The aim of this blog is to serve as a meeting point to those who study or have studied English philology and, more broadly, to all those who love literature and language.

31 Dec 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR

These are just some poems to celebrate the beginning of a new year and wish Poe readers and anyone who may drop by this blog a HAPPY 2009.

New Year on Dartmoor by Sylvia Plath

This is newness: every little tawdry
Obstacle glass-wrapped and peculiar,
Glinting and clinking in a saint's falsetto. Only you
Don't know what to make of the sudden slippiness,
The blind, white, awful, inaccessible slant.
There's no getting up it by the words you know.
No getting up by elephant or wheel or shoe.
We have only come to look. You are too new
To want the world in a glass hat.

Año Nuevo en Dartmoor

En esto consiste la novedad: en cada pequeño y chabacano
obstáculo recubierto de cristal, cada uno con su peculiaridad,
centelleando y tintinando con falsete de santo. Tan sólo tú
no sabes qué hacer con este repentino terreno resbaladizo,
con este ciego, blanco, espantoso, inaccesible declive.
no hay manera de aprehenderlo con las palabras que conoces.
No hay manera de llegar a él, ni en elefante, ni sobre ruedas, ni a pie.
Nosotros hemos venido aquí tan solo a mirar, y tú eres demasiado nueva
como para querer el mundo en un sombrero de cristal.

Spanish version: Poesía Completa, Bartleby Editores, 2008

Ring Out, Wild Bells by Alfred Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.


And these are two recordings of Auld Land Syne, the popular poem by Robert Burns. The second one is a Japanese version called 蛍の光 and read as "Hotaru no Hikari" (lights of fireflies). Source: Wikipedia.

27 Dec 2008

HAROLD PINTER


Harold Pinter died last Wednesday at the age of 78. His work was part of the syllabus of Literatura Inglesa III together with that of other playwrights which renewed the British stage in the 60’s and 70’s by introducing working class characters and plots as well as avant-garde elements influenced by other European authors.

Among other things, we learnt about his use of speech and silences to expose the nature of his characters: “Pinter’s dialogue – or lack of it – echoes Becket’s strategic use of repetition and pauses () However, while Becket’s silences suggest the alienation of his characters who are victims of the tedium and meaningless of modern life, Pinter’s are ominous and threatening”. This use of language found a place in the English lexicon with the coinage of the adjective ‘pinteresque’ to refer to apparently trivial utterances and silences that disguise a menacing situation.

We were requested to read The Dumb Waiter, a play which provides clear examples of power exertion reflected in language. The story presents two contract killers, Ben and Gus, waiting in a room for instructions. An absent character, Wilson, apparently communicates through a dumbwaiter. Ben continuously manifests his power over Gus by delaying or not giving an answer to Gus’ questions, by changing the conversation topic or by shouting at his mate over unimportant issues.

This an extract from the play:

BEN. Go and light it.
GUS. Light what?
BEN. The kettle.
GUS. You mean the gas.
BEN. Who does?
GUS. You do.
BEN (his eyes narrowing). What do you mean, I mean the gas?
GUS. Well, that's what you mean, don't you? The gas.
BEN (powerfully). If I say go and light the kettle I mean go and light the kettle.
GUS. How can you light the kettle?
BEN. It's a figure of speech! Light the kettle. It's a figure of speech!
GUS. I've never heard it.
BEN. Light the kettle! It's common usage!
GUS. I think you've got it wrong.
BEN (menacing). What do you mean?
GUS.They say put on the kettle.
BEN (taut). Who says?

They stare at each other, breathing hard.

(Deliberately.) I have never in all my life heard anyone say put on the kettle.
GUS. I bet my mother used to say it.
BEN. Your mother? When did you last see your mother?
GUS. I don't know, about--
BEN. Well, what are you talking about your mother for?
They stare.
GUS, I'm not trying to be unreasonable. I'm just trying to point out something to you.
GUS. Yes, but--
BEN. Who's the senior partner here, me or you?
GUS. You.
BEN. I'm only looking after your interests, Gus. You've got to learn, mate.
GUS. Yes, but I've never heard--
BEN (vehemently). Nobody says light the gas! What does the gas light?.
GUS. What does the gas--?
BEN (grabbing him with two hands by the throat, at arm's length). THE KETTLE, YOU FOOL!
GUS takes the hands from his throat.

GUS. All right, all right.
Pause.

BEN. Well, what are you waiting for?
GUS. I want to see if they light.
BEN. What?
GUS. The matches.

26 Dec 2008

THAT'S POLITICAL ORATORY !

Today I want to bring a video with the Obama`s acceptance speech, not for political reasons, but for its rhetorical value. I think this speech is a true masterpiece of political oratory and it is worth to listen it once and again. And not only the speech in itself is remarkable; the speaker knows well his job, also. Take note that he doesn´t read or hesitate in any moment. He addresses right to the audience with confidence and certainty. This is one of those rare occasions in which we can hear a politician using the language for something else than babbling just a bunch of worn topics. Enjoy it!
http://en.yappr.com/welcome/Video.action?videoGuid=836FFF87-1CF2-4C1B-92B8-4DDEBBFAE4E1

23 Dec 2008

CHRISTMAS AND LITERATURE

Looking for something related to literary works and Christmas, I’ve come across Christmas Spirit in Literature, an article published in The New York Times, signed by Holbrook Jackson and dated December 1, 1912, Sunday.

It starts commenting the all-time feeling that past times are better than the present.

'There is no surer indication of the permanence of an idea than popular belief in its impermanence. Elderly people, for instance, are never tired of telling us how different things were in their youth. (They were generally better.) …… Christmas has fallen an easy prey to the sort of pessimism I mean. The statement that Christmas is not so jolly as it used to be, like the equally determined conviction that Christmas weather is almost extinct, has become what Gelett Burgess would call “a Bromidiom”'

Then, the journalist tells us about the enduring force of Christmas which overcomes that kind of negativism:

'Christmas will come again with its wonted merriness, good fellowship, and sentimentality, brushing dissenters aside or sweeping them into the hilarity of ceremonies, as it did long before it became Christmas. Charles Dickens was more certain of that than any other modern when he drew for us the immortal parable of Marley’s Ghost. He knew that the permanence of Christmas depended upon the conversion of Scrooge'.

Next, the writer highlights the idea that the English literature lacks a relevant body of works related to Christmas due to reasons such as the identification of this festivity with sentimentality, a literary mode not fashionable at the time:

'We are becoming more sophisticated even in our popular reading, and find enthusiasm for few books that do not in some way appeal to the sense of fact rather than to the sense of sentiment'.

He defends the idea of different approaches:

'There is no reason why we should not have a Christmas literature of fact, for the idea behind Christmas is one of the most uncompromising facts in the world. I would not mind even if such a literature were quite Zolaesque, for the true spirit of Christmas is in danger of being swamped in a mercenary orgy of present giving for commercial purposes, which only a novelist trained in the French school might be able to describe. Even the sentimentality of Christmas at its best is deep rooted in the fact of fellowship and the need of emotional unity, and, looked at sanely, the convivial traditions of humanity are just as much facts as London Bridge or the Statue of Liberty'.

And he acknowledges Dickens as a writer who managed to express the feeling of the common man towards Christmas.

'He approached Christmas as the common man had always approached it, but, unlike the common man, he had the power of literary expression, and he used that power not to refine upon a refinement after the manner of the cultured but to voice an essentially spiritual mood in the terms of average sentiment'.

