Archive for the ‘Intertexuality’ Category

A play ethic   Leave a comment

Timothy Morton’s lateset post is titled Drama as Ecological Form. I’m glad he is now considering drama as an ecological form and look forward to his thoughts on the subject. I’m also delighted to discover Una Chaudhuri’s work, given that my own impulse to transition from a geology PhD to further studies in literary ecology was initiated by a three week international voice workshop on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

In the course of the last seven years, I’ve searched out authors that have recognized drama as a “quintessentially ecological art form”. Part of my motivation being to write an “ecological play” about carbon capture storage. (I now plan to complete a second draft of my manuscript by this summer).

Here are some quotes from two references that I’ve found particularly useful:

In How Plays Work David Edgar writes that The playwright David Hare sees theatre as essentially meteorological – like the weather, it happens when two fronts meet: what the actors are doing and what the audience is thinking.”

Edgar also makes a very useful comment on “The liminal zone”… where lies are exposed, disguises tested and the truths of individuals are revealed (p 73):

“In exploring the relationship of location to genre, there are two special cases, one a tragedy, one usually seen as a comedy… Indeed, you might define Shakespeare’s two principal genres in starkly simple terms: in the comedies people are driven into the countryside where they dress up as other people, come in again, and get married; in the tragedies, they strip off stay outside, and die.” (p. 74-75).

Joseph Meeker in his “Comedy of Survival: Literary Ecology and a Play Ethic” (1997) suggests that in comedies people get back inside through a “strategic and clever” reconciliation (p. 16): “When the usual patterns of life are disrupted, the comic spirit strives for a return to normalcy… (It) is a strategy for survival. (p. 14 -15).” Meeker reckons that “a rhapsody extolling human conquests over nature appears at a crucial point in Greek tragic drama, for the human elevation over natural environments is an essentially tragic assertion.”

Personally, I also find it timely to rethink ecological theatre. This weekend I attended the “Literature and Altered States” conference at Lausanne University.

The first item on the program was “Mania in The Bacchae”. It was observed that in Euripides’s play each character has a different reading of the following terms: Sophia (Wisdom) ; Phrônesis (Perception/judgement); Sôphrôn (Knowledge of limits).

Are these idiosyncratic readings informed by each character’s place in society? …. The more I think of it, the more I want to devote time to an ecological reading of this play!

My last attempt to write about ecological theatre was for Geneva University’s English Department Student Newspaper. See:

Nisbet Eco-theatre

…Having completed my reading of Finnegans Wake, I remain intrigued by the many instances, not only part II- chapter II of the book, where I’m persuaded that I’m witness to a shadow play located within Joyce’s mind. J.L. Styan insists that “the play is not on the stage but in the mind” (Edgar 2009, p.7). In Finnegans Wake the play is not on the page, but in the mind…

Images from the 2007 Theatre du Mouvement workshop, “At the juncture of Body and Object”. International Puppetry Institute, Charleville-Mézières.

Posted March 7, 2011 by R.H.H. Nisbet in Drama, Gesamtkunstwerk, Shakespeare

Chest Cee! ‘Sdense!… you spoof of visibility in a freakfog,   Leave a comment


In this chapter I’ve:

Vibed with the “Eyrawygla saga” and his “exceedingly nice ear” (48.16-21).

Met Padre Don Bruno (50.19).

Lost the identity of “the body” in the fog of night stories “this scherzarade of one’s thousand one nightiness” (51.4-6)

Met a native of the “sisterisle” (Scotland?)

Been presented flat scenes like “a landscape from Wildu Picturescu… or some seem on some dimb Arras dumb as Mum’s mutyness” (53.1-3). A silent semblance of appearance that introduces the arras in Gertrude’s chamber in Hamlet. And perhaps the echo of Polonius (who fatally stood behind it) in the shadowy cry of “letate!” (Laertes) as a midnight hour is struck (53.20).

There is a shift to the waxy world of “Madam’s Toshowus” and our “notional gullery” (57.20-21)-  We are in London. “Longtong’s breach is fallen down” (58.10). There is a woman “callit by a noted stagey elecutioner in “a waistend pewty parlour” (58.34-36).

Yet there is still talk on the street of the “Irewaker” (59.26). And this tips into bad egg cracks (homelette, hegg).

