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Showing posts from October, 2014

Seminar Notes #5 (Tennyson)

It's turning out to be a busy week, because I am being drafted into cover for an injured (yes, injured!) colleague, but I wanted to continue some form of seminar blogging after three very productive seminars on Tennyson's In Memoriam. It's heartening that even though I've taught this poem several times over the years, I'm still seeing it in new ways, and still watching seminar discussion wind in interesting directions.

1. This week, I became a bit obsessed by temporality in In Memoriam. No small part of the poem's sophistication and complexity comes from the collision and overlapping of multiple time-scales: ritual time, historical time, resurrectionary time, geological time, cosmic time, seasonal time, even the poem's own internal, 'stanzaic' time. So much of the texture comes from the way these time-scales work together: the subtle interweave of ritual time with seasonal time, for instance, or the way that Tennyson feels he is falling out-of-sync …

A Bit on Clare: Alternate Topographies

I've been wanting to write this blog for a long time. As part of my procession through the minor Romantics (Southey, Lamb, Robinson, Thelwall), I started reading John Clare over a delicious glass of Portuguese red wine in a bar in Lisbon back in August. Termtime being termtime, my grand project has been disrupted much in the same way as my ill-fated 40 (er, 26) monograph challenge. However, I've finally managed to lunge my way through at least most of my Penguin edition of Clare.*

I was taken by the beautiful first poem in that collection, 'Early Images', which pictures a dawn landscape 'sweeter in its indistinct array / Than when it glows in morning's stronger light'. Made up of two Italian sonnet-stanzas, the final lines of the first just resonated and stuck in my mind as I read on: 'and see the mist up-creeping like a cloud / From hollow places in the early scene' (p.31). It seems to me that a lot of Clare's poems are made up of a landscape …

Seminar Notes #4 (Austen)

After three weeks on relatively familiar territory, this week's seminars were on Jane Austen's Emma - a refreshing shift of genre, and a move into critical discussions that aren't part of my day-in-day-out research life. I think the aspect of the classes that I enjoyed the most were probing the slightly skewed familial dynamics that seem to exist in Emma. I've been in Dublin this week giving a paper on Byron and Shelley in UCD, so apologies if these notes are more fragmentary than usual...

1. Emma Woodhouse, famously, declares that she has no interest in marrying. It's not unusual to note that this displaces her from the normal economies of courtship. Indeed, despite the fact that the scope of Emma is a small and self-consciously conservative community - on in which, one assumes, the values of stability and hierarchy are rigidly observed - there are actually many figures, including Emma, who are slightly 'out of place' or oddly placed. Some of the student c…

Seminar Notes #3 (Byron)

This week: Byron. Always a bit nervy setting Don Juan (even bits of it), not only because students generally baulk at the idea of a poem that runs into hundreds of pages, but also because it's simply one of my favourite texts. Lots of interesting discussion this week, and I wanted to follow up on two points.

1. Women, Emotion, Pain. My second seminar spent longer on questions of gender, as well as points around the 'de-masculinisation' or effeminacy of the 'hero' (I'd hardly call him an anti-hero; maybe 'un-hero' would be better...) There was also some interesting revision and critique of the polemic position I had put forward in the lecture which, in a way that echoes Leigh Hunt's sympathetic and defensive 1817 review of the poem, attempted to read Juan and Haidee's love as natural and idealistic. Can we really read Juan/Haidee (as I attempted to do) as emotionally transcendent when, in fact, many of the same motifs (gazes, kisses, yearnings) h…