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I just watched a couple of hours of BBC4 about Islam and the contribution of medieval Islamic civilisation to our culture and to science. It made me feel there's a really big gap in my picture of the world. Actually come to think it's mostly gap. Embarrassing. But I mean I hadn't realised how long or how much of the map they covered. I think it comes from having maps that make Britain look quite big and sort of in the middle. But these scholars were connecting up Greek, Indian and Chinese scholarship and translating it all into Arabic. And the bloke on the second program said that arabic hasn't changed, that it's still understandable even in lots of different places across lots of time. He mentioned English as being quite the contrary case, how Chaucer is almost unintelligible.
I was all *nods* and thinking on it then.
So the end of the science show was about the invention of algebra, and how it's different than earlier math. The earlier versions would take a whole series of specific examples and work them all out, like times tables. Algebra and algorithms figure out the pattern that specific numbers can plug into. You end up knowing that x=3 but you also know how to figure out x when it isn't 3.
And this lead me to a set of realisations about translation and why we spent all that time on it in class that are still making me feel very stupid, because it's really obvious now I've thought of it.

What I'd read an essay on about Greek and what I've observed with Chaucer English is that some words don't translate directly because they can mean things that are very far apart in modern English words, sometimes even opposites. Other words have ambiguities that are a bugger to preserve in translation. And yet others are precise in the original but you have to plump for ambiguous or partial words once they're translated.

Any specific translation says x=3.
Figuring out the framework, the rules and issues involved in translating, tells you how to figure out x in general.

That in itself is worth knowing. But the really *valuable* bit, the part that I can take into every other unit in my degree, is the increased awareness of the way words are and aren't equivalent, can and cannot be swapped for each other. It's a pig and a pain to preserve the denotative meanings, it's damn near impossible to preserve the connotations, and the more you poke different translations and read glossaries that tell you one simple word can be translated with a dozen others that none of them quite capture it, the more you poke around at the workings of language, the more you become aware of how it works in ordinary everyday modern English.

So, yeah, I can only understand what the story is about in Chaucer or Euripides once someone has done the work and it's all sitting there in modern English.

But understanding how *difficult* that work is, seeing how you have to pick and choose between translations, lose or gain puns or sexual connotations, connect or disconnect different parts of the text, even end up with words becoming gendered or neutral because the precise distinctions aren't available in modern English, that's incredibly valuable for seeing how words work every day.

It's all about the process of making meaning. And that's what we're studying, and planning to make careers on.

And now I feel incredibly stupid for getting in such a strop about it.

It would have been nice if the teacher had asked questions that highlighted this side of it, sometimes, rather than asking questions about the story or how women were treated or other macro stuff that made the micro word poking really sodding frustrating.
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Was reading something via metafandom which, in the comments thread, got into 'show me one story that actually harmed someone'.

I can find two in the same textbook.

Chaucer: classic but creepy.

So, I was reading from 'Chaucer's women: Nuns, Wives and Amazons' by Priscilla Martin. I'll take examples from there because it's next to me on the sofa.
Read more... )

So: say you have a text in front of you. It seemed normal and natural for the story to go a certain way when you were reading or even writing it. But you look at it again, and how much of that normal is built up from tissue thin stereotypes? And how do those connect back to the awful structures like racism, all the kinds of hate that actually get people killed? And then you think: do I want to add even one more word to that side of the scales?

Stories have power.
I study up on how that power is used.
In the hopes of using it better.
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I read the end bit of Morte D'Arthur, the bit where Arthur loses the kingdom and dies.
If you ever read it, I recommend you stop when Arthur goes off in the boat. After that it's all about everyone being monks and nuns and starving themselves to death cause they're sad sinners. I can see how it's the same story from a medieval christian point of view - being knights messed everything up, being nuns and monks fixes it - but from reading a whole politics and love and violence story to reading about how Lancelot dies a monk with a non-stinky corpse is just a bit of a topic hop from other points of view.

Mordred's family tree is twisted. So Arthur is his father, and his uncle. His mother was his father's sister. And then he tries to marry his father's wife. But she shuts herself in the Tower of London until the army comes back and saves her.

What is it with old stories and incest? Creepy much? I mean, I can understand the value of stories that are all about how vengeance messes things up, but did people really need telling how incest messes... okay, I don't want to know.


Aside from being a creep in the marriage department and not taking no for an answer, on a purely political level, Mordred had a point. I mean, there was something wrong with the queen carrying on with a knight, and although Lancelot is forever saying she was true to her husband the narrator seems to think she did wrong enough. And then when Lancelot kills Mordred's brother, and then some more of his brothers, and then there's only one brother left and he goes a bit nuts with trying to kill Lancelot... well, you can see his point. And making it into a war... I read the notes in the back and that has to do with the feudal system and how everyone owed everyone and the whole thing would fall apart if someone just told them to sort it out between the two of them, but you can also see how people would get a bit pissed off that there's first a civil war and then a foreign one in France all sparked off by how Lancelot may or may not have been shagging the Queen. So it says the commoners sided with Mordred because they thought Arthur was doing too much war. And the people Arthur raised up from nothing and gave land thought the same and sided with Mordred too. And they probably meant that in a 'democracy and commoners and social mobility is ruining the kingdom!' sort of way, but it ends up with more of a 'Mordred kind of had a point' thing.

