Death of Maya Angelou

Prof. Maya Angelou died on Wednesday 28th at the age of 86. She was one of America’s best-known writers, particularly admired for her poetry and autobiographical writing. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) was a very frank account of her childhood that would call for some of the content warnings mentioned in the previous post. Much of her energy went into the advocacy of civil-rights for black people. Her dedication to this cause and her writing about the many painful episodes in her personal history were combined with an unflagging sense of humour which was evident in the many public appearances she made.

President Barack Obama presenting Maya Angelou...
President Barack Obama presenting Maya Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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Warning: This book contains…

Some US students are calling for ‘trigger warnings’, alerts to students about potentially disturbing content in course reading. I heard one of the people speaking about this and there is no doubt that the suggestion is sincere and well motivated. Most of my students would, I think, regard the idea as somewhere between unnecessary and crazy (and I don’t think it’s a good idea), but I have certainly seen students distressed when, for example, they read about someone dying after they had been bereaved themselves. Read about it in The New York Times here.

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Discovering Literature: Romantics and Victorians

Discover 1,200 Romantic and Victorian literary treasures, new insights by 60 experts, 25 documentary films, 30 inspirational teachers’ notes and more.

This website of The British Library combines digital images of original documents (e.g. authors’drafts) with commentary by well-known experts in the field. There are sections dealing with Jane Austen, Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde and a host of other nineteenth-century writers.


The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde po...
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde poster. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Lecture: Macbeth/Spider Web Castle: Movies and other media

Macbeth/Spider Web Castle: Movies and other media
Gregory Currie (University of York)
Time: Thursday May 22, 6-8 PM
Location: Faculty of Arts, Harmonie building, Oude Kijk in’t Jatstraat 26, Marie Lokezaal
A filmed version of a play is not just another instance of that work—another performance. It is in a sense a new art work, with distinctive features, for example a permanence that performances lack. Sometimes the relation between play and film get’s much more complicated. With Kurosawa’s Spider Web Castle (commonly titled in English Throne of Blood) we have a quite different story, though one obviously based on Macbeth. Kurosawa’s film, I will argue, constitutes a radical thematic departure from Shakespeare, an abandonment of the psychology of its source. This raises three problems. The first is the extent to which we are prone to import material and ideas from the source text into the new version; I suggest that our tendency to do this can make some of the artistic radicalism of Throne difficult to see. The second is whether Kurosawa’s virtual abandonment of personal psychology can work as an artistic project in any way other than as a kind of occasional novelty. Would we want very much art to be of this kind? The third is whether film as a medium is especially suited to Kurosawa’s project here. I argue that it is, and that it is the film’s visual qualities which enable it to retain our interest despite the absence of character psychology.

Greg Currie is Professor of Philosophy at the University of York and currently Visiting Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and a Past Fellow of St John’s College Oxford. His most recent book is Narratives and Narrators (Oxford University Press, 2010) and he is completing a book, This Unintelligible World, on literature and knowledge, which will appear with Oxford UP soon (he hopes).

She put her anus round his neck

Scanner for ebook cannot tell its ‘arms’ from its ‘anus’

A technical problem with optical character recognition software creates some awkward moments in romantic novels.
“Mrs. Tipton went over to him and put her anus around his neck. ” My dear,” she said, rapturously. ” I have been hoping for years that you would talk that way to me.”
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New Biography of Wilfred Owen

In this, the anniversary of the Great War, there is a flood of new publications. In the UK, Owen is, at the moment, the preeminent war poet. Here are two differing opinions on his most recent biography:

Until Owen stumbled into a trench and suffered a nasty case of concussion his poetry, or Poesy as he sometimes called it, was at best forgettable and at worst excruciating. See

It is one of the strengths of Guy Cuthbertson’s sympathetic but flawed book that he concentrates on Owen’s poetry as literature in its own right rather than as protest; and one of its weaknesses that he displays scant interest in the war that gave rise to the poems for which we remember Owen today. For without that war, Owen would likely have remained an unknown amateur, rather than the major poet he became.


This is a plate from Wilfred Owen's 1920 Poems...
Wilfred Owen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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Tadeusz Różewicz obituary

The terrible experiences of his native Poland and of his generation were vividly expressed in the poetry and plays of Tadeusz Różewicz, who has died aged 93. The second world war haunted Różewicz until his death, but so did the moral obligation to write about it because, as he wrote in I Did Espy a Marvellous Monster: “At home a job / awaited me: / To create poetry after Auschwitz.”

from obituary in The Guardian

I cannot quote any of his poetry here (the copyright conditions for short poems are fairly strict), however, the internet will doubtless yield some of it up to you. Not every poet translates well, but Różewicz had a deservedly good English audience.

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(Photo credit: marcin.biodrowski)
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