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February 25, 2013

Last Blog Entry

Writing about web page http://www.zoebrigley.com

This is just a note to say that I will no longer be using this blog. I have now moved over to my website and blog at zoebrigley.com

June 09, 2012

Etch Dance Company

Writing about web page http://www.etchdance.org/etch_dance/Home.html

I have been meaning for a while to write about a dance company here in Pennsylvania called Etch Dance. I have been to see a few of their shows and I was really impressed by the choreography, much of which is inspired by literature – writers like Kate Chopin, Plath, Virginia Woolf, and Edwidge Danticat. The dances explore female identity and how to express different aspects of that psyche. What particularly struck me about the dances too was how they allow the female body to be athletic, muscular, strong in a way that is very female. Many of the shapes and poses reminded me of female dancers in art – the strong women of Paula Rego or Tamara de Lempicka.

(All the photos of the dancers below are publicity shots from their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/134406240544/photos/ ).

Etch Dance 1
Etch Dance 2
Etch Dance 3
Tamara de Lempicka 2
Paula Rego

April 29, 2012

Four copies of Conquest to give away….

Writing about web page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Conquest-Zoe-Brigley/dp/1852249307/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335706442&sr=1-6

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Conquest by Zoë Brigley (Thompson)


by Zoë Brigley (Thompson)

Giveaway ends June 07, 2012.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

April 06, 2012

Conquest and Repeated Words…

Writing about web page http://www.amazon.com/Conquest-Zoe-Brigley/dp/1852249307

Someone asked me recently about the repeated words that appear in Conquest, and I am posting my answer here. I recently created a Wordle to see exactly which words are repeated most in the book.

Conquest Wordle

It is certainly true that repeated words like ‘garden,’ ‘window,’ ‘long,’ ‘flower,’ ‘never,’ and ‘dreams’ feature prominently in Conquest. I have always liked repetition in poetry: the sense that in reading an entire book you are circling round and round the same ideas. I think that’s why I chose to use the sestina form twice in this new book. You can find out more about the sestina on poets.org .

There are two versions of a double sestina form in Conquest – I say versions because each stanza has fourteen lines like a sonnet, and fourteen repeated words, so it’s a hybrid form different to those used by Swinburne and Sidney . The first (found in the ‘Conquest’ section from p. 35 to 43) uses the words (with variations in brackets):


*plot (plotted, plotting);
*land (onland, Disneyland, scrubland, dreamlands, garlands, land-burning);
*fat (fattening, fatten, fattened, fattest);
*gold (golden, golden eyes, gilds);
*graph (cartography, sonograph, autograph, geography, photographs, choreography);
*man or men (bondsmen, woman, ottoman, kinsman, women, workmen, figure, cattlemen);
*cell (sells, call);
*script (description, inscription, conscripts, scripture);
*bear or bore (harbour, harbouring, born, borne);
*thing (nothing, anything, everything, something);
*shore (onshore, shore up, shoreline, sure, lakeshore);
*colony (colonists, colonies, colonise);
*and one wild card for words that had something to do with the body: most often I use ‘mouth’, but I also use ‘teeth’, ‘burst’, ‘tongues’, ‘faces’, ‘lips’, ‘open’, ‘hair’, ‘touch’, ‘body’, and once I use the word ‘bereft’ which is an obvious cheat but was necessary for the poem.

There are words related to geography (land, earth, shore) and the civilizing of place (colony, plot). Some of the words relate to the greed of imperialism (gold, fat), and to the suffering that it causes (bear, cell). There is also a feeling in some of the words that the protagonists are trying to chart a course away from such an oppressive way of living (script, graph, thing). This is a physical journey too , as indicated by the bodily words in the wild card list.

The second version of a double sestina is ‘The Lady and the Unicorn’ sequence, and the repeated words (with variations in brackets) are:

*garden (gardener);
*year (yearly);
*day (today, Sunday, daylight, weekday);
*plant (planted, plantations, replanted, transplanted, Jardin des Plantes, planting, pieplants);
*time (thyme, night-time, mistimed);
*flower (flowers, Mayflower, flour, fleurs, marigold, flowering, flowerbeds);
*sweet (sweetest, sweetcakes, sweetnesses, unsweetened, sweeten);
*wreck (wreckage, wrecked);
*out (outside, outed);
*walls (walled);
*and a wild card for words related to the senses: mainly I use ‘tongue,’ but on two occasions I use ‘eye,’ and once ‘marmalade.’

