In The Flesh: The Experience of Seeing Original Manuscripts

In The Flesh: The Experience of Seeing Original Manuscripts

I have mentioned before on this blog about my love of visiting libraries and museums, and I would love to visit more this year, There are so many cool exhibitions open at any one time in the UK and so many are free!

Last summer I made a few trips to London and went to the British Library, and it was amazing to see original material related to my studies at uni. They had some of Jane Austen’s handwritten letters and even her tiny writing desk.  They also had some breathtaking medieval manuscripts from around the world. It was so interesting seeing the intricate books of prayer such as the Beford Hours in all its illuminated glory. I also got to see some very old Sanskrit writing that I wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

In some cases, seeing manuscripts can actually be ‘in the flesh’, such as the Magna Carta, an 800 year old legal document inscribed on goat’s skin. Despite being a vegetarian, I found a strange sense of enjoyment in seeing this skin laid out before me. It was eerily exciting to see the physical manifestation of what many see as the ideology underpinning English law. Specifically, the right to a fair trial.

If you ever find yourself near King’s Cross station with time to spare, it’s worth seeing what’s going on at the British Library. I also went to an amazing Shakespeare exhibition at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. I also have a friend who’s curating a poetry exhibit at Christ’s College Library on 17th July so hopefully I can make that!

http://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2015/09/how-to-make-the-most-of-digitised-manuscripts.html 

 

 

Advertisements

Walden, Or Life in the Woods

Walden, Or Life in the Woods

Walden is a novel by the 19th century writer and transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau (1817–62). It describes the two years he spent living in a wooden cabin by Walden Pond, and the surrounding forests and town.

It’s quite hard to get into this book to start with, or even understand what transcendentalism is or how you spell it. But it is a rewarding read. It’s also made me really want to visit the pond in Massachusetts, (another impossible word to spell). Thoreau describes life at the pond in such a detailed and hypnotising way, that it’s really clear he is describing a spiritual connection with nature. He talks about being ‘rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house’1

There are some really relaxing descriptions of the water; ‘I have spent many an hour, when I was younger, floating over its surface as the zephyr willed, having paddled my boat to the middle, and lying on my back across the seats, in a summer forenoon, dreaming awake’….

I am obsessed with large bodies of water, but I usually hang out by sea cliffs or a coastline. It was interesting to read about the curious behaviour of the pond, which is technically a kettle-hole, formed by separating glaciers thousands of years ago.

The best thing about this book is that you can experience similar joy in nature without having to travel to this exact lake. Just listening to birds you can experience; ‘The faint silvery warbling heard over the partially bare and moist fields from the blue-bird, the song-sparrow, and the red-wing, as if the last flakes of winter tinkled as they fell!’1 (p.359).

Even though I read it a while ago, it’s one of those books that has had a lasting impression on me, and I think it will continue to do so.

[1] Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Civil Disobedience (London: Penguin, 1983), p.157.

Well, I’m Back

Well, I’m Back

Looks like it’s time to do a post about coming back from my unofficial ‘hiatus’. I have really wanted to write on this blog again, and I’ve attempted a few drafts, but now I want to actually do it.

I think part of the problem with starting to write again was the feeling that it had to be perfect before I tried again. I have weird ideas floating around from when I read a new book but I always feel like it would be too much effort to type a whole thing about it!

So I guess I’m back to get some ideas out before I have to think too much about editing them. So, to whoever’s reading this, I hope  you enjoy the next few posts of badly spelled ramblings!

As well as this, I’ve had a few things going on in real life, such as starting a new job recently,  and all the social opportunities that came with it. I’ll also be going on holiday for a week soon, so I’ll be posting some pictures from that!

Fictional Food: Comfort in Childhood

Fictional Food: Comfort in Childhood

My memory for plot, character and general content of books is pretty temperamental but one part of books that always stays with me is descriptions of food. Due to this, all my favourite childhood authors were ones that paid close attention to this aspect of storytelling. Roald Dahl is an obvious choice due to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I still remember the red box in Matilda that Miss Honey’s father used to let them take a chocolate from after every meal.

Food often represents comfort, especially in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. When Harry is on the Hogwarts Express, he realises that for the first time in his life he can buy all the Mars bars he wants without Dudley eating them all. To his surprise, the magical treats available are even more delectable. These include fat pumpkin pasties, drooble’s best blowing gum, chocolate frogs and the infamous bertie bott’s beans. Then, when he arrives at Hogwarts, and overcomes his initial fear of being sorted into the ‘wrong house’, he is rewarded by a comforting feast. I remember the part where the food miraculously appears on the golden plates being one of my favourite bits. J K Rowling’s descriptions of piles of golden roast potatoes, jugs of gravy, and the rich, sticky treacle tart for dessert are even more poignant considering her experience of poverty at the time of writing it.

