Dear Ranters and Ravers,
The Sophister Option Feedback is now available here on our blog.
Many thanks to everyone who sent in reviews!
Natasha and Kathleen
Dear Ranters and Ravers,
We are once again collecting anonymous student feedback for the Sophister courses this academic year. If you loved or loathed your classes, or anything in between, please take a few minutes to fill out the form below.
All feedback will be published and circulated online before options have to be selected for the next academic year.
Kathleen and Natasha
Dear Ranters and Ravers,
The (Renegade) Rant and Rave is now looking for new leadership. If you are interested in running a publication to get real hands-on experience of how the process works, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The magazine is looking for both an editor and a designer, though other speculative applications will be accepted. We are always interested in getting copy-editors on board. Please put the title of the role you are applying for as the subject heading of your email.
If you wish to find out more about the magazine before applying, just email email@example.com or check out past issues from the print archive.
Natasha and Kathleen
I recently received a present in the mail courtesy of Peirene Press. Books in the mail bring back what I miss with technology. I never get interesting mail anymore, and sadly have started purchasing e-books because they tend to be cheaper and slightly more convenient. So this gift was a good reminder of some of the beauties of doing things traditionally.
Peirene Press is a small publishing house in London. It specializes in contemporary European literature, mostly publishing works that are in translation and short. The book I received was part of their Small Epic series. The Press in itself is something that is fascinating, bringing back the tradition of literary salons, and books mailed to your house. Its a book lover’s dream. Check them out: http://www.peirenepress.com/.
So after ranting on tradition and publishing I’ll now turn to the actual focus of this article. The review. The Murder of Halland is a short Danish story by Pia Juul. The novel revolves around the death of Halland and is told through the eyes of his partner Bess. Halland’s life, like all victims of murder mystery, is doused in secrecy that comes out as the police and Bess begin to investigate his affairs. The story is quick moving and filled with just enough detail and intrigue to keep the reader engaged. However, the crux of the novel is not the murder but Bess’ journey of bereavement and her assessment of those around her. Juul’s creates a character that I can relate to. Bess isn’t your traditional mourning partner. She hides her feelings and deceives even herself, so that her emotions come out in absurd but also realistic ways. Through my experience this is how death is really dealt with. It is not something as simple as donning black garments and being sad. Its a mixture of denial, anger, sadness, and a pinch of madness. Bess emulates these qualities extremely well and her journey is one that is both funny and one that I think most, despite there reservations, can relate to. She is continually told she is not grieving or behaving properly. However, I think she is grieving and behaving exactly as the rest of us would, in a way that is absurd and to some extent uncontrollable.
One issue with books written in a foreign language is the problem of translation. Indeed, no matter how good a translation is it can never have the exact same effect as the work read in its original language. However, if we were to only read works written in our first language then there would be a whole corpus of amazing literature that we would miss out on. Juul’s story is translated by Martin Aitken. It is an ideal book for translation, for the style utilizes short snappy sentences with little embellishment. There is little imagery, metaphor, or allusions and thus not much gets lost in translation. This is not to say that the novel isn’t a magnificent specimen of prose. The short sentences are on one level because the story is plot based, it is a murder mystery after all, however, it is also a product of its being channeled through the character of Bess and her current state of disenchantment and grief. It portrays these qualities amazingly in style and thus the short sentence and simplistic style is useful and appropriate for multiple reasons.
The Murder of Halland, while not a normal light-hearted summer recommendation, is one that can be read in a single sitting and will keep you engaged and interested. I highly recommend it. And rest assured there are laughs to be had. Especially with Bess and her druken escapades, which include her somehow ending up hungover after a blackout in a crazy lady’s house in the woods. And on that note, I’ll leave you to go pick up Pia Juul’s book.
Come to Trinity College Dublin from the end of April to the beginning of May and you are in for a unique experience. Tourists look on at the students wondering what kind of horrendous institute selects only pale, sickly looking students who are on the edge of tears or a mental breakdown. Yes, that right, TCD hits exam mode and the students look far from normal. Its like placing us on a reality TV show where we are required to spend over 10 hours a day sitting at a desk under dim lighting staring at a massive book, with a huge pile of awaiting knowledge sitting right behind it. The diet consists solely of coffee, or other caffeine and energy drink substitute, chicken fillet roles, and chocolate. The result is stressed out, malnourished, and agitated students rushing about trying to fill as much knowledge as there brains will allow, and when their brains refuse to take in more to start simply drinking more caffeine and pushing through.