‘The Lady and the Unicorn’ is a poem about recuperation and healing. The epigraph from A Midsummer Night’s Dream reads: “It fell upon a little western flower, / Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound.” There are repeated words related to growth (garden, plant, flower), and to obstacles that prevent growth (walls, wreck). Words related to the passage of time (time, day, year) indicate that this is a slow process, but there are rewards (sweet, the sensual wild card list) and possibilities of escape (window, out).

March 22, 2012

zoebrigley.org is no more…

Writing about web page https://www.facebook.com/zoebrigley

This is just a note to say that zoebrigley.org is no more. The domain was somehow hijacked – apparently this is quite common. In the meantime, I have set up a facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/zoebrigley and a new, improved website will be coming soon.

March 18, 2012

Conquest arrives…

Copies of my new poetry collection Conquest arrived last week… Thanks again to the artist Victoria Brookland for allowing me to use her wonderful image Hawk on the front cover. There are also three pictures by Brookland inside the collection.


Alan Moore Essays

Writing about web page http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13514412-sexual-ideology-in-the-works-of-alan-moore

The collection on Alan Moore and sexual ideology is out now, and I have contributed an essay. See the contents below… I can’t wait to read the whole thing.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments 1
Introduction: The Polarizing of Alan Moore’s Sexual Politics

Part I: The “Low Form”: Moore and the Complex Relationships of the Comic Book Superhero
1. Libidinal Ecologies: Eroticism and Environmentalism in Swamp Thing
2. Green Love, Red Sex: The Conflation of the Flora and the Flesh in Swamp Thing
3. When “One Bad Day” Becomes One Dark Knight: Love, Madness, and Obsession in the Adaptation of The Killing Joke into Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight
4. “Don’t laugh, Daddy, we’re in love”: Mockery, Fulfillment, and Subversion of Popular Romance Conventions in The Ballad of Halo Jones
5. The Love of Nationalism, Internationalism and Sacred Space in Watchmen

Part II: The Vicious Cabaret of Love, Sexual Desire … and Torture
6. Theorizing Sexual Domination in From Hell and Lost Girls Jack the Ripper versus Wonderlands of Desire
7. “Do you understand how I have loved you?” Terrible Loves and Divine Visions in From Hell
8. Body Politics: Unearthing an Embodied Ethics in V for Vendetta
9. The Poles of Wantonness: Male Asexuality in Alan Moore’s Film Adaptations
10. Reflections on the Looking Glass: Adaptation as Sex and Psychosis in Lost Girls

Part III: Victorian Sexualities and the Ecriture Feminine: Women Writing and the Women of Writing
11. “Avast, Land-Lubbers!” Reading Lost Girls as a Post-Sadeian Text
K. A. LAITY 138
12. The Undying Fire: Erotic Love as Divine Grace in Promethea
13. “It came out of nothing except our love”: Queer Desire and Transcendental Love in Promethea
14. Self-Conscious Sexuality in Promethea
15. I Remain Your Own: Epistolamory in “The New Adventures of Fanny Hill”

Afterword: Disgust with the Revolution

Selected Bibliography 207
About the Contributors 217

February 16, 2012

Blog dormant

My Warwick usercode is about to expire, so this blog will become dormant shortly. For updates, please visit The Bardathon or my homepage at the University of Nottingham.

Very best, and thanks for reading.

Peter Kirwan

November 19, 2011

Where am I?

This blog hasn't been updated in some time and, for that, many apologies. Since submitting my thesis, I've begun a new role at the University of Nottingham, as Teaching Associate in Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama. I'm working on ways to consolidate my various online presences, but I can now be found at Peter.Kirwan@nottingham.ac.uk and online at http://nottingham.ac.uk/english/people/Peter.Kirwan . Hopefully I'll begin blogging properly again soon!

October 13, 2011

Film Noir: Bibliography

Build Your Gallows High

Abbott, Megan (2002) The Street was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).

Allen, Virginia M. (1983) The Femme Fatale: Erotic Icon (New York: The Whitson Publishing Company).

