Tag Archives: literature

Session 21 Follow-up 2

Plaque on a park-bench in Bangor, County Down
Image via Wikipedia

Thanks to one of our members (thank you, Yoko), below is a list of links to Japanese websites related to CS Lewis. Perhaps one (or more) of you will have enough time and interest to read something else by C.S. Lewis in Japanese and tell us about it at one of our future sessions.

  1. A brief biography of C.S. Lewis in easy-to-read table format
  2. A list of Japanese translations of works by Lewis
  3. A list of Japanese translations of works by Lewis by the Japanese bookstore Junku-do

Tezukayama University library has a number of books, by C.S. Lewis, as well as books about Lewis, in both English and Japanese (actually more books in Japanese than in English). You can search the library online by clicking here.

C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters has been translated into Japanese, and is titled 悪魔の手紙

One of the links below is to a dramatization of Lewis’ allegory, The Great Divorce (Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis), now playing in Seattle. (The Japanese translation is called 天国と地獄の離婚―ひとつの夢)

And here, a young mother blogs about reading Lewis’ Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold (in Japanese, 顔を持つまで 王女プシケーと姉オリュアルの愛の神話). It’s nice and short, and gives you an idea of what it’s about, and whether you would like to read it or not.

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Session #15 October 14th: Poetry (2)

UPDATE: I have created a quiz on some of the terms related to poetry, words that we used in these 2 sessions on poetry. The quiz is online. This is an experiment (I have not used this before). If you have time, please visit the quiz, try it out, and give me your feedback.

The quiz is here: http://quizlet.com/_ra17 

 

Today’s session will be from 3.30 (not 3 as it usually is).

For this session, we will continue our brief study of English poetry. Please bring the same poems as last time (email me if you have not received these).

In addition, I would like to introduce you to two more poems:

  1. Ode to Autumn” by John Keats (here is the poem with an analysis) (I discovered today that there is a new movie about the poet John Keats called “Bright Star” (the title of one of Keats’ poems) (see some clips here)
  2. the beginning of “Under Milk Wood” by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (here is a YouTube recording of Welsh actor Richard Burton reading the beginning of this poem)

First, we will review what we talked about last time – about metre, rhyme, rhyme schemes and different verse forms such as limericks, free verse, nonsense verse, etc.

Then, we will read a sonnet by Shakespeare and discuss its structure, then a sonnet by Wilfrid Owen, “Anthem for Doomed Youth”.

I won’t spend much time discussing the meaning of these poems. Instead, I want to talk about their power: why are these poems still so famous?

The next session (#16) will be Wednesday Oct. 28th, 3-5 pm

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Session #14 September 30th: Poetry

UPDATE: Thanks to all of you for attending today. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many of you there, even the person who said they don’t like poetry!

I would be interested to read your comments about today’s session.

Today we read Happiness and Buckingham Palace by A.A. Milne (author of “Winnie The Pooh“), with illustrations by Ernest Shephard, The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, a limerick by Edward Lear, and some free verse by Edwin Morgan (“The Loch Ness Monster’s Song” (click on the link to hear a real Scotsman reading the poem aloud!), “Siesta of a Hungarian Snake”, “Spacepoem 3: Off Course (includes a link to an audio)”, and “Chinese Cat”).

Edward Lear was a contemporary of Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll. Carroll also wrote nonsense verse. The Jabberwocky is perhaps the most famous example (from Alice Through the Looking Glass). On YouTube I found these 2 videos of the poem being read aloud: this one is an animation of Lewis Carroll “reading” his poem (it’s not his voice, of course); this one is a collection of illustrations by different artists of the Jabberwock, while a woman reads the poem aloud.

The wonders of the Internet! Here is a video of someone who has put The Owl and the Pussycat to music and sings his song himself; here is a home-made animation of the poem; here is another version by janeczka (sounds like a Czech name); here is another version with an illustration by Lear himself. The poem itself was written in 1871! More than 130 years ago, and yet it is still so popular.

Some other “nonsense verse” by Lear: The Jumblies, The Quangle Wangle’s Hat, The Akond of Swat; The Pobble who has no toes.

