Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Just another ordinary day round here.

We're currently running an Arts Festival at the university, and our department's Graduate Teaching Assistant Kauser suggested inviting Akala, the leading conscious hiphop artist, to give one of his Hiphop Shakespeare lectures.

I've really got to up my lecturing game. There may not have been an awful lot of textual exegesis, but it was a free-wheeling, massively-informed, political and cultural tour de force. Amongst the many things Akala talked about was different cultures' relationships to Shakespeare, the history of British imperialism, the need for all ethnic groups and classes to educate themselves autonomously of the hegemony but also to learn about each other, the importance of every teacher changing just one life, why Radio 1 plays adoring songs about cocaine but won't playlist him (they don't touch 'political' music') and why it's their artistic loss, an awful lot about Wu-Tang, why hiphop and Shakespeare go so well together (the audience was woefully bad at spotting which lines were by The Bard and which by Nas, RZA and others, why rappers are blamed for their lyrics rather than the audience and record companies, and why Jamaicans are stereotyped as lazy in the UK but hardworking go-getters in the US. That's just a taste. He was funny, warm, angry, witty, clever and political. And he writes books. Damn his eyes.

I took some pictures.

Last night was also very entertaining and informative: Francis O'Gorman gave a lovely lecture on the literary and cultural history of worrying, which turns out to be a Victorian invention which emerged alongside the Stiff Upper Lip, though there are versions going back earlier. His basic line was that anyone who isn't a worrier in a society designed to put maximum pressure on individuals simply isn't paying attention. Hamlet's a worrier and so – as my boss pointed out – is Tristram Shandy ('the Iliad and Odyssey of worrying' as he put it). There are plenty of others: J Alfred Prufrock, Mrs Dalloway… I wondered why so many literary and cultural worriers are played for laughs: Mrs Bennet, the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, Mr Bean, Basil Fawlty, Arthur Dent and Mark Corrigan are consumed by worry. 

Something different tonight: an evening of dialect poetry from across the UK, including Niall Griffiths, Liz Berry, Joao Morris and many more. 

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