Kenneth Branagh Knighted

Kenneth Branagh, well-known for his adaptations of Shakespeare for the cinema (Hamlet, Othello, Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing) has been knighted in the Queen’s birthday honours’ list. Kate Winslet may have an Oscar, but she only gets a CBE (a much lower award). Sir Kenneth joins the ranks of famous Shakespearean actors such as Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud and Dame Judy Dench.

The ‘abortionist saints’ of medieval Ireland

‘Of Vanishing Fetuses and Maidens Made-Again: Abortion, Restored Virginity, and Similar Scenarios in Medieval Irish Hagiography and Penitentials’, by Maeve Callan, appears in the latest issue of the Journal of the History of Sexuality. Callan examines a wide range of hagiographical works and other sources from medieval Ireland. She writes, “these accounts celebrate saints who perform abortions, restore female fornicators to a virginal state, contemplate infanticide, and result from incest and other ‘illegitimate’ sexual unions. Moreover, the texts themselves generally reflect a remarkably permissive attitude toward these traditionally taboo acts, an attitude also found in Irish penitentials and law codes.” Research examines the ‘abortionist saints’ of medieval Ireland.

Song of Achilles

This year’s winner of the Orange Prize for fiction is The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. The novel focuses on the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles. For a review see The Independent here although of course now there are loads of reviews available of it online now, many of which return to the old question of the role of classical culture in the modern world.

Bloomsday (16 June) on BBC Radio 4

To mark this year’s Bloomsday, Radio 4 will bring James Joyce’s Ulysses to life as never before. The Radio 4 schedule on 16 June will feature a major new dramatisation of the work throughout the day, beginning in the morning on Saturday Live and concluding just before the midnight news.

Mark Lawson will be based in Dublin for the duration, acting as the listener’s friend and guide and offering fresh insights into one of literature’s most iconic works.

First published in its entirety in 1922, Ulysses traces the progress of Leopold Bloom, an advertising agent, as he makes his way through Dublin on an ordinary day – June 16th, 1904. A work of staggering inventiveness, Ulysses oscillates between gentle realism and wild surrealism, taking the reader on Bloom’s odyssey in the company of larger than life characters like Stephen Dedalus, Molly Bloom and Buck Mulligan.

The new Radio 4 dramatisation by Robin Brooks tells the story of Bloom’s journey in seven parts spanning five-and-a-half hours. See