Start of the New Semester

Welcome all- back from weeks of indolence and ease!
Just joking; I am sure you have all been working very hard either earning money or preparing for this semester.
I am myself very much looking forward to this semester and to trying out some new teaching strategies….so be patient with me! I am working in units on Australian Literature, Twentieth Century Literature and William Blake’s Poetry and the impact of his ideas on some modern writers.
In all this I am sincerely hoping that together we can find more and more ways of making meaningful connections between the literature we read and discuss and the experience of our own lives.

This is where I think LiveJournal, together with WebCT Discussion Groups can fulfill a real purpose, educationally and personally.

What I would love to see is more and more of you reflecting aloud on your reading and then weaving these thoughts into aspects of your own lives. How does this novel, poem or play reflect, amplify, inform your experience? How do they entertain you? I think it is a fact that LiveJournal allows us to be less formal, allows us to include our own experience and that, through this lets us relax, enjoy and understand more deeply. What do you think?
Let’s see if we can work together towards this common goal of deeper, more personal appreciation with less stress….

I have just spent nearly a week camping at South West Rocks just south of Coffs Harbour. The slight temperature difference between there and back here in Sydney gave the sense of being in spring: balmy winds, flowers coming out that we don’t see in Sydney till September and a quieter, less hurried pace… some wonderful butcher birds up there that sing a solitary, fluted sound… clean and clear…

and so to this week: Introducing the 20thC in all its pain and glory; introducing Australian Literature, indigenous and European… and introducing William Blake… my hero…. man of vision and laughter, artist and poet…. catch you all down the corridor this week sometime,
Cheers…. Michael

My dog Molly

Mother and clutch of 3 children are doing fine thank you. All are blotched black and white with brown markings around the snout… none can see as yet but all are feeding with great gusto and excitement. Mother is doing fine, although she has made a bit of a mess on the livingroom carpet… and you are NOT going to believe this… but she gave birth to her pups when we were out for an hour… and where did she chose to launch her progeny? our bed!!!!! We have forgiven her and found her a corner where she and her brood, clutch, crew… can make as much mess as they want!… Now can I turn this event into a poem…. ????
Cheers
MG

Lecture on Poetry and Mysticism

Today I gave a talk/ lecture on poetry and mysticism to the Theosophical Society (Kent Street, Sydney). I was as nervous as hell because I didn’t really know in advance exactly what I was going to say. Of course I had a heap of ideas but I never like giving lectures from a bunch of prewritten notes… I feel much better if I can wing it… keeping eye contact with the audience… speaking from the heart…. so I just plunged in and spoke about my early experiences of poetry and how I tried to give my own kids a taste of the magic of poetry… but most important for me was trying to put into words what exactly it is about certain lines of poetry that stick in my mind that really takes me somewhere deep inside myself and helps to open to me to the mystery of things (inside and outside)…
Lines like:
Gay Golden Volleys of Banter
Bombard the Clockwork Grief
A Frisson of Gold at the Centre of Prayer
Bright Core of Life…

This comes from a poem about Bells Bells ringing in an ancient old stone belfry… a church I actually visisted in England some years ago.. the poet… Francis Webb.
Then there is

Deep and dissolving verticals of light,
ferry the falls of moonshine down…

How the movement of these lines and the imagery helps to take me deep down inside myself to a place of quiet, stilllness and reflection…. (These are from Kenneth Slessor’s “Five Bells”

But I started my talk with two lines… those from T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets”: Words reach into the silence…. which expresses the way the language of poetry does reach up into areas of the universe… higher levels of thinking and being that are beyond our rational thought…. but they also bring down from that silence a resonance, a luminosity, into the Words themselves…. so it is a two way street… if that makes any sense…
Then of course I used the line from that ancient amazing long poem, The Gospel According to John: ” In the Beginning was the Word”…. so what is that saying about the power of the word, of language… of the creative energy locked into the words of a poem…. Poetry and Mysticism… it was a huge topic and I had to speak for around an hour… and then I got the group to create their own poem and to reflect on the place of poetry in their own lives…
Overall the audience seemed very satisfied…
So now I can get back to marking discussions… live journals… exams…. and essays….. YaY!!!!!!!!!!

