November 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
November 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
It’s 2nd November – already.
At this point in the term, the only true ‘news’ or post-worthy information I can provide revolves around my dissertation and Virginia Woolf. Both interesting subjects, I should add. Studying Woolf and Brontë over a few months has been intense – which, by the way, is my favourite and most overused word. It describes everything and anything imaginable. Had a deep conversation with someone interesting? That’s intense. Have 12,500 words to write over the next month? That’s intense. Seen Skyfall? Bloody intense!
Whilst Woolf and Brontë are very different writers, there are aspects of their works and ideas that overlap. To begin with, Charlotte’s fiction was received as something different and unread before (it is also fair to say that most of the Brontë siblings’ literature was received as something ‘new’ – Wuthering Heights especially). Woolf’s writing, like Jacob’s Room and The Waves, is innovative and modernist. It is difficult to discuss because there is so much to read and to see, so much to interpret. In Woolf’s A Common Reader, she writes of Charlotte Brontë. What she writes bothers me. It bothers me because Woolf is so wrong. Not only does she believe, like so many others, that “In that parsonage, and on those moors, unhappy and lonely, in her poverty and her exaltation, [Charlotte Brontë] remains for ever”. This in itself is simply lazy. Having said that, it is best to remember that Woolf and her contemporaries were heavily influenced by Elizabeth Gaskell’s romantic envisioning of Brontë’s remote, isolated existence. Recent biographers and critics have disproved such a view, maintaining that Haworth was in fact a bustling, if a poor, town with connections to West Riding and Bradford. Perhaps Woolf is attempting to portray the commonly-held perception of Charlotte, with her unhappiness and her loneliness, her solitary circling of the living room once her siblings had died. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. Yet, to then say that the “drawbacks of being Jane Eyre are not far to seek”:
“Always to be a governess and always to be in love is a serious limitation in a world which is full, after all, of people who are neither one nor the other. The characters of a Jane Austen or of a Tolstoi have a million facets compared with these.”
I wonder whether Woolf even read Jane Eyre. If she did, she must have skipped over the vivid sections of her childhood, that period of “fire and violence” that was calmed by Lowood school; she must have skim read Jane’s escape from Thornfield, and her discovery of family and inheritance. Whilst I admire and enjoy Austen’s novels, I do not understand how her characters are depicted as having more “facets” than Charlotte’s. If Woolf had simply read Villette she would have altered her view. Or perhaps not.
If there is one thing that this term has proven to me, it is that everything is questionable in literature. There are no rights or wrongs. You can dislike Shakespeare (I don’t but I’m a conformist – and find his language beautiful… when performed… not read… it’s hellish to read) and you can still be an English literary student/critic! I have also realised that I am one of the few people in Fourth Year (whom I know) that still loves their subject. I am still passionate about reading a book, about finding that one word or sentence that makes me go “wow!” because a writer who died almost two hundred years ago expressed my thoughts in words. Apparently, not a lot of people retain this passion. Although, I think that English literature is not a subject that you can just study without that feeling of enthusiasm. Without that enthusiasm, I could not have come so far in my degree. x
October 13, 2012 § Leave a comment
Now, I know it has been a while. I have been rather lax in my blog-writing; but my reasoning is valid – my fourth and final year of undergraduate university life began a whole month ago, so it has been a rather busy month…
But, in reality, the true cause of my poor blog-attendance (“blog” is not a real word, apparently; it is plagued by that rather aggressive red squiggly line… so what I am doing isn’t even legitimised by the English dictionary. I’ll continue, regardless) is that I have very little to write about. Having finished work at the publisher’s, having settled back into some kind of library-infused study routine, and having caught up with most of my friends here, all there is to say is – I have been studying. A lot.
One thing that has been consuming most of my brain space is the dreaded ‘D’ word: the dissertation. Silently, slyly, it has crept up on me and only now am I fully realising the extent of this cursed assignment. That is the impression I want to convey. In actual fact, I am enjoying the reading, the thinking, and just want to start writing it all now. The fusion of sex and violence in the selected works of Charlotte Brontë. Or the expression and repression of violence. Or something along that line. My main focus is, of course, ‘Jane Eyre’; although there will be a large helping of ‘Villette’ and that “swarthy-browed” M. Paul – he is a passionate (passion… extreme, some may say, violent, expression of emotion… violence… a flawless connection!) “little man”, after all, and deserves due attention. Especially if he drowns at the end – still not over that. There are so many interesting theories about Charlotte’s work, not least on the significance of Bertha, the original madwoman in the attic.
