Skip to main content


Showing posts from October, 2012

Bytuene Mersh ant Aueril: Translating a Harley Lyric

Cornwall Campus has reached Reading Week (or, as we like to call it, Opportunities Week). I have taken the opportunity to go back to some of the Middle English that I studied at Oxford with Terry Hoad, and one of my favourite lyrics, sometimes just called 'Alisoun'. (Follow the hyperlinks for two scholarly texts, with real translations by real translator, from University of Southampton and the Luminarium.)

Of course, I'm not a proper medievalist, and my ME is pretty shaky all told, but I tried to create a  translation to use with my first-year undergraduates after the break which worked on three levels. I wanted it to be readable, but I also wanted to be fairly accurate. I also wanted to express the affection I have for this poem. I didn't attempt to recreate the poem's ABABAAACDDDC rhyme scheme, but I used rhymes where I could, and attempted to tie together the lyric's internal architecture using other things. I've included a few notes below on the transla…

Slave Bodies

A few thoughts that promised to coalesce in my head after studying abolitionist poetry with some third-year undergraduates this week, spurred initially by the interest of one in silence, sound and nonverbal forms of communication. She's interested in (among other things) eyes: I suppose I am interested in bodies. I'm still not sure how these reflections hang together, but here's a sketch.

Much is made in existing criticism on abolitionist poetry of a liberal double-bind whereby slaves only receive a voice through the mediating voice of white, bourgeois abolitionists. In a strange way, many racist tropes are therefore reproduced: the slave is re-silenced and re-objectified in a gesture which reaffirms assumptions about race. The slaves cannot save themselves, they must be saved by  European pity; political agency of the kind seen in the Haitian slave revolt just doesn't figure in the liberal imaginary.

Certainly insofar as one of the double-binds involves voicing and si…

Notes on the Odyssey

Another set of fascinating seminars. I hope to write something, very soon, about slave bodies following a pleasingly lively third-year class on More, Opie, Barbauld, Yearsley and others, but for the time being, here are some thoughts on Homer's Odyssey.

1. I think I've settled on an interpretation of the Odyssey as opening a transit in Greek culture to a post-war, even a post-epic, epoch. This involves a reorientation of values - away from the military glory of kleos and towards the domestic, social and familial - and also plays close to what we might call 'personal' conflicts: the trauma of those coming back from the wars (Odysseus, Agamemnon, Alkinoos), the place of mourning and memory, and the role of sons. Indeed, the more I read The Odyssey, the more persuaded I am that the first five books of the Telemachy are vital and that, really, deep down, the narrative is about Telemachus and living in his father's shadow.

On the other hand, it's good to note that e…