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Today, we are going to read some English poetry, starting with some children’s and humorous verse. Then we will read some sonnets. Did you look up the words listed in the Poetry worksheet? You still have some time before the session!

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Session #6: The Unreliable Narrator (and the epistolary novel) April 1st, 2009

Kazuo Ishiguro (b.
Image via Wikipedia

In today’s session, we read an extract from Kazuo Ishiguro‘s novel The Remains of the Day, as an example of “the unreliable narrator” technique.

We also read an extract from Michael Frayn‘s The Trick of It (1989), as an example of the epistolary novel.

We had a long discussion about The Remains of the Day, with different opinions about Mr Steven’s character, personality, and morality.

The BBC interviewed Kazuo Ishiguro in November 2004, and you can listen to the interview here (in English only, and no text, unfortunately). There is a 2006 interview with Ishiguro published in Japanese here (no audio; text only).

A famous example of an exchange of letters which I referred to today was 84 Charing Cross Road (I believe I told you “85” and that was incorrect). This is not fiction, however, so it cannot accurately be called an epistolary novel. (It was made into a movie in 1987, which, like the movie Remains of the Day also starred Anthony Hopkins.)

The next session will be April 22nd, and the topic will be “Defamiliarization” (in Japanese 異化).

Once again, thanks for coming and for joining in and making it such a lively event.

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Session #4: Stream of Consciousness & Interior Monologue

Cover of "Mrs. Dalloway"
Cover of Mrs. Dalloway

Session #4: Stream of Consciousness & Interior Monologue, March 4th, 2009

Two texts for today:

  1. Mrs. Dalloway (1925) by Virginia Woolf
  2. Ulysses by James Joyce

We read the first two paragraphs of “Mrs. Dalloway”, chosen to illustrate the “stream of consciousness“, and two short extracts from “Ulysses”, chosen to illustrate the “interior monologue” technique.

Both of these techniques allow the reader to “listen” directly to the thoughts of a character, without an intermediary explanation by an all-knowing narrator. The “stream of consciousness” is often mixed with the narrative voice, but the reader has to guess which is which.

The “stream of consciousness” technique was a development of an earlier technique called “free indirect style”, a technique used frequently by Jane Austen.

The “interior monologue” or “internal monologue” is more difficult to read: because there is no explanation or mediation by the narrator, and because the author is trying to give us the raw thoughts of a character. When we think, we know the context of our thoughts, we do not explain them. The lack of context makes it hard for the reader, though.

Here’s an extract from “Ulysses” to illustrate:

On the doorstep he felt in his hip pocket for the latchkey. Not there. In the trousers I left off. Must get it. Potato I have.

The first sentence is the narrator’s voice. From the second sentence onwards we are “listening” to the thoughts of the character (Leopold Bloom, the “Ulysses” of the title).  The verb is left out, as it often is in our own thoughts. The other sentences are also a kind of shorthand, but the reader can fill in the blanks. The final sentence, “Potato I have” is completely baffling, unless you know that Leopold habitually carries a potato in his pocket for good luck.

The second extract we read comes from later in the novel, and illustrates how one thought leads to another by a quick process of association. Stephen Dedalus watches two nuns/midwives walking on the beach. He recalls that one such midwife assisted at his own birth. He glimpses some knitting in her bag and imagines the strand of wool as a navel cord, and the knitting as a “misbirth” “hushed in ruddy wool”. The idea of a navel cord makes him think of the genetic links that connect all human beings, going back to our original “mother”, Eve. “Navel” reminds him of “navel gazing”, or meditation. His knowledge of Greek  tells him the Greek word for navel, “omphalos” Somehow, the “cord” or cable, together with the idea of monks meditating in order to connect with God, gives Dedalus the hilarious idea of telephoning Eden: “Hello. Kinch here. Put me on to Edenville. Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one.”

Reading this kind of text is very hard work, and requires either a great deal of knowledge, particularly of other languages and literature, or some kind of reference guide.  But it can also be very satisfying.  Joyce did not use this technique throughout his novel “Ulysses”: that would have been too much, for both reader and author.