Beeler, Karin (2006) Tattoos, Desire and Violence: Marks of Resistance in Literature, Film and Television (Jefferson NC: McFarland).

Biesen, Sheri Chinen (2004) ‘Manufacturing Heroines: Gothic Victims and Working Women in Clasic Noir Films’ in Film Noir Reader 4: The Crucial Films and Themes, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New Jersey: Limelight): 161-173.

--. (2005) Blackout: World War Two and the Origins of Film Noir (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press).

Boozer, Jack (1999) ‘The lethal femme fatale in the noir tradition,’ Journal of Film and Video 51.3/4: 20-35.

Bould, Mark (2005) Film Noir: From Berlin to Sin City (London and New York: Wallflower).

Cassuto, Leonard (2009) Hard-boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories (New York: Columbia University Press).

Chopra-Gant, Mike (2006) Hollywood Genres and Postwar America: Masculinity, Family and Nation in Popular Film and Film Noir (London and New York: IB Tauris).

Corey, William (1999) ‘Girl Power: Female Centered Neo-Noir’ in Film Noir Reader 2, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight): 311-327.

Diapaolo, Marc (2011) War, Politics and Superheroes: Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film (Jefferson NC: McFarland).

Doane, Mary Ann (1987) The Desire to Desire: The Woman’s Film of the 1940s (Bloomington and Indianapolis IN: Indiana University Press).

--. (1991)Femme Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis(London and New York: Routledge).

Evans, Caroline (2007) Fashion at the Edge (New Haven CT: Yale University Press).

Farber, Stephen (1999) ‘Violence and the Bitch Goddess’ in Film Noir Reader 2, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight): 45-55.

Fay, Jennifer and Justus Nieland (2010) Film Noir: Hard Boiled Modernity and the Cultures of Globalization (London and New York: Routledge).

Feasey, Rebecca (2009) ‘Neo-Noir’s Fatal Woman: Stardom, Survival and Sharon Stone’ in Neo-noir, ed. Mark Bould, Kathrina Glitre and Greg Tuck (London and New York: Wallflower).

Flory, Dan (2010) Philosophy, Black Film, Film Noir (University Park PA: Pennsylvania State University Press).

Forter, Greg (2000) Murdering Masculinities: Fantasies of Gender and Violence in the American Crime Novel (New York and London: New York University Press).

Hollinger, Karen (1996) ‘Film Noir, Voice-over, and the Femme Fatale’ in Film Noir Reader, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight): 243-260.

Irwin, John T. (2006) Unless the Threat of Death is Behind Them: Hard-boiled Fiction and Film Noir (Baltimore MD: John Hopkins University Press).

James, Dean (1998) ‘Interview with Sara Paretsky’ in Deadly Women: The Woman Mystery Reader’s Indispensible Companion, ed. Jan Grape, Dean James and Ellen Nehr (New York: Connell and Graf Publishers): 287-290.

Kinsman, Margaret (1995) ‘A Question of Visibility: Paretsky and Chicago’ in Women Times Three: Writers, Detectives, Readers, ed. Kathleen Gregory Klein (Bowling Green OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press): 15-28.

Maxfield, James F. (1996) The Fatal Woman: Sources of Male Anxiety in American Film Noir, 1941-1991 (Madison/Teaneck: Farleigh Dickenson University Press).

Menon, Elizabeth (2006) Evil by Design: The Creation and Marketing of the Femme Fatale (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois).

Orr, Stanley (2010) Darkly Perfect World: Colonial Adventure, Postmodernism, and American Noir (Columbus OH: Ohio State University Press).

Phillips, Gene D. (2000) Creatures of Darkness: Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction and Film Noir (Lexington KT: University Press of Kentucky).

Pronzoni, Bill (1998) ‘Women in the Pulps’ in Deadly Women: The Woman Mystery Reader’s Indispensible Companion, ed. Jan Grape, Dean James and Ellen Nehr (New York: Connell and Graf Publishers): 17-19.

Reddy, Maureen T. (1988) Sisters in Crime: Feminism and the Crime Novel (New York: Continuum).

Richardson, Michael (2010) Otherness in Hollywood Cinema (New York and London: Continuum).

Spicer, Andrew (2002) Film Noir (Harlow: Longman).

