experts.  I plan on continuing making edits to pages within my field in the coming months to try and benefit the site as a whole and to ensure that people using the site get the most accurate information possible

All around the watchtower; a musical imagiste masterpiece

 

Bob Dylan recently, to his own objection, won the coveted Nobel prize for Literature. Firstly what shocks most people, is that a folk singer who certainly won’t be breaking into the top 40 anytime soon, won the most

prestigious prize a writer could ever hope to be awarded. In his speech, Bob addresses that, he says; “Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, “Are my songs literature?”/ So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer.”. Obviously, not all songs are works of art (see anaconda by Nicki Minaj). None the less, when we look at the lyrics to All around the watchtower one of Dylan’s most influential songs we can see its prosaic and poetic merits. Firstly it’s important to get some essential details, All along the watchtower featured on Dylan’s 3rd studio album, ‘John Wesley Harding’, and was released in 1967. It featured relatively bear instrumentation with only drums, guitar, bass and harmonica (two of which Dylan was playing himself). It stands as a dark moot silhouette to the maximalism of the year it was released, most notably ‘Sargent pepper’s loneley hearts club band’, which Dylan called indulgent.

 

Something I noticed while reading through them, is that it almost reads like an Imagist poem. Thankfully, it’s very easy to see what does and doesn’t qualify as an Imagist poem because the ruleset is so distinct. In his aptly named “a few donts by an Imagiste” – Ezra Pound gives a rulebook of the movement. First and foremost the poems should be concise, they shouldn’t include anything that isn’t essential to the work itself “Use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something.”. Obviously given that it is a song it couldn’t stick to the spartan shortness which Pound himself gave an example of in “In the station of the metro”. The song does however, remain concise despite it’s length in its incredible complexity in only a couple of minutes and at only 12 lines I think even Pound would approve. Talking to Rolling stone (1968) Dylan said ‘There’s no line you can stick your finger through. There’s no hole in any of the stanzas. There’s no blank filler. Each line has something.”