2014年9月26日 星期五

The Waste Land and Modernity


'April is the cruellest month, breeding / lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / memory and desire, stirring / dull roots with spring rain',
The Waste Land is a core text in Modernist poetry & one of TS Eliot's best known. Commemorate his birth - today, 1888, in St Louis, USA.
In Our Time - The Wasteland & Modernity http://bbc.in/1ojeVPN
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss TS Eliot's seminal poem The Waste Land.

2014年9月24日 星期三

Birth of a new world: the Tolkien poem that marks the genesis of Middle-earth

Birth of a new world: the Tolkien poem that marks the genesis of Middle-earth

On this day in September 1914, as war broke out, Tolkien created the mythical land that led him to The Lord of the Rings. Here’s the story of the poem that changed his life

• Mordor, he wrote: how the Black Country inspired Tolkien’s badlands
Martin Freeman in the film version of The Hobbit
Origin story … Martin Freeman in the film version of The Hobbit. Photograph: Warner Bros/AFP/Getty Images
A century ago today, Russian forces were beginning the 133-day siege of Przemyśl and the German army took Péronne. Meanwhile, in a Nottinghamshire farmhouse, a young man wrote a poem about a mariner who sails off the earth into the sky. The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star deserves its day in the spotlight alongside war commemorations. It was the founding moment of Middle-earth.
Neither elves nor hobbits were yet in JRR Tolkien’s mind. But the star mariner is remembered in The Lord of the Rings, as Eärendil, forefather of kings, whose light in a phial wards off Mordor’s darkness. In the vast backstory of The Silmarillion, he carries the last Silmaril, a jewel preserving unsullied Edenic light, seeking aid against the primal Dark Lord.
None of this is in Tolkien’s poem from 24 September 1914. As an invented origin myth for the evening star, it is all energy and enigma:
Éarendel sprang up from the Ocean’s cup 
In the gloom of the mid-world’s rim; 
From the door of Night as a ray of light 
Leapt over the twilight brim, 
And launching his bark like a silver spark 
From the golden-fading sand; 
Down the sunlit breath of Day’s fiery Death 
He sped from Westerland.
The poem hurtles on for a further five stanzas, but reveals nothing of background or motives. Yet Éarendel’s maverick course has much to do with Tolkien’s predicament as war broke out.
His taste for poetry had been formed at school when he translated poetry into Latin and Greek, and by his interest in the epics of Virgil and Homer. Until 1913, he had pursued a classical education at school and Oxford. But then he switched to English, an upstart discipline with a stiff backbone of Germanic philology. This was the study of the history of English and its cousin languages, German, Norse and Gothic, and it used rigorous comparison to reconstruct the common ancestral language spoken in pre-literate times. Philologists also reconstructed the unrecorded legends that could be glimpsed in fragments scattered through medieval literature.
JRR Tolkien at 24
JRR Tolkien at 24 in 1916 in his military uniform
By the time the 22-year-old Tolkien visited his aunt’s farm in Gedling in September 1914, he was laying the groundwork for an academic career. War threatened everything; relatives urged him to enlist. He was determined instead to complete his degree. Éarendel’s oblique voyage across the paths of the fixed stars accords with the visible movements of Venus but also, I suggest in Tolkien and the Great War, matches Tolkien’s journey off the well-trodden path of enlistment.
An insight from the historian Hugh Brogan got me looking at the poem again for the journal Tolkien Studies. What I found reveals the poem as a daring piece of cultural reappropriation, and one of two steps in late 1914 which set Tolkien on the threshold of Middle-earth. It is almost too perfect that this should be a myth of origin and transformation.
Brogan told me he thought Tolkien had plagiarised Shelley:
Arethusa arose 
From her couch of snows 
In the Acroceraunian mountains, 
From cloud and from crag, 
With many a jag, 
Shepherding her bright fountains.
He certainly appears to have borrowed the rhyme scheme and much of the rhythm, plus some of the spirit. Shelley describes how a nymph flees a river god by diving under the earth – a transformation myth to explain the origin of natural phenomena. This is just the kind of thing Tolkien was trying to emulate for the evening star.
His opening also closely echoes a phrase in the Aeneid, translated by one contemporary as “Aurora arose/ and left the ocean’s rim.” However, the “Ocean’s cup” is translated from Beowulf. Éarendel is Old English, too, and has kindred names in other Germanic legends that also relate to stars.
Yet others refer instead to the sea; a German philological book Tolkien had just read argues that all these names hark back to a lost tale of the ultimate seafarer, an Odysseus of the northern oceans. But that didn’t explain the star references. He abandoned philological rigour to imagine a myth in which the seafarer became the evening star.
This is not plagiarism. Tolkien consciously uses Shelley’s classical template as a vessel for a Germanic-style myth, as if to say: enough with the Mediterranean, it’s time English literature looked north. The big step, however, was the realisation that he could turn philological reconstruction into creative narrative. That is one of two principles underpinning Middle-earth.
The other principle followed within weeks, when he was immersed in a literature and language entirely unrelated to Latin, Greek, Germanic or any other Indo-European language. In a talk to fellow students about the Finnish epic Kalevala, he put its distinct flavour down to the fact that Finnish comes from Finno-Ugric stock. If the language is different in descent, its legends will be too, he said.
Meanwhile, he was privately reworking the Kalevala story of Kullervo. As if he could not help himself, he illogically began replacing some of the names with ones in an entirely invented language. It looks and sounds a lot like Finnish, yet it is recognisably a prototype of Quenya or “high-elven”. Tolkien had been inventing languages for years, often inspired by real languages, but now for the first time one of them set up home in story.
It was a breakthrough that promised to breathe life into his linguistic creation. He abandoned The Story of Kullervo for something far more original. If languages and legends were interdependent, as he now saw, he would create legends with their own nomenclature – the hallmark of Middle-earth. And with his 24 September 1914 poem, he had found a way to invent those legends. He could go beyond philology, in imagining the half-forgotten origins of recorded legends.
While finishing his degree and after enlisting in June 1915, Tolkien worked on this formula. On his return from the Somme in 1916, he used it as the basis for The Book of Lost Tales, the first version of The Silmarillion. That seminal opening line “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit” is usually seen as Tolkien’s breakthrough moment. The real honour should go to “Éarendel sprang up from the Ocean’s cup”.
• The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star appears in The Book of Lost Tales, part two, edited by Christopher Tolkien

