Students on our third year Modern and Contemporary American Literature module will be speeding into the new semester via an exploration of Jack Kerouac’s classic work of Beat literature On the Road. Legend has it that the author typed the book on a continuous sheet of typewriter paper stuck together so he would not have to pause in the composition of his ‘spontaneous prose’. Here’s an example from the book:
the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live with, mad to talk, made to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…
Here’s a quick look back to 2017, when students on our 19th Century American Literature module had the chance to visit the American Museum near Bath. The texts we’d covered at that point included Native American Literature and short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne, so it was great to see some Native American weaving and beadwork, as well as a tavern from Massachusetts that had been reconstructed in the museum’s basement (complete with an open fire and beds to sleep three). There were also some parallels that could be drawn between the museum’s folk art collection and the ‘folk’ aspects of Hawthorne’s short story ‘Young Goodman Brown’ that we’d been studying. In addition to the displays and exhibits relating to the 19th century and earlier, we saw an exhibition of elegant Jazz Age dresses and photographs which was great for those students planning to take our 20th century American literature module next year!
Class of 2017, we salute you. Every one of you made a unique contribution to English at the University of Gloucestershire. We wish you every success for the future. And please stay in touch by joining our Facebook group, following us on Twitter @EnglishGlos, or better yet, come back and visit us.
Students and staff from across the School went to see Aphra Behn’s great Restoration play The Rover at the RSC Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, last Wednesday. Second-year English Literature student Anne Johnston reviews the play below. The photo is courtesy of Aman Atwal, who took some great photos for our gallery. Our thanks to both students.
On a cold night in February a small group ventured out to Stratford Upon Avon to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Rover written by Aphra Benn, England’s first female professional playwright, and directed by Loveday Ingram. As soon as we took our seats we were transported to ‘the fast and furious world of the South American carnival’. While the play is originally set in Naples, Ingram and stage designer Lez Brotherston decided to set the play in a South American port city. This allowed them to use a South American style of music, composed by Grant Olding, which sets the atmosphere and keeps it going throughout the production. The frenzied carnival atmosphere was constantly present, sometimes in the forefront of the production with a flourish of petticoats and rhythmic dances. And sometimes quietly in the background, with a single saxophone humming in the wings – but always present, reminding the audience of the setting as well as keeping the tone of the production at a fun, sensual level. The play follows three English cavaliers who cross paths with three young women running from an arranged marriage, life in a convent and a controlling brother. This Restoration comedy is fantastically witty and full of adventure. It’s about sex, deception and varying types of love. All hilariously intertwined and culminating in an uplifting happily ever after ending – assuming all the marriages end well!
Photos are reproduced for educational purposes only.
To commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, and to meditate on the question of how life can go on in the face of annihilation, here is a song from the Łódź ghetto. You can hear a recording at Music and the Holocaust.
Close Your Eyes
Lyrics: Isaiah Shpigl
Melody: David Beyglman
Close your little eyes,
Little birds are coming,
The head of your cradle.
Baggage in hand
Our home in ashes
We are setting out, my child
In search of luck.
God has closed off the world
And night is all around
Waiting for us,
Full of horror and fear.
The two of us stand here
In this difficult, difficult, moment
Not knowing where
The road leads.
Naked and bare
We were chased from our home
Driven into the fields;
And storm, hail and wind
Have accompanied us, my child
Accompanied us into
The abyss of the world.
Translation from Yiddish
John Hughes is Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of Gloucestershire, and is the author of Invisible Now: Bob Dylan in the 1960s (Ashgate, 2013).
Bob Dylan’s elevation to Nobel Prize winner is something that has been in the wind for a while you can say, since every year his name is mooted as a candidate, a kind of standing reproach for some to the literary elitism of the Nobel committee. However, as so often with Dylan, the actuality of the prize has been divisive, testifying to his continuing power to stoke controversy over the value of what he does: specifically the literary quality, or even literary status, of his work. On the one hand, poets and writers throng to celebrate the award, and Seamus Perry, Chair of the Oxford English Faculty, makes an enthusiastic claim (with which I find it hard to disagree): that ‘Dylan winning the Nobel was always the thing you thought should happen in a reasonable world but still seemed unimaginable in this one’. On the other hand, the briefest glance at the internet or social media shows how actually how totally unimaginable it appears to so many people in fact that it should have been awarded in this world. Above all, the award has just irritated so many people who appear bamboozled by it, leading novelist Irving Welsh to claim in an oft-repeated tweet, that it was a ‘nostalgia award’ wrenched from ‘senile, gibbering hippies’.
Continue reading “Bob Dylan, Nobel Laureate: Yah-Boo!”
The 2016 Cheltenham Festival of Literature begins today and runs until October 16. This year’s programme is outstanding. The festival’s theme is ‘America Uncovered’, and speakers include Sarah Churchwell, Reginald D. Hunter and P.J O’Rourke. History students already know that their Course Leader Dr Christian O’Connell is taking part in a session on New Orleans’s music and culture on 12 October. Other highlights include appearances by novelists Ian McEwan, Eimear McBride, Lionel Shriver, Sarah Perry, Etgar Keret, and Val McDermid; travel writers Colin Thubron and Sara Wheeler; poets John Agard and Lemn Sisay; historian Mary Beard; director Oliver Stone; and many panel discussions on international literature, history, music and politics. Over 200 events are scheduled, plus a full programme for children. And that’s just the official business. Cheltenham is a wonderful place to be during festival fortnight. We look forward to a week packed with books, coffee, music, and talk.
New events have been added this week. You can find out what’s on day by day.
Are you planning to go to any events, or are you working as a Festival volunteer? Please send us a review. We’d love to publish your writing on the English Literature blog.
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Image: CLF 2016 brochure.