Especially after Lancelot already left. I mean, they kick him out, he conquers France, they decide to go follow him and conquer him? Someone has to say stop now, and it weren't Arthur.

Actually, just reading the start and end, it's hard to see why Arthur's a hero. He doesn't do any hero stuff at start or end. Weird.

So, anyway, shall have plenty to write about on the topics of sex, violence, power and revenge, which is what my essay is on.
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My mark for my Myth & Med exam, the one everyone else did a month ago, came back.


Read more... )
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Today I read more medieval literature. It was much less annoying for some reason. The thing where words don't mean then what they mean now was interesting a bit.

wood, as well as meaning a place full of trees, used to mean furiously or madly. 'Wood wroth' is the first phrase it's used in. It's to do with hitting people a lot. I don't know how those connect. Though they do hit wooden shields with wooden sticks sometimes. I shall have to poke a dictionary until I find things out.

I'm reading this partly because Chaucer irritates but mostly for answering an essay question. The keywords for that are sex, violence, power and revenge. I've only read 32 pages (taking about 7 minutes per page... wednesday brain is slooooow). It's the section where Uther makes Arthur and Arthur becomes king. And in those 32 pages they pack in more sex and violence than a month of comics. It's brilliant. There's a bit where nobody can tell which one is Arthur cause his shield is covered in blood and brains. People's horses get chopped in half right through the horse armour. There's huge great battles with thousands of people dying. And little jousts where Arthur gets knocked down and defeated and Merlin has to save him.

There's also a bit where Merlin is 14. Arthur won't listen to him that way so he goes away and comes back looking 80. I was greatly amused.

It's really not short on the sex either. Read more... )

This is interesting to read, but not told in the same style as more modern texts, or at least the ones I'm used to. There's not very much talking and a whole lot of describing. It speeds up and slows down a lot too, skips over years and years and then dwells on a conversation, but that happens in more modern texts too. It just does it so very much it feels like a lot of very small stories glued together.

Other good things about this text: I learn more about how to be rude in medieval.
Read more... )

So, okay, reading that took me all afternoon, but it was fun.
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I've just realised another thing that has been irritating me, entirely seperate from the rest.
In the medieval classes and in Kid Lit both we're studying texts that assume christianity as a default.

Fair enough, christianity has had a big cultural influence on this country. When studied as an ideology, a myth structure, it's very interesting.
Read more... )
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I have read handouts from class about Courtly Love.
They're very annoying.
They're all 'you can only love one person at once and it wears off if there's a new person' and 'jealousy is good' and 'must be secret or it wears off' and rubbish like that.
I now need to write a set of Jack/Ianto porn drabbles to go with the rules and totally splat them.
The one about modesty and decency is clearly a oops-we-missed-the-invisible-lift fountain porn drabble.

Actually, I can see Ianto believing a lot of this rubbish. In the books he's, er, not convinced about the depth of Jack's affections. And there's cute jealous Ianto about the soldier and project Indigo, or 'he's not that young'. But I don't see Jack thinking that jealous is a good thing and love wears off and you has to swap and all that.

There's a Rule of Courtly Love about how you shouldn't fall in love with someone you would be naturally ashamed to marry.
Jack: So... no incest?
Ianto is stuck somewhere between 'that needs saying???' and 'that's your only rule???'
Jack is all puzzled and trying to think of who else you wouldn't marry.

Well he'd know because he had a very annoyed century without civil partnerships, but aside from that.

The rules are a bit daft really. There's the one about not telling anyone and the one about not splitting people up (that's the only one on the list I think Jack would be cool with. Join in yes, split up no.) and then there's that rule about only if you'd marry them but then you add the rules together and apparently you can't get married, or possibly can only marry in secret, without telling a priest or anything. And then it turns out that love and marriage were not the same thing, so being married was not being in love (which, okay) and being in love was not getting married (er, what?) and therefor adultery was best (... *blinks* ...) which explains a lot about Lancelot.

Possibly there should be a Gwen drabble in there too. *facepalm*

I liked the bit where a woman was using the rules to get a bloke to go away. The rule is if you're really in love you'll submit to a woman completely and do like she says. So she asked this bloke if he was really in love with her and he said yes of course he'd do anything so she said go away and shut up, basically. So he did. Because he promised. But then he didn't shut up for long. So she complained, because he broke a promise.
I like it up to that point, but after that it was decided that asking someone to promise to go away wasn't fair, so she should just let him stalk her.

It's all very well saying the rules were about some kind of spiritual improvement and trying to attain unity with some elevated ideal, but if you apply them to actual real women being actually followed around by creepy blokes then eeeeewww.

So I'm not so much liking the medieval version of love.