Sydney Writers' Week 2005

Spent a fantastic Saturday at the Writers’ Week. What an expansion of horizons! Saw Australia’s Helen Garner interviewed by Novelist Roger MacDonald. A great conversation about how Garner’s writing, especially her non-fiction was a way of giving a voice to those people in our community who are not heard. Inspired me to read some of her work.
Then a great interview with American best-selling author Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod and Salt and 1968. 1968 was the year that I was 20 and it was a time of huge social upheaval: anti-war riots (against VietNam); the arrival of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. It was a period of reaction against the repression that had followed the Second World War. I was born in 1948 when there was still food rationing… by 1968 young people were ready to blow the lid off conservatism… so the Beatles stormed the hearts and souls of the young. Mark Kurlansky has captured this era in his 1968. In conversation with him he raised the question of what was happening with the younger generation today… were they ready to challenge the crazy politics of our leaders in Australia and America… were we happy to simply go along with the lies based on economic expediency. He put forward the interesting proposal that whilst Bush was going hard at Iraq to try to stop China controlling the World’s oil fields, Howard was joining forces with Bush simply because he wanted to secure trade agreements! Don’t worry about all the innocent women and children killed in the process.
Then I listened to David Suzuki… also in conversation with Mark Kurlansky. They were talking about what needs to be done in the world to change the progressive destruction of the environment. Why is it, they asked, when we have all the scientific evidence we need to know that global warming will cause havoc in the next 50 years and that fossil fuels WILL run out in the next century… why is it that we are powerless to put systems in place that will make life for our grandchildren less traumatic… The answer was that we as a human species don’t seem to have any real capacity for feeling for anyone except those who are most close to us in space and time. Despite all the advances of technology and internet communication we seem to have less forsight than our ancient cave-dwelling ancestors who knew exactly how much food they needed to store for winter etc….
This was quite a frightening scenario, but it certainly made me think about the implications of how I lead my life.
Suzuki said, in conclusion, that the greatest hope for the earth was its children… they were least selfish, least locked into consumerism… it is for this reason that he has written more than half his books (over 40) for children, hoping that he will get his subversive message across to those people who are really capable of creating some change on the planet over the next generation.
One of the most distinguished authors at the Writers’ Week was the American writer/ historian/ scientist Diamond… if you can catch an interview with him on SBS on Tuesday night at 7.30- well worth a watch.
Over and out. MG

Sydney Writers' Week 2005

Spent a fantastic Saturday at the Writers’ Week. What an expansion of horizons! Saw Australia’s Helen Garner interviewed by Novelist Roger MacDonald. A great conversation about how Garner’s writing, especially her non-fiction was a way of giving a voice to those people in our community who are not heard. Inspired me to read some of her work.
Then a great interview with American best-selling author Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod and Salt and 1968. 1968 was the year that I was 20 and it was a time of huge social upheaval: anti-war riots (against VietNam); the arrival of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. It was a period of reaction against the repression that had followed the Second World War. I was born in 1948 when there was still food rationing… by 1968 young people were ready to blow the lid off conservatism… so the Beatles stormed the hearts and souls of the young. Mark Kurlansky has captured this era in his 1968. In conversation with him he raised the question of what was happening with the younger generation today… were they ready to challenge the crazy politics of our leaders in Australia and America… were we happy to simply go along with the lies based on economic expediency. He put forward the interesting proposal that whilst Bush was going hard at Iraq to try to stop China controlling the World’s oil fields, Howard was joining forces with Bush simply because he wanted to secure trade agreements! Don’t worry about all the innocent women and children killed in the process.
Then I listened to David Suzuki… also in conversation with Mark Kurlansky. They were talking about what needs to be done in the world to change the progressive destruction of the environment. Why is it, they asked, when we have all the scientific evidence we need to know that global warming will cause havoc in the next 50 years and that fossil fuels WILL run out in the next century… why is it that we are powerless to put systems in place that will make life for our grandchildren less traumatic… The answer was that we as a human species don’t seem to have any real capacity for feeling for anyone except those who are most close to us in space and time. Despite all the advances of technology and internet communication we seem to have less forsight than our ancient cave-dwelling ancestors who knew exactly how much food they needed to store for winter etc….
This was quite a frightening scenario, but it certainly made me think about the implications of how I lead my life.
Suzuki said, in conclusion, that the greatest hope for the earth was its children… they were least selfish, least locked into consumerism… it is for this reason that he has written more than half his books (over 40) for children, hoping that he will get his subversive message across to those people who are really capable of creating some change on the planet over the next generation.
One of the most distinguished authors at the Writers’ Week was the American writer/ historian/ scientist Diamond… if you can catch an interview with him on SBS on Tuesday night at 7.30- well worth a watch.
Over and out. MG

