Monday, 15 December 2014

Light relief.

No depressing or negative post today. Though if you want to follow the ramifications of Stefan Grimm's demise, I'll point you towards Melonie Fullick's excellent piece, which explores the nature of workplace bullying in an academic environment (and yes it does happen, rather more than you'd think) and the institutional systems that encourage it.

So anyway, happier – though utterly exhausting – stuff. Well, last week was ridiculously busy but also very enjoyable. I had that Niall Griffiths in the back of my class so that we could talk about his novel, A Great Big Shining Star, and then his professorial inaugural. Then I went down to the University of Gloucestershire to deliver a lecture on the place of myth – and retellings of Welsh myth in particular – in our postmodern, media-saturated society. 

I have no idea what the students thought, but I enjoyed it. We started with the Enlightenment and its abjection of the irrational, which was often Othered as female ('old wives' tales') or primitive (peasants' stories, Celtic barbarism etc.), then touched on the alienation of urban capitalism and its discontents (Goblin Market, The Waste Land and other texts), talked about Jung (according to this bullshit quiz I'm the Sage: 'incredibly intelligent but you risk over analyzing until you're incapable of actually making a decision', when I'm actually just a highly-skilled procrastinator) and Freud – particularly the notion of the 'uncanny', about The Owl Service novel and TV series;

about the marginalisation of the weird into genre fiction (Machen, Lovecraft, fantasy novels) or into 'high culture' (such as Yeats and the rest of the Celtic Twilight), about postmodern social structures and practises allowing the non-rational and uncanny to re-emerge, particularly in computer games and decent science fiction like Paul McAuley's Fairyland, and about the decentring of the self making the flat characterisation and absent motivations of mythological protagonists comprehensible again. I seem to remember William Morris's wallpaper and poetry made an appearance, as did prog rock record sleeves. And some other stuff.

All in all, it was hugely enjoyable. They did also grab me for a couple of short video conversation which I find so painful that I can't bring myself to post. I have the voice of a bronchitic duck and the chins of a walrus that's let itself go. Ugh. Though I am going to force my colleagues to undergo the same experience. 

After that, the weekend was gloriously relaxing. Saw two Hollywood films and enjoyed them with a few reservations (Hunger Games and The Hobbit) then it's back into this week. I've just done a lecture on one of my favourite novels, Jackie Kay's Trumpet. To be recommended (the novel, not my lecture).