steepholm: (Default)
I've not posted recently, so here (as much for my own future benefit as anything) is a quick run-down of what's been happening in the last couple of weeks. Imagine that I've written entertainingly and at length about each of these, as they fully deserve. I shall try to do better.

a) I put my house on the market. I want a place with a spare room and a kitchen larger than a malfunctioning TARDIS - but hopefully pretty close to where I am at the moment.

b) I failed to win the BA Small Research Grant I'd applied for, to go to Japan next year and research the image of the UK in Japan. All alternative funding ideas welcome, no matter how outlandish! (I'll go anyway, mind.)

c) I finished the critical book I've been pottering around with for years. It's now being read by a colleague, who's making positive noises so far. I'd wanted to call it The LITMUS Papers (standing for "Lies I Tell My Undergraduate Students") but my publisher insists on something much duller.

d) I should be preparing for the new term - but how much more pleasant to go back and tinker with the book (see c)!
steepholm: (Default)
While breakfasting with friends at Betty's in York a fortnight ago, I mentioned that I was wary of predicting the result of the French presidential election (which was happening that day), since I was worried that Trump's win had been precipitated by my privately expecting it to happen.

Clémentine Beauvais remarked that it was rather splendid to say something so equally composed of narcissism and paranoia, and I have to admit she had a point. But isn't that a familiar combination in our times? Anyway, taking that hint (and another from "Porphyria's Lover") this poem came to me as I was wandering back from town this afternoon, a bag of marked essays at my back.


And so, Mark Zuckerberg, we are alone.

My last four Facebook posts have gained
No likes at all – although, in point of wit,
And weight, and power to shock, they should
Have gone as viral as the Spanish flu.

How could this be, I mused? Am I perhaps
Too dangerous now? My insights honed too sharp?
Have the Illuminati moved to hide
Me from all timelines, fearing my quick tongue?

At last I understand. Mark, it was you.
You made this private room on Sugar Mountain
Just for two; built Facebook walls around us.
Speak! I am waiting! What would’st thou ask of me?
steepholm: (tree_face)
In default of a proper post, here's my latest Awfully Big Blog Adventure post, which is on "voice" in children's literature, and especially Jacqueline Wilson. I tried to row back on the whole Boothian apparatus in this not-especially-scholarly piece, but even so, the phrases "Milnean voice" and "Christophoric ear" are never entirely absent from my mind when I write on this subject...
steepholm: (Default)
In default of a proper post, here's my latest Awfully Big Blog Adventure post, which is on "voice" in children's literature, and especially Jacqueline Wilson. I tried to row back on the whole Boothian apparatus in this not-especially-scholarly piece, but even so, the phrases "Milnean voice" and "Christophoric ear" are never entirely absent from my mind when I write on this subject...

Triolet

Aug. 11th, 2016 08:56 pm
steepholm: (tree_face)
If not my cats, then who will eat me,
When I have my fatal stroke?
Even now, their purrs entreat me -
If not my cats, then who will eat me?
Will earthworms nibble, then excrete me?
Will I be lost in lifeless smoke?
If not my cats, then who will eat me,
When I have my fatal stroke?

Triolet

Aug. 11th, 2016 08:55 pm
steepholm: (Default)
If not my cats, then who will eat me,
When I have my fatal stroke?
Even now, their purrs entreat me -
If not my cats, then who will eat me?
Will earthworms nibble, then excrete me?
Will I be lost in lifeless smoke?
If not my cats, then who will eat me,
When I have my fatal stroke?
steepholm: (Default)
So, then, it's to be Theresa May. I suppose she's the lesser of two evils, but still. My only comfort is that a I called it the day after the referendum, which enhances my reputation as the new Nate Silver. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to Ladbrokes in time.

Meanwhile, my recuperation continues, as detailed (if obliquely) in today's Awfully Big Blog Adventure. More soon on everything, I hope.
steepholm: (tree_face)
So, then, it's to be Theresa May. I suppose she's the lesser of two evils, but still. My only comfort is that a I called it the day after the referendum, which enhances my reputation as the new Nate Silver. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to Ladbrokes in time.