Sydney Writers’ Week 2005

Spent a fantastic Saturday at the Writers’ Week. What an expansion of horizons! Saw Australia’s Helen Garner interviewed by Novelist Roger MacDonald. A great conversation about how Garner’s writing, especially her non-fiction was a way of giving a voice to those people in our community who are not heard. Inspired me to read some of her work.
Then a great interview with American best-selling author Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod and Salt and 1968. 1968 was the year that I was 20 and it was a time of huge social upheaval: anti-war riots (against VietNam); the arrival of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. It was a period of reaction against the repression that had followed the Second World War. I was born in 1948 when there was still food rationing… by 1968 young people were ready to blow the lid off conservatism… so the Beatles stormed the hearts and souls of the young. Mark Kurlansky has captured this era in his 1968. In conversation with him he raised the question of what was happening with the younger generation today… were they ready to challenge the crazy politics of our leaders in Australia and America… were we happy to simply go along with the lies based on economic expediency. He put forward the interesting proposal that whilst Bush was going hard at Iraq to try to stop China controlling the World’s oil fields, Howard was joining forces with Bush simply because he wanted to secure trade agreements! Don’t worry about all the innocent women and children killed in the process.
Then I listened to David Suzuki… also in conversation with Mark Kurlansky. They were talking about what needs to be done in the world to change the progressive destruction of the environment. Why is it, they asked, when we have all the scientific evidence we need to know that global warming will cause havoc in the next 50 years and that fossil fuels WILL run out in the next century… why is it that we are powerless to put systems in place that will make life for our grandchildren less traumatic… The answer was that we as a human species don’t seem to have any real capacity for feeling for anyone except those who are most close to us in space and time. Despite all the advances of technology and internet communication we seem to have less forsight than our ancient cave-dwelling ancestors who knew exactly how much food they needed to store for winter etc….
This was quite a frightening scenario, but it certainly made me think about the implications of how I lead my life.
Suzuki said, in conclusion, that the greatest hope for the earth was its children… they were least selfish, least locked into consumerism… it is for this reason that he has written more than half his books (over 40) for children, hoping that he will get his subversive message across to those people who are really capable of creating some change on the planet over the next generation.
One of the most distinguished authors at the Writers’ Week was the American writer/ historian/ scientist Diamond… if you can catch an interview with him on SBS on Tuesday night at 7.30- well worth a watch.
Over and out. MG

Third year Shakespeare performances

Thanks 3rd year for those inspired performances of the Holy Bard of Eng Lit! There were some wonderful innovations in your productions and a real discovery of the magic and versatility of Shakespeare’s flexible lingo… Power to Bottom and Falstaff!
The one thing your collective efforts have convinced me of -again- is the value of doing live productions like this as part of our Literature teaching. I feel you all learn so much- and enjoy the learning- when you are putting on a performance.
It just proves Shakespeare’s oft-quoted adage: all the world’s a stage and WE are merely players… but not so merely when you get up onto the stage to prove your power….
Cheers
MG

Lear Continued

A few other memories of our discussion with the Director/ Actor Lear yesterday (David Ritche). He had this insight into the way the play reflected the much more structured hierarchy of Shakespeare’s times… how the play begins with all these formal exchanges in which people use the formal “you” as opposed to “thou” (have I got this right)… and how there are some characters – like Oswald- who dare to flout the formal requirement that you don’t look into the eye of a superior (this is why Lear gets so angry at one point). But by the end of the play this hierarchy has been broken… we have entered a waste-land landscape in which society/ civilization has been destroyed… and in which none of the women will produce new children… all the result of Lear’s horrific curses. This, incidentally, reflects the historical situation of Queen Elizabeth dying childless… so the play is certainly a reflection of the historical context. There was another beautiful insight of David Ritchie’s and that was that the image at the end of Lear carrying Cordelia onto the stage… was a reverse PiĆ©ta the father holding the daughter, rather than the mother the son. And whereas at the start of the play Lear demanded to hear more than “Nothing” from his daughter, now he would give the whole world to hear just a little “Nothing” from the lips of his dead daughter…. I thought this was an extraordinarily beautiful insight into the power of the concluding image in this play.
One last thing… I asked David about the fact of whether this play expressed the possibility that through suffering Lear and Gloucester acquired wisdom and insight? Was this a hopeful play? David answered: of course that is the nature of all tragedy… wisdom and insight is gained, but only after it is too late… only after the last moment of hope is gone… so the wisdom and insight is (in Aristotle’s terms) something that we the audience carry into our lives… rather than something the characters on stage benefit from… (this last thought is what I have added). I am wondering aloud whether this also applies to the death of someone like Ivan Illych… whose last moment IS a moment of insight… and in that moment he is, as it were saved, despite the failure of his life as a whole…..
over and out.

