BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week was called ‘Icons of English Literature’ today. The podcast is available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0004s95
Chaucer is renowned as the father of English literature. But in a new biography Marion Turner argues he is a far more cosmopolitan writer and thinker than we might assume. She tells Andrew Marr how the 14th-century author of The Canterbury Tales moved from the commercial wharves of London to the chapels of Florence, and from a spell as a prisoner of war in France to the role of diplomat in Milan.
The academic Emma Smith challenges audiences to look with fresh eyes at the plays of Shakespeare. In a series of essays she reveals how his plays have as much to say about PTSD, intersectionality and #MeToo as they do about Ovid, marriage and the divine right of kings.
When Charles Dickens started his writing career, his ambition was global: to speak to ‘every nation upon earth’. And he succeeded. His stories reached Russia, China, Australia, even Antarctica, and he was mobbed in the street when he visited America. Juliet John, co-curator of the exhibition Global Dickens, examines how Dickens’s work could travel so far, when the settings of his novels were much closer to home. [BBC]
Kindle Unlimited’s algorithms have prompted some e-book authors to cash in on specific terms or cover images. This is a modern twist on an old practice of following on the tails of paper bestsellers.
The fight over #Cockygate, as it was branded online, emerged from the strange universe of Amazon Kindle Unlimited, where authors collaborate and compete to game Amazon’s algorithm. Trademark trolling is just the beginning: There are private chat groups, ebook exploits, conspiracies to seed hyperspecific trends like “Navy SEALs” and “mountain men,” and even a controversial sweepstakes in which a popular self-published author offered his readers a chance to win diamonds from Tiffany’s if they reviewed his new book.
Image from Amazon.com
‘Hooked: Art and Attachment’ by Professor Rita Felski (Department of English, University of Virginia). Friday 8 June, 11:30-13:00, Heymanszaal, Academy Building. Professor Felski is an expert in literary theory.
‘The Matter of Touching: Interpreting Signs of Wear in Late Medieval Manuscripts’ by Professor Kathryn Rudy (University of St. Andrews). Monday 18th June, 16:00-18:00, A2 Academy Building.
A boom in the sales of poetry reflects the “political uncertainty” of our times, an audience at the London Book Fair has heard.
Young rebel poets are bringing about a power shift in contemporary poetry and drawing a wider audience to the art form
Image by Kalen Bloodstone CC3.0
‘Here be Dragons’: the Oxford Fantasy Literature summer school will be held in the Faculty in September. Speakers from the Oxford English Faculty and other UK universities will look at different aspects of the genre, through 14 talks delivered over three days
interspersed with a series of 10-minute talks. Along with presentations focusing on the works of individual authors such as Tolkien, G. R. R. Martin, J. K. Rowling, Ursula Le Guin and Diana Wynne Jones, and overviews of the history of fantasy, there will be a number of short lectures on wider themes such as fantastic beasts, writing processes, and Arthurian fantasy. Further details and the full programme are available here.
As for the idea of a classroom of unruly schoolboys being stilled and thrilled to hear such stuff read aloud — as they must have once been by Tennyson — forget it. Poets don’t write for schoolboys any more. They seem to write mainly for each other.
First-year students were recently studying the work of the current British poet laureate. This article from The Daily Mail may make it all clearer.
Photo: Lancaster Litfest
Students revising the Classical background of ‘Literature from 1550’ should avoid the siren song of the plot of BBC’s most recent series Troy: Fall of a City which doesn’t claim to follow Homer closely. The series does demonstrate the perennial fascination of Ancient Greece and its literature.
Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is currently running as BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime and the episodes can be heard on the BBC iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09t89gc
The Word of Mouth programme (on English language) has most recently been given over to language and gender identity with an interview with C. N. Lester author of Trans Like Me.
See also the BBC book page which includes various authors and topics on BA and MA syllabuses: Muriel Spark, Frankenstein, book cover design, John Le Carre and Jane Austen.