Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What do academics do on holiday?


Apparently, they go to Narnia.

Actually, I've just been in New Zealand, which, in effect, involves traveling through Narnia and Middle Earth. In fact, I've been riding horses through Middle Earth's many lands. One of my good friends even managed to get her hands on a Lord of the Rings horse, Sam, for one of the treks. He rode with the Rohirrim long ago. One of my horses, on the other hand, rode with the Barbarians in Hercules.

It's difficult to be in a place like New Zealand and not wonder what the Inklings would have made of it. It's a perfect setting for their tales. Likewise, physically experiencing such landscapes, whether on horseback, foot, or in a bus, provides one with fresh insight into these epic adventures. And a wish that one could make a case for field trips in literary studies. Imagine trekking all day and meeting around a camp fire to discuss the Tale of TinĂºviel?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New Books

Needless to say, the news of this book's release made my day.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Catching up on reading

I've been catching up on Elaine Showalter's Teaching Literature (2003), a book I've been meaning to read for a while. Recently, as you might have noticed, I've found myself thinking more and more about how we define the types of texts dealt with in the study of English Literature. Showalter reflects on this too, repeating an anecdote from Terry Eagleton:

On the other hand, Eagleton admits, literature often uses a heightened and excessive language. "If you approach me at a bus stop," he quips, "and murmur 'Thou still unravished bride of quietness,' then I know I am in the presence of the literary." Of course, if your bus stop is not in Oxford, and if you are not a teacher of literature, the Keatsian murmurings that alert Terry Eagleton to the presence of the literary may well alert you to the presence of a nut-case. (21)
I love an academic text with a sense of humour!

It also made me think about how a quote from Neil Gaiman's Sandman, "It is a fool's prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak," had been misattributed to Shakespeare online. Amusing, yes. Upsetting? Not really. I can see the logic behind the error.

Science and the Arts

I've been thinking quite a bit about how geek culture is associated with the sciences, but not so much with the arts and disciplines like English Literature; and about why this is a pity, because science often draws on the material we work with on a day to day basis.

For example, scientists have named a pheromone after Mr. Darcy. I first read about it on Jane Austen's World, but the original article is available at BMC Biology. The naming may be tongue-in-cheek, much like naming a possible tenth planet for the solar system 'Xena,' but I like the idea that a good understanding of Jane Austen assists scientific thought.

Recently, I also came across a tweet that lead me to a BBC project, Jane Austen's iPod. It's a terrific idea. More and more contemporary writers are sharing lists of the music they're listening to while they write. Meg Cabot just gave her playlist for Insatiable. There may be a research project or two in the music authors write to!

And not just authors. Academics sometimes write to music too. I'm one of those who find it difficult to focus in silence (it's why I won't often be found tapping away at a paper in my office - my music would drive colleagues insane). Studying fairy tale, of late, I've been led in the oddest musical directions. Just the other day, I was researching male fashion and wound up investigating 'fop rock,' which led me to Adam Ant and his hit, 'Prince Charming.' The video clip is very very odd, but does indeed draw on the fairy tale in new and interesting ways!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fairy Tale Novels

There are a host of novels based on fairy tale. Too many for me to really explore. But I was reading about Jessica Day George's Princess of Glass on Sur La Lune's blog and I couldn't resist finding a copy that instant. I admit, it was predominantly because I read that it includes knitting patterns and I'm fascinated by knitting. But also because George reflects: "Then it occurred to me that dancing in glass slippers might possibly be just as bad: would the glass bend?" As I've contended with students, glass slippers are just silly. Much more likely are the red velvet slippers embroidered with pearls in Marie-Catherine D'Aulnoy's Cinderella tale, 'Finette Cendron.'