Rollicking into Week 4

Dawn over Galston Gorge: Saturday Morning 6.30 am

We have had an amazing week with the war poets and with their supportive voice Charlie Chaplin, with Bobby Wabalanginy doing a strip-tease in front of gathered dignitaries in That Dead Man Dance and with Blake’s Songs of Experience. Looking across all of these, from my perspective they all link together as being subversive of the status quo in their times. This is of course the time-honoured role of all the arts (except when they become the handmaiden of the state as in Soviet Russia or Ancient Rome). Charlie Chaplin has to take the crown this week as the artist who above all dared to challenge the most oppressive force that the 20th Century had to confront, namely the  Nazis led by Adolf Hitler. We watched Chaplin not only mimic and mock the Führer, but also use the opportunity of his mistaken identity to give a speech to the world that challenged the very foundations of warmongering for all time. If you have not heard this speech then do so right now. It is one of the great classic texts of the 20th Century. It is also worth watching this as part of the climax of Chaplin’s masterpiece The Great Dictator

Bobby Wabalanginy- key character and central narrator in Miles Franklin award winning novel That DeadMan Dance by Kim Scott- (currently the focus of Aust Lit essays!) concludes with this fabulous, transformative indigenous dance, in which Bobby, in front of all the British dignitaries who would love to supress anything that is vaguely indigenous, progressively strips off all his clothes, sending – with unerring aim- each article to a hat stand. There his clothes construct a “Hollow Man”, a European figure with no heart and soul, while Bobby, starkers -except for the residual scarlet undies he keeps on for “decorum”- dances and gives this wonderful closing sermon about why the “Hollow Men” really do need to listen to the life and sound of the indigenous owners of this land:

Noonga boodjar, kwop nyoondok yoowarl koorl yey, yang ngaalan…

Because you need to be inside the sound and the spirit of it, to live here properly. And how can that be, without we people who have been here for all time?

PS: If you want to hear what Kim Scott said recently about his novel to one of the students in your group, then click on the Australian Literature link at the top of this page!

And Billy Blake would have loved all this. It is right in his territory: thumbing his nose at the status quo and creating poems with pictures that dared to suggest that the fine edifice of London-town- with all its laws helping to secure the lifestyle of the rich and those in power, was -when you looked at it more closely- a texture of corruptions that brought anguish to the poor and the disenfranchised.  Here is Blake’s “London”

I wonder thro' each charter'd street. 
Near where the chartere'd Thames does flow
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man.
In every Infants cry of fear.
In every voice; in every ban.
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls.
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down palace walls

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

In the context of the recent riots in London town, when you study the underlying causes one wonders where Blake’s sympathies would have been?  It is well known that he did take to the streets in the Gordon Riots of 1780.

This coming week: more of Blake’s songs; Australian Literature of the early 19th Century; and the first week of Art and Spirit in the Twentieth Century where we explore the huge spiritually motivated upheaval in the arts that was attempting to counterbalance the war and blood lust still fomenting in Europe.

In your groups, if you get a chance, explore the new Clemente (Mission Australia) Introduction to Literature Group. Give them some supportive feedback on their blogs as they make their way into ACU. They may be sitting next to you in a year or so.

Thank you all for a great week. See you soon

MG

  7 comments for “Rollicking into Week 4

  1. Justine
    August 14, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    This is fantastic. I am going to show this post to my year 11 class. We just finished Frosts’s “Fire and Ice”- perfect.

  2. August 14, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Thanks Justine: glad you found it useful.

  3. August 16, 2011 at 1:17 am

    We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your site provided us with valuable information to work on. You have done an impressive job and our whole community will be grateful to you.

  4. Harry Goodman
    August 19, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Hi Michael,

    I just discovered this rather violent ballad about convicts by Perth band The Drones. It’s pretty devastating, but definitely worth a listen! Interesting hearing this kind of story set to music with the modern voice of Gareth Liddyard.

    Cheers,

    Harry

    • August 19, 2011 at 6:57 pm

      That is fabulous Harry, the tradition obviously lives on and on…..
      MG

  5. Harry Goodman
    August 19, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Actually, I just read on wikipedia that the first verse of “sixteen straws” is the first verse of Frank the Poet’s “moreton bay”! How appropriate!

    • August 19, 2011 at 6:57 pm

      Thanks for that lead Harry. Always good to have more information like this. Have a great weekend.
      MG

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