21st century is looking more promising.
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I dreamed some rather surprising stuff involving the 8th Doctor and biting and hands around my neck. On a bus. I guess I can see why my subconscious expects the 8th Doctor on a bus, but I have no idea why he's so kinky. Well, actually, it was more tolerantly amused that humans is so kinky, but still.

I read one chapter and fell asleep. This happens to me a lot, specially on Fridays.

The chapter was good. Greek Tragedy, sociology of, which I didn't finish last time I read it, I think. There was a bit about women - when they haven't got their male guardian around they get in big trouble - and slaves - when they haven't got their guardian around they get women in big trouble, and also there's a difference between natural born slaves and free born people who happen to be slaves and the natural ones just looooove being slaves and care about their masters more than anything and look after them and love them and hug them and did you know the slaves did most of the child rearing? And yet remain slaves. How can you have a system where the people that do most of the looking after end up slaves to people who wander off in all the stories and come back when and if they feel like it, or end up wives to them and supposed to look after the house while their husband wanders off and does who he pleases. Men were allowed to shag whoever they wanted to. But it was Very Bad Form to bring back the whoever and have them move in with the Mrs. It happens in three plays and the immediate consequence in all of them is the man who tries it dies. Agamemnon, Heracles and someone else I can't remember right now. Anyway, women are trouble, when their bloke isn't around or isn't looking after them properly. Slaves are trouble, although born slaves can be very loyal to lots of generations of a family. People that weren't born slaves are instantly recogniseable and can stop being slaves because their quality shines through. People that were born slaves don't got quality. It's all very hegemonic dominant ideology to support the system stuff.


The bit on Polyphony points out that these stories have women and slaves in them. And they do things. Sometimes bad, sometimes good. And they make speeches. And everyone is equally articulate. This is important, especially in a legal system that was basically people standing up and making good speeches. Women and slaves get to make a case, but only in tragedy. In real life they weren't allowed any such thing. But they get voices in the plays.

So the conclusion of the article is that tragedy is secretly more democratic than the society managed to be, with voices for everyone and everyone making a case for being treated well and every tragedy being about how things go horribly wrong if x is treated badly.

Is a pretty good conclusion.

So I read that and then fell asleep.

On the plus side my back doesn't hurt now. Yaay.
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This morning I dreamed most (at least) of Neil Gaiman's Endless.
Dream and Death were only there by implication. I was asleep, and in the dream people died.
You only meet Death again that one time, so I am content with that.
The others though turned up one at a time, slightly different from the comics but all the more real for that.
And I've realised, this Worries me. I find myself ever less convinced of the existence of most gods and goddesses. They're interesting, but they're stories. Probably. And yet I dream about these characters who a comic book writer almost certainly made up, and here I am feeling like I should be Very Very Quiet until the beings too large for a mortal life shift their attention elsewhere.

Stories have power.

(Destiny was on a key fob, burnt onto a piece of wood shaped like a tombstone or a large arched door. Desire led me along until I saw Immortals, beautiful and eternal, escorting one of their number to a play he had written. I sat one row away, and rubbed my Watcher tattoo, and wanted.)
(Of Delirium and Despair I try not to talk. But they were there.)

(I looked up the Endless and remembered Destiny is chained to the book, and if one of the Endless dies a new aspect of them takes over. Suddenly a key shaped like a tombstone is a Story of itself.)
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I'm in room D21d, otherwise known as the bunker. It's sort of underground. There's two ways in and out, but both have a lot of stairs. One has a lift too.

The inspector is also in here. I think that's who they are. I came on time because that's the usual rule in inspector week, but apparently nobody else did, so, there's just me and a lady with a red staff name tag who wants to talk to the teacher.

Nobody else is due to be here for another 20 minutes. Not awkward at all.

But there's a 5 bar wireless connection from down here right now. Other weeks I've had to scrape for a bar. Coolness.

Now of course I should use it for studying. And not talking to LJ. Even though class hasn't started yet.
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theory books that assume you read languages other than English remain annoying.
Thus far that means that Bernard Knox is really very annoying indeed.
(I'm juggling between 'Word and Action' and 'The Heroic Temper' because it got to a bit where he said he'd proved x elsewhere, meaning 'The Heroic Temper', and it was only 44 pages so I thought I might as well.)
It's all very well him not translating a bit of german because it says it perfectly, but if it says whatever the heck it is in german then we sadly monolingual English speakers would in fact be better off with an imperfect translation.
Blasted thing.
I can skip individual articles.
But I do wish he'd write the greek words in English letters. I realise there's reasons not to do that, but since most of the other work I've read does it, it takes for sodding ever to recognise which words are the same. I mean I figured out thumos because I recognise theta and sigma (Yes DW is once again good for something) and I looked up mu, which doesn't look like m at all at all, more like y and u had an unfortunate accident. But I've been reading a whole bunch of pages before I figured out it's the exact same word that other article on Medea was using. Medea gets in a fight with herself between her thumos and her reason, her passion and her reason. So now I know what this squiggle word means I can connect the dots.

I did not set out to learn Greek.