Throughout the article the journalist mentions other authors and works such as the Christmas essays by Washington Irving, Milton’s Ode “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”, Ben Jonson’s Christmas, His Masque or 'The Truce of Christmas' by G.K. Chesterton (but this poem, was it not written after the war truce in WWI, in 1914? Quoted in a 1912 paper?)

He ends his article with a call for spirituality, admitting that “Christmas spirit has been departamentalized and divorced from the average spirit of the average day” and longing for the “cosmic quality which binds more than separates” reflected in hymns and folk carols.



Picture: www.flickr.com/photos/12836528@N00/2101495790

22 Dec 2008

YES, I´M A LINGUAPHILE!

Are you a linguaphile, too? Maybe you are and you didn´t even know it! Check it out as soon as possible here http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=linguaphile , or here http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=linguaphile , or here! http://www.bartleby.com/61/59/L0185925.html

18 Dec 2008

TRADUTTORE, TRADITORE

A friend sends me the link to this article, Perdidos en la traducción, published in Público.es. In it, the writer deals with the issue of inaccurate translations in film dialogues and titles. The reasons and effects are different depending on the difficulty to find parallel expressions to mantain the humour of puns, the fact that more than one person in the translation of a script were employed, or even censure.

These are a couple of bizarre examples collected in this article:
- ‘The eternal sunshine on the spotless mind’ (quoting Alexander Pope) was translated as ‘¡Olvídate de mí!’
- "Are there good white basketball players?" became "¿El perro de San Roque tiene rabo?" in the Spanish version.

Cinema and language. Scene 8.
Original and Spanish versions of the scene mentioned at the beginning of the article (from the film Horse Feathers)

Where's the seal?

¡Aquí falta un testigo!

17 Dec 2008

LITOTES AND IRONY

The other day I discovered that litotes and irony are opposed figures of speech. Maybe all of you already knew it, but to me it was a surprise and for about five minutes I felt very proud of myself. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics, a litotes is a figure of speech by which an affirmation is made indirectly by denying its opposite, as in He´s not a bad singer. On the other hand, according to the same source, an irony is a figure of speech in which one thing is said but the opposite is meant, e.g. the statement What a nice weather you have here!, said when you are visiting that friend of you who lives in the City of London.
So, the two figures of speech are opposed to one another. Interesting, but when things get really interesting is when we realize that these figures of speech can appear mixed up in the same statement, as it happens in this example:
- And now, all I need to launch my new business is just one million €.
- One million €, you said? Well, it won´t be difficult for you to get it.
Here the statement it won´t be difficult for you to get it is a litotes because affirms something denying its opposite and at the same time is an irony because what the second speaker means (that is the deep structure) opposes to what he actually says (the surface structure).
Now an open question to which I couldn´t find an answer: Is the term ‘unusual’ a litotes in itself? And if so, can the statement ‘is not unusual’ (as in the lyrics of the famous Tom Jones´ song) be considered a double litotes?
In case you are interested in study the original source of the example, here it is. By the way, did you ever notice how difficult it is to think in any linguistic problem while you are listening to Tom Jones singing?
video

15 Dec 2008

TALKING ABOUT FAVOURITE BOOKS

Blogs allow written comments but also oral ones. This post is just an invitation to record and share a comment on a book (in English or Spanish) that you've read and liked. All you have to say is the title and why you recommend it.

In these days of present buying and holidays to read, we could get some ideas in this way.

The following widget works like this:
- Enter your name or alias.
- Allow access to your computer mike.
- Press on the red button and record your text.
- Stop it and save it by clicking on the green tick.
- Once we've got five recordings we will place them in a post.

14 Dec 2008

MILTON

I learn from this note, mentioned in Vanity Fea, about the one hundreth anniversary of John Milton's birth, a good opportunity to include in this blog one of his poems.

On Shakespeare
What needs my Shakespeare for his honored bones
To labor of an age in piled stones,
Or that his hallowed relics should be hid
Under a star-ypointing pyramid?
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What need'st thou such weak witness of thy name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a livelong monument.
For, whilst, to the shame of slow-endeavouring art,
Thy easy numbers flow, and that each heart
Hath from the leaves of thy unvalued book
Those Delphic lines with deep impression took,
Then thou our fancy of itself bereaving,
Dost make us marble with too much conceiving,
And so sepúlchred in such pomp dost lie
That kings for such a tomb would wish to die


Further resources:
- A reading of 'On Shakespeare'
- A translation of the poem into Spanish.
- Audio recordings of Milton's poems (Real Player required), a section of the Milton Home Page
- 'To Milton' by Oscar Wilde

10 Dec 2008

BORGES

Acabo de leer El libro de arena de J.L.Borges. En varias de las historias que componen esta obra se encuentran referencias a autores, obras y otros elementos relacionados con temas de estudio de la filología inglesa.

En 'El soborno', por ejemplo, las alusiones son continuas. He aquí algunas citas de este relato que, por otra parte, nos habla de imparcialidad y vanidad:

HISTORIA DE LA LENGUA INGLESA:
“Era profesor de inglés antiguo (no aprobaba el empleo de la palabra anglosajón, que sugiere un artefacto hecho de dos piezas)”

UNIVERSIDAD Y DIDÁCTICA:
“Me dijeron que en los exámenes prefería no formular una sola pregunta; invitaba al alumno a discurrir sobre tal o cual tema, dejando a su elección el punto preciso”.

“El artículo, redactado en un correcto inglés de extranjero, no se permitía la menor incivilidad, pero encerraba cierta violencia. Argüía que iniciar aquel estudio por la Gesta de Beowulf, obra de fecha arcaica pero de estilo pseudo virgiliano y retórico, era no menos arbitrario que iniciar el estudio del inglés por los intrincados versos de Milton. Aconsejaba una inversión del orden cronológico: empezar por la Sepultura del siglo once que deja traslucir el idioma actual, y luego retroceder hasta los orígenes”.

ESTILÍSTICA:
“Más claro es mi recuerdo de su colega Herbert Locke, que me dio un ejemplar de su libro Toward a History of the Kenning, donde se lee que los sajones no tardaron en prescindir de esas metáforas un tanto mecánicas (camino de la ballena por mar, halcón de la batalla por águila), en tanto que los poetas escandinavos las fueron combinando y entrelazando hasta lo inextricable”.

SOCIOLINGÚÍSTICA:

“Opinaba que el uso del slang forzosamente erróneo, hace del extranjero un intruso y no condescendió nunca al O.K”. “Su primer trabajo fue una monografía sobre los cuatro artículos que dedicó De Quincey al influjo que ha dejado el danés en la región lacustre de Westmoreland. La siguió una segunda sobre el dialecto de los campesinos de Yorkshire.

LITERATURA ANGLOSAJONA:
"En 1970 publicó en Yale una copiosa edición crítica de la balada de Maldon. El scholarship de las notas era innegable, pero ciertas hipótesis del prefacio suscitaron alguna discusión en los casi secretos círculos académicos. Einarsson afirmaba, por ejemplo, que el estilo de la balada es afín, siquiera de un modo lejano, al fragmento heroico de Finnsburh, no a la retórica pausada de Beowulf, y que su manejo de conmovedores rasgos circunstanciales prefigura curiosamente los métodos que no sin justicia admiramos en las sagas de Islandia".