King Lear at Bondi Pavilion Theatre

I took third year Shakespeare students to see King Lear at Bondi. Thank you Kelly for spotting the show AND for providing the parking: Go Kelly!! We had a relaxing 10 minutes in the Bondi Pub before the show… the beer was good… thank you Simone and Co.(too many important names to mention: Carl, Louwana, Prya, Suzie etc etc… who have I forgotten??) The play was a fascinating production in that it was presented in Kimono style with much Samurai type stage movements. I would have preferred the stage voices to be more strident… but then I am becoming hard of hearing (too much Rock and Roll in my youth!), but the choreography was very original and worked well in some sections. Overall it was a highly stylized production, visually very mobile, almost balletic. Dance and movement were key ingredients. The cast moved in patterns across the stage and there was much roll swapping. The conversation with the Director (who also played Lear) was the highlight of the evening. He gave a new insight into the way Shakespeare wrote both for the dramatic effect, or for the story line AND for the theatrical effect of calling attention to the whole business of Theatre. We do know this about Shakespeare, the fact that he loves to exploit the metaphor of the stage, but a new insight was given by this actor/director. One example he gave was the moment when Edmund stands soliloquizing on stage and then tells the audience how he plans to ACT the part in gulling his father and his brother, his aim being to gain his father’s property. At the same time Edmund tells the audience: now watch how I am going to act this out. So Shakespeare uses this and many other opportunities to call attention to the “Acterly” or Theatrical side of the theatre- as opposed to the more formal dramatic qualities of language and story. So the suggestion was made that it was this “Theatrical” element that catered for a wider audience range than the more middle-class and intellectual appeal of the dramatic language… this was a fascinating insight into the theatrical side of Shakespeare on stage. Another idea that was pointed out was that so much of Shakespeare’s meaning is expressed through the visual possibilities of what happens on stage- in addition to what happens through the language itself… all in all a very rewarding experience… so one can often gain a great deal from seeing a less than perfect performance… especially when given the opportunity to hear and actor/ director express his own sense of the dramatic possibilities of the piece… AND his frustration with certain elements that did not work as well as he had hoped….
MG

Thank you all for your LiveJournal entries… I have now finished marking the first batch and I must say (have said this somewhere else too) that overall I am not only impressed by what you are all doing with it, but feel that we have hit on a tool that has given us the space to radically transform Literature teaching. We are no longer tied to a Lit.Crit. model but have found a space where freedom is the name of the game. Freedom to speak our hearts and minds. Freedom to be stirred by the readings in the unit. Freedom to write about these things in whatever way we feel… without worrying about punctuation blah blah…. Freedom also to create… not only in words but in images as well…. long may the impulse for LiveJournal continue and grow….
Cheers
Michael

Captain Bree and Co

I took my daughter Helen to see Captain Bree in the Murray Hall this evening. What a knock out performance. So much energy and enthusiasm; I was thrilled to see so many of our trusted literature students (across all years) taking part, enjoying themselves so much and giving so much enjoyment. What a great way to develop your creativity. Well done to you all… including the musicians.
I am also, I must say ecstatic about what LiveJournal has been producing… now that I am FINALLY getting round to reading the 160 or so contributors… yes I admit it I did a crazy thing this semester enlisting all years (first, second and third) into this adventure… but I am so pleased that I did. It has opened up a whole new world of creativity and interaction that I would never have dreamed of. So much raw creative talent out there amongst you all just waiting for an opportunity to show and express itself…. so many insightful comments, poems, stories… I truly am “stoked” to use an old cliche…
And as I think I have mentioned elsewhere I intend to use LiveJournal to create “special interest communities” next semester, so that we can have the short story writers, the poets, the journalists, the film reviewers, the book reviewers, the kulchur-vultures all contributing to their own communities… and exchanging between them… any thoughts, ideas, experience along these lines would be gratefully received…. over and out… time for lights out!