Meanwhile, my recuperation continues, as detailed (if obliquely) in today's Awfully Big Blog Adventure. More soon on everything, I hope.
steepholm: (Default)
This is basically copied from my FB, but I'm trying to spread the word. This is one of the preparatory steps for turning my ChLA paper into a proper article...

Calling anyone who's watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica!

I'm writing a paper on the Madoka fandom, and as part of that I've written a short survey so that I can get some empirical data about the people who've watched it and what they feel (good and bad) about various aspects of the show. If you've watched the series (i.e. the twelve-episode anime) it would be great if you could answer a few questions at the link below. It shouldn't take more than 8 minutes at most (probably more like three). All answers are completely anonymous.

Also, feel free to share the link.
steepholm: (tree_face)
This is basically copied from my FB, but I'm trying to spread the word. This is one of the preparatory steps for turning my ChLA paper into a proper article...

Calling anyone who's watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica!

I'm writing a paper on the Madoka fandom, and as part of that I've written a short survey so that I can get some empirical data about the people who've watched it and what they feel (good and bad) about various aspects of the show. If you've watched the series (i.e. the twelve-episode anime) it would be great if you could answer a few questions at the link below. It shouldn't take more than 8 minutes at most (probably more like three). All answers are completely anonymous.

Also, feel free to share the link.
steepholm: (tree_face)
This month's Awfully Big Blog Adventure post is inspired by a programme I've barely watched, yet feel as if I know well.
steepholm: (Default)
This month's Awfully Big Blog Adventure post is inspired by a programme I've barely watched, yet feel as if I know well.
steepholm: (Default)
In today's Awfully Big Blog Adventure I muse on the joys of unconsciousness and compare childhood to a panopticon. Also hidden away in there is a phrase that I think would make the perfect title for an Adele album, should she ever stop using numbers for that purpose. The only prize for spotting it is a glow of satisfaction.
steepholm: (tree_face)
In today's Awfully Big Blog Adventure I muse on the joys of unconsciousness and compare childhood to a panopticon. Also hidden away in there is a phrase that I think would make the perfect title for an Adele album, should she ever stop using numbers for that purpose. The only prize for spotting it is a glow of satisfaction.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I don't think I've ever had an article with such a long gestation time as this. I gave the paper it's based on in Cambridge, one very snowy day in January 2013, and it's only just appeared - even though the journal issue is officially dated April.

I'm particularly pleased to see it, because I think I had more fun with this than with any other article I've written. Mostly this was due to Margaret Mahy herself, whose work is always such a pleasure and a provocation. In fact, I was so into it while writing that I started (rather obviously) channelling her habits of thought and style, which could be a dangerous strategy, but in this case I think worked. And I also got to talk about Borges and John Wilkins - whose Selected Works I was once ambitious to edit.

Like the man said: "I thought it all out twenty years ago."
steepholm: (Default)
I don't think I've ever had an article with such a long gestation time as this. I gave the paper it's based on in Cambridge, one very snowy day in January 2013, and it's only just appeared - even though though the journal issue is officially dated April.

I'm particularly pleased to see it, because I think I had more fun with this than with any other article I've written. Mostly this was due to Margaret Mahy herself, whose work is always such a pleasure and a provocation. In fact, I was so into it while writing that I started (rather obviously) channelling her habits of thought and style, which could be a dangerous strategy, but in this case I think worked. And I also got to talk about Borges and John Wilkins - whose Selected Works I was once ambitious to edit.

Like the man said: "I thought it all out twenty years ago."
steepholm: (tree_face)
I've been ludicrously busy the last couple of weeks, and have missed writing up several things I ordinarily would at least have mentioned. Here's a hurried rescue dig from the upper strata of my memory.

a) A week or so ago I found myself at a small local station in Clifton at around 9.45pm. Apparently, if I'd looked up (and there'd been no street lights) I might have caught a rare glimpse of the aurora borealis. However, my attention was caught instead by a row of around forty young men, clearly drunk, and dressed identically in shirts and ties, kneeling on the platform edge with their heads overhanging the track in a shoulder-to-shoulder row. Other drunk young men on the bridge overhead were enjoining them loudly to "Kneel!", but I could see no reason for their compliance, especially with the 9.51 due at any moment. It was bizarre rather than threatening, but I was relieved (if only for the driver's sake) that they stood up before the train actually got there, and even more so when they didn't board it. Instead, as we pulled away in the direction of Montpelier, they formed a guard of honour, hands clasped solemnly at their waists, so that looking out of the window I could see nothing but shirt'n'tie-shirt'n'tie-shirt'n'tie-shirt'n'tie until we ran out of platform.