FONÉTICA
“Trataré de no defraudarlo. Soy un buen germanista; la lengua de mi infancia es la de las sagas y pronuncio el anglosajón mejor que mis colegas británicos. Mis estudiantes dicen cyning, no cunning”.


El relato contiene muchas más cosas. Borges es capaz de encerrar varias cuestiones que invitan a la reflexión en una simple frase:

"Winthrop lo miró con sorpresa. Era inteligente, pero propendía a tomar en serio las cosas, incluso los congresos y el universo, que bien puede ser una broma cósmica".

7 Dec 2008

WIDENING AND TESTING VOCABULARY

The Merriam Webster Visual Dictionary Online contains around 6,000 labelled pictures organised in topics such as 'Earth', 'Human Being', Clothing', etc. and more thoroughly classified in subcategories within each field. It also provides games for testing word knowledge and sound to check pronunciation.

We can test our knowlegde through a series of 'drag-the-label-to-the-right-blank' games.

wind instruments [3] - Visual Dictionary Online

3 Dec 2008

¡ES (UNA OBRA MAESTRA/UNA AUTÉNTICA PORQUERÍA)!

Aprovecho la entrada de Maite sobre la saga Harry Potter y el posterior comentario de José Ángel para exponer aquí, ante el mundo mundial y de una vez por todas, el Auténtico y Certificado Método de Juan F Para Determinar Cuando una Obra Literaria Es Buena. Sí, porque en cinco años de estudios lingüísticos y literarios ninguna profesora, ni profesor, me proporcionó de forma explícita e inequívoca lo que tanto había venido buscando: una fórmula, sistema o conjuro que me permitiese separar el grano de la paja, literariamente hablando.
Razón ésta que me llevó muy a mi pesar y siguiendo el dicho popular, a confeccionar yo mismo dicha fórmula.
No ha sido tarea fácil y omitiré el farragoso proceso deductivo que me condujo a la conclusión final. Diré tan solo que me ha guiado el principio científico según el cual un objeto, sistema o artefacto es bueno si cumple la función para la que fue construido o diseñado. Esta norma es válida, por supuesto, para cualquier producto del ingenio humano, pero siendo la literatura el objeto de mis desvelos es ahí donde he decidido aplicarla y para mi entera satisfacción, además. Por ello, consideraré desde ahora como ‘mala’, ‘mediocre’ o ‘excelente’ a toda obra literaria, en la medida en que cumpla el propósito para el cual fue escrita, o cuando éste no pueda ser conocido, el propósito que cada lector en particular le asigne.
Así pues, para llevar a cabo dicha clasificación, nos es preciso conocer las intenciones del escritor al respecto de su obra. Esto no supone un obstáculo en la mayoría de los casos, pues, o bien el autor lo especifica con claridad, como ocurre con Poe en el caso de su poema ‘The Raven’, o es fácil deducirlo, como sucede con Tom Clancy o Stephen King, por ejemplo.
De esta manera, determinar la excelencia de una obra (novela, poema, film) se vuelve algo muy simple: basta responder primero a la pregunta ¿cuál es el propósito de dicha obra? Y posteriormente a esta otra: ¿lo consigue? Este propósito puede ser provocar en nosotros alguna emoción determinada, como melancolía, terror, nostalgia, movernos a la risa o excitar nuestro sentido del humor.
Quiero llamar la atención sobre la posibilidad de que el autor tenga un objetivo meramente crematístico y su fin último sea vender un elevado número de ejemplares, objetivo respetable y, en contra de lo que algunos parecen pensar, nada sencillo de conseguir. En ocasiones, también, puede darse el caso de una cierta confusión de objetivos. El poeta que presenta una obra a concurso, ¿quiere antes de nada provocar cierta emoción en el lector o ganar el concurso? Las dos cosas no tienen por qué ir unidas y sería preciso conocer cuál era la prioridad del autor en este caso. ¿Cuál era la prioridad de Agatha Christie, vender muchos libros o envolver a los lectores en los misterios que estos plantean? Fuese cual fuese, está claro que consiguió sobradamente ambos, por lo que no nos queda sino considerar su producción literaria como de la máxima calidad.
Se puede dar la circunstancia, también, de que la intención del autor sea completamente desconocida y en estos casos pasa a ser sustituida por la intención del lector. Pondré una analogía: al salir de casa encontramos una pequeña pieza de plástico, que por su forma y apariencia nos resulta extraña. No sabemos cuál era su función original ni el motivo por el que fue fabricada, pero ocurre que a nosotros nos viene de maravilla para ajustar la pata de una mesa que, por imperfección suya o del suelo sobre el que se asienta, cojea. Esa pieza de plástico pasa a ser excelente para nosotros, pues cumple a la perfección la función a que la destinamos a partir de ese día. Igual ocurre con una obra literaria, cuando se ajusta a nuestras expectativas. ¿Buscamos emoción, entretenimiento, reflexión? Muy bien, ¿la obra nos lo proporciona? Si lo hace, es buena; en caso contrario, no lo es. Así de simple.
Y en esto consiste mi sistema para determinar la bondad de una obra literaria, que a falta de otro mejor y hasta el momento, cumple su función.
Aplicado este sistema a la saga de Harry Potter y dando por seguro que la finalidad de la escritora es batir records de ventas, podemos decir que se trata de una obra maestra. No lo sería si pretendiese crear unas tramas originales, con un lenguaje fresco e innovador y además experimentar con las estructuras narrativas, pero sospecho que no es ese su propósito. Por otro lado, si añadimos además que satisface las expectativas de millones de lectores, lo que muy probablemente sea el objetivo secundario de su autora, nos encontramos con una obra que bien puede rivalizar con cualquiera de las que se estudian durante los cinco años que dura la carrera.
Claro que esto no va a satisfacer a los críticos literarios más exigentes. Ni siquiera a los que sean un poco exigentes. ¡Qué demonios, no va a satisfacer a ningún crítico digno de ese nombre! Pero desafío a que alguien exponga otra fórmula, igualmente objetiva y que reconozca tanto el mérito de los grandes éxitos de ventas como de aquellas obras que buscan únicamente el aprecio de los conocedores literarios.
Un saludo.

INTERVIEWS

Browsing through some of the websites devoted to the departments of English Philology or English Studies in various Spanish universities, I’ve come across FILINA, the one corresponding to the Universidad de la Laguna. In comparison to some other webpages that seem to be incomplete or not often updated, I’ve found this one quite clear regarding the way information is organised and displayed. Furthermore, it includes a series of interviews to teachers and students.

30 Nov 2008

HABLAR SOBRE LO QUE NO HEMOS LEÍDO

Echando un vistazo a las últimas entradas de blogs que sigo, me encuentro con "Confieso que lo he leído... o no". Ahí se comenta el libro Cómo hablar de los libros que no se han leído de Pierre Bayard.

Yo no voy a atreverme a hablar ahora de este libro, que ciertamente no he leído, pero que me ha hecho recordar la cantidad de exámenes recientes en que he escrito largo y tendido sobre obras no leídas, a partir generalmente de fragmentos e interpretaciones.

Creo que la disyuntiva entre reducir el número de obras estudiadas para hacerlo en profundidad y mantener un número más amplio del que al menos se se salga con algunas referencias se resuelve mejor o peor buscando un equilibrio en los programas de asignaturas a nivel universitario. Intentar completar hasta cierto punto el repertorio de lecturas clave queda para más tarde. De todas formas es curioso ver qué habilidades se pueden desarrollar para hablar de lo que no se conoce de primera mano.

