EnglishReadings podcasts now available on iTunes

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My EnglishReadings podcasts are now available on iTunes as well as YouTube. Please subscribe.

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Nostalgia: as good as it ever was.

THE GOOD THING about nostalgia is that it never runs out. Every day there’s more of it than before and there’s plenty for everyone. You don’t have to be a crusty 70-year-old or a grumpy 40 to be nostalgic about something. You can be nostalgic for your teenage years when you’re 25; you can be nostalgic at 20 if you want to be. You can be nostalgic for a time and place you never lived in. Nostalgia is the great democracy of the mind.

Unfortunately, for some people it’s the wrong sort of democracy, a bit like Brexit. Progressives, that sort. Guardian writers. Guardian readers. Schoolteachers. Or people who work for Sky or Demos, the think tank, and who get together to conduct a survey hoping to show how politically bad nostalgia is because it’s conservatives that get more out of it than the left. It was a Guardian writer who made the point, “Nostalgia is intrinsically conservative,” so there you have it. And that’s why the left hates it — they’re generally useless at producing anything people want to get nostalgic about. It’s a mixture of sour grapes and bad faith.

At The Fortnightly Review.

Sucks To Your Revolution (Kindle)

“Hannah Bint”, an extract from Sketches of English Life and Character

This extract is from the sketch,“Hannah Bint”, included in Some Sketches of English Life and Character, by Mary R Mitford.

Mary Mitford (1787-1855) was a successful author and dramatist whose work is now, unfortunately, little known. She specialised in writing about English rural life.

More on Mary R Mitford – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Russell_Mitford

Image: “A Village by the Sea”, by Stanhope Forbes (one of the Newlyn School); as included in the above book.

Dumbing down at universities?

This is an excerpt from an exam I took in my first year at Leeds University in 1974. I have to say that I think most of my own students (and probably those at other institutions) would have great difficulty coping with these questions.

FIRST YEAR ENGLISH LITERATURE, Paper II: Renaissance Drama, Leeds University 1974.
Closed book.
Time allowed: 3 hours. (Three questions, one hour per question).

3. Either: (a) The idea of time seems to be very important in Shakespeare’s last plays. Describe the presentation of this idea, and indicate the nature and effect of its operation. You may, if you wish, restrict your answer to any one play.
Or: (b) ‘Her [Nature’s] World is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden.’ (SIR PHILIP SIDNEY). In what ways might this comment be applied to the works of the English Renaissance dramatists? Discuss at least two dramatists.
Or: (c) Outline the features which, in your view, are characteristic of Shakespeare’s ‘Romances’.

4. Either: (a) ‘The progress of the minds of the central figures towards deeper and deeper self-knowledge, the approach to the impenetrable mystery of fate perceived in the moments of intensest suffering and action, which are also the moments of clearest insight.’ (ELLIS-FERMOR). Illustrate and discuss this aspect of The Duchess of Malfi.
Or: (b) Examine, with reference to Hamlet or to The Revenger’s Tragedy, the ways in which imagery and symbolism are used to create, and sustain, a particular tragic mood.
Or: (c) What are the features which commonly distinguish the Tragedy from the Revenge Play?

The satisfaction of seriousness: the Peterson Phenomenon.

peterson

“SERIOUSNESS,” SAID LEONARD COHEN in a TV interview, “is profoundly satisfying to the human soul.” The truth of that statement is borne out by the popularity of Dr Jordan Peterson, who has emerged as the most unlikely intellectual celebrity of our day. Just watch a couple of his videos – either his university lectures or his talks and interviews, it doesn’t matter – and you’ll see what I mean. This man is serious. He talks about serious things: life is painful and tragic; the monsters of malevolence and totalitarianism are not only found outside of ourselves but inside our own psyches; happiness is a worthless goal whereas meaning is supremely important; people should stop whingeing they’re victims and take responsibility for their own lives before trying to change the world.

Read on.