On the plus side I've read a whole bunch of pages and they've got great ideas about what the qualities of a Sophoclean hero are. Since moder Tragedy works on a Sophoclean model, according to this dude anyway, this 'rules' can apply to many many things from later on.

I'm not entirely sure I agree with him as applied to Antigone, though I'm possibly quibbling over the idea of 'hero'. She buggers off half way through and dies. There's other characters learning and growing and getting messed up for the rest of the play. So, okay, she wins, but... anyway. I can keep that argument for later. There's whole sections of the book on Antigone, he probably goes through it all there. I haven't hardly read 30 pages yet. But they're 30 pages full of detailed, picky with words, specific Big Thinking.

This book is quite good.

Also it has the correct old book smell.

I have had a distressing number of books from the UEA library that have smells many and various and quite often related to gone off milk. This one smells only of old book. I like it.

... oh dear, half past midnight and I'm still reading for class.
On the plus side, 'for class'.
On the minus side, sleep is still recommended for humans.

And I've had these books out for a really long time, so why am I only reading them the night before I'm taking them back???
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I just finished reading
Medea and British Legislation before the First World War
Author(s): Edith Hall

I'd read most of it weeks ago but you know how longer articles seem to have made their point already and you wander off to something else? Er, or I do anyway. I did that on this one. And the ending didn't have anything new in substance, just in detail.

The detail is fascinating, if rather nasty.

The basic idea is that the history of performances of Medea, the adaptations in each version and the popularity of them, coincides fairly closely with campaigns and changes in legislation around women's rights in Britain.

I knew about the 1907 / votes for women end of things. But before that there were waves around legislation about divorce, custody of children, property, and not beating your wife.

The earliest versions didn't have Medea killing her children. Which seems to be rather missing the point from here, but some of them had her kill herself instead. Then later she killed her children but only while insane. Maternal love was 'natural' and jealous vindictiveness was 'unnatural' so nobody believed a Medea who killed her children to hurt her husband... at least until last century.

I knew that divorce wasn't legally possible until 18somethingorother. Required a private act of parliament. But I hadn't put together that married women couldn't own property in their own name, it all belonged to their husband. So a man could marry a woman, bugger off, and still take all her income. Not just what she had when he dumped her, everything she ever got! And no legal way to fix it, because no divorce. That's just nasty. Also, custody of children automatically went to the father. Later it went to the mother up until they were 7 and then the father got them back. Women getting custody was a relatively late development. Urgh. And even when there was divorce, a woman couldn't get it as easily as a man.

So then Medea was used as a myth to explore the ramifications of new debates and new laws. If Medea can't have her children, what will she do to them? If she does keep them what will happen to them? And how badly off she is now Jason can divorce her at all! So it was a very dramatic way of showing sides of the hot button issues of the day.

So the waves of Medea's popularity as a play coincided with different waves of political feminism, concluding with the last wave starting in the 70s.

If I can't find a way of working that into the timed essay I'll be very much surprised.

... if I can remember any of the relevant dates I'll also be very much surprised.
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Medea as vampire story.
She's the granddaughter of the sun, and kills Jason's new girlfriend with gifts from the sun, by burning her and her father.
She kills the kids after they come back from the palace.
Rewrite - they got turned into vampires while they were there.
Jason would of course be looking at the old grey hairs and faded glories and how he's not as strong as he used to be, and trying to get the whole grand heroic power back by becoming a vampire.
That plan is thwarted when the one about to turn him burns instead, and he comes back to find the children staked. She won't give him the bodies cause he could use the blood to make more vampires.

... no, I don't think making it a vampire story makes it a stronger story, really
but it makes a strong vampire story, sort of thing.
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In more productive activity while I was waiting on the delivery I read Euripides Hippolytus.
It's about this guy who has decided to stay a virgin, so Aphrodite thinks he's a jerk and makes his father's wife fall in love with him, so his father's wife thinks that's really icky and decides to starve to death instead of doing anything about it. But then her nurse decides if she can get them into bed there won't be any starving to death. But Hippolytus is all 'eeeeew, girls! men should be able to just buy babies from temples and have no girls at all!' and stomps off. So his father's wife hangs herself. And leaves a note to say he raped her. So his father curses him to death, because why would a dead woman lie? But then of course she was lying and virgin boy dies tragically and forgives his father before he dies because he was tricked by icky women and icky Goddess who wants guys to love women.

... ancient Greek misogynistic drek is still misogynistic drek.

Apparently there's worse versions of the story. But the false rape accusation leading to a virtuous man dying is in the middle of those too.

It says in the back that the misogyny would put the audience off Hippolytus, who after all is being rude to a goddess and gets killed for it. And it says that just because a character says it that doesn't mean Euripides believes it. But sometimes I feel you have to read a text really uphill to find the supposed feminism. I mean, strong female characters all over the place, yes - but their function is to fuck everyone up and die. Except for the ones who go away to fuck people up in a different story. However articulate they are about their woeful state, that's just... messy.