2014年9月23日 星期二

Jonathan Bate 10周線上莎士比亞課:免費

Shakespeare and his World

Together with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Professor Jonathan Bate explores Shakespeare, his works and the world he lived in.


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    William Shakespeare is one of the most famous authors of all time. 2014 marks the 450th anniversary of his birth. His words have inspired and moved people from around the globe for centuries.
    How much do we know about Shakespeare’s cultural background and influences and why his works have endured? To get a real sense of how the Bard’s world would have actually looked and felt, renowned Shakespearean academic Professor Jonathan Bate will be exploring the acclaimed collections of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
    Each week, Professor Bate will examine a particular play and a cultural theme alongside a selection of treasures from the Trust’s archives in Stratford-upon-Avon. Weekly learning material will be broken down into six video segments, each examining a variety of artefacts and play extracts. The course will open with an introduction to Shakespeare and his living and working environment, moving onto broader cultural themes and issues examined in his plays and ending with an exploration of his legacy.
    This course is the result of an exciting new collaboration between the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the world’s leading charity in promoting the works, life and times of William Shakespeare.The course will provide unprecedented access to the Trust’s fascinating historical collections of museum, library and archive items. You will have the chance to look inside the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust vaults where thousands of artefacts are kept. The course will also take you into some of the key locations associated with Shakespeare which are looked after by the Trust, including the house where he was born and grew up.
    This is a great opportunity to engage with a topic that has captivated people for centuries, learn from a world expert in the field and enjoy exclusive access to behind-the-scenes historical material.
    Learners studying Shakespeare and his World will have the opportunity to purchase a Statement of Participation.

    Success and Feedback from the course

    In March 2014 over 11,000 learners from across the world joined Jonathan Bates and the teams from the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to explore Shakespeare, his plays, and the world in which he lived. Below are some examples of the impact the course had:
    “I’ve recommended this course to everyone I meet. Totally marvellous, utterly enriching, and a brilliant start to understanding Shakespeare in the future.”
    “This has been an enlightening and thoroughly enjoyable course. Thanks to everyone involved in bringing it to new learners, and special thanks to Jonathan for bringing alive the course materials - your passion and knowledge of your subject was infectious. I’d like to do it all over again.”
    “Thank you, thank you, thank you! I loved this course because not only did I learn so much about Shakespeare, but also because I enjoyed learning, reading, investigating and getting to know so much people around the world with the same interest, with so much knowledge and passion about the Bard. I admire each of the people who make this course possible, I thank them to make it possible for people around the globe. It was a wonderful experience. THANK YOU!”
    “What a wonderfully engaging and rich course on Shakespeare. I hope it will be run again because I’ve been telling all my friends and fellow Shakespeare admirers how good it has been.! Thanks to everyone for putting so much thought and effort into it.”


    In association with


    This course is aimed at anyone with an interest in Shakespeare; you might be a high school student or a university student, or a regular play-goer who wishes to learn more about Shakespeare. No prior knowledge of Shakespeare life, theatre and world is assumed: that is what you will learn from the course. The only pre-requisite is a willingness to read and watch the plays.

    How much do we know about Shakespeare’s cultural background and influences and why his works have endured? To get a real sense of how the Bard’s world would have actually looked and felt, renowned Shakespearean academic Professor Jonathan Bate will be exploring the acclaimed collections of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
    Together with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Professor Jonathan Bate...