Hello all, I hope you had a profitable few weeks away from the pressure of uni life. It is my plan this semester that we all have a little less pressure and more meaningful engagement with literary and artistic expression. We are here to enjoy literature and art and to find the ways in which it can deepen our appreciation of life in all its dimensions. I have now posted all the unit outlines into the various Blackboard sites (Australian Literature/ Twentieth Century Literature/William Blake & the Visionary Imagination) and have also posted your reading and activities for at the least next week. Please try to get your text books before your first class. This semester we also have some help on hand. Nikki Thompson will be tutoring in ENGL102 and ENGL202. She has worked in Literature at ACU before and is very welcome back. She has recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at Macquarie University and her Children’s Book “The Bear Seeker” was short listed by the Book Council of NSW.
I am hoping that LiveJournal will again be a place where students from all the units I am teaching can interact with each other. In addition to the on-campus units I am, this semester teaching a group of homeless students at Mission Australia in Surrey Hills. Some of these students will eventually come to our campus to enrol in a BA degree. They are currently completing a group of four arts subjects which will give them entry to ACU. We already have some of these students enrolled at ACU and I know that they have been made very welcome. LiveJournal has helped hugely in this process. Some of the Clemente students begin to make contact with our on-campus students before they get to ACU, and so when they arrive they already have a core of “friends”. So please make this new crop of Clemente LiveJournalers welcome when they start posting their work. As in the past there will be a huge master list with everyone on it, indicating what unit you are doing and what year you are in. You are of course free to roam and click and make “friends” with anyone on this list. Another group of students I am teaching this semester is a small group of Aboriginal students completing a BA(AbEd). These students hail from the Murri and Jannga country around Normanton and Cairns. Those of you already reading Alex Miller’s novel will know what these names mean. I will be getting these students to put work into LiveJournal as well this semester.
Last weekend I went to Melbourne, partly to visit my daughter Hannah who has set up there with her husband in Little Windsor, not far from the city centre. We had something of a cultural binge while I was there. On Saturday, we saw Brendan Cowell play Hamlet in the Bell Shakespeare production. A powerful version and I loved the way Brendan played the role of the complete outcast to his society, but the Age Review I think was right in their summary that Brendan was a “Clueless Rebel without Method to His Madness” (http://www.theage.com.au/news/arts-reviews/hamlet/2008/07/21/1216492308783.html).
On Sunday we went to the amazing Art Deco exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria
Art Deco was an art movement that happened between the two world wars (1920-1940). It was a movement that borrowed lots of its ideas from “modernist” art, but it was essentially commercial in its function: cars/ furnishings/ jewellery/ street art. But despite this commercial element there were some really unique and meaningful works produced at this time. One of them is this huge image that you can see above, advertizing the exhibition. It is by the Australian artist Napier Waller and it is a painting which became the model for a massive mosaic which you can still see outside the Newspaper House in Collins Street Melbourne. Essentially it is a celebration of technology and its title (from the words of Shakespeare’s Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream) is “Put a girdle round about the earth”. Here the girdle is the introduction of the telephone and the beginnings of air transport – all indicated in this painting/ mosaic. But the figures here tell a different story too. Believe it or not Waller was deeply influenced by William Blake, by Blake’s deep appreciation for the “Human Form Divine” and there is a way in which Waller’s painting is not only celebrating technology, but also celebrating the human being, physically, intellectually, emotionally.
When I firs arrive in Melbourne on the Friday I took myself off to the special collection of William Blake paintings for which this gallery is famous. You can view most of them here http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/blake/
There is an extraordinary story of how these Blake paintings actually got the the Melbourne gallery and I will tell this to those of you doing the Blake unit this semester.
As you are probably aware, my trip to wintery Melbourne led to a pretty severe cold from which I am still recovering. But before I go I want to share with a shot taken across the top of Galston Gorge two weeks ago, when I and my bushwalking companion Graeme, scaled the mountain from the base of Galston Gorge to the top, just as the sun was coming up over mist-filled valleys.
And the dew-filled spider’s webs were tightly inwoven with the stirrings of spring amongst the Australian wild flowers on the walk down from the top.
See you all next week- God willing!