27 Nov 2008

SOME NOTES ON HARRY POTTER


After learning from this former post about the more specific terms for naming different kinds of bildungsroman and reading that the Harry Potter stories can be considered an example of Kunstleroman, I started searching the Internet for some articles or notes on the literary features and values of J.K.Rowling’s most famous work and see what people say.

I began with the Wikipedia entry and found it clear and informative enough to get a general idea of where to place this series of novels according to genre and what discrepancies have been manifested among critics and writers.

Regarding genre, both fantasy literature and bildungsroman are cited. Furthermore, it is also pointed out that it can also be framed inside the boarding school subgenre, together with other series of books addressed to children and teenagers, and thus be further related to Victorian and Edwardian novels of British public schools. Mystery adventures and similarities to Sherlock Holmes are also mentioned.

I must say that I’ve read the seven books: the first two in Spanish, accompanying and sharing my daughter’s reading, and the remaining five in English, on the one hand, to advance her what was coming up and comment and speculate on it in funny conversations and, on the other hand, because I found the stories engaging and entertaining. If I had to say what is in my opinion Harry Potter’s main peculiarity, I’d mention eclecticism. The length of the work allows to mix lots of elements from diverse sources: childhood, youth and adult life concerns; past and present iconography; big and petty worries; fantasy and everyday life; characters which recall other well known figures from previous works (Dumbledore and Gandalf? The Drusleys and Roal Dahl’s Matilda’s family?)… In fact, echoes from other stories can be perceived throughout the whole series. But I think that the blending is well made and the author succeeds in producing an original work.

The Wikipedia article goes on and comments on the cultural impact, commercial success, etc. and I read that “The word Muggle has spread beyond its Harry Potter origins, used by many groups to indicate those who are not aware or are lacking in some skill. In 2003, Muggle, entered the Oxford English Dictionary with that definition.

I look up and come across these three entries for muggle provided at Dictionary.com

1. muggle: n. a marijuana cigarette. Etymology: 1920s. Usage: slang
2. muggle: n. a common person, esp. one who is ignorant or has no skills. E.g.: There are muggles in every computer class. Etymology: 1920s Usage: slang
3. muggle: n. a person without magical powers. Etymology: 1996; popularized by J. K. Rowling in "Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone"

Finally, I reach the literary criticism section. Summarising it, I see that the strong points could be the following ones:

- Its classic story structure.
- It is imaginative.
- It is a richly textured novel.
- It is “Readable, saleable, everyday, useful prose"
- It presents funny and moving prose. “Dickensian ability to make us (…) weep (…) and (…) laugh…”
- The dynamism of its plot which evolves to suit the preferences of growing readers, “progressively darker tone of the books”

Negative criticism focuses on these weaknesses:

- Lack of originality. Harold Bloom: “Rowling's mind is so governed by clichés and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing."
- Repetition of situations, as the use of the formulaic beginning of placing Harry in his uncle and aunt’s house before starting a new school year.
- The story appeals to an undemanding readership. A. S. Byatt: "secondary world, made up of patchworked derivative motifs from all sorts of children's literature ... written for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons, and the exaggerated (more exciting, not threatening) mirror-worlds of soaps, reality TV and celebrity gossip". Anthony Holden: “the Potter saga was essentially patronising, conservative, highly derivative, dispiritingly nostalgic for a bygone Britain", "in a pedestrian, ungrammatical prose style".

26 Nov 2008

SOCIOLECTS

The film My Fair Lady, based on Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, deals directly with language as it emphasises the possibility of breaking through class barriers by modifying linguistic features such as pronunciation, lexis and topics of conversation. Philologist Henry Sweet inspired Shaw to create his fictional phonetician, Henry Higgins. The film offers instances of some characteristics of English sociolects, common differences between standard and vernacular ways of pronunciation, especially Cockney speech, techniques and exercises to practice phonetics…

Here we have a couple of examples:

Cinema and language. Scene 6




ELIZA: Why'd ya take down me words? 'Ow do I know you took me down right? You just show me what you wrote ab'ut me. That ain't proper writin'. I can't read it.

HIGGINS: I can. “I say, Capt'n, now buy a flow'r off a poor girl"

ELIZA: Oh, it's cause I called him "Capt'n"


Cinema and language. Scene 7.




HIGGINS: Every time you pronounce the letter ‘H’ correctly the flame will waver... and every time you drop your 'H' the flame will remain stationary. That's how to know you've done it correctly. In time, your ear will hear the difference. You'll see it better in the mirror. Now listen carefully. "ln Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire hurricanes hardly ever happen"Now you repeat that after me. “In Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen"

ELIZA: "ln 'artford, 'ereford and 'ampshire 'urricanes 'ardly hever 'appen" HIGGINS: Oh, no, no! Have you no ear at all?

ELIZA: Should I do it over?

HIGGINS: No, please. Start from the very beginning. Just do this. HA HA HA… ELIZA: HA HA HA…

HIGGINS: Go on, go on. Does the same thing hold true in lndia? Have they the peculiar habit of not only dropping a letter but using it where it doesn't belong, like '"hever'" instead of '"ever'"? ……….

FRIEND: The girl, Higgins!

HIGGINS: Go on. Go on.

SOUNDTRACK: “Poor Professor Higgins”

25 Nov 2008

BEATRICE SANTORINI

I´m sorry, but I think this quote is so funny that I´ve stolen it from Beatrice Santorini’s site:

The purity of the English language:
The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that the English language is as pure as a crib-house whore. It not only borrows words from other languages; it has on occasion chased other languages down dark alley-ways, clubbed them unconscious and rifled their pockets for new vocabulary.
James Nicoll (b. 1961), "The King's English", rec.arts.sf-lovers, 15 May 1990

24 Nov 2008

PRETENTIOUS



Many of us remember well the term “bildungsroman”, because we had to use it quite often in the last course of Eng. Phil., in UNED. But not everybody is fond of it. Here is what A.J. Jacobs (author of the hilarious The Know-It-All) has to say about it:
“In case you want to sound pretentious, … Do no not use the word “bildungsroman” when talking about a coming-of-age novel. Yes, it’s pretentious. But it’s not really pretentious. Try these: Kunstlerroman, a novel that deals with the formative years of an artist. Erziehungsroman, a novel of upbringing. Entwicklungsroman, a novel of character development. “I think Harry Potter is a fabulous Kunstleroman!”

LINGUISTIC HUMOUR

Beatrice Santorini’s Linguistic Humor page contains a collection of jokes, anagrams, puns and other manifestations of word play.

This is an example of humour based on syntactic ambiguity (from the section 'Funny signs found on real businesses')


Cafeteria: SHOES ARE REQUIRED TO EAT IN THE CAFETERIA. SOCKS CAN EAT ANY PLACE THEY WANT.
Photo: www.flickr.com/photos/39792195@N00/2177072453

23 Nov 2008

BRIDESHEAD RE-REVISITED

Yesterday I went to the cinema and watched Brideshead Revisited. I must say that I started to read the novel years ago but never finished it and that I only saw part of the TV miniseries with Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder. Anyhow last year I read about this book as well as about A Handful of Dust when studying Evelyn Waugh’s work in the subject of Literatura Inglesa III. From that partial previous knowledge, my idea of the story was that of a young middle class Oxonian fascinated by the aristocratic world represented by a mansion and a Catholic family, of his friendship and love towards the brother and sister in that household, and of the social constraints and impediments that prevented the protagonists from being happy. I had also learned that Catholic aristocrats were presented as the custodians of traditional values in a declining society as a result of Waugh’s ‘romantic conservatism’ so I expected a positive approach to that religion.