Mind you, nobody comes out of a proper Greek tragedy looking shiny. Everyone screws up and dies. So *shrugs*

Exam next Thursday. Thoughts must I have before then.
I've now read
Euripides Medea, Bacchae and Hippolytus, Sophocles Antigone and Electra, and Aeschylus Oresteia. So that's a lot of wider reading in the primary texts. Med, Ant and Agamemnon are the set texts. Essays must do close reading of at least two of them. The other plays are useful for bonus points.
I've read multiple translations of Antigone and a few different versions of extracts from Medea and Agamemnon, as well as poking at a couple of lines in fiddly detail with the help of websites. And I've read and been interested in some of the fiddly language stuff in Antigone from the Segal book I can't remember the title of right now. Odds are it has 'Greek' and 'Tragedy' in it. They all do. Hence the not remembering.

Secondary reading for theory I have done, but also sent back to the library only partially read.
I should just pick a book and get stuck into it this weekend.

I've learned a whole bunch of stuff I didn't know 8 weeks ago. It's pretty cool.

... I've also accumulated embarrassing library fines. Less cool. :eyeroll:

Now as long as my exam technique doesn't fail and I remember it's 1.5 hours only and I bring all the important bits of paper and stickers and suchlike I should do okay.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
Sophocles Electra is good.
Also there's three female characters that talk to each other.
Dear screenplay writers of today: Ur doin it wrong if some dude a few thousand years ago kicks your arse.

There's C who killed Agamenon (Clytemnestra? There's a whole vowel thing going on in there.)
Electra, her daughter
and another C who is C's daughter.
... this is why I need to learn to spell the names.

There's one dutiful loyal daughter who says to obey authority because, basically, it can squish you.
There's one daughter ruled by grief and devotion to her brother.
This is very Antigone and hence potentially useful for exam answers.

But Electra isn't much like Antigone. She does have a few moments of "I'll starve on the doorstep to piss them off!" but she gets over it and decides to go stab her mum herself instead of waiting for her baby brother to get home because, by then, she thinks he's dead.

... Greek Tragedy: Like soap with more stabbing.

So then Orestes turns up and Electra doesn't do stabbing.
She does stand outside and cheerlead it.
... yeah, that annoys me still.

This Electra tells the same bit of story I, er, skimmed over in the Oresteia, because there the story is all Orestes going 'I'll kill her I'll kill her' and really I didn't see anything getting in his way, so I got bored.

Here Electra is constrained by her relative powerlessness and her gender and is waiting for Orestes to get home. But it don't quite make sense to be moping about being treated like a slave. Hmm, she complains she's treated like a slave, but another thing in this one is a difference in seen vs heard, and there's a lot of deceit and trickery involved. We know what Electra says about her treatment. Also that she hasn't been married. And we see her getting in an argument with her mother. Her mother says again that the killing of Agamemnon was about him killing his daughter. E responds with saying it was all ambition, and anyway A did it for the gods, so getting annoyed about it is impious. That's the big argument.

The source of the curse on the house in Agamemnon is all about killing children. And, also, eating them.
The source of the curse in Electra is about cheating in a race, a kind of cheating that leads to deaths.
So one of them uses myth backgrounds to emphasise the killing children and sort of side with C, who wins in that one.
The other uses myth background to emphasise power and cheating, and C loses and dies.

But everyone uses deceit in Electra. Actually, we know C was tricksy in the past, but we see Orestes get all sneaky in the present. Using a lie about how he died that basically calls back to the house-curse-racing thing. Ties him in to it on the victim side.

Lots of interesting going on. Different approaches to the central argument.

Electra kind of pisses me off, as a character. So easy to be :eyeroll: at her. But she saved her baby brother when her mother wanted him dead, she lived without deceit and with open mourning for years and years, she never wavered, and she was certain that Justice was on her side. So that's a bunch of Hero tendencies. She's also very much attached to her brother. Having no husband she has no competing loyalties. That's like Antigone too.

Plays is interesting.

It's half past midnight and I have slept once tonight but it wore off. I should try again.


Nov. 3rd, 2008 10:40 pm
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I sort of read Libation Bearers. I got bored. He's all 'I'll kill her I'll kill her I'll kill her' for a few hundred lines, then has one line of 'wait, can't kill my mother!' and then his friend has *one* line that says 'go on, you can, god says so' and then he's all '... okay *stab*'. So it's a bit annoying and boring. Possibly I missed the point but it were hiding well if so.

