Sunday Retrospective ~ March 24th 2019

This coming week sees the end of the Oxford University online Shakespeare course I have been taking.  I’ve very much enjoyed it, but although when I began I thought I might continue working with them, taking a different course each term, the last ten weeks have changed my mind.  Like all such courses the amount of time that it is suggested you need to give is radically underestimated. Ten hours a week is what is proposed, but if you want to be properly involved and be in a position to complete the necessary assignments then you are definitely looking at nearer twenty.  When I look back at what I have read so far this year I can see just how that has eaten into my reading time and I know that if I went on and did any further study I would really begin to resent that.  The pressure is particularly intense when it comes round to the time for submitting assignments. My last one went in this week and so I am now waiting judgement on it.  I was explaining what I had written to a friend, a Professor of English Language, who just said, “I am really glad I don’t have to mark your work”.  What is so unusual about comparing Leontes ‘journey’ through The Winter’s Tale to St Paul’s damascene moment in the Acts of the Apostles, that’s what I want to know?  My only problem was trying to manage it in 1500 words.  I like what I write to have a certain rhythm to it and that often makes extreme brevity difficult.

So, I have read almost nothing during the last seven days with the exception of the book I mentioned in my previous post: the one that was a complete disaster.  I’m hoping things will now pick up.  I’ve just started Linda Grant’s new novel, A Stranger City, which is promising well.  I really enjoyed her last book, The Dark Circle, which uses the setting of a 1950s sanitorium to explore the changes in society after the Second World War, but other than that I haven’t read anything else by her.  Does anyone have any favourites that I might put onto a summer reading list?  I also have Olivia Kiernan’s second Frankie Sheenan novel, The Killer in Me, waiting.  Too Close to Breathe was an excellent start to this series and with the new one due out at the beginning of April I must get reading quickly and post a review.

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11 thoughts on “Sunday Retrospective ~ March 24th 2019

  1. A Life in Books March 24, 2019 / 4:00 pm

    I’d recommend Linda Grant’s The Clothes on Their Backs. Pleased to hear you’re enjoying A Stranger City. I have my eye on that one.

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  2. BookerTalk March 24, 2019 / 4:06 pm

    I suspect those courses are not aimed at people like you who have extensive knowledge already and do like to read around a subject.

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    • Café Society March 25, 2019 / 10:52 am

      Actually, I think it’s the opposite, Karen. Or at least, I think they are written forgetting that the people taking them are likely to have a great many other commitments as well. The amount of secondary reading that has been suggested as we’ve gone along and the number of extra tasks that have slipped in have really upped the anti. It has been noticeable that the number of people who have contributed to the website discussions has fallen from the original thirty plus to single figures. I would really like to know just how many people have got as far as submitting the second assignment.

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      • BookerTalk March 25, 2019 / 8:38 pm

        that’s a bit naughty isn’t it, slipping in lots of extra tasks

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  3. Elle March 24, 2019 / 8:40 pm

    I actually LOVE the idea of comparing Leontes’s journey to St Paul’s emotional/spiritul development—if your friend wouldn’t want to mark your work, I certainly would!

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    • Café Society March 25, 2019 / 10:58 am

      It grew out of my fascination with the number of times the word ‘grace’ is used in the first act, Elle. Shakespeare’s audience, much more biblically literate than a modern audience, would have understood the word in a theological way. Add that to the fact that Leontes is told that in order for Hermione to move he must awake his faith and you start to get Paul’s assertion that ‘it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God’. Couple this with Shakespeare’s introduction of a character called Paulina and you can see where I was coming from.

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      • Elle March 25, 2019 / 11:20 am

        Also extremely interesting given the religious tensions of the time – salvation through grace alone is a distinctly Protestant idea, and Elizabethan audiences would surely not have forgotten the persecutions of the preceding century: Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Tyndale in the ’30s…

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      • Café Society March 25, 2019 / 1:07 pm

        I would have loved to have tied it into the King James Version of the Bible but although that would have been well underway by the time The Winter’s Tale was staged it was almost certainly still a year away.

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  4. Helen March 24, 2019 / 9:49 pm

    I’ve read Linda Grant’s We Had It So Good, an episodic and nostalgic novel which follows one family throughout the second half of the twentieth century. It wasn’t really my sort of book but I did like the writing and have always meant to try one of her others.

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    • Café Society March 25, 2019 / 10:59 am

      I’ll put it on the list, Helen. Do try The Dark Circle, I think you would enjoy it.

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