At the end of the film I thought that the conveyed idea was the opposite, that the family’s Catholicism was the suffocating factor which provoked unfulfilled lives. Anyhow It is almost impossible for them to get rid of it (only Sebastian seems to find an exit far away from England). One of the final sentences, uttered by a soldier speaking to Charles, arouses the dilemma of the goodness or not of ending with the old world of the aristocracy.

18 Nov 2008

SONNETS

Sonnet Central is a website devoted to sonnets in English. Among other features such as a large collection of poems organised according to the alphabetical list of their authors' names or a battle of sonnets which allows the reader to vote for their winner, you can also access a section on sonnets about sonnets (does the word metasonnet exist?). So far my only reference to something similar had been Lope de Vega’s “Soneto de repente”

When browsing through the choice of poems in that section, I’ve come across ‘Enigma’ by Edgar Allan Poe:

"Seldom we find," says Solomon Don Dunce,
"Half an idea in the profoundest sonnet.
Through all the flimsy things we see at once
As easily as through a
Naples bonnet —
Trash of all trash! — how can a lady don it?
Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff—
Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff
Twirls into trunk-paper the while you con it."
And, veritably, Sol is right enough.
The general Petrarchanities are arrant
Bubbles — ephemeral and so transparent —
But this is, now, — you may depend upon it —
Stable, opaque, immortal — all by dint
Of the dear names that lie concealed within 't.

Unable to find out the clue, I’ve searched the Internet for a little longer and read it HERE

15 Nov 2008

UTOPIAS AND DYSTOPIAS

I recently finished reading Utopia by Thomas More and I’ve just commented on it with a friend. The conversation has aroused the question of utopias and dystopias in fiction and derived in the preference of writers to show tragic, thrilling and imperfect worlds rather than happy and comforting societies. Life is made up of good and bad moments, of tragedy and comedy, but apparently, when choosing fiction we feel more attracted to sad grave stories which show human faults in situations and relationships.

Utopia in fact contains both visions, as More intends to expose the main social and political defects of his society by criticising them explicitly through the dialogues in the first book and, next, by the implicit comparison the reader is allowed to do when learning about the orderly, practical and probably happy society of the Utopians.

These are three quotes from an English version that can be downloaded from the Net, which reflect ideas on health service, euthanasia and lawers:

The hospitals are furnished and stored with all things that are convenient for the ease and recovery of the sick; and those that are put in them are looked after with such tender and watchful care, and are so constantly attended by their skilful physicians, that as none is sent to them against their will, so there is scarce one in a whole town that, if he should fall ill, would not choose rather to go thither than lie sick at home.

‘…but when any is taken with a torturing and lingering pain, so that there is no hope either of recovery or ease, the priests and magistrates come and exhort them, that, since they are now unable to go on with the business of life, are become a burden to themselves and to all about them, and they have really out-lived themselves, they should no longer nourish such a rooted distemper, but choose rather to die since they cannot live but in much misery;’

‘They have no lawyers among them, for they consider them as a sort of people whose profession it is to disguise matters and to wrest the laws, and, therefore, they think it is much better that every man should plead his own cause, and trust it to the judge, as in other places the client trusts it to a counsellor; by this means they both cut off many delays and find out truth more certainly;

Anyway, when reading this book, I could not avoid feeling that such a ‘perfect’ world might be boring to some extent. Would it help foster imagination? What kind of literature would Utopians produce? Do we not need a certain dose of fears, insecurity and chaos to imagine and desire a better world?

13 Nov 2008

WORDS THAT NEED HELP

Have you done your good deed of today, already? Not yet? OK, what about helping some unusual English words to prevent being removed from the dictionaries? The publishers of the Collins Dictionary have launched a project to save twenty four obsolete words in risk of disappearing. They are trying to brought them back into popular usage. The project has engaged public figures in UK and some of them have adopted some of such words (Stephen Fry, for example, has taken on ‘fubsy’, which means ‘short and stout, squat’). We can help, too, although we are not public figures. So, come on! Try to use some of these words, for example, when you vilipend our olid politicians!

Here is the list of words in need of help:

abstergent: cleansing or scouring
agrestic: rural, rustic, unpolished, uncouth
apodeictic: unquestionably true by virtue of demonstration
caducity: perishableness, senility
caliginosity: dimness, darkness
compossible: possible in coesistence with something else
embrangle: to confuse or entangle
exuviate: to shed (a skin or similar outer covering)
fatidical: prophetic
fubsy: short and stout, squat
griseous: streaked or mixed with grey, somewhat grey
malison: a curse
mansuetude: gentleness or mildness
muliebrity: the condition of being a woman
niddering: cowardly
nitid: bright, glistening
olid: foul-smelling
oppugnant: combative, antagonistic, or contrary
periapt: a charm or amulet
recrement: waste matter, refuse, dross
reborant: tending to fortify or increase strength
skirr: a whirring or grating sound, as of the wings of birds in flight
vaticinate: to foretell, prophesy
vilipend: to treat or regard with contempt

11 Nov 2008

SOUNDS FAMILIAR?

Sounds Familiar? Accents and Dialects of the UK is one of the sections that make up the website of the British Library. Through its pages you can listen to audio clips with the recordings of people from different parts of the UK, displayed together with their corresponding script and some notes on lexical or other linguistic issues. There are also interactive maps to illustrate the lexis, grammar and phonology of contemporary spoken English and discover some features of social and geographical variation.

9 Nov 2008

YOU HAVE TO PAY; YOU LIKE IT OR NOT


For those of you , freaks of English theater, here’s a tidbit that maybe you find interesting. It seems that it was usual in London theaters that the audience paid only a part of the fee if they left before the end of the play. Even those who were not Scottish! And also that the VIPs could sit at the stage, supposedly to listen and to see better, but probably to be seen better, also. Well, it was the immortal Shakespearean actor David Garrick, who in the 18th century, when he became manager of the Drury Lane Theater, changed all this. Of course, part of the public got annoyed, but I think he was right. After all, if you go to a restaurant and you discover that you don´t like the dish you have ordered, what do you do? To pay only for the part of the meat you have eaten?

5 Nov 2008

ENTREVISTA A MARÍA MAGDALENA GARCÍA LORENZO

Es esta ocasión, y dentro de la sección de entrevistas, presentamos a María Magdalena García Lorenzo, profesora de la UNED.

¿Qué asignaturas imparte?
Este curso 2008/2009 imparto "Corrientes y Autores Literarios Norteamericanos", "Pensamiento y Creación Literaria Inglesas en el siglo XX", "Comentario de Textos Literarios Ingleses" y "Literatura Norteamericana Contemporánea" en la licenciatura de Filología Inglesa, y "Estilística" en el posgrado oficial de "Lingüística Inglesa Aplicada".

¿Cuántos años lleva en la enseñanza universitaria?
Desde 1993, es decir, 15 años.