End of Week 3

Dawn breaks over the bush behind my house overlooking Kuring-gai Chase. A cloud bank on the horizon holds back the sun for another 20 minutes or so. The bush is filled with the sound of cavorting Wattle birds that any European would say sound like woodpeckers. In the distance families of kookaburras break into this strong dawn sound. The night sounds of crickets and the soft ascending scale of the spur-winged plover dim… just as the stars overhead have almost dimmed completely under the impact of the rising sun. In me the sun rises again as I take in this extraordinary benificence of nature.
And it has been a week of wonderful impressions from the literature we have been reading together. My Shakespeare students and I have been reading “Venus and Adonis” and were repeatedly astonished by the clarity and rightness of his images. For example as Adonis manages finally to break from the grasp of Venus who has been holding him tight for hours he is described as a shooting star. This is the impact he has on Adonis:

With this he breaketh from the sweet embrace
Of those fair arms which bound him to her breast,
And homeward through the dark laund (glade) runs apace,
Leaves love upon her back, deeply distressed.
Look how a bright star shooteth from the sky,
So glides he in the night from Venus’ eye.

And then when Venus, pursues him (flying like a falcon to the lure), hoping that he has not let himself be killed by the boar that he is hunting, she suddenly stumbles upon his mangled, bloody body, gored by the sharp tusks of the dreaded creature. This is how Shakespeare depicts her shocked and astonished state:

As falcons to the lure, away she flies.
The grass stoops not, she treads on it so light;
And in her haste unfortunately spies
The foul boar’s conquest on her fair delight;
Which seen, her eyes, as murdered with the view,
Like stars ashamed of day, themselves withdrew.

Or as the snail, whose tender horns being hit
Shrinks backward in his shelly cave with pain,
And there, all smothered up, in shade doth sit,
Long after fearing to creep forth again;
So at his bloody view her eyes are fled
Into the deep dark cabins of her head….

Shakespeare has this extraordinary way of depicting vividly this pained, shocked, delicate state.

In Nineteenth Century Literature we were looking more closely at Wordsworth’s capacity to turn ordinary objects and events into extraordinary moments of seeing; everything for him is connected to a bigger picture, somehow opening to the cosmic dimension; so the simple life around us becomes a kind of gateway to the vast beauty of the universe; So the humble daffidols become mirrored in the Milky Way!

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

And there is this very clever description that he gives in his “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” where he explains what it is he is doing in a poem like this: he talks about making “incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them, truly though not ostentatiously, the primary laws of our nature: chiefly , as far as regards the manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement.” So it is this amazing power that our brain has of associating one idea with another, that in poetry opens doors to an expanded perception of everything. This is of course the miracle of language, that is the miracle of our brain, that is the expression of the amazing creativity of the human being…. one of the “primary laws” of our nature… if we give it voice!!!! With the help of our discussions I was able to get a sense again of how “I wondered lonely as a cloud” is almost like a prayer to the vivid life in the created universe; Nature for him is almost like a food which nurtures a deeper part of himself. And it is almost as if he doesn’t quite realize the full impact of the event until after it has happened. It is a great treat to be able to plunge into Wordsworth’s vision and be reminded of so much around us that we take for granted.

In Introduction to Literature we had the fortune of journeying with Virginia Woolf into “Kew Gardens”- one of my all time favourite stories, with its rather Wordsworthian appreciation of the minutiae of life. Here the snail, easing its way through the coloured flower bed; the colours being filtered down to the ground level through the impact of the sunlight on the flowers above. And she has this fantastic image of the drops of dew in the bed filling with the colours from above. Set against the amazing, vital beauty of this garden bed, she places the rather paltry world of suffering human beings, caught up selfishly in their fantasy lives, unable really to partake in the deeper life of nature, lying hidden in the garden beds….
So on reflection there is much common ground between these three writers that I have had the good fortuned to revisit this week….(snails in Shakespeare and Woolf!) And now I better get down to the mechanics of downloading discussions and getting ready for next week’s literary feast…. Good to talk….