Apparently it was some kind of initiation ceremony for rugby players.

b) A few days ago my latest ABBA piece appeared, a meditation on the proposition that Atropos too is a weaver. That phrase has been hanging round my head for years now, to the extent that I sometimes think it's a quotation, but I'm pretty sure it's my own.

c) I received my contributor copy of The Reception of Ancient Greece and Rome in Childrens Literature. It's a snip at £97. All right, it's actually ridiculously overpriced - but it is a good volume, leaving my own contribution aside. If you want to read that - "The 'Grand Tour' as Transformative Experience in Children’s Novels about the Roman Invasion" - you can do so for free, should the fit seize you. (While fetching that link just now, I realised that this version is missing the illustration from Fletcher and Kipling's school history of England, showing ‘The Landing of the Romans’. That's a shame as it's well worth seeing for its evocation of the Kent seaside around AD 43.)

Read more )

f) I watched Janina Ramirez's programme on The Faerie Queene with some trepidation, but was reassured: it was well judged, I think, considering it had only 30 minutes to play with and had to be pitched for an audience who would probably not have read (or perhaps even heard of) the poem. And we did get quite a few extracts read aloud, which is never less than a pleasure.

It's strange, though, how often people who don't like The Faerie Queene find it impossible to concede that other people might actually love it. Are they worried that they're missing something? Typical is this review from The New Statesmen by Rachel Cooke:

The series opened with Dr Janina Ramirez on The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser, which she claimed to have loved ever since she first read it as a teenager (crikey, some teenager). I, for one, don’t think Dr Ramirez – the only non-celebrity to get a gig presenting an episode of this series – will have convinced too many Spenser virgins to try his allegorical epic, which is some 35,000 lines long and absolutely heaving with elves. There was something just a little unconvincing about her proclamations of its beauty, her insistence that what Spenser called its “darke conceit” had captured her imagination right from the off.


Well, Ramirez made it clear elsewhere in the programme that she'd first read it as an undergraduate, so an eighteen-year-old teenager, not a fourteen-year-old one - but why would even that be so very odd? I read it at 18 myself, and fell in love with it so deep that I wrote my PhD on it. Nothing can be to everyone's taste, of course, but if you have an ear for (and interest in) language, how can you not at least concede The Faerie Queene its own beauty, even if you're out of sympathy with it? "Absolutely heaving with elves" is the kind of sneer-as-substitute-for-criticism that Edmund Wilson practised on Tolkien (who was no great Spenser fan, by the way, though Lewis was). Oddly enough I've never heard it used to put down A Midsummer Night's Dream - though it would be equally true of that play.

Meanwhile, veteran sneerer A. N. Wilson's Return to Larkinland was less satisfactory. Despite having a whole hour to play with, this programme on Larkin's life and writing left out entire swathes (not just fractions of a swathe) of relevant material, including the very existence of any woman in his life other than Monica Jones (whom Wilson knew). Larkin's seven-year relationship with my aunt, including a two-year engagement, was not apparently worth mentioning - but there was plenty of room for extensive quotation from the semi-erotic schoolgirl fiction he produced at that time, and even - insult to injury - for a recitation of the damning assessment of The Faerie Queene with which he defaced a copy in the college library... as an undergraduate:

First I thought Troilus and Criseyde was the most boring poem in English. Then I thought Beowulf was. Then I thought Paradise Lost was. Now I know that The Faerie Queene is the dullest thing out. Blast it.