¿Cómo definiría usted 'filología'? En qué ha cambiado, si es que lo ha hecho, el significado del término desde que usted empezó a estudiar hasta el momento actual? ¿Hacia dónde se dirige la disciplina?
Yo empecé a estudiar una disciplina ya cambiante, que se preocupaba un poco menos del trabajo filológico en sí (arqueología y disección del lenguaje) y un poco más del lenguaje como medio para adentrarse en una cultura y una forma de aproximarse a la experiencia. Como es lógico, seguimos siendo "filólogos" en el sentido etimológico del término, amantes de la palabra, pero es la palabra en sí la que ya no se nos muestra como antes. La filosofía y otras disciplinas nos han revelado el discurso y su relación con las ideologías.

¿Qué criterios sigue usted a la hora de elaborar el contenido de las asignaturas? ¿Cómo elige los autores y obras que forman parte del programa?
Intento mantener cierto equilibrio entre el respeto al canon, la subversión del canon, y las preferencias personales. En cualquier caso, prefiero escoger textos cuya lectura sea al tiempo un placer y un estímulo, bien porque sean muy ricos formal o ideológicamente, o porque sean un tratamiento de choque frente a textos más conocidos.

¿Qué ventajas e inconvenientes ve a la reforma de los estudios de Filología Inglesa?
Ahora mismo veo más inconvenientes que ventajas, no por los futuros"estudios ingleses" en sí sino por el marco teórico que los va a acoger, es decir, el espacio europeo. Éste se planteó como una puesta en común pero hay países europeos donde no se ha aprobado, y en otros el modelo simplemente no ha funcionado, así que todo el proyecto pierde parte de su sentido. También se nos obliga a los docentes a ser mucho más burócratas de lo que ya lo somos para garantizar "la calidad", una calidad que en el caso del profesorado universitario depende en gran medida (no sugiero que al cien por cien) de la investigación y la preparación. Sin tiempo material para investigar y compartir los resultados de la investigación, y con una carga docente desconocida enotros países, las reformas nunca son tales.

¿Qué le recomendaría a alguien que se plantea matricularse en Filología Inglesa? Para empezar, que sean conscientes de que no es una escuela de idiomas. Es decir, no se estudia Filología Inglesa para saber inglés. La lengua inglesa como instrumento es sólo una pequeña parte de la titulación. Lo que a todos los docentes de la licenciatura nos gustaría que supieran al finalizar la carrera es cómo se usa esa lengua y por qué, esto es qué significados y consecuencias tiene cada una de las opciones de habla y de escritura en esa lengua. Y, por último, que se den cuenta de que una filología como ésta es una llave, o unas gafas, que les permiten ver más allá de la superficie del lenguaje.

3 Nov 2008

EXPLICIT PERFORMATIVES

Language and cinema: Scene 5

The following dialogue from Monty Python and the Holy Grail is included in the book Meaning in Interaction. An Introduction to Pragmatics by Jenny Thomas to illustrate her explanation about explicit and implicit performatives, a section in the chapter on speech acts.

ARTHUR
Be quiet!

DENNIS
... but a two-thirds majority ...

ARTHUR
Be quiet! I order you to be quiet.

OLD WOMAN
Order, eh -- who does he think he is?

ARTHUR
I am your king!

OLD WOMAN
Well, I didn't vote for you.

ARTHUR
You don't vote for kings.

OLD WOMAN
Well, how did you become king, then?

ARTHUR
The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held Excalibur aloft from the bosom of the water, signifying by Divine Providence ... that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur ... That is why I am your king!

OLD WOMAN
Is Frank in? He'd be able to deal with this one.

DENNIS
Look, strange women lying on their backs in ponds handing out swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

Jenny Thomas uses this example when discussing Austin’s postulates regarding the force of explicit and implicit forms of performatives. She points out that, quite often, there are no substantial distinctions, e.g. “We remind you that all library books are due to be returned by 9th June” vs. “All library books are due to be returned by 9th June”.

In some cases, the difference of nuance lies in the degree of formality, e.g. “I apologize” vs “I’m sorry”. Explicit performatives, moreover, are used for other purposes such as reinforcing an assertion, e.g. “I assure you, I sent it on time” or trying to dispel a doubt, e.g. “I swear I love you”

Thomas adds that the use of explicit performatives often implies an unequal power relationship. That is the example in Monty Python’s scene. First, King Arthur utters an implicit performative by ordering “Be quiet”. Next, he uses the explicit one, “I order you to be quiet” trying to make it clear that he is entitled, as a king, to make his subjects shut up. He fails on both occasions, anyhow, as the peasant turns out to be an anarcho-syndicalist.

2 Nov 2008

TONGUE TWISTER

These are two versions of Betty Botter. Good for practice of English voiced bilabial plosives.


In British English
Betty Botter 1
Betty Botter had some butter
But she said this butter's bitter,
If I baked it in my batter
It would make my batter bitter,
But a bit of better butter
That will make my batter better,
So she bought some better butter
Better than the bitter butter,
And she baked it in her batter
And her batter was not bitter,
So 'twas better Betty Botter
Bought a bit of better butter.

In American English
Betty Botter 2

1 Nov 2008

UN SHAKESPEARE INÉDITO

El País publica hoy el artículo Un Shakespeare inédito... y escrito a cuatro manos, sobre Los dos nobles parientes, obra escrita por William Shakespeare junto a John Fletcher

30 Oct 2008

ALGUNAS NOTAS DESPUES DE LEER LA ILIADA

Tenía curiosidad por leer esta obra (estudiada en unas cuantas ocasiones desde los años de instituto hasta hace poco más de un año en la optativa de Literatura Clásica Griega) y tener una idea más clara y directa de cómo eran estos cantos antiguos en lo que se refiere a imágenes, repeticiones, valores, etc. además de poder seguir la trama con detalle, no a partir de resúmenes o fragmentos. Como resultado de esta lectura, recojo en las siguientes líneas algunos comentarios e impresiones sobre esta obra:

En lo que se refiere al contenido, lo que más me ha impresionado ha sido la intervención y las actitudes de los dioses. Ya había oído de sus rencillas internas y su frialdad para manejar las vidas de griegos y troyanos, pero no habría pensado que su manipulación fuera tan constante ni que los hombres tuvieran tan poco margen de actuación. Da igual tener buena o mala puntería si Atenea decide desviar tu lanza. Las batallas frente a Ilión parecen ser un mero juego de dioses moviendo figuritas a su antojo. Prácticamente todo parece estar predestinado para llevar a los dos ejércitos al desastre.

“A los unos los excitaba Ares; a los otros, Atenea, la de ojos de lechuza, y a entrambos pueblos, el Terror, la Fuga y la Discordia, insaciable en sus furores y hermana y compañera del homicida Ares, la cual al principio aparece pequeña y luego toca con la cabeza el cielo mientras anda sobre la tierra”.

Canto IV

Otra cosa que imaginaba, pero que no suponía que fuera tan bajo, es el poco valor de las mujeres en un mundo de guerreros (o que los trípodes y los bueyes fueran tan caros).

“El Pelida sacó después otros premios para el tercer juego, la penosa lucha, y se los mostró a los dánaos: para el vencedor un gran trípode, apto para ponerlo al fuego, que los aqueos apreciaban en doce bueyes; para el vencido, una mujer diestra en muchas labores y valorada en cuatro bueyes, que sacó en medio de ellos”.

Canto XXIII

En cuanto a la forma, la repetición de expresiones, diálogos, situaciones... se hace rara hoy en día. Supongo que ello facilitaba la memorización pero, ¿se podía memorizar un poema tan largo?

