I am not sure whether to call this autumn or summer semester! We are having the best summer for a long time and we are well into Autumn! Global warming??? At all events we have had a fabulous start to the semester in all literature units.
The one blog topic for this week for all my students in all the units is as follows:
Describe in a short paragraph the single most important insight or understanding that has come to you from your study of literature this week: Oz Lit, 19th C, or Shakespeare. If you can, say also, why your personal history has led you to this insight or understanding. Enjoy the challenge!
And here are a few comments that link all our units together.
Oz Lit students have been exploring the question of how artists and writers are actually trying to give back to this country a deep appreciation of the natural and spiritual qualities that have been ignored by the utilitarians that came and settled here. Judith Wright, Russell Drysdale, Margaret Preston and Kim Scott are just a few who show the way beyond appreciating this country/continent merely for its material values: “The Mountain Has Its Own Meaning” is the way Judith Wright beautifully summarizes this attitude of receptivity, of allowing the country to teach us something we need to know rather than being forced to endure our assaults on its material wealth! Here is another beautiful poem in which Judith Wright describes an attitude of receptivity, of “silence” that can bring what she truly needs:
The silence between this and the next breath,
That might be—is not yet—death;
the silence between lover and lover
that neither flesh nor mind bridge over;
the silence between word and word,
in which the truth waits to be heard;
the silence between world and world
in which the promise first was sealed;
the heart’s silence between beat and beat,
in which myself and silence meet.
Silence is the rock where I shall stand.
Oh, when I strike it with my hand
may the artesian waters spring
from that dark source I long to find.
Nineteenth Century Literature has this week plunged us all back to the wonderful world of the Romantic poets (Wordsworth[s], Coleridge, Blake etc) who speak a very similar language to that expressed in Judith Wright.Their wish is to respond to nature, to the world around with a “wise passiveness”, which means to honour a place in oneself that is not over-dominated by rationality and excessive thought. The Romantics truly believed and practiced that the best part of human nature comes from an internal receptivity that acknowledges that what surrounds is vast, mysterious and deeply nurturing as long as we give up the all-too-human greedy push to lay claim to everything around us. Wordsworth’s poem “Expostulation and Reply” is one of the great philosophical statements of Romantic literature, about how we should “BE” in the world.
Shakespeare and the Renaissance has voyaged this week into the heart land of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These are two amazing plays that turn the telescope sharply on human behaviour and that celebrate the magic and mystery of the human imagination. The Romantics were deeply influenced by Shakespeare’s commitment to the power of imagination to transform the destructive and and ugly aspects of human experience into visions of beauty and joy. Even in a tragic play like Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare allows us to leave the theatre with those wonderful poetic lines that pour from Romeo and Juliet on the morn of their departure from each other:
J: Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day.
It is the nightingale, and not the lark…
Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate tree
Believe me, love, it was the nightingale……
R: Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
I must be gone and live, or stay and die.
Those of you interested in experiencing life beyond the thoughts that career haphazardly through your brain, please take seriously the invitation to attend Christian Meditation which is offered for half an hour each week (1-1.30 pm Wednesdays) in the Chapel on Campus: see you there! I have spoken about this to my 19th C. group because it is so relevant to what the Romantic poets were trying to get their audience to understand, but it is equally important for all literature students grappling with the question of meaning beyond words.