Eumenides... that's a whole lot of awesome, wrapped around a really poisonous bit of garbage. The bit where they decide killing your mother doesn't count because you're only really descended from your father and your mother just kind of stood there and podded you out? Poison. Backed up by Athena. Because, you see, she was made by a god without a goddess, and no goddess could make anyone without a god. *shudders and seethes* It's probably useless feeling rage about legal doctrine from that long ago, but seriously, grr!
The Furies though... they are awesome. A right horror story.
And the whole thing, the trilogy and this play, it's about traditional blood vengeance being replaced by juries and law courts, which is of the good. Generations of killing kin for them having killed kin, replaced by a few people dropping votes in urns. If they'd found a reason for letting him off that I could actually stomach I'd just love it.
... he said his mother did two murders cause she killed her husband and his father. That's... no. And poor Cassandra! She only got killed a few hundred pages ago right next to him, but nobody cares. To be fair, she's not kin, which is what the central issue is here.
Furies didn't punish killing husbands because husbands weren't blood kin.
So then there's law saying mothers aren't either.
That's... well, classic two wrongs don't make a right territory, all the way.
The Furies are dead scary though. They're vampires! They'll suck your blood cause you spilled blood-kin-blood already. Awesome. Wicked scary language too.
And then at the end the solution is pretty excellent too. And actually has me tempted to rewrite this as a Doctor Who story. Yes, I know, my brain is a weird weird place - but the whole thing ends with inviting the scary things in for tea and giving them new clothes and promising to look after them now. That's a good ending that is.
Also it says in the notes they get put in charge of cursing people for perjury. Instead of kin slaying. Which is a fascinating change of emphasis.
Plus Athens has a total Vader effect going on now. The scary things are on their side! See that, neighbours? Yes. Athens be scariest now.

So basically Aeschylus rocks, ancient greek gender politics is nasty, and I totally want to play with vampires who punish murderers now.


Nov. 3rd, 2008 07:31 pm
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I re-read Agamemnon, the first part of the Oresteia by Aeschylus.
We read Medea and Antigone for the same class. And I think Agamemnon isn't really doing the same thing. Both of those were arguments, clashes of opposing principles. You could really get stuck in on both sides of the argument. And it was an argument, right up until terrible things happened and a lot of people died.
This one... it's heavy on the imagery, the yoke/net/gag and the wild/restrained animals. There's a lot of blood and steel and bronze. Swords and armour and red. There's a heavy sense of foreboding and a mounting atmosphere of horror. It goes full on trying to creep you out. But... if there are opposing principles here I can't see them. Possibly 'you shouldn't kill your daughter' vs 'you shouldn't kill your husband'. But it's just blood soaked vengeance all over.
Plus a bit of a shout out early on and then an ending that's entirely 'you wait til Orestes gets home'.
Which again doesn't so much wrap up the story the way the other two wrapped. It's the first part of a trilogy, whereas the others were more self contained.
So this one isn't doing the same thing as the other two.

I quite liked Clytemnestra. Er, I probably can't spell that. But anyway, he killed her daughter so she killed him. I can see that. It's that or let him come back to be boss of her and everyone, after what he did. But then she was sneaky about it and only got the chance to do it because she promised she was a good sweet loving faithful wife and all that, so I can see how that's rather a problem too.

I'm not impressed with Aegisthus. He struts up on the last page and says he planned it all? On your bike, mate, we believe not a word of it.

I did have a sudden terrible vision of David Tennant in full on bouncy 10 mode doing the speech. I think it's because the fourth word is 'brilliant'. It goes
"Oh what a brilliant day it is for vengeance! Now I can say once more there are gods in heaven avenging men, blazing down on all the crimes of earth."
See, it's happy and bouncy!
... and blood soaked and all about how this guy's dad made this other guy's dad eat his own children.
So it's a bit of 10 mixed in with a bit of Spike being perky about squirrels making more squirrels.

Actors and casting and that can completely change your impression of a speech. I mean, if it's Brian Blessed, it's a whole different speech, and if it's Patrick Stewart it's another whole different speech, and... you know?

I don't know who would be Clytaemnestra.

... suddenly I'm seeing Dru.

"Let them howl - they're impotent. You and I have power now. We will set the house in order once for all."

... Spike and Dru do the forehead leaning happy murderers face and turn and go inside...
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I read 'The Wife of Bath's Tale'. We're studying Chaucer next week then going back to Greek stuff for the week after. So I read it, Read more... )

I want to go watch some Buffy, or Sarah Connor Chronicles, or Torchwood, or Doctor Who. Women who save the world and are not evil. Are they really that much a modern invention???
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
So homework for myth & med was to pick an article or chapter, read it, summarise it, and bring it to class to discuss. I haven't articles, I have chapters, so I picked one I know I've read already and settled down to reread and summarise.

Two hours later I've tried that on 16 pages and it's harder than it looks.

I think 16 pages should count even if it isn't the whole chapter yet. There's still another... I don't know, whole bunch.

And it's all very fiddly stuff, close reading drawing on distinctions in the original greek. Which is why I like it. But it's a bugger to try and compress.

Also I've run out of paper and my fingers hurt. I don't usually do things on paper. I know I could get my laptop out and type things, but then I'd have to balance my book on it somehow, and I couldn't be bothered.

so now I'm grouchy, whiny, and tired, and I've decided I've done quite enough.

I shall turn up to class and speak confidently on those 16 pages and hope.

blah. college hard. why I do this again?

In other news, I have another plot bunny really nagging at me for another script.
I mostly know what goes in it. I could start it. And possibly middle it. And probably end it.

... I have to do myth & med. We have two more lessons of Greek tragedy and then an exam. I haven't tried writing exam answers yet. I've done a ton of reading but not focused it down into answers. I must concentrate.