Well, Homer nods.
steepholm: (Default)
I've been ludicrously busy the last couple of weeks, and have missed writing up several things I ordinarily would at least have mentioned. Here's a hurried rescue dig from the upper strata of my memory.

a) A week or so ago I found myself at a small local station in Clifton at around 9.45pm. Apparently, if I'd looked up (and there'd been no street lights) I might have caught a rare glimpse of the aurora borealis. However, my attention was caught instead by a row of around forty young men, clearly drunk, and dressed identically in shirts and ties, kneeling on the platform edge with their heads overhanging the track in a shoulder-to-shoulder row. Other drunk young men on the bridge overhead were enjoining them loudly to "Kneel!", but I could see no reason for their compliance, especially with the 9.51 due at any moment. It was bizarre rather than threatening, but I was relieved (if only for the driver's sake) that they stood up before the train actually got there, and even more so when they didn't board it. Instead, as we pulled away in the direction of Montpelier, they formed a guard of honour, hands clasped solemnly at their waists, so that looking out of the window I could see nothing but shirt'n'tie-shirt'n'tie-shirt'n'tie-shirt'n'tie until we ran out of platform.

Apparently it was some kind of initiation ceremony for rugby players.

b) A few days ago my latest ABBA piece appeared, a meditation on the proposition that Atropos too is a weaver. That phrase has been hanging round my head for years now, to the extent that I sometimes think it's a quotation, but I'm pretty sure it's my own.

c) I received my contributor copy of The Reception of Ancient Greece and Rome in Childrens Literature. It's a snip at £97. All right, it's actually ridiculously overpriced - but it is a good volume, leaving my own contribution aside. If you want to read that - "The 'Grand Tour' as Transformative Experience in Children’s Novels about the Roman Invasion" - you can do so for free, should the fit seize you. (While fetching that link just now, I realised that this version is missing the illustration from Fletcher and Kipling's school history of England, showing ‘The Landing of the Romans’. That's a shame as it's well worth seeing for its evocation of the Kent seaside around AD 43.)

Read more )

f) I watched Janina Ramirez's programme on The Faerie Queene with some trepidation, but was reassured: it was well judged, I think, considering it had only 30 minutes to play with and had to be pitched for an audience who would probably not have read (or perhaps even heard of) the poem. And we did get quite a few extracts read aloud, which is never less than a pleasure.

It's strange, though, how often people who don't like The Faerie Queene find it impossible to concede that other people might actually love it. Are they worried that they're missing something? Typical is this review from The New Statesmen by Rachel Cooke:

The series opened with Dr Janina Ramirez on The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser, which she claimed to have loved ever since she first read it as a teenager (crikey, some teenager). I, for one, don’t think Dr Ramirez – the only non-celebrity to get a gig presenting an episode of this series – will have convinced too many Spenser virgins to try his allegorical epic, which is some 35,000 lines long and absolutely heaving with elves. There was something just a little unconvincing about her proclamations of its beauty, her insistence that what Spenser called its “darke conceit” had captured her imagination right from the off.


Well, Ramirez made it clear elsewhere in the programme that she'd first read it as an undergraduate, so an eighteen-year-old teenager, not a fourteen-year-old one - but why would even that be so very odd? I read it at 18 myself, and fell in love with it so deep that I wrote my PhD on it. Nothing can be to everyone's taste, of course, but if you have an ear for (and interest in) language, how can you not at least concede The Faerie Queene its own beauty, even if you're out of sympathy with it? "Absolutely heaving with elves" is the kind of sneer-as-substitute-for-criticism that Edmund Wilson practised on Tolkien (who was no great Spenser fan, by the way, though Lewis was). Oddly enough I've never heard it used to put down A Midsummer Night's Dream - though it would be equally true of that play.

Meanwhile, veteran sneerer A. N. Wilson's Return to Larkinland was less satisfactory. Despite having a whole hour to play with, this programme on Larkin's life and writing left out entire swathes (not just fractions of a swathe) of relevant material, including the very existence of any woman in his life other than Monica Jones (whom Wilson knew). Larkin's seven-year relationship with my aunt, including a two-year engagement, was not apparently worth mentioning - but there was plenty of room for extensive quotation from the semi-erotic schoolgirl fiction he produced at that time, and even - insult to injury - for a recitation of the damning assessment of The Faerie Queene with which he defaced a copy in the college library... as an undergraduate:

First I thought Troilus and Criseyde was the most boring poem in English. Then I thought Beowulf was. Then I thought Paradise Lost was. Now I know that The Faerie Queene is the dullest thing out. Blast it.


Well, Homer nods.

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