This would make sense as an evening newscast is being related: “Earwicker’s version of the story filmed, televised and broadcast” (lii). Typically a newscast moves from international, to national, regional and then local news…

There is mention of  “the park” (60.24) and Caligula (Camus?). Before a switch to Sydney…

Then later on there is a wedding to the “lottuse land” (Ulysses ref?), “Emerald-illuim” and first pharoah, “Humpheres Cheops Exarchas” judge of the “common or ere-in-garden” (62.19-21).

There’s an attack. And a pub crawl around biblical symbols Blazes, Hell, Sun, Lamb (63.23-24) finishing in the “Ramitdown’s ship hotel” (63.25). Very funny.

In addition to Hamlet /Homelette, perhaps the song “This old man, he played one” is rolls around underneath this chapter?:

He played knick-knack on my thumb. (on a drum, on my tongue)
With a knick-knack,

paddy whack, (64.24)…

Sir Tristram, violer d’amores, fr’over the short sea   Leave a comment


Curious to see the order in which the “end members” of Joyce’s assemblage of characters are introduced in the first pages of FW.

The riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s to Howth Castle (3.1-3)

Sir Tristram’s re-arrival  (3.4)

Jhem or Shen (3.13)

The fall (3.15-21)

The park (3.22)

Iseut (4.14)

Finnegan, of the stuttering Head (4.18)

HCE – Haroun Childeric Eggberth (4.32) (–> Hush! Caution! Echoland! (13.5)

Mistress Kathe’s “museyroom tour guided by the deixic relation “This is that/ That is this” (8.9 – 10.23): a relational unity (Jackson, 1983; quoted in Ingold, Culture, Nature, Environment 50).

A chronological chiasmus: 1132 A.D; 566 A.D. (Silent) 566 A.D.; 1132 A.D. (13.34-14.15).

Jute and Mutt (and the dramatic form; 16.10-18.16)

Dante Sculpted   1 comment

Check this out:

Robert Taplin’s Everything Imagined is Real (After Dante) “consists of nine sculptures, each referencing scenes from Dante’s Inferno as modern allegories of political strife. Taplin’s story begins as Dante’s does with the uncertain sense of whether or not we are in a dream or reality. Thus My Soul Which Was Still In Flight (The Dark Wood) depicts Dante, as a modern-day everyman, rising from bed to start his journey. As Talpin’s story unfolds, things become more complicated. The third canto of Dante’s Inferno brings Dante and Virgil to the River Acheron in order to cross into the First Circle of Hell.

Above: Across the Dark Waters (The River Acheron), 2007, wood, resin, plaster and lights, 84 by 94 by 50 inches; at Winston Wächter.

In Across The Dark Waters (The River Acheron), Taplin takes this iconic scene and turns it into a metaphor for the refuge crisis, representing people trying to cross waters, unknowing, just like Dante, of what awaits them upon their arrival. Taplin’s cycle ends with Dante mourning the fall of civilization — in We Went In Without a Fight (Through The Gates of Dis), Dante stands witness to a city destroyed, mourning both life on earth and what may await down below.”

Also see Art in America‘s Robert Taplin review

Ways of Seeing   Leave a comment

In my last post I wrote about the Ice Climbing World Cup at Saas Fee and how I could not take it in initially. I don’t think my mirror neurons fired…

By coincidence I’d taken John Berger’s Ways of Seeing along with me for the weekend. It primed me to key into the live imagery from a feminist standpoint.

I so loved the way the men and the women moved in the same way during the speed climbing contest. Check out Russia’s You Tube posts below:

Listen for gendered commentary in your head.

It is weird to have men acting as “belay bunnies” for the women?

Are the sound tracks gendered?



This is perhaps the first version of “The Fall” that I’ve enjoyed. ;°).

Do gendered representations imply an inherently unequal power relationship? Here it is predominantly person vs gravity…

Although the chick-strop-after-fall is more culpable than the bloke-strop-after-fall…

In a Saas Fee sports shop there was an advertising shot based on the Biblical “Fall”.

titian the fall of man 1565Titian The Fall of Man (1565)

The Hopesend was asking about the cost of touring skis when I spotted it:

“Look! It’s the Fall” I yelled. “Look! The woman is skiing in her underwear, with a belly button piercing. And the focus of the shot is her tilted crotch. Not the bloke skiing in his underpants. Or the Allalinhorn. Look! Can you believe it!?”

Censured, I later forgot Ways of Seeing in a mountain hut. But the 1970’s TV program on which the book is based is available on You Tube.

Ice Climbing World Cup   Leave a comment

Have been waiting for the Ice Climbing World Cup videos to be posted on the web, before I blogged about this event that took place in the multistory car park at Saas Fee last weekend.

