Hello friends. In the last ten years I’ve seen the streets of the places I know best, in London and Colchester, transformed by the unrelenting grip of power that has forced people to beg on these streets in previously unimaginable numbers. I’ve seen the consequences of state decisions that have pushed people I care about into Kafkaesque nightmares of sanctions, uncertainty, and precarious living. But in recent years I’ve also seen the strengthening of a force that offers realistic prospects to reverse this decline, and to take seriously the global environmental catastrophe (which we’ve all known about for decades). So I’ll be delighted to join you all on Thursday as we come together to transcend this sham of reality enforced by our favourite media outlets, and make a solemn pledge in support of a new possibility. And whatever happens on Friday morning, may our actions be guided by love and compassion.
2018 marks the tenth anniversary of the Centre for Myth Studies. On Friday 11 May, we shall celebrate the occasion with a day of talks, readings, and discussions which reflect the past and the future of the Centre.
All are warmly invited to attend “The Old and the New” at the University of Essex in Colchester. For full details about the programme and how to register for this free event, please see our event page.
Since 2008, the Centre has been devoted to exploring the significance of myth in ancient and modern times. Most of these activities are documented on this site (see links above for our books, conferences, seminars, and the weekly Myth Reading Group). It was founded by Leon Burnett in the department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, and now sits within the department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, under the directorship of Roderick Main. This…
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In September, I received this handsome book: Heavenly Discourses, edited by Nicholas Campion (Sophia Centre Press, 2016). It represents the proceedings of a conference at Bristol in 2011, subtitled ‘Myth, Astronomy and Culture’.
I have a chapter in the book: due to the vagaries of publishing delays, this most recent publication is my oldest published work. I was pleased to read it again: the ostensible subject is the signal fires in Aeschylus’s Oresteia, but really, it’s a nice meditation on the reflection of the stars in the imagery of earthly fires in some Greek texts.
Translating Myth, a book I edited alongside Pietra Palazzolo and Leon Burnett has recently been published by Routledge/Legenda, in Legenda’s Studies in Comparative Literature series.
It collects fourteen essays on different aspects of myth and translation, from literary translation of Blakean mythopoeia to the cultural translation of Oedipus in Cameroon.
I’m very pleased with the finished result: it’s a handsomely produced volume with carefully-reproduced illustrations, and, most importantly, some excellent critical readings.
As an academic book, it is, lamentably, prohibitively expensive (even with the 20% discount), but I can unreservedly recommend that you order it for your local academic or public library. An e-book is also available.
These comments from the introduction (by Pietra and me) on Giuseppe Sofo’s chapter on the further translations of Derek Walcott’s Odyssey are indicative of the tenor of the book:
The reader is led through this recent journey of Odysseus, from English to Italian and from the Caribbean Sea back to the Mediterranean. At the end of this stage of its travels, the myth has changed while retaining its essence. It has survived the transaction between oral and written forms, just as it remains identifiable through translation across languages and cultures. Thus the process we describe at the start of this introduction, which Odysseus himself implicitly identified when hearing the song of Demodocus, is shown throughout this volume to be infinitely varied, generating vital and ever-renewing debate.
This blog collects various notes on myth or on music, and occasionally on both or neither.
Posts from 2003 to 2010 are imported from assorted, now-defunct, personal websites and blogs. I set this up as a private collection around 2011, and decided to make it public in 2016. At the moment, most entries fall into three broad categories: (α) gruffly promoting music I made between 1996 and 2009; (β) reviewing my friends’ music; (γ) reviewing productions of Greek tragedies. The tone varies between these entries, but I imagine it will settle down in future. What they share is a concern with the ineffable or time-altering properties common to myth and music.
I aim to update this most Wednesdays, but the odd week or two might go by with nothing.
The Beale – Live at Guided Missile Club, Buffalo Bar, 10 February 2007. Full set.
