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March 16, 2012

Celebrating Dickens, 1 month on

It's just over a month since Dickens's 200th birthday and in that time the Celebrating Dickens app has had over 10,000 downloads!

I spoke about the app and the Celebrating Dickens project this afternoon on BBC West Midlands, available to listen again online (1hr 43mins in).

October 25, 2007

A Nasty Case of the Vapours

Writing about web page

An article I came across on BBC news today, related to a Radio 4 broadcast this morning that set out to explore "the lives, deaths and immune systems of heroines of English literature through the eyes of modern medicine" (listen again here). The article was slightly less promising that it sounded, aiming to investigate what was "actually" wrong with the seemingly endless stream of sickly women in "classic" (referring here to Romantic and Victorian) fiction. Three doctors of medicine and literature were asked to "diagnose" women such as Marianne in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, one doctor prescribing a case of typhus, and another reckoning that the symptoms indicate a streptococcal sore throat and later septicaemia. However, I think Dr Neil Vickers is probably on the right track: he states that "Marianne's illness is simply a plot device," claiming that "Austen needs a life threatening illness in order to return the previously overexcitable Marianne to the 'sense' of the book's title." The rest of the article includes similar diagnoses of Cathy in Wuthering Heights and Bleak House's Lady Dedlock. What would perhaps be more interesting is to think further about why Victorian heroines are so often ill; why is it an appropriate and believeable plot device and how does it function amongst women? Of course much work has explored this: Helena Michie's and Anna Krugovoy Silver's work immediately springs to mind. The related recurring motif of the sickroom in Victorian literature is another interesting area yet to be explored (as far as I know), raising questions about constructions of "femininity" and the spaces in which it is played out.

October 12, 2007

The Pianist on Radio 4

On Saturday 20th October, 2.30-3.30pm, Radio 4 will be broadcasting a recording of The Pianist, a production at this year's Manchester International Festival. Based on the memoirs of Wladyslaw Szpilman, also adapted into the 2002 film of the same name, the performance combined extracts of Szpilman's memoirs, narrated by Peter Guiness, with the music of Chopin (and several of Szpilman's own pieces) performed by Mikhail Rudy. The result was a truly incredible performance (there's a better review of it, with a small contribution by me, here) and although it won't quite be the same on the radio- the shadowy attic space in which the performance took place gave wonderful acoustics and a unique and unforgettable atmosphere- I'd still highly recommend tuning in next Saturday. There's more info about the production here.

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