I don't know how I'm going to manage to take a whole other weekend for the Whoniversal Appeal conference. I mean, I'm surviving this week, but I rather dislike this feeling of not being caught up. There isn't an exam for the second half of the semester though, just an essay, and much more time for it.

If I'm going to the conference I still need to find a hotel. Urgh. Too many things to do.
Must finish tomorrow and then make a list.

... my hand hurts, my arm hurts, and my handwriting still entirely *sucks*.
This is why typing is good.

I think I'm going to bed again.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)

I just spent half an hour looking stuff up to prove that a line that would have been very useful in a gender-wars reading of a play has in fact no gender mentioned in other translations.  In fact it doesn't seem to support any duality reading, not mortal vs immortal for instance or local vs foreign.  It's just including everyone.
I'm sure I can get points for pointing this out in the right essay framework, and yet it feels all frustrating.

Read more... )
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I've been skimming later chapters, which are interesting but not much about the texts we're studying.
One paragraph though is about an adaptation of Antigone, which is a film about the play as put on by political prisoners. The one playing Antigone has a life sentence. "I go now to my living death, because I honoured those things to which honour belongs."

So suddenly I see Antigone through a different lens. When she's being all woe is me I'm so young I'm going to get married to death and have no children I just see that stuff. But if I see her even for a moment as standing up for the basic rights and humanity of her fellow men... it's a tiny act about family, but it's saying sometimes respectful treatment of one's own is more important than the power of the state. And I can see that. And I can even see not trying to run away after saying that, because dying as a political protest amplifies the statement. She's not ashamed, she's sure she's right, she'll stick it out and see through the consequences. Only then it becomes double stupid that she kills herself, because the people are on her side and the king changes his mind and basically from a political point of view she won... but she'd already given up on that outcome and suicided. So she ends up stupid but not in quite the same way.


Also? I've had the disc for Torchwood in the DVD player for at least 5 hours and been all 'I'll just read the next bit' about this college textbook.
Love it when I'm on the right courses.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
The Cambridge book just said something in passing about the fundamental tension between the quest for individual glory/honor and the supremacy of the demos/people/collective/state.

Has applications in texts we're studying, especially about the role of the chorus.

Mostly though the chapter is an argument about who actually got to watch these plays. Some of the other books just say that there's some argument women might have been there; this one goes through a bunch of evidence. So far it's looking very skinny indeed.

Also, I have learned that in ancient greek the word for 'barley' was the same as a slang term for 'penis'. I imagine there's a connection via seeds and a general uprightness. Seems to be all that's usually required.

Earlier in the book there was pictures of Greek vases with cockfights. With actual cock.

Classics: elevated and improving. *nods*

beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I really don't like things changing at the last minute. It's a great relief I found out about the hotel change before turning up there, because I'm having time to get over it. But it's still bloody awkward. I mean, I'll probably survive, but when it comes to crossing roads that 'probably' is worrying. I'm getting better at roads. But by that I mean I've learned to avoid the ones that most often result in bad decisions. It's a bit different than learning how to do it right.

So, anyway, after some email and message board posting when I woke up, I tried to get back on track for the day. And remember to breathe. Little things like that.

Cleaner was here. House is shiny. Is good.

Letter arrived about employee stuff. Asked advisers about letter. Got response. Now know which box I want to tick. Don't so much know exactly what when where how to do it though. But I know it can wait a week, so it's going to.

I told myself if I read one chapter of Myth & Med reading I could watch one episode of Torchwood. I have now read two. Yaay me.

First two chapters of the Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy.
There were bits that I did not know before, about the meaning of deme and the history of democracy in Athens and useful context stuff like that.
Also a statement that in Greek tragedy it is women, when inadequately controlled by men, who mess things up. Make all the bad things happen. Disrupt world.
I can see how they can see it like that. But it takes a lot of men working to mess it up to get it as bad as your average tragedy. Still, point to note.
There was also quite a lot about what Dionysus has to do with the whole thing, and how Bacchae isn't the last word on that. And also pointing out that Satyr plays would always have been part of the tragedy days, so the fact we've lost pretty much all of them (one left) is a bit of a dent in our capacity to understand Greek Tragedy As It Was Back Then.

I ate some food and drank some drink and don't feel sick right now and can remember to breathe almost all the time.

This all adds up to a successful day.

I really don't have to be doing any of this. I've read the handouts for class tomorrow, read the play, read an alternate translation of the play, poked around on the Perseus website to find out which greek words mean what (I can recognise ones that look a bit like Kakistos, Kakos, Evil. Er, and that's about it. But poking it is still interesting).

I have had Thoughts about how the power of myth isn't just in the original greek or the original context but in how each reinterpretation, each new performance or reading, gets something from it that connects to their own age. Original context is good to know, but more relevant to our own times is why exactly did this stuff survive, and what does it speak to a modern audience? The alternative versions we've been studying in class have a lot to say about that. The basic conflicts, stripped of their Greek religious context or their specifics of inheritance and citizenship, come down to things still read as binaries - man vs woman, home vs state, personal and political. And the reactions are argued out and pushed to their ultimates, all the way to the grave and beyond, seeing the impact on the survivors. That's powerful stuff for mortals anywhere. So it's not just that Euripides or Sophocles or Aeschylus wrote the most amazing words, it's that they were working with building blocks and tensions that the civilisation we live in still recognises and worries at. Not universal - the obligation on women to bury their kin is hardly a biological constraint, or indeed a social norm herenow - but still strong.