Beaut 34, The Stone, Seeds, Young Stuart, The Double Carpet, The Chinese Pilot, The Top Ten, Constantinople
This was uploaded, to my great delight, around the time of my birthday (a coincidence), by Paul of Guided Missile Records, the Guided Missile Club, The Beale, and latterly the TV-theme re-enactors Dream Themes. If you’re pressed for time, skip to The Double Carpet at 11’40”.
I have a chapter in Myths in Crisis: The Crisis of Myth, a new collection edited by José Manuel Losada and Antonella Lipscomb. Prof. Losada embodies the highly energetic centre of mythic activities in Madrid, which include a biennial conference, Amaltea, an open-access journal of myth criticism, and the ongoing work of Asteria: International Association of Myth Criticism. The book, Myths in Crisis, like the journal, conference, and websites, is trilingual – Spanish, French and English.
The book contains an impressive array of work on the presence of myth since 1900. As I understand the double crises of the title, the book addresses both the declining status of the mythical in contemporary life, and – where myth is found – its utilization as a colourful garnish, stripped of substance.
My chapter is called ‘Poetic Re-enchantment in an Age of Crisis: Mortal and Divine Worlds in the Poetry of Alice Oswald’, and looks in particular at Oswald’s collections Dart and Memorial. Oswald seems to me to be at the confluence of poetic concerns with classical mythology and with ecology, so she fits the theme perfectly. Some people I spoke to were put off by the ready populism of her verse, but I’m quite taken by the spare and lucid renderings of lines from Homer’s Iliad in Memorial. Compare these versions of the great, astral epic simile which concludes Iliad VIII.
ὡς δ᾽ ὅτ᾽ ἐν οὐρανῷ ἄστρα φαεινὴν ἀμφὶ σελήνην
φαίνετ᾽ ἀριπρεπέα, ὅτε τ᾽ ἔπλετο νήνεμος αἰθήρ:
ἔκ τ᾽ ἔφανεν πᾶσαι σκοπιαὶ καὶ πρώονες ἄκροι
καὶ νάπαι: οὐρανόθεν δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ὑπερράγη ἄσπετος αἰθήρ,
πάντα δὲ εἴδεται ἄστρα, γέγηθε δέ τε φρένα ποιμήν:
τόσσα μεσηγὺ νεῶν ἠδὲ Ξάνθοιο ῥοάων
Τρώων καιόντων πυρὰ φαίνετο Ἰλιόθι πρό.
χίλι᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἐν πεδίῳ πυρὰ καίετο, πὰρ δὲ ἑκάστῳ
εἴατο πεντήκοντα σέλᾳ πυρὸς αἰθομένοιο.
ἵπποι δὲ κρῖ λευκὸν ἐρεπτόμενοι καὶ ὀλύρας
ἑσταότες παρ᾽ ὄχεσφιν ἐΰθρονον Ἠῶ μίμνον.
Chapman (viii. 486-497) translates: The Trojans sat,
And spent all night in open field. Fires round about them shinde.
As when about the silver Moone, when aire is free from winde
And stars shine cleare, to whose sweete beames high prospects and the brows
Of all steepe hils and pinnacles thrust up themselves for showes
And even lowly vallies joy to glitter in the their sight,
When the unmeasur’d firmament bursts to disclose her light
And all the signes in heaven are seene that glad the shepheard’s hart;
So many fires disclosde their beames, made by the Troyan part,
Before the face of Ilion and her bright turrets show’d.
Fiftie stout men, by whom their horse eate oates and hard white corne,
And all did wishfully expect the silver-throned morne.
Oswald (Memorial, 65):
Like little campfire stars lit round the moon
No wind at all
Under an upturned glass of air
Exact black rocks show clear
And the world simplifies into cliffs and clefts
On nights like this
Light is unspeakable it is breaking out of heaven
And every star openly admits to god
Making the shepherd glad.
Chapman’s Homer is unassailable, but where translators often euphemize the Greek aspetos as ‘unmeasured’, ‘endless’, or ‘boundless’, Oswald opts for the dictionary form, unmediated: ‘unspeakable’, ‘unutterable’ (the dictionary being the Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon). The decision to forego poetic licence invigorates Homer’s language in English and conveys the terrible awe of the numinous.