I’m also studying for my other module, solely on Virginia Woolf and her works. She is fascinating. I’m going to be really pretentious now and quote a passage from her diary… I sent this passage to my friends on our ‘FRIENDZ FORUM’ on Facebook as a kind of boost – if someone has incredible and intelligent (and, sadly, sort of, doomed) as VW can feel this way, then it makes our own ‘struggles’ more focused and meaningful, in some small way:
“Why is life so tragic; so like a little strip of pavement over an abyss. I look down; I feel giddy; I wonder how I am ever to walk to the end. But why do I feel this? … It’s a feeling of impotence: of cutting no ice. Here I sit at Richmond, & like a lantern stood in the middle of a field my light goes up in darkness. Melancholy diminishes as I write. Why then don’t I write it down oftener? Well, one’s vanity forbids. I want to appear a success even to myself. Yet I don’t get to the bottom of it. It’s having no children, living away from friends, failing to write well, spending too much on food, growing old – I think too much of whys & wherefores: too much of myself.”
See this for more suitable inspiration: http://fuckyeahvirginiawoolf.tumblr.com/
My dog also died this week – but I don’t think this should be a place for sad things. That can just stay in my head… x
September 7, 2012 § 2 Comments
My long absence has been a result of a holiday in Mallorca. It was lovely – sunny, calming, lazy, full of food and Mallorcan wine. I managed to finish ‘Villette’ by Charlotte Bronte, paving another stone towards my dissertation. It was an intriguing novel, quite dense with only glints of ‘action’. It is nuanced in its details, as it builds up slowly towards the culminating relationship of the two protagonists. I always enjoy these kinds of stories, the ones that involve a love that is slow to progress with a major obstacle in the way (bit like ‘Jane Eyre’ then). Yet, this novel’s ending irritated me. Where was the happy ending? The union of Lucy and Paul? Never happens. Perhaps it acts as a symbol of the disappointment of life. Like that party you obsess over, spending hours planning an outfit, days dreaming about that elusive ‘perfect’ conversation between you and that cute boy you have seen around a bit and think ‘tonight is the night’ because, of course, who could resist you in that dress eh! Then – never happens. You wake up in the morning, hung-over and sore, and think ‘well, last night definitely ruined any chance of me and that cute boy ever sharing more than a passing glance’. Disappointment reigns.
This feeling resembles that of the ending of ‘Villette’, except it is more poignant and lingering because you know that this was Lucy’s one chance to her share of happiness. Without Paul, there just remains that empty void of nothing but unfulfilled passion and, worse, that unbearable need for companionship, to not be a loner, despite that frosty exterior you mould around yourself. At least, for you, there are other parties, other cute boys (bloody hope so). Not so for Lucy, especially living in a Catholic country (Belgium under the guise of another name – not very well hidden) as a Protestant. This proves to be the main barrier between everlasting loneliness and that longed-for fulfilment. That, coupled with a group of conniving, sly bourgeois-types who plot for their own private purposes; e.g. Madame Beck loves her ‘kinsman’, Paul, and if she cannot have him, no woman can.
I found most tragic the lack of Lucy’s past, so insignificant and little was she made to appear in the beginning that her evidently scarring adolescence remains a mystery. The reader is held constantly at a distance. What struck me about her character was the duality within her personality. I have been reading a criticism recently, ‘Pilgrims from Loneliness’ by Ian M. Emberson of the Bronte Society. He makes the interesting – and, what I consider, quite accurate – point that the characters of ‘Villette’ all have a public and a private life. There is one persona that they project to society, one that fits with convention and hides the reality; the private life could be deemed as more real, more true, mainly because it is the one that few ever see, the one that is kept buried beneath the external. This is something I completely identify with. I know that my own ‘public’ persona can often differ hugely from my private one, particularly at parties, depending on the company. Lucy projects a personality that prefers solitude and shuns company; whilst, in fact, hers is one that desires companionship and love but can never find the words or means of expressing such emotions.
That, the inability to express, is such a powerful theme in literature, films, music – all because it is a universal experience. We all fail to express our emotions and our needs, especially when some part of us cannot bear to expose our true selves, or when our own lack of knowledge chokes our propensity to reach out and speak.
August 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
Well, the past week has been rather a full on one.
For starters, I travelled down to London with my brother to meet our dad and his wife to see the Olympic women’s football final at Wembley stadium. The atmosphere was, of course, electric! Never having been to Wembley, nor ever having attended a football match, it was a very new experience. Double-exciting because it was the Olympics. And in London. And sunny. So, that’s like, quadruple-exciting.
The US-of-A won against Japan, but it was a tense match. We were surrounding by US supporters and my brother, ever-sociable, started up some banter with a particularly (over-)zealous American cheerleader. There was facepaint, stars and stripes, red, white and blue everywhere. Plus quite a number of Japanese flags and traditional dress, thankfully injecting a bit of alternative culture into the proceedings. We were (quietly) supporting Japan – always root for the underdogs. Still, silver ain’t bad at all!