What is all this for? Is it to supply tourists and departments with entertainment as the observe the various ways the students crack under pressure? I mean it is funny to watch your fellow classmates get hyperactive from lack of sleep, and make fun of the others who simply stare into space when you attempt to have a conversation with them that doesn’t involve Plato’s world soul, but surely that can’t be the only reason. The premise for this social experiment (which is what I prefer to think of it as) is an examination of knowledge. Well to a certain extent that seems fair. However, why is knowledge now something that is poured out onto grey or green booklets in the space of three hours? It’s as if the departments are saying: “Here’s a date by which you must have at least three intellectual thoughts. You may to some extent formulate them before, but to make it more fun we aren’t going to give you the questions, so its actually three intellectual thoughts in three hours. Go.” It seems most unnatural. Indeed, I think the Philosophy Department is the worst culprit. If all philosophy is a footnote to Plato then I don’t think he would approve of this method of intellectual discovery. What happened to the dialectic? For the search of knowledge which is ‘of what is and unerring’?
To a certain extent I’m just a student moaning. For I am sure academics would pipe up at this point telling me if I had worked continuously all year there would be no need for this horrendous experience. It’s self-inflicted and I only have myself to blame. Even if this is the case, I merely wish to point out that the exam period is the makings of a dystopian novel, or a Swift like satire on human behaviour come to life. It is an interesting way to look at how we as humans deal under pressure and in extreme circumstance. We don’t need The Hunger Games to find dystopia, we just need to attend Trinity Term. Dystopia’s then are not solely the work of transcending a current state of affairs but rather a state of affairs that may fulfil the ‘condition in which everything is as bad as possible’ (OED) in reality. But so as not to end on a horrible note, it is only in living through the dystopian reality of exams, that students appreciate the utopian aspect of regular life on the other side. So maybe its got a positive purpose after all.
We are proud to present our collection of class feedback of informal opinions about various classes on offer for Sophister students of TCD School of English for the academic year 2011-2012. The information collected here should be regarded as informal opinion only and may in no way be considered as fact or objective critique. The views expressed in the following pages are those of the anonymous individuals participating in classes provided by TCD School of English and are in no way representative of views of The (Renegade) Rant and Rave, which may not be considered as responsible for the views expressed within these pages. The (Renegade) Rant and Rave cannot provide any further information about any of its anonymous sources.
Kathleen and Natasha
As an English student I should be more conscious about word choices than I am. In all honesty I have often been reprimanded for my lack of concern in this matter (which most of my lecturers and tutors attribute to an over-enthusiasm to get my point across). However, I have noticed that in grading my papers, there seems to be different issues that each lecturer will take with my writing style. It is fairly evident that writing style is individual and so lecturers will have personal preferences about what they like and don’t like. But what if there is something more to it. I recently stumbled upon James Pennebaker’s The Secret Life of Words and found it illuminating not only for criticism of my lecturers but also to word choice in general.
Pennebaker finds meaning in words such as ‘he,’ ‘she,’ ‘we’ and ‘I.’ The main point he is attempting to get across in his study is words “can be thought of as powerful tools to excavate people’s thoughts, feeling, motivations, and connections with others.’ These words may be small, indeed pronouns make up a very small percentage of our vocabulary, but they are used so often, in many different contexts that depth of meaning is obviously not connected to the minimal number of characters in the word.
Now let me be honest, in returning to my own personal scholarly dilemma of paper grading, (indeed, even if I wasn’t honest Pennebaker could probably determine my underlying motivation by my use of the very personal and self-conscious “I”) lecturers more often pick out words with complex meanings saying that in not being careful with my word choice I have made my point ambiguous and unclear, essentially a death sentence in critical analysis. However, a handful of lectures have made comments on my use of pronouns, one lecturer accused me of conflating the authors intention with my own personal rendering of a text through my choice of pronouns. On the other hand, when I attempted to revise this for my a later essay, a different tutor claimed that I was too hesitant in advocating my point and I needed to have more faith in my own personal analysis. Well thats helpful. Apparently, I went from one extreme to another, going from being too authoritative to too timid. Maybe I’m missing the point. Alternatively, maybe Pennebaker has offered me the solution. He purposes that men use definite articles because they are concerned with the concrete, while women use more personal pronouns, social and cognitive words because they are concerned with subjective human relationships and experiences. If you haven’t guessed the first lecturer was female and the second tutor was male.
Now, I am often very skeptical about recent psychological analysis as psychology is very easy to fake a study of, and like literature, a theory cannot be proved definitively (at least in most circumstances). But I firmly believe that we each utilize and manipulate language according to our approach to the world. Grammar and word choice is extremely personal. While there are definite rules that must be followed in order for communication to be possible, this doesn’t deny individual manipulations. I don’t suggest that we read Pennebakers study and go around analyzing ever tweet and facebook status for specific use of pronouns and psychoanalyze the author (although that could be extremely entertaining). But I do believe that when editors, lecturers, or even pretentious English students criticize grammar and writing style they should a step back. There isn’t one right style, its a personal choice, reflective of a personal approach to the world, or in my case text. In criticizing my word choices my lecturers are, to some extent, utilizing their power to force me to conform to their own theory of the correct way of writing. This rant, I’ll be the first to admit, must be taken with pinch of salt. My lecturers and tutors are more experienced and educated then me and their criticism is for the most part constructive and useful in helping me to shape my personal style and render myself more understandable. However, there remains the possibility that subjective theories about what is ‘right’ infects their grading and realizing this may lead to more self-conscious marking. Alternatively, they may already be aware of all this and I may just be a bitter student finding an excuse for what is really my own incompetence.