My foray into fantasy novels was largely due to the descriptions of ‘second breakfast’ in the Hobbit and the Lord of The Rings. There is something so comforting about the descriptions of Bilbo’s pantry in his hobbit hole, with stacks of cheese, loaves of bread and fruitcakes. This is one aspect I feel that transferred well into the recent film adaptation. The point where they are invited into Beorn’s woodland home for milk and honey is also a welcoming respite in the Hobbit. As well as this, the morally devoid character Gollum’s aversion to the elven lembas bread in LOTR is surely proof of how comforting and wholesome the food is.

Even now as an adult I find descriptions of food in books both fascinating and enchanting. Haruki Murakami’s novels have wonderful descriptions of his characters carefully preparing meals, such as spaghetti, boiled eggs and the more adventurous dishes Tengo prepares in IQ84. I even wrote an essay for my undergraduate degree about the food in Great Expectations, focusing on the comforting experience Pip has of sharing bread and butter with Joe, and how this relationship with food becomes spoiled as he is forced to steal ‘vittles’ from the larder. These include a fat pork pie and a bottle of wine which Magwitch gratefully bolts down similarly to Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when Harry steals a loaf of bread and a flagon of pumpkin juice from the breakfast table for him.

Does anyone else share this weird fascination with fictional food? I can’t be the only one desperate to taste the huge chocolate cake in Matilda, or the lashings of ginger beer and cold cuts from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five adventures!

A xxx

(Featured picture is a lemon meringue pie I made recently)

If Wives Do Fall – Recent Perspectives of Emilia’s Speech in Othello

If Wives Do Fall – Recent Perspectives of Emilia’s Speech in Othello

The character of Emilia is often overlooked in Shakespeare’s Othello, and it is easy to see why. The issues of racism and domestic violence dominate the action, leaving the wife of scheming Iago and attendant to Desdemona to fall into the shadows.

That is, until her speech in Desdemona’s bedchamber. This intimate, female space is characterised by the action of Emilia ‘unpinning’ Desdemona, as their husbands leave for a walk. At this point, Emilia adds her own opinions on marriage and fidelity which are surprisingly cynical and insightful. At this point, I began to see her as a character in her own right, with an original perspective to add to the play’s drama.

After reading about the textual history of this play, I found that this specific speech was not present in the First Folio collection in 1623, which was the first full collection of Shakespeare’s works published after his death. However, it was included in the longer Second Quarto edition of Othello, published in 1630.[1] This simple addition gives Emilia’s character a much more defined role, and has had an impact on recent feminist interpretations of Shakespeare.

I always find listening to Shakespeare a lot easier, and luckily this speech was chosen by the Guardian as a part of their ‘Shakespeare Solo’ series. (This clip is only a minute long, but Eileen Atkins really brings the speech to life.)

What I love about this adaptation is the way Atkins pauses after each question, which really gives the message a chance to sink in. Also, the glass of wine adds to the image of a wise, long-suffering wife who is sick of her husband’s bullshit.

I’ll also include a typed version of the speech from the Oxford Shakespeare edition of the play, as the poetic language is really beautiful.

Emilia: Yes, a dozen – and as many to th’ vantage,                                                                   As would store the world they played for.                                                              80
But I do think it is their husbands’ faults
If wives do fall: say that they slack their duties,
And pour our treasures into foreign laps,
Or else break out in peevish jealousies,
Throwing restraint upon us; or say they strike us,                                             85
Or scant our former having in despite-
Why, we have galls; and though we have some grace,
Yet have we some revenge. Let husbands know,
Their wives have sense like them; they see, and smell,
And have their palates both for sweet and sour                                                  90
As husbands have. What is it that they do,
When they change us for others? Is it sport?
I think it is. And doth affection breed it?
I think it doth. Is’t frailty that thus errs?
It is so too: And have not we affections,                                                               95
Desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?
Then let them use us well: else let them know,
The ills we do, their ills instruct us so.[1]

[1] Michael Neill ed. Othello, (Oxford World Classics: Oxford, 2006), Act IV, Scene 3,79-98) p.181.

 

GUEST DOODLEWASH: Using Watercolours to Unlock a Life of Purpose — Doodlewash

This is such a relaxing tutorial! Even if you don’t paint I’d recommend watching it. I’m thinking of posting some of my watercolour attempts soon, so stay tuned!

Hello, I’m known as Coco Bee (my actual name is Queenie Wong) and I was born and raised in Canada, currently residing in Montreal, but moving back to Toronto shortly (follow me on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and visit my website!) The calling from my artistic muse came 7 months ago where an experience of prolonged […]

via GUEST DOODLEWASH: Using Watercolours to Unlock a Life of Purpose — Doodlewash