Telotte, J.P. (2004) ‘Voices from the Deep: Film Noir as Psychodrama’ in Film Noir Reader 4: The Crucial Films and Themes, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New Jersey: Limelight): 145-159.

Wager, Jans B. (2005) Dames in the Driver’s Seat: Rereading Film Noir (Austin TX: University of Texas Press).

Ward, Elizabeth (1999) ‘The Unintended Femme Fatale: The File on Thelma Jordan and Pushover’ in Film Noir Reader 2, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight): 129-136.

September 10, 2011

Shakespeare Club

Writing about web page http://www.stratfordshakespeareclub.org/shakespeare-club-event-20110913-Peter-Kirwan.html

On Tuesday, I'll be addressing the Shakespeare Club of Stratford-upon-Avon, with the title "Chasing Windmills: Where Next for Cardenio?" This lecture will discuss the aftermath of both Brean Hammond's edition of Double Falsehood and the RSC's recent production of Cardenio. If the play is now part of the canon, what are we to expect for it next?

Shakespeare Institute, Mason Croft, Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. 7:45pm.

September 02, 2011

Why Poetry Matters: Poetry and Apocalypse —– September 2011.

Writing about web page http://nvwn.wordpress.com/

(Part of the NVWN newsletter).

In the wake of Hurricane Irene, people up and down the East Coast are left in awe at the incredible power of the wind and sea. Apart from the hurricane, there have been tornadoes, even an earthquake, and one can’t help feeling humbled at the chaos produced, worthy of a disaster movie.

Environmental destruction and ecological balance are at the heart of Neil Astley’s anthology_Earth Shattering_, which brings together over 200 poems to celebrate the natural world, lament its corruption, and consider how it might be preserved. When it comes to the power of nature and the possibility of apocalypse, however, one poem particularly struck me.

Working out of genres that he calls ‘Alternative Realism’ and ‘European Darkness,’ the Irish poet Matthew Sweeney imagines the breakdown of the civilized world in ‘Zero Hour’ (http://www.cstone.net/~poems/twoposwe.htm). As oil reserves slowly run low in this frightening, new society, Sweeney imagines cars left useless on the roadside and people attacking one another for the most basic goods. Sweeney’s scenario is one that we all doubtfully envision at times of crisis, and his final question is chilling:

out there could have predicted
this sudden countdown to zero hour,
all the paraphernalia of our comfort
stamped obsolete, our memories
fighting to keep us sane and upright?

September 01, 2011


The thesesMy copyTitle page

August 31, 2011

Sixty Minutes with Shakespeare

Writing about web page http://60-minutes.bloggingshakespeare.com/

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust's official response to the Authorship Question will be going live tomorrow! Sign up at the website http://60-minutes.bloggingshakespeare.com/. I'm one of sixty scholars contributing a sixty-second podcast to a big batch of questions designed to show the wider contexts of Shakespeare's writing which mean that, fundamentally, only he could have written the plays (within certain stipulations - my own contribution is about the prevalence of collaboration during the period, for example).

I'm also in a line-up of mugs alongside people like Stephen Fry, Dan Snow, Antony Sher, Michael Wood and Simon Callow, as well as many of the leading academics in my field. I'm imagining this event's going to make a bit of noise...

August 01, 2011

Why Poetry Matters: Poetry and Trauma —– July/August 2011.

Writing about web page https://www.facebook.com/nvwritersnetwork

The world is still coming to terms with the massacre on the island of Utøya in Norway. Reading accounts of the horror by young people like Emma Martinovic in The Guardian is moving and thought-provoking: we ask ourselves, how would we respond in the face of such brutality?

Poets have often tried to make sense of inhuman and barbaric acts of murder. For example, the poem `Psychopath’ by the British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, or Carolyn Forché’s remarkable prose poem, `The Colonel,’ which presents a brutal Latin American dictator: “The colonel returned with a sack that he used to bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this.”

Perhaps the most poignant, however, is poetry of the survivor, the poetry of those who mourn for the lost and seek a new future. Take Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno’s collection Slamming Open the Door written after her daughter, Leidy, was brutally murdered in 2003. Bonanno writes of her precarious existence after the event in the poem `Ice Skating’:

we skate way far over in the distance,
remotely visible,
two pitiable lurchers
where the surface is wafery thin
and the light is bad,
where no one would choose to skate
had God not pointed an icy,
peremptory finger
and said, There.