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Session #2: Author and narrator

Into the Woods Narrator
Image by P Wood via Flickr

Session #2, February 4th, 2009.

The texts used today were:

  1. The first paragraph of Adam Bede (1859)  by George Eliot
  2. an excerpt from “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent” (1759-67) by Laurence Sterne,
  3. an excerpt from How Far Can You Go?? (1980) by David Lodge, and
  4. an excerpt from Nice Work (1988), also by David Lodge.

In “Adam Bede”, George Eliot uses an intrusive narrator’s voice:

With a single drop of ink for a mirror, the Egyptian sorcerer undertook to reveal to any chance comer far‐reaching visions of the past.  This is what I undertake to do for you,  reader. With this drop of ink at the end of my pen, I will show you the roomy workshop of Jonathan Burge, carpenter and builder in the village of Hayslope, as it appeared on the 18th of June, in the year of our Lord, 1799.

In “Tristram Shandy”, Laurence Sterne actually berates an imaginary reader with whom he has a conversation: he orders the inattentive reader to go back and read the last few pages again.  While she is “gone”, he then talks directly to the “remaining” reader, with his tongue firmly in his cheek: “I have imposed this penance upon the lady, neither out of wantonness or cruelty, but from the best of motives… ‘Tis to rebuke a vicious taste which has crept into thousands besides herself, – of reading straight forwards, more in quest of the adventures, than of the deep erudition and knowledge which a book of this cast, if read over as it should be, would infalliby impart with them.”

In the David Lodge extracts, we again have a narrator who  talks directly to the reader: “a girl you have not yet been introduced to…” and “I like the connotations of Violet – shrinking, penitential, melancholy…” The second extract provides a similar example: “And there, for the time being, let us leave Vic Wilcox, while we travel back an hour or two in time, a few miles in space, to meet a very different character.”

All of these examples also illustrate another technique of fiction called “breaking frame”. This expression originates from a sociologist called Erving Goffman (Japanese here) who created a concept called frame analysis or framing. A “frame” means a set of rules, expectations or stereotypes about a particular situation.

In the movies, one of the rules is that the actors should never look at the camera: this maintains the fiction that there is no camera, that we are watching something actually happening. This fiction is a pretence that everyone agrees to, a rule that everyone agrees to play by.  If a character looks straight at the camera, it reminds the viewers that the whole thing is a fiction, that everybody in front of the camera is playing FOR the camera. This is called “breaking frame”.

In literature, one of the “rules” is that the narrator refers only to the story being told, and not to the relationship between the narrator and the reader, for example, by addressing the reader directly. If the narrator addresses the reader directly, as Laurence Sterne does, it “breaks” the “frame”: it reminds us that there is no “action”, there are no real characters; everything is invented out of the author’s imagination, including the narrator!

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Session #1: Beginnings

Week 1: New Beginnings
Image by mseckington via Flickr

Session #1, January 28th, 2009.

We read two excerpts in today’s session:

  1. the first few paragraphs from “Emma” (1816) (Japanese Wikipedia link here) by the English writer Jane Austen (Japanese link here), and
  2. the opening paragraph from “The Good Soldier” (1915) by the English writer Ford Madox Ford

After reading the excerpts and clarifying any questions about vocabulary and meaning, we discussed how each writer introduces their characters and how the narrator makes the reader want to read more.

One participant was intrigued enough to read “The Good Soldier” for herself, and revealed to us in a later session that it is a complicated story about adultery.

After reading Ford Madox Ford’s biography on Wikipedia, I discovered a connection between Ford and myself.

Born Ford Hermann Hueffer, the son of Francis Hueffer, he was Ford Madox Hueffer before he finally–during WWI, at a time when German connotations proved unpopular–settled on the name Ford Madox Ford in honor of his grandfather, the Pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown, whose biography he had written.

My ancestors came from Germany to England in the 19th century, and during WWI changed the family name slightly in order to lessen the negative Germanic impression.

The Good Soldier is one of Ford’s most famous novels, and introduces a literary device which we did not talk about in this first session, but which we will perhaps discuss in the future: that of the unreliable narrator (信頼できない語り手)

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