Al igual que me pasó cuando estudié este tema, durante la lectura no han dejado de venirme a la cabeza imágenes de la película Troya. Creo que ayuda tener la imagen de la ciudad fortificada, la llanura, los campamentos, etc. para hacerse una composición de lugar. Sin embargo, me es difícil cambiar la imagen mental de Aquiles por alguien que no se parezca a Brad Pitt.


En resumen, se me ha hecho un poco pesada la sucesión de eventos (demasiada descripción de batallas) aunque quizás venga bien para percibir el absurdo y el sufrimiento que la guerra provoca. También hay muchos pasajes y detalles que me han gustado, en general los que hablan de lo humano, de su fuerza o de su fragilidad, de forma poética.
"Cual la generación de las hojas, así la de los hombres. Esparce el viento las hojas por el suelo, y la selva, reverdeciendo, produce otras al llegar la primavera: de igual suerte, una generación humana nace y otra perece".
Canto VI

Después de leer el original traducido, ha caído en mis manos Homero, Ilíada de Alessandro Baricco. Me parece una buena adaptación de la Ilíada con la que resulta fácil mantener el interés por seguir leyendo. El autor explica en la introducción la razón que le llevó a producirla (una lectura pública de la obra completa) y los aspectos que tuvo en cuenta para darle forma.
Para esta versión dirigida a lectores contemporáneos, ha decidido recortar texto para evitar repeticiones, actualizar el estilo, narrar en primera persona focalizando partes de la obra en personajes concretos, añadir breves párrafos de producción propia y, sin dudarlo mucho, eliminar la presencia de los dioses.
"La Ilíada tiene una fuerte osamenta laica que sale a la superficie en cuanto se pone a los dioses entre paréntesis. Detrás del gesto del dios, el texto homérico menciona casi siempre un gesto humano que reduplica el gesto divino y lo reconduce, por decirlo así, hasta el suelo (...) En definitiva, suprimir los dioses de la Ilíada no es un buen sistema para comprender la civilización homérica, pero me parece un sistema óptimo para recuperar esa historia, trayéndola hasta la órbita de las narraciones que nos son contemporáneas"

Buscando imágenes y texto para esta entrada, he topado con el otro Homero, Homer Simpson, con una frase invocando también a lo divino: "No soy un hombre de oraciones pero si estas en el cielo ¡Ayúdame Superman!"

28 Oct 2008

CINE Y ESTUDIOS FILOLÓGICOS

Es un placer y un privilegio contar una vez más con la participación de José Ángel García Landa, profesor de Filología Inglesa en la Universidad de Zaragoza. En esta ocasión hemos querido plantearle una cuestión que sin duda ha pasado por la mente de muchos de los que estudiamos Filología Inglesa en la UNED, en un momento u otro:

Por lo que hemos podido ver, la rama de la filología que se centra en los estudios literarios, extiende dichos estudios hasta el teatro, pero ahí se detiene. ¿Por qué el teatro sí y el cine no? ¿Hasta dónde llega, o debería llegar, la filología en cuanto a la relación entre palabra e imagen?

J.A. García Landa: Quizá pase en muchas universidades, por herencia y tradición, eso de descuidarlo: se estudia teatro, y punto, en lugar del cine o la televisión (o los foros de la web) que son el teatro viviente de hoy en día. El cine además viene normalmente a encuadrarse en el ordenamiento universitario habitual en 'arte', con las ánforas griegas, cuando sería mucho más lógico encuadrarlo con otras artes narrativas. Pero he de decir que en algunas universidades es distinto, y sí hay estudios de cine en las filologías. Siempre por iniciativa de alguna persona interesada en el tema, claro, porque como digo el parorama institucional lejos de estimularlo es para hacer desistir. En nuestra universidad hay un grupo muy activo de investigación y hasta de docencia (un poco con calzador, esto, en las asignaturas que han podido pillar más adecuadas) de cine: el factótum es en este caso mi colega el catedrático Celestino Deleyto, que suele organizar congresos sobre esta temática y presentar ponencias de cine con su equipo al congreso de filología inglesa de AEDEAN, y ha hecho una contribución realmente significativa a los estudios de cine en España. Tienen un blog, que no es que esté muy activo últimamente, pero bueno:
Cinema, Culture and Society
http://ccs.filmculture.net/ —aunque sus trabajos de más interés no están ahí precisamente, sino en publicaciones académicas impresas. Y hay más españoles dándole a la cuestión, claro, como puedes ver en la sección de cine de mi bibliografía:
http://www.unizar.es/departamentos/filologia_inglesa/garciala/bibliography/Subjects/4.Genres
—donde como puedes ver ¡yo sí que coloco al cine entre los demás géneros!
De todos modos, yo creo que hay buenas perspectivas futuras para el estudio académico del cine (y televisión, etc.) con la orientación hacia "estudios culturales" en general que se está dando a la filología inglesa: parte del plan es quitarle peso relativo a la literatura. Supongo que para acomodarla al peso cultural que realmente tiene ahora, menor comparativamente que el de otros medios de comunicación de masas. En hispánicas por contra no creo que se esté produciendo un cambio similar.

24 Oct 2008

ORPHEUS

I've followed this link from the post "Why I Can't Be a Nun" in Vanity Fea and entered a webpage displaying the titles of a large number of medieval texts. Looking for something 'familiar' (i.e., something that could ring a bell with me, after last year's HISTORIA DE LA LENGUA INGLESA course) I've come across a commentary and the text of 'Sir Orpheo'.

The excerpt we worked on started with these lines:

"Allas!" quath he, "forlorn icham!
Whider wiltow go, and to wham?
Whider thou gost, ichil with the,
And whider y go, thou schalt with me."

It presented the scene when Sir Orfeo finds his wife by the orchard, apparently ready to leave their home without being noticed. He asks her for a reason and she tells his husband how she had been visited by fairy knights who would be back and abduct her irremediably.

The introduction to the poem in the abovementioned site provides a short summary and explains some features of this variation of the Orpheus myth, a myth that “has been read within Christian contexts, Celtic-folktale contexts, as well as within historical, philosophical, psychological, intertextual, and poetic contexts”. It also analyses the symbolism of Orpheus and tells about its interpretations.

Gluck created another variation of this myth in the form of his opera, Orpheus and Eurydice.

22 Oct 2008

BACON, CULTURE & ETHICS




Some time ago, in this same blog, I wonder whether the culture makes us better human beings or not. Well, yesterday Francis Bacon came in my help, adding a little more weight to the side of the balance in which lie the arguments in favor of “No, culture isn´t going to improve your already rotten soul!”
Reading the biography of Bacon, this 17-century outstanding intellectual, philosopher and politician, I learned that he was convicted of taking bribes in 1621 and he had to spend time in the Tower of London.
Bacon was a true learned man, I mean that culture and his name come together. Some encyclopedias even put his portrait besides the entry ‘culture’. Don’t forget that for some scholars this man was the real author of Shakespeare’s plays. In the other hand, taking bribes is a bad thing, no matter what politicians say. So we might conclude that culture didn’t help to make him a better person.
But Bacon’s troubles with the law teach us something else about what culture doesn’t do for us. When he was accused of being bribed, he defended himself alleging that although it was true that he had been taking bribes, this didn’t affect his judgment.
So, here it is: culture not only won’t make you a better person; it won’t make you smarter, either!