The next day, my brother and I had free in London. So, going our separate ways to meet our own respective friends, I set off for St Paul’s, the wibbly-wobbly bridge and the Tate Modern. Michael and I went round the Damien Hirst exhibition, after my mum’s rave review. It was fascinating, intense and slightly barmy. I was sometimes left perplexed by his work – particularly the beach ball buoyed up by air. Apparently this represents ‘love’ and ‘desire’, their simultaneous precariousness natures and respective constancy. Most bizarre of all was the rotting decapitated head of a cow, its blood spreading from the opening, resembling a crimson carpet, with flies swarming and a horrible horrible smell that wafted out of the ventilators every so often. It was oddly captivating. My other favourite pieces were the butterfly canvases in the form of stain-glass windows. Then, the room of canvases that had pupae attached, from which butterflies had hatched and now fly around the room. One landed on Michael – to be fair, his shirt had an optical-illusion quality. Or perhaps I’m just not fragrant enough for them. The theme of incongruity was woven throughout his work, such as bringing together medicine and art, religion and nature. Overall, a weird but wonderful aura, plus a very enjoyable level of shock-factor.
(The rest of the day confirmed my suspicions: I want to live in London. Very badly.)
Aaaand then it was back to work! Which I am still doing! And it’s fun!
“FASHION” UPDATE: I also purchased a mid-calf skirt which is a lacquered Baileys colour with a faint leopard print on – for £11! Topshop, naturally. That shop is slowly growing on me again, especially when it has a sale. Plus some nose-bleed-high orange leather with cork heels shoes – for £20! From Moda in Pele! It’s a revelation! I am attending a friend’s early 21st birthday party on Saturday and have mentally arranged my outfit: my palm tree dress; coral necklace courtesy of my lovely mum; those new high orange heels; perhaps some coral lipstick (exotic); leopard print belt (a neutral, according to Caitlin Moran; so it must be); pale blue nails by Chanel, courtesy once more of my lovely thoughtful mum. God knows what my hair will do. There is too much of it. What does one do with long, thick hair? I resemble a Cocker Spaniel!
August 8, 2012 § Leave a comment
I’ve just finished reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman after many months of wanting to read it and finally getting round to it after my friend told me she was reading it for the second time (it’s that good). It took me three days, in between that thing called work. Which is going well, by the way; more on that later.
Well, apart from now being able to confidently declare I AM A FEMINIST whilst standing on a chair, the book has also awakened me to myself. Whilst reading her fast, tumbling prose, I found myself nodding along, agreeing with pretty much everything she said (a bit like her reaction to Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, which sounds pretty strident).
However, the most potent thing for me was her exclamation that we are all dying and there is no after-life; the sooner we realise that this, life, is not a waiting-room to the ‘next world’, the sooner we actually do something with ourselves. Ever since I got to university, I suppose I was simply waiting for things to happen, to begin. Other than my academia and a few other achievements, I often feel as though I have not done anything. This is completely false and stems from ridiculous feelings of inadequacy, as a result of looking around at everyone else and wondering how they became so happy/slim/confident/attached to numerous men. In fact, these feelings, whilst difficult to suppress, seem ungrateful, particularly when my life is really rather jammy.
The book has made me consider my own (often, lack of) beliefs. It has also propelled me to evaluate my true ambitions. I know I am ambitious; but I do not know why or for what. I strive for success; yet, I have no real aim or goal.
I watched Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech to the Class of 2012 at the University of the Arts. Once again, someone who has fulfilled – and continues to fulfil – their ambitions provides the kind of advice I wish I’d had heard years ago. He tells us to ‘Make Good Art’ – to keep making good art, through the shitty points in life, and through the euphoric ones. He says, ‘If you don’t know it’s impossible, it’s easy to do’.
Perhaps it is the Olympics. Perhaps it is summer cabin-fever hitting in, later than usual. Or perhaps I should take these brilliant peoples’ advice, remember that I am dying, go out and Make Good Art.
August 4, 2012 § Leave a comment
Well that was bloody exciting! Three golds in one night – six golds in one day. Third in the medal leader board. I just read someone’s status on Facebook (yes, I recognise how dully unoriginal that makes me) – “SNP take a hike!” as a result of Team GB’s successes. I could not agree more! Come on, Great Britain!
It really does make you feel more inclined to get out there and run or jump or throw a big boulder across a field (though, there is certainly more to shot put). I am now looking into purchasing a bike that will take me to and from the gym in St Andrews (perhaps that is wishful thinking), or at least allow me to amble along to Crail at a faster rate than a walk would – three hours last time!
Off to the bike shop I go…