End of week 2

Hello all!
It is around 2am (I am in my insomniac mode!). With my 14 year old daughter we watched “Nicholas Nickelby” on DVD. This is a truly amazing film and I recommend it especially to my 19th Century students because it gives such a graphic depiction of the conditions of 19th Century England as well as a very good insight into Charles Dickens’ main concerns: his hatred of all the self-important people in English society; his love of those free thinkers who could bring the self-important people to justice. In this book/film there is an episode about a travelling theatre that features our own Barrie Humphries (of Edna Everidge fame). The travelling theatre is rather like the circus that will you find in Dicken’s novel “Hard Times”. It is a place of freedom and fun away from the “Mind-forged manacles” of English society…
I am quite excited about how many of you are taking to all this on-line stuff like ducks to the water… a good simile here I think. Yes there are the occasional panics and screams “I am computer illiterate”… but I think we are sorting most of these problems out.
What I like most is that the internet extension to our units seems to be transforming a situation where we would meet for our tutorial once a week and each say a sentence or two (if we are lucky) into a sentence where many of you are finding a home for your thoughts about your reading… and are getting PAID for doing so! (by paid of course I mean you are notching up marks towards your final grade)… and you are becoming, by the hour and minute more and more computer literate…. that can’t be a bad thing.
What do you reckon… the mumblings of an idealistic, over-enthusastic comput-a-holic, or a grain of truth in there somewhere? Let me know as you go….
Cheers
Michael
and back to bed!!

Week Two

Hello all- I just found this interesting article about the Blogging craze in todays Herald. It is actually about LiveJournal and the recent take-over of this company. You will find this interesting reading at http://smh.com.au/articles/2005/02/24/1109180028938.html.
I am amazed at how much good material is being put up by all of you. This seems to be a space that many of you seem quite happy to fill. There are of course a few teething problems, but as I have said to many of you, LiveJournal has a great help line with a huge community of helpers troubleshooting any difficulties you may have. Just go to the HELP menu and scroll right down to the bottom where it says “Ask a Question”. You will get an answer back usually within 12 hours. You can also search the FAQ’s yourself. There are a heap of issues listed that will probably address your particular difficulty.
I have had a great day promoting Romanticism with the second years. This is my favourite period with its iconoclastic vision of what might be possible for the human race. Wordsworth’s wonderful challenge to a merely intellectual education strikes at the heart of what all we literature students are on about. We know there is a different way of responding to the world than the merely analytical and factual. Poetry, novels, drama provide a gateway to a richer, fuller experience of life… one that is not based merely in the head, but in the body, the feelings, the five senses…. Wordsworth really understood this in his “Tables Turned”.

I had the great fortune this evening of going for a rather dangerous scramble down a steep escarpment with my dog Molly and my brother Robert. In the hot of the evening we made a beeline for a cool, sequestered creek. We could hear the water ringing over the rocks down below, but we had to negotiate some pretty treacherous rock falls to get down there. On several occasions we had to lift whimpering Molly down onto the next level. Down there, at the falls there was another world. Miles from the traffic sounds; cool and damp and dim. Very Wordsworthian in fact…. This has physically exhausted me… tired but contented. See some of you tomorrow.
Michael

First Week went smoothly

Hello all. I am quietly excited by how easily you have all taken to LiveJournal… like ducks to the water in fact (some slightly more nervously than others!). And already there is some creative stuff beginning to appear, both in the design of some pages and in the free-flowing content. I have enjoyed seeing you all- some for the first time- and some old timers for the second or third time. Now we all have to get our heads down and enjoy the reading that our units offer us. I have really enjoyed re-reading Kate Chopin, Alice Walker, Willy Cather and De Maupassant. Such a feast of experiences… uncomfortable, disturbing but vividly represented and provoking so many questions about how to live.
In Shakespeare we looked at some of the bards early sonnets and I was amazed again to see how his imagery seems to expand to take in the whole of human experience. I also enjoyed my romp through some of his greatest passages… I am looking forward here especially here to seeing how you will put your cut and colour into performing Shakespeare later in the semester.
In the 19th Century I always enjoy my re visitation to the world of William Blake. He is one of my all-time favourites and heroes. Daring to challenge the power structures and filled with an appreciation for life.
I am going with a friend on a 5.30 am start bush walk in the morning so I better pack my things and get organized… see you all next week….