Start out early. Leave one place to learn another. Stumble on a while, and your walk has turned to wandering. Soon the solitude takes shape around you, and for a time no words are needed. Then there is after, where the poems take root.
Reading Thomas Hardy’s metrically penetrating, formally fluent poetry, these offices of odysessy assert their claim as the poet’s driving passion. Because we are not now where we once were; because we have missed our goal in the very going we drifted into and pursued; because in time we find ourselves displaced, poetry must serve as our last outpost, must be, in short, our home. So it is that Hardy’s later poems feel haunted by the words from which they are built, containing and conveying in their lucent, intricate frames those very motions which would seem to be unspeakable, love and life lessening soundlessly til only loss is left:
Why do you make me leave the house
and think for a breath it is you I see
at the end of the alley of bending boughs
where so often at dusk you used to be;
till in darkening dankness
the yawning blankness
of the perspective sickens me!
Perhaps most striking about these love-poems (or loss-poems, for his deceased wife) is the intimacy of the mood and moments they evoke, laying bare the loneliness of the speaker in all the wholeness of its happening. For, in Hardy, a sense or sensation is never merely felt – even in the most glittering of pieces – but rather is brought to exist with the full force of its occurence in time, reiterating itself in new but ever-persistent rhythms for the speaker (the hill-walker, lover, aged mirror-face, to which Hardy seemed increasingly drawn as voices in his later work).
…[I] listen at whiles
with a thought-bound brow
to the murmuring miles
she is far from now.
Yet her shade, maybe,
will creep underground
till it catch the sound
of that western sea
as it swells and sobs
where she once domiciled,
and joy in its throbs
with the heart of a child.
Lament and lyric are marshalled into clear-sounding, full-throated song in Hardy’s poems, giving grief its jagged edge in the meticulous, medolic craftwork of their art. Hardy’s odyssey of the lost soul, the wanderer, keeps the music of such a figure’s inward weathers close to the heart of its own progression. Though the hard truths of ’wreck of body, slow decay of blood’ echo endlessly in its corridors of winter light and in the half-heard histories of what might have been, still the idiom asserts a hope.
Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
standing as when I drew near to the town
where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
even to the original air-blue gown!
Consolation may feel far afield from the bruise-bright darkness which these poems of solitude caress, yet what attains always is the walker, watching the skylines though in grief, setting out to seek, in world, the loss that’s felt inside. Hardy’s poems strike deep because they strive always to bring to wakefulness the very roots of their own flowering: the silences which grow between lives and beneath hills; the solitude of roaming without time or direction; the inner storms which no rhyme or rhythm can possibly contain, and yet for which the only solace there could be are the words in them that might be heard – like “the woman” and “the voice” of his elegies – faintly, fearlessly calling.
Forget The Artist, forget War Horse. Forget, even, Sherlock. (Sorry, Mr. Cumberbatch.) Forget them all and go see Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus, which, quite frankly, blows them all out of the water (I’m not just saying this with the snotty pretensions of an English student). I find I have had to resort to trashy language and extreme hyperbole in order to describe just how good this film is. It is a mind-blowing experience. It’s totally amazeballs. It’s truly awesome.
If you haven’t read Shakespeare’s original, don’t worry, just go anyway – there will be time for that later. I can assure you that the material is handled sensitively and intelligently with regard to the original, but fortunately it is also updated in such a way that makes the language and concerns absolutely immediate and instantly accessible. The plot is reconfigured so that it really works as a film-script – particularly through excellent use of newscreen and newsrooms – which makes the film format a coherent whole instead of something which cannot quite escape the disconnect between its current format and the original stage-setting, as is often a risk in translating Shakespearian plays to the big screen. Fiennes’ film is made in tribute, not in servitude, to Shakespeare, and is valid and timely in and of itself; it does not count simply as artistic and critical interpretation of an original text, but it presents us with concerns and themes which are of increasing importance in the world today. Think more McKellen’s Richard III than Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.
This is an incredible directorial début from Fiennes, with unapproachable performances from himself and fellow cast members Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox, not to mention Gerard Butler and James Nesbitt, who are unexpectedly brilliant and, in their individual interpretations of their roles, absolutely vital in updating the issues of Coriolanus to be instantly recognisable in terms of our modern concerns. This film is clear and powerful, and will leave your head spinning. Needless to say that the dialogue is out of this world.
Dear Ranters and Ravers,
Just to let you know that we are now accepting submissions for Issue 4. Get writing and send your 500 word literary rant (or rave) into us at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 9th March 2012!
Natasha and Kathleen