(This is a column for the NVWN Newsletter: https://www.facebook.com/nvwritersnetwork).

July 29, 2011

Final push

I'm submitting my PhD in 33 days. The whole thing is now essentially written. There are some references to chase up, some bits of syntax to straighten out, a contents page to create, but the body of the work is pretty much all there. I've got a full month now to tweak it as far as possible, make sure the arguments are tight and that I'm happy releasing it to my examiners.

It's been a bit of a slog, but it'll be in within the three year mark and, hopefully, it'll be a good thesis. One can never tell, of course, until the viva, but I hope that I'll be able to hand it in with a smile as well as a sigh of relief.

Here goes!

July 24, 2011

The World Shakespeare Congress in Prague

I'm just back from the World Shakespeare Congress in Prague. This is the biggest gathering of Shakespeareans, which happens once every five years in a different corner of the globe. I just wanted to post quickly about the sessions I saw, and I'll leave out my joyous experiences of Czech beer. It's a beautiful city though, and I was pleased that the schedule built in plenty of free time for sightseeing.

Day One was an opening reception in the beautiful National Theatre, with a talk on the theatre's history by Martin Hilsky, the prestigious and erudite translator of Shakespeare into Czech, and a performance by several clowns riffing on The Winter's Tale and the gravediggers of Hamlet.

Day Two began with Stanley Wells on "Shakespeare: Man of the European Renaissance", a typically entertaining and learned lecture from Stanley. In the afternoon I attended a session on "Editing Hamlet" which discussed the practical and theoretical issues raised by a number of traditional and online editorial projects. Neil Taylor was particularly good, reflecting candidly on the decisions made in the third Arden Hamlet. I then had my own seminar on "Magic and the Occult in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries." This was a fun discussion, which focussed particularly on the (apparent) decline in magical belief/representation, and the problems of discussing magic in a sceptical age. I was disappointed not to manage to talk more about my own paper, but I received good written feedback and had chats with people afterwards, so felt like I got a great deal out of the seminar. In the evening I saw a student production of The Winter's Tale, starring several of the efficient conference assistants.

Day Three gave us the best plenary, Martin Hilsky on "Shakespeare's Theatre of Language: Czech Experience". With detailed discussion of particular examples, Hilsky introduced us to the problems of translation, arguing for remaining faithful to the playfulness of language rather than the words themselves. The translation of puns, double-meanings, ambiguities of gender and reference etc. into another tongue is perhaps the closest form of close-reading there is, and Hilsky was superb in his explanation of the potential. Next, "Shakespeare Illustrated" combined an interesting paper on labyrinths by Sophie Chiari with a typically fascinating look at Fuseli by Stephen Orgel. The day concluded with "International Perspectives on Shakespearean Theatre Reviewing", a lively seminar chaired by Paul Prescott, Peter Smith and Janice Valls-Russell which was a thematic sequel to the conference I participated in in Stratford two years ago. The issues remain live, but the international scope drew particular attention to problems of translation and reviewer expertise, and it'll be interesting to see the ouctomes of the seminar.

Wednesday's plenary speaker was Marjorie Garber, with the most purely entertaining (if less "academic") paper on "Czech Mates: When Shakespeare Met Kafka". The best parts of this featured in-depth discussion of the infinite number of monkeys mathematical problem, with the immortal line "One infinite monkey will suffice." The rest of the day was given over to sightseeing, and a gorgeous conference dinner at the castle.

Thursday began with Djanet Sears, formerly of this parish, discussing her play Harlem Duet. I love the play, and Djanet spoke fascinatingly to it, although I did think that the extensive quotation was perhaps overkill - I most enjoyed her discussion of the influences that went into creating it. The general meeting followed, with announcement that the next Congress would take place in Stratford-upon-Avon or Montpellier, both exciting venues. An afternoon panel session on "The Queen of Bohemia's Wedding" featured three great papers by Nadine Akkerman, James Marino and especially Richard Preiss, who discussed Bartholomew Fair in the context of the amalgamated, and therefore ambiguous, Lady Elizabeth's Men. I then went to a seminar on "2000-2009: A Decade of Shakespeare in Performance." Several delegates discussed Bond, which I wasn't a huge fan of, but which acted as a nice contrast to the discussion of institutional British theatres as in Michael Dobson and Christie Carson's papers.