Welcome to All

ATTENTION ALL STUDENTS IN: “Intro to Lit ENGL103”, “Nineteenth ENGL200” & “Shakespeare ENGL200”
Hello All: I am currently speaking to my students in “Introduction to Literature”, “Nineteenth Century Literature” and “The Age of Shakespeare”. I have great hopes for this on-line journal, both for you all and myself. It promises to provide a relaxed, informal space in which I can get down my ideas about my reading and also space where I might express myself creatively. As you will see, the place where you enter your journal, at the bottom left-hand corner, allows you to click a button that sets your entry to Public, Private or Friends. So you can work, edit, do what you like, privately… and then when you feel you are ready you can share your reflections with the world or with just your friends at Uni and around.
It will take us all a little time to get used to LiveJournal- but it is basically a very simple, but powerful tool. It allows you to write… and have an audience…. globally …. immediately. People call this “Blogging” which comes from “Web Logging”- in other words keeping track of things you see and do on the web. But the concept has grown now to be about “Writing on-line”.
For the time being I am going to keep my 3 groups together on the one site. I will simply indicate at the top whether my entry is for “Intro to Lit ENGL103” or “Nineteenth ENGL200” or “Shakespeare ENGL200”. As we get into the semester I may filter out entries that are not directly relevant to your unit.
For the time being follow the instructions carefully as set out in the Outline and also explore the LiveJournal site… there are many hidden corners…. and above all, WRITE and ENJOY!

BUT THE VERY FIRST THING YOU MUST DO ONCE YOU HAVE REGISTERED IS TO SEND MY YOUR LIVEJOURNAL URL. THIS WILL COME TO YOU IN AN EMAIL ONCE YOU HAVE BEEN REGISTERED. JUST COPY THE URL AND SEND IT TO ME, WITH YOUR NAME. POST IT TO MY EMAIL.

Cheers

Michael

Introduction to Literature ENGL103

I have just finished re-reading Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark”. What an amazing story about the way our thinking and our aspirations can lead us so far away from the obvious things in life. This is a story about the dangers of ambition, the dangers of believing in your own powers. The one person who seems to have hold of some kind of truth in this story is the much maligned. physical man, Aminadab. I think we get to see him chiefly through the eyes of the highly prejudiced Aylmer how considers him like the dirt beneath his feet. But it is out of Amindab’s mouth that there comes the one sentence that is most filled with a kind of wisdom: “If she were my wife I’d never part with that birthmark”. He is the only one who seems to know that we need to treasure the only reality we have which is here and now. Aylmer spends all his energy trying to change the present in order to achieve an imagined future ideal. And in so doing he sacrifices that which could be the greatest gift in his life- his wife. I think the concluding sentence says so much: “The momentary circumstance was too strong fro him; he failed to look beyond the shadowy scope of time, and, living once for all in eternity, to find the perfect future in the present”. — The perfect future in the present… that is what we all miss, most of the time… we are always looking to the future, wishing our present circumstances were somehow different… there is a great moral lesson in this story. But it is presented very much as something that is embodied in human experience. We can look on at Aylmer and think what a fool he is… we can also think what a fool Georgiana is for going along with him, but this story can also touch our own lives (as all great stories can and do): to what extent are these events a mirror for me? Even if the events are set some 150 years ago….

Outside a cool Southerly breeze has blown the heat of yesterday away. This morning I went down with my dog Molly to a wonderful creek filled with clear water. She swam, basked in the coolness while a sat and drank in the silence away from the freeway high up on the ridge. This was a moment of blessing with a cool overcast sky, my happy dog, clear water tinkling down the water fall, all enclosed by this perfectly round basin of sandstone rock… we then stumbled and tumbled our way back up the ridge, across the freeway and into the car to begin the day’s activities….
Cheers for now
Michael

Starting out

So this is where I plan to keep a regular running commentary on my responses to the reading I am doing in the three units I am teaching this semester: Introduction to Literature (ENGL103); Nineteenth Century Literature (ENGL200) and The Age of Shakespeare (ENGL210). I intend to structure the journal so that all my First Year “Friends” will only be able to read the entries for ENGL 103, all my second year friends will only be able to read entries for ENGL200 and my third year friends will be stuck with what I have to say about ENGL210. It should work if all that I have heard about LiveJournal is true. So for the time being over and out until work in earnest begins.
Cheers
MG