17 Oct 2008

ESTRUCTURAS MILAGROSAS

¿Hay alguien más ahí fuera interesado en las estructuras narrativas? Como filólogo que pretende especializarse en literatura, he hecho de esta parte de la narración mi ‘bread and butter’ y aprovecho cualquier ocasión para analizar el esqueleto de las historias que leo o escucho. Así que voy a dar a conocer un pequeño esquema relacionado con este tema, por si alguien desea aportar alguna crítica o sugerencia y para asombro y maravilla de los lectores, en general.
Recientemente, mientras visitaba los monasterios de la isla de Mallorca tuve oportunidad de escuchar numerosas historias milagrosas, atribuidas al santo o virgen correspondiente a cada lugar. Tras observar que algunas de estas historias parecían hallarse incompletas, en lo relativo a la motivación de los personajes intervinientes, decidí reducir dicho componente motivacional al pequeño esquema que mostraré a continuación. Este esquema puede ser aplicado, me parece, a buena parte de los relatos en los cuales una fuerza divina interviene en los asuntos humanos, generalmente para rescatar a la víctima de alguna villanía.
La distribución de Motivaciones sería la siguiente:
- Malvado: Odio, envidia, celos, ambición.
- Víctima: Merecedora de ser salvada, gracias a 1º.- Méritos morales (es bondadoso, piadoso) 2º.- Méritos éticos (es honesto, trabajador) 3º Suerte (se da muy poco en las narraciones de tipo religioso)
- Fuerza divina: Sus motivos para salvar a la Víctima del daño ocasionado por el Malvado pueden ser 1º.- Recompensa a los méritos de la víctima 2º.- Castigo al Malvado. Ambos tendrían una función ejemplarizante.
Como puede apreciarse, no es la Morfología del cuento, pero yo tampoco soy Vladimir Propp. No se trata, como es obvio, de un estudio exhaustivo, sino que está basado en unas cuantas leyendas tomadas al azar, pero creo que se ajusta bastante bien a este tipo de narraciones.
Comentarios y sugerencias serán bienvenidas.

16 Oct 2008

ESTUDIAR EN LA UNED

Las semanas anteriores tuvimos la oportunidad de 'escuchar' a tres profesores acerca de su visión de los estudios de Filología Inglesa. Estamos esperando alguna respuesta más pero en el intermedio, o de forma previa a otra posible serie de entrevistas, me animo a escribir algunos comentarios sobre mi experiencia como estudiante de esta carrera en la UNED.

Estamos ya a mediados de octubre y todavía se me hace algo extraña la sensación de no tener que estudiar, de que ya no hace falta buscar cualquier momento posible para sacar libros, resúmenes, esquemas... y leerlos y releerlos las veces que se pudiera o hiciera falta antes de hacer un examen. Las ocasiones eran limitados y absorbían una buena parte del tiempo libre: tardes después del trabajo, fines de semana, desplazamientos... y los espacios, variados: casa, campo, hoteles, bibliotecas, trenes... Sin embargo, tengo que reconocer que no resulta difícil volver a llenar el tiempo con actividades relacionadas con los estudios de estos últimos cinco años (este blog, lecturas que tuve que posponer...) y otras de distinta naturaleza que habían quedado relegadas.

Estudiar en una universidad a distancia tiene, como casi todo, sus pros y sus contras.
En mi opinión una de las dificultades principales está causada por la casi única fuente de la que provienen los contenidos, es decir, del tipo de input. Prácticamente todo es lenguaje escrito recogido en guías, addendas, unidades didácticas, lecturas prescriptivas... El sistema de radio y televisión está bien pero apenas se encuentra un programa específico dedicado a alguna asignatura en la que se está matriculado y, en ese sentido, apenas sirve. La plataforma de cursos virtuales es, sin ninguna duda, mucho más interesante. Muchas veces es la única vía de comunicación entre alumnos y profesores, a no ser que se disponga de un centro asociado que ofrezca tutorías en grupo y que esté al alcance, por horarios o distancia, del alumno. Sin embargo, los cursos virtuales se reducen a menudo a los foros, un recurso interesante, pero otra forma más de fuente escrita. De la universidad presencial quedan conocimientos a partir de textos estudiados pero también de explicaciones unidas a imágenes y sonidos; aquí todo está más centrado en los libros de unos cuantos estantes.

Pero la UNED también tiene sus ventajas. Es bastante flexible para dosificar los estudios y completarlos en los años que a uno le convenga y pueda afrontar y no hay ataduras de horarios: se estudia cuando se puede o se quiere.

Si tuviera que animar o desanimar a alguien para que se matricule en esta modalidad de estudios, le hablaría de la necesidad de organizarse, de prever el tiempo que se va a necesitar para sacar adelante una asignatura, de trabajarse la voluntad lo suficiente para estudiar muchos días sin ganas y normalmente en soledad. También le diría que aprender, se aprende (y olvidar, se olvida) como en cualquier institución educativa pero que si las materias en general le gustan y, en mayor o menor medida, las disfruta y llega a terminar o a cerrar carpetas cuando quiera, queda la sensación de que ha merecido la pena.

15 Oct 2008

TALES FROM SHAKSPEARE

Today I received a copy of Tales from Shakspeare by Charles and Mary Lamb, a present from friends. It is a beautiful hardback copy published by Frederick Warne & Co. somewhen before 1938, the date that appears in a handwritten note indicating the names of the person who received the book and its giver in that year.

I did not know the work and have browsed the Internet for some information. I see that it is a classic as a book for children or anyone who might like to read Shakespeare's stories told as fairy tales. I'm sure I will read them.

I have also looked for the unusual spelling of the playwright's name. It is amazing the number of different spellings that have been used since the Renaissance. An article on this issue can be found in this site, The Spelling and Pronunciation of Shakespeare's Name by David Kathman-


Thank you very much

14 Oct 2008

CHAT CORNER

Next Friday we´ll start a weekly meeting for all of those who want to practice English conversation. We will meet at the UNED sede, in Portugalete, Bizkaia. The time will be 06:30 p.m. and the place will be the Sala de Estudio en Común, in the first floor. Everybody will be welcome! No matter which level you are, if you want to spend some time in a friendly chat in English language, come to the Chat Corner!

13 Oct 2008

CONSTRUCTED LANGUAGE

Cinema and language: Scene 4





This scene from The Name of the Rose shows Salvatore speaking to Adso in a strange language. After it, William explains to his pupil what kind of language it is.

A: Master, what language was he speaking?
W: All languages and none.
A: And what was the word you both kept mentioning?
W: “Penitenziagite"?
A: What does it mean?
W: That the hunchback, undoubtedly... was once a heretic.


Apparently the hideous monk is using a constructed language, in this case as an identity feature for a group of heretics. Searching the Internet for some information about constructed languages, I’ve realised that Esperanto is just one of the many artificial languages that exist or have existed. I’ve clicked on one of them: eklektu. It seems that someone is creating a new language made up of a mixture of existing words in various natural languages. There are more wordsmiths and ‘languagesmiths’ than I expected, in this world!

10 Oct 2008

GENERATIVE SYNTAX

How many sheets of paper would we need in order to provide a generative grammar tree (‘extended x-bar theory’) of the following sentence from the Contract Scene in A Night at the Opera:
"The first part of the party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the first part of the party of the first part"

Cinema and language: scene 3