The final day began with a fascinating selection of papers by the Czech director Karel Kriz, the dramaturge Vlasta Gallerova and the Georgian director Robert Sturua on "Directing Shakespeare: The Cold War Years". While translation was a bit difficult, and the session overran quite tremendously, the speakers (especially Sturua) spoke movingly to the trials of an earlier period and the changes on the world stage. In the afternoon, Marion O'Connor chaired two sterling papers by Anthony Parr and Lucy Munro, the latter of which was particularly interesting to me, focussing as it did on casting in the Caroline period and the ways in which we can read casting strategies into dramaturgy. I think we still lack a sophisticated enough methodology to talk persuasively about this, but Lucy convinced me that it can be done. Finally, a fine panel on "Expectations, Experience, and Experimentation in Shakespeare's Theatre". The main question raised here was of how we judge audience satisfaction - as opposed to success - and the speakers raised a series of fascinating perspectives. Immediately after that, we moved on to the residence of the US ambassador for closing speeches and free champagne.

Huge congratulations to the organising committee, especially the ever-affable Nick Walton and Martin Prochazka who ran events with wit and grace. I had some extremely useful and exciting meetings while I was there, and am now feeling fired up for the final month of my thesis. Very much hoping I can get back to Prague again soon.

July 04, 2011

Why Poetry Matters: Poetry and Nature —– June/July 2011.

Writing about web page http://www.facebook.com/nvwritersnetwork

Poetry is often thought to have a special relationship with nature, from the British Romantics to Walt Whitman and Robinson Jeffers. Nature poetry is now sometimes frowned upon as being too sentimental or idealist, imagining utopias that cannot exist in a modern, urban world. Poetry, however, might be a very useful tool for understanding the human relationship with nature, especially when pollution is rife and industry threatens to destroy America’s beautiful natural spaces for the sake of profit.

In his study, The Song of the Earth, the critic Jonathan Bate draws on the ideas of the philosopher Martin Heidegger to put forward the idea of “poetic dwelling”. Though writing is an act of human production, far away from the natural world, Bate notes that poetry emphasizes the imagination rather than possession, something that is particularly important with regards to nature. This poetic attitude can be seen in the poems of Robert Frost, such as `The Need of Being Versed in Country Things,’ which describes a tumbledown house where birds fly in through the broken windows. Frost notices that in this scene of human wreckage, life carries on: `the lilac renewed its leaf’. Human beings do not dominate the landscape and finally nature reclaims the human dwelling. Frost concludes that for the birds, `there was really nothing sad’.

(This is a column for the NVWN Newsletter: https://www.facebook.com/nvwritersnetwork).

June 18, 2011

More Poetry Set to Music: Harper's version of Angelou's 'Still I Rise'.

I discovered this on the Live From Mars album this morning. Ben Harper merges a beautiful song about Martin Luther King with Angelou’s poem ‘Still I Rise’: http://youtu.be/Yi4SHLrmiqI

June 14, 2011

Cardenio in Conversation

Writing about web page http://bloggingshakespeare.com/listen-to-cardenio-in-conversation

The wonderful people at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust have made a talk that I attended on Saturday available online. This was a conversation between Tiffany Stern and Greg Doran on the subject of Cardenio, chaired by Paul Edmondson of this parish.

It was a wonderful discussion, with Greg talking in detail about the history of his relationship with the play and adaptation, and Tiffany eloquently stating her case for scepticism over Double Falsehood. Happily, I don't need to report further, because you can listen for yourself:

Cardenio in Conversation

June 11, 2011

Karen LaMonte's Recining Dress Impression with Drapery (2009)

Writing about web page http://www.karenlamonte.com/

Taken at the Renwick, Smithsonian, Washington DC, 2010.

