An Air That Kills – a 3-minute lecture on Housman’s “blue remembered hills” poem.

Poem 40 from Housman’s A Shropshire Lad is one of his most famous. Here’s a microlecture on it.

 

Civilisation – who needs it? More in The Fortnightly Review

seinesaintdenis

EVEN WHEN IT IS making one of its generally excellent documentaries on art or history the BBC these days cannot help but have its presenters slip in a bit of propaganda promoting multiculturalism, diversity or mass immigration. In the first episode of a recent series, Art of France, Andrew Graham-Dixon took us through Seine-Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris, to view the “truly varied faces of this modern nation”, ie, the mainly Muslim faces of North Africa. France, he later said, has always been “a nation of mongrels,” which is just a version of the “nation of immigrants” mantra repeated by those who usually don’t live in areas populated by immigrants but are happy for others to do so.

Read on at The Fortnightly Review.

If you want something civilised read my book.

Dowson’s Cynara poem – a microlecture.

Another microlecture, this time on Ernest Dowson’s “Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae”.

Staying home to watch the riots.

THE LAST TIME I attended a march that descended into anything approaching a riot was back in the 1970s in Leeds. It was a protest against the National Front holding an election meeting in a local school. There were a lot of us and not many fascists — then, as now, there weren’t enough Nazis to go around. As Walter Scott wrote in one of his now unread poems, “All the jolly chase was here” for the rest of us — Marxists, Maoists, various workers’ party activists, long-haired students, long-haired ex-students, social workers, council workers, union members, Labour party types in jackets with elbow patches, sundry feminists and possibly a few Gay Lib people, this being before the invention of gender grievance as a full-scale industry.

Read more at The Fortnightly Review.

If you like riotous stuff there’s plenty in my book

 

The May trajectory.

AFTER CAMERON’S SWIFT self-defenestration from the job of Prime Minister and politics in general, Theresa May found herself Britain’s new leader. A remainer, and therefore typical of the majority of Conservative MPs, she has had to work out how to handle the referendum result. Should she soft soap the electorate into accepting a pretend exit from the European Union by means of delay and prevarication? Or should she bury her Europhile tendencies and do her best to deliver full exit as the British people asked?

Read more at The Fortnightly Review.

If you’re interested in trajectories you should read my book.

A three minute lecture – Absent Mothers and Bad Fathers: Silas Marner.

Text:

Bad Fathers and Absent Mothers

Silas Marner is a fairy tale, one in which Silas, the wounded, childless patriarch with no family, is restored to psychological and social health through the intervention of the matriarch-in-waiting, Eppie. Through Eppie Silas regains his lost kingdom, that is, both a place in society, and his faith in humankind. With the marriage of Eppie to Aaron and thus the expectation of children Silas acquires a family and a stake in the future.

A major theme of the novel is that of flawed patriarchs. The book is notable for its bad or useless fathers and fallible men. William Dane betrays Silas in Lantern Yard; Squire Cass is a careless and brutal father, Dunstan is a thief and a liar, while Godfrey is weak-willed, self-centred and a feckless father.

But if the tale is notable for its bad fathers and men then it is equally notable for its absent mothers or matriarchs. Silas at the beginning is without both father and mother, though it is only the latter he recalls (and his dead sister). The Cass boys are also motherless, and Eppie becomes motherless as a child.

It is the women, however, who facilitate the process of reintegrating Silas the outsider into village life and human community. Dolly Winthrop, having taken pity on Silas, visits him, bringing him cakes. The offering and sharing of food is a primal activity that establishes and strengthens the bonds between people.

Dolly also brings along her little son, Aaron, thereby signalling the importance of family within the community. And Aaron of course will eventually marry Eppie, thus sealing Silas’s integration into village life.

The female, matriarchal principle is the civilising, humanising force at work here, healing the rifts between people and helping to re-establish a benevolent patriarchy as a necessary part of a stable society. As in a fairy tale, Eppie is the pauper girl who starts out with nothing and ends up as a kind of princess with family, husband, and a stake in the community; while Silas, the disenfranchised exile, not only establishes a new home for himself but also finds a role as a patriarch in his own household and village.

© Michael Blackburn, 2017

A little philosophy is often more than enough.

socratessoccerteams

DURING MY THIRD year at grammar school our English teacher once asked us to prepare a short presentation on any subject we chose. Being a bookwormish little swat at the time I did a piece on Socrates. When it came to my turn to read it out I had only got into about a minute of it before the class idiot and his friend interrupted indignantly, complaining that they thought I was going to talk about soccer teams. It was my fault for not enunciating clearly, I have to admit, but it was also my fault for thinking that talking about a long-dead Greek philosopher to a class of generally intelligent boys, but one that included the year idiot, was anything but casting pearl before swine. Most of them would indeed have preferred a talk on soccer teams, or the Jaguar E-Type, or the space race.

More at The Fortnightly Review.