Which, when we're talking about battle of the sexes, treating women as vessels for baby making, and having suicide as the last tool available to them for protest, is really rather depressing.
Makes you appreciate the murderers more. Do something active and aim it at the buggers who did the damage.
Of course Creon's wife in Antigone was damaged primarily by her sons deciding to kill themselves, but then it was Creon's decisions that drove Haemon, so she should still have aimed it at him. Unless she had Medea's logic about letting him live alone and old and see how he likes the no sons then. Her suicide is interesting especially in contrast with Antigone's. She's just had a speech about how she wouldn't have risked death for a son because she can always get another. Is it then that Creon's wife has different logic, is more devoted to her sons, or being older in fact cannot get more? Same logic with different life stage.

Antigone irritates me quite a lot. She doesn't try to run or hide or protect herself or get allies or anything. She just says they'll get doomed if they doom her. Kind of a you'll be sorry when I'm dead approach. Medea hands it out first and gets to watch them be sorry. Hate her methods, but she's got backbone. Antigone might have determination, but it's determined direction towards death, which isn't exactly admirable.

I like college. Full of thinking.

KidLit has stuff about the carnivalesque which I'm trying for size against the Dionysiac stuff. Maybe the Satyr plays fit, but tragedy not so much. Kind of the opposite - instead of inversions with no consequence it's inversions with horrible consequence. not a carnival festival then.
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
I read a whole bunch more about Antigone today. I got a very skinny book of notes on the Penguin translation, and from it I have concluded that the reason we're not reading it in the Penguin translation is cause it was very silly. Possibly unfair, given that I haven't seen the thing itself. But this notes book asserts confidently about all the things that all the other books I been reading say are dodgy later traditions, which don't inspire much confidence. Still, useful bits in among the comments on specific language.

Then I read a chapter in one of the books I've had out a few weeks. I got it for the first three and last chapters mostly, the ones generally about Greek Tragedy, but this chapter is about Antigone so specifically useful. So full of useful in fact that my head got full and it took at least a half hour to finish the last three pages cause I had to go back and repeat paragraphs a lot. Having checked the clock this would be because, with some breaks for food, I've been studying for 7 hours now.

Right. Call it a day then.

I still don't much like the play Antigone, or the character. Read more... )
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
The nice electrical shop sent people to pick up my recorder box. I'd had every intention of taking it in myself but my helper got flu and I got a stabby hip pain and it turned into too much uphill. So they collect it. It's good. Nice service from this shop. Which is why I keep on going back, despite it costing a tiny extra than online might. So it works out for them too.

This is why I don't get Rude People. It don't pay.

So I have a bit of paper to say they took the box (which I know wouldn't be much help if they turned out to be Sneaky Thieves In The Right Uniform, but it's basically to reassure me when I wonder at two in the morning if they were. Which, er, shouldn't work neither. Lalala.)

I do not have a working clock in the front room now. I should fix that. It's only a question of swapping batteries, but I just never can be bothered when there's a shiny glowing one that resets itself.

I also have to remember to watch Merlin at some point. Or not. I'm not that interested. Also I can watch it via iPlayer all week.

On Monday I will not record SJA. But I can record it the next monday after that. Er, except for the thing where I can't cause I won't be here to get the box back next Saturday and I'm at college on their other delivery days. Okay. So, that's one SJA I'll have to download. Legally, with the iPlayer software? Does that work nice yet?

What else... nope, just the Merlin and the SJA. I'm not much on TV watching.

... should I maybe rethink the writing-for-tv then?
... nope, because I watch a whole ton of DVDs that were TV to start with. I just can't be having with the whole regular schedule thing.

Okay, back to tasks of the day. So far I reread the Oxford World Classics version of Antigone and made notes in the margin. It annoyed me even more second time around. The language is just a bit clunky. It's all in iambic pentameters. I don't think that does it any favours.

Now I'm reading the Seamus Heaney translation, 'The Burial at Thebes'. It's from 2004, pretty little hardback. It doesn't have line numbers or notes that I can find, so it's not much good for class texts. She's trying a lot to get people to use line numbers instead of pages. Line numbers are how such things are meant to be referenced. But line numbers it lacks. On the plus side though, it doesn't clunk. And the rhythm changes often, which gives it an entirely different feel. Plus the guard, the working class dude, comes on and speaks in prose, which adds layers to the effect. It's so frustrating reading how much significance there was in the different sorts of rhythm in greek and not being able to see it in the translation. I can only hope the change points match in this translation, but it's useful just to see the technique used.

Also, I like it.

There have been years when I didn't like a single text I worked on. This year I really, really like Greek Tragedy. Yaays.


beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)

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