Viewing this work is a remarkable experience. Your first impression is of looking at a solid mass, but when you catch it at particular angles, the body-shaped hollow pops out at you. It really makes you gasp. There’s an incredible presence for something that is not there, a woman who is conspicuously absent. Karen's work draws attention to clothing as a cultural construct--an identifier that relays who you are and your place in the world. The history of the dress is fundamentally tied to what it means to be a woman. Yet Karen has stated that the subject of her work isn't so much feminism, but femininity. (Quoted from... http://www.karenlamonte.com/media/Eye%20Level_%20In%20Conversation%20with%20Karen%20Lamonte_Jan%202010.pdf)

June 09, 2011

'Memory' – a poem by Frida Kahlo.

Frida Kaho


I had swayed. Nothing else. But suddenly I knew

In the depth of my silence

He was following me. Like my shadow, blameless and light

In the night, a song sobbed…

The Indians lengthened, winding, through the alleys of the town.

A harp and a jacaranda were the music, and the smiling dark-skinned girls

Were the happiness

In the background, behind the “Zócalo,” the river shined

and darkened, like

the moments of my life.

He followed me.

I ended up crying, isolated in the porch of the parish church,

protected by my bolita shawl, drenched with my tears.


Reproduced in The Letters of Frida Kahlo: Cartas Apasionadas, ed. and trans. Martha Zamora, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, p. 9. 

June 07, 2011

A quick methodological note on Peele's authorship of King John

I'm currently working my way through Charles R. Forker's excellent and timely new edition of The Troublesome Reign of John, King of England. This hugely important play has been long overdue a good, scholarly edition, and Forker's is, from my first few dips into it, shaping up to be just that.

Troublesome Reign

I just wanted to flag up a methodological note that screams out at me from the very first page though. Specifically, in Forker's preface, where he acknowledges Brian Vickers's support on the question of authorship. He cites Vickers's article on the play's authorship in the collection Words that Count (2004) which is, I feel, one of Vickers's strongest pieces of attribution scholarship for its nuance and dramatic/literary sensitivity. I'm very happy to accept the claims of both Forker and Vickers that the play is by George Peele, which seems to fit with my (limited) knowledge of both Peele's work and the wider contexts in which the play seems to have been born.

My caution is with the reportage of a new set of collocations created by Vickers using the Pl@giarism software that has been central to his recent work. I quote from Forker:

He [Vickers] generously shared with me his as yet unpublished reflections on Peele's dramaturgy, a document from which I have borrowed freely. Most important of all is his graciousness in letting me present for the first time in print (as Appendix 2) his list of 219 verbal collocations between this play and other works by Peele - collocations of three identical consecutive words, in each case unique to The Troublesome Reign and plays already established as Peele's. Sir Brian isolated these impressive matches in 2009 by means of a computer program in a way that, in my judgement, not only establishes the attribution beyond cavil but that holds rich promise of further such discoveries in the study of anonymous Elizabethan plays. (xiii, my emphases)

The collocations are duly reprinted in the appendix, 335-56. They are thoroughly interesting - some are relatively commonplace - which makes it all the more surprising that they are unique - while others are very idiosyncratic. I particularly liked the find of "I, poor I" as a shared collocation between Troublesome Reign and The Arraignment of Paris for example, which is a peculiarly emphatic and deliberate usage.

While these are interesting, however, there is a glaring omission in the reportage of these results that could potentially undo the effectiveness of these results. It's the same one flagged up by MacD. Jackson in his critique of Vickers's work on Kyd in Research Opportunities in Medieval and Renaissance Drama. I'll apologise for the liberal use of bold emphasis in the paragraph that follows:

As it stands, this appendix represents a mere accumulation of parallels between Peele's work and the play in question. It has established 219 interesting links, which are unique and give us valid data. However, this number is meaningless in isolation. In order to establish the power of these results, we need to know how many unique links were shared between Troublesome Reign and the canons of other writers.

So, if we know that Shakespeare's early plays have 21 unique collocations with Troublesome Reign, Marlowe has 60, Greene has 85 and Kyd has 3, for example (and I'm making these numbers up), then we can say with confidence that Peele is an extremely likely candidate. However, for all we know from these results, Marlowe could have 170 different unique links with Troublesome Reign; Greene could have 350 etc; in which case, the 219 links with Peele suddenly look less impressive.

An accumulation of parallels in favour of one author is of no real quantitative value unless those parallels are compared on a like basis with parallels accumulated in favour of other authors.

