On His Birthday: Dylan Thomas, Wordsworth, nostalgia and poetry.

Today is the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Dylan Thomas, my first and best love in poetry. Lionized by the culture industry but ignored by the academy, this milestone date will hopefully present an opportunity to reassess the value of Thomas’s work, which I feel is sadly neglected.

Dylan Thomas

It is something of a commonplace for Thomas to be associated with the ‘romantic’ tradition, or to be called a Romantic poet. Continue reading

On First Looking Into…Coleridge’s Conversation Poems

Coleridge and the Sound of Music in the Conversation Poems

By Zoe Baker-Peng

Methinks it should have been impossible

Not to love all things in a world so filled,

Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air

Is Music slumbering on its instrument.

(‘The Eolian Harp,’ 30-33)

As I read Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s conversation poems for the first time, in particular ‘The Eolian Harp,’ ‘The Nightingale,’ and ‘Frost at Midnight,’ the frequent pairing of nature and music struck me as intriguing. Throughout these poems, Coleridge examines the relationship between the organic world and musical sounds, and uses music to further illustrate and explain the composition of natural scenes. Continue reading

Romantics Today: Where art thou, Queer Theory?

Ten years ago, literary scholars initiated some compelling re-evaluations of what the term “queer” in queer studies might now mean for twenty-first-century academia. By 2005, the radical wave of activism that had once propelled this theoretical trend had begun to dissipate, and it had been fifteen years since the publication of foundational texts like Eve Sedgwick’s Epistemology of the Closet and Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble. In social and political realms, LGBTQ human rights issues were making headway in the mainstream: Massachusetts had taken the initiative on marriage equality, Stonewall was an experience remembered by an earlier generation, and women’s studies courses and programs had sprung up around the country. By 2005, academic theorists had recognized that gender was a questionable and fluid term, that sex roles could be performative, and that the personal had become political. Where to go from here? Continue reading

Mid-Autumn Editorial Report

Here at the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus Blog, our writers have been knocking it out of the park. They have been working hard since the start of the academic term to bring you sophisticated and thought-provoking articles, and I want to sum up some of what our exceptional writers have achieved in just six weeks, and the new directions in which we’re excited to take this publication. Continue reading

From Jane Austen to Quentin Tarantino: How Movies Can Help Us Teach Literature

You don’t want to watch a movie with me. No, really. I consider it a test of true friendship if someone can sit through two hours of me constantly pausing, rewinding and talking over the figures on screen. It’s a bad habit I cannot break. After helping teach a film and media class this semester however, I don’t think I should.

While my near constant commentary might be distracting to say the least, it isn’t meaningless. I am often pointing out how camera angles, body language, costumes, set design, lighting all come together to hint at a future plot point or reveal some sort of narrative truth. I can often predict the ending to a movie, which never ceases to be a sort of useless party trick for my friends and family, but underneath that novelty however, lies real critical thinking. Continue reading

The Body on Display: A Day at the NYAM Medical History Festival

Late eighteenth century physicians (for the most part) increasingly L0025772 A. Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica libri septum.embraced the wisdom of learning anatomy directly from a dissected corpse. Feeling the textures and depths of the body’s interior and seeing it all firsthand became an invaluable tool for beginning physicians. However, this method of teaching ultimately relied on the advancements in medical thought demonstrated in the sixteenth century by one man: Andreas Vesalius. The brief version of his contribution to this field is that he turned a system in which the physician dictated dissection from a space removed from the actual body, and a surgeon performed what he was told on the body. Physicians, in this system, rarely encountered the actual interior of the body. Vesalius changed all that. Not only did he dissect his own corpses, but, by doing so, he corrected many of the errors in previous anatomical texts based on an assumed closeness between human and animal anatomies. His most famous work is the beautiful, fully illustrated De Humani Corporis Fabrica (often referred to as just the Fabrica). You probably recognize the frontispiece pictured here. Continue reading

Poem: Rideau Canal

Hello all! I wrote this poem after reading a bunch of Wordsworth’s sonnets (although – a bunch is a relative term, since I read somewhere recently that he wrote 535). In terms of both content and especially  rhyme scheme, this poem was written with some of those sonnets in mind. I should also mention that the Rideau Canal is a beautiful waterway running right through the middle of Ottawa. In the winter it is literally a road, as people skate on it (it’s a big tourist attraction, but there are also those who take the opportunity to skate to work).

Rideau Canal

The water is a photo: strips and stills,
Darkrooms. The sun has nestled lower, deep
In branches that dip down to let it creep
Across them. Slowly sinking as it spills
Over the sky, messy, breaking, it fills
The –
            No – the water is a painting, and
The ripples moving brushstrokes, and the land
A frame; the sun a sloppy stain that kills
Or blisters colour.
                                   Best to say, maybe,
The water is a road. And as the sun
Slips down into the city, almost one
Might think the light that’s settling there could see
A path on which to build and blind, one long
Highway to run from night, and to grow strong.

Misunderstanding Music Theory

By Andrew Welch

I’ve a problem I suspect is endemic to academia: the hopeless, near-pathological attraction to disciplines, fields, discourses, and texts I can’t understand, and likely never will. Is there a name for this malady? The worst part is that once a once-opaque knowledge begins to make sense, it loses its mystique. Perhaps this condition would be more tolerable if it didn’t so closely resemble the delusion of chivalric romance—or, for that matter, the troubled frisson of orientalism. I know that I know an understanding is just a calcified and stable misunderstanding. Whatever I think I know, I don’t. And any knowing is always dissolvable and resolvable. But once knowledge starts to feel understood—however poorly—something changes. It no longer exists out there, as something mysterious and opaque: it’s now in here, joined to my conceptual armature. Once appropriated, a concept becomes part of the machinery of appropriation. Continue reading

Peripatetic Scholarship, or, the Romance of Ideas

I’m reading from a used copy of Wordsworth’s Complete Poetical Works; there’s no date in the front matter other than a note giving the textual provenance as an earlier edition from 1857, but the pages are densely-columned and Biblically thin, and an inscription reads “To Rose with love. 1909.” The thing is hard to read and unwieldy, and I realize that I tend to forget that during the vast majority of Wordsworth’s reception history, readers didn’t pick up Broadview Press’s Lyrical Ballads, complete with both 1798 and 1800 editions, prefaces, notes, contemporary reviews, and scholarly appendices. Systematicity may seem like a professional mandate, but it’s also a luxury of modern scholarship. Continue reading

Resources for Graduate Students of Romanticism