Even though I'm sure that Vickers has done this (it is, after all his Shakespeare Co-Author that taught me these principles), we need to see this in reportage. Forker's edition is going to be fundamental in consolidating the authorship of the play by Peele, and yet Forker has apparently uncritically accepted the sheer weight of numbers without seeking to contextualise what those numbers actually represent. This is troubling from a methodological point of view, as non-specialists reading the edition will assume that this is standard practice and then, turning to Eric Sams's Edmond Ironside or Michael Egan's Thomas of Woodstock, find the exact same one-sided accumulation of parallels supporting Shakespeare's authorship of those plays.

I stress again - I am ASSUMING that Vickers has done this research and that the unique collocations between Peele's work and Troublesome Reign outweigh in both quality and quantity the unique collocations between TR and Greene, TR and Marlowe, TR and Shakespeare etc. But for the credibility of authorship studies, we need to have these comparisons upfront, so that lay readers have a frame of reference for understanding the strength of the claims. Scholars turning to the "Authorship and Date" section of the introduction will find Forker's excellent analysis, heavily dependent on Vickers's more nuanced work, which in my mind clinches the case for authorship. But if the use of collocations is going to be so heavily foregrounded, literally bookending the scholarship on the play, then it needs to be properly and responsibly reported.

June 06, 2011

Robert Frost and the Environment: A Short Bibliography

Writing about web page http://enviroencyclopedia.blogspot.com/

Robert Frost and the Environment: Bibliography

I recently wrote up an entry for a new Encyclopedia on the subject of the environment in American literature. The entry was on Robert Frost, and I paste a fuller bibliography here. In the process of writing, I was very much struck by the complexity of Frost's poems, beyond his more well-known poems like 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening'. 

Robert Frost

Faggen, Robert (2001) Robert Frost and the Challenge of Darwin, Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan Press.

---(ed.) (2001) The Cambridge Companion to Robert Frost, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

---(2008) The Cambridge Introduction to Robert Frost, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Frost, Robert (1964) Complete Poems, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Wilso.

---(1966) Interviews with Robert Frost, ed. Edward Connery Lathem, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Wilson.

---(2006) The Notebooks of Robert Frost, ed. Robert Faggen, Boston MA: Harvard University Press.

---(2007) The Collected Prose of Robert Frost. Ed. Mark Richardson. Cambridge: Beknap Press/Harvard University Pres.

Kearns, Katherine (1994) Robert Frost and a poetics of appetite, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Parini, Jay. Robert Frost: A Life. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000.

Spencer, Matthew (2003) Elected Friends: Robert Frost and Edward Thomas to one another, New York: Handsel Books/Other Press.

Timmerman, John H. (2002) Robert Frost and the Ethics of Ambiguity, Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.

Tuten, Nancy Lewis and John Zubizarreta (2001) The Robert Frost Encyclopedia, Westport CT: Greenwood Publishing. 

June 01, 2011

Being an Immigrant During World War Two

Wars are not only fought along battlelines, but also at home. And while cultural and political tensions are played out on the field of war, they also show themselves in the towns and cities that soldiers are fighting to protect.

One sad story of the home front was told to me by my Welsh grandmother, Norma Roach. it told the tale a family of Italian immigrants, who during World War Two, lived in Maesteg, a small coal town in South Wales. Italians from the Apennine Mountains migrated to the UK during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and many of them settled in Wales. The Welsh Valley people became used to Italian cafés and ice-cream parlours.

One such Italian family was the Bellis, who set up an Italian café in Maesteg, the town where my Welsh family lived for hundreds of years. They were well liked in town, but during World War Two, a policy of internment was brought in for immigrants from Italy, Germany and other enemy countries. After Mussolini declared war in 1940, the British government saw Italian immigrants as enemy aiens and potential spies. To control this unknown quantity, the government decided to send these immigrants to Canada where they could do less harm.

This meant, however, breaking up families. The older Bellis who were Italian citizens were rounded up and put on a boat to Canada – the SS Arandora Star, while members of the Belli family who were born in Wales had to stay behind.

The ironic thing was that the Bellis journeying to Canada on the Arandora Star never completed their journey. It was sunk in the Atlantic by a German submarine. There were over 1200 German and Italian internees on board, and over 800 people died including the Bellis.