Watching was mirror neuron ecstasy.

Here is the end of the winning climb from Bender. An apt name: he is on the top section of the climb, using a technique called the “figure of four” to preserve strength as he moves. This technique optimizes his reach, enabling him to places his ice axes between incredibly widely spaced holes, even when he doesn’t have any foot holds.

All the climbers we saw in the semi-finals employed this figure of four move, repeatedly.


I’ve never seen the likes of it. And as I watched I’m sure that my mirror neurons were not firing initially. My body could not connect to what it saw. Couldn’t take in the movement. I felt as if I was falling continually and could not understand how the body of the climber below me was still moving upwards.

On his blog UK finalist Ramon Marin writes of how the effort of operating his body over the course totally screwed his mind.

Now, fifteen years ago I had a spell of bumbling around frozen turf with a couple of ice axes on Ben Nevis, in the Cairngorms, at Bridge of Orchy etc… And the Hopesend still goes out a bit. Here’s a photo of him absailing off a multi-pitch climb, possibly above the Argentière glacier.

Anyway, the front pointing and pick placements that I once managed equate to pedestrian movement, when compared to the gymnastics at the 2011 world cup that incorporated consecutive figures of four: A technique pioneered by Jeff Lowe on the ice route Octopussy, in Vail Colorado, 1994.

Lowe writes that it took four attempts to nail the crux (here). He walked away after a first attempt that involved placing critical protection, finding tiny hook placements, “swinging like Tarzan” and becoming “absolutely pumped”. But he returned two days later:

“with a new idea… I turned upside down and threaded my left leg over my right elbow, wedging the toe of my boot under the rock roof, performing a figure 4 in ice climbing gear. Unfortunately, just as I swung, the right tool placement popped and I plummeted into space. Shit… and EUREKA! This was going to work!”

In fact by performing two linked figure of fours, followed by a handstand on ice-axes with crampons wedged into the ice above, followed by inverted sit ups, Lowe nailed the climb!!!! The route is graded M8.

Reading this description makes the climb appear impossible (remind you of anything… like understanding Finnegans Wake?). But  the move Jeff Lowe pioneered in 1994 was employed by the ice climbing fraternity’s elite (63 men and 29 women) at this year’s World Cup. Watching as climber after climber literally sprinted up the 2011 course in Saas Fee last weekend, pushing to get as far as they could within the 8 minute time limit, my mirror neurons learnt the pattern of this movement. I could follow the kinesthetic process. I couldn’t do it… But, I could feel it was possible for a body. Just as I used to believe a table traverse was manageable, after drinking too much whisky… Only…not for my body. BANG!

Posted January 27, 2011 by R.H.H. Nisbet in Mirror Neurons, The Fall (biblical)

The River’s Tale (Prehistoric)   Leave a comment

TWENTY bridges from Tower to Kew –

Wanted to know what the River knew,

Twenty Bridges or twenty-two,

For they were young, and the Thames was old

And this is the tale that River told:-

“I walk my beat before London Town,

Five hours up and seven down.

Up I go till I end my run

At Tide-end-town, which is Teddington.

Down I come with the mud in my hands

And plaster it over the Maplin Sands.

But I’d have you know that these waters of mine

Were once a branch of the River Rhine,

When hundreds of miles to the East I went

And England was joined to the Continent.

“I remember the bat-winged lizard-birds,

The Age of Ice and the mammoth herds,

And the giant tigers that stalked them down

Through Regent’s Park into Camden Town.

And I remember like yesterday

The earliest Cockney who came my way,

When he pushed through the forest that lined the Strand,

With paint on his face and a club in his hand.

He was death to feather and fin and fur.

He trapped my beavers at Westminster.

He netted my salmon, he hunted my deer,

He killed my heron off Lambeth Pier.

He fought his neighbour with axes and swords,

Flint or bronze, at my upper fords,

While down at Greenwich, for slaves and tin,

The tall Phoenician ships stole in,

And North Sea war-boats, painted and gay,

Flashed like dragon-flies, Erith way;

And Norseman and Negro and Gaul and Greek

Drank with the Britons in Barking Creek,

And life was gay, and the world was new,

And I was a mile across at Kew!

But the Roman came with a heavy hand,

And bridged and roaded and ruled the land,

And the Roman left and the Danes blew in –

And that’s where your history-books begin!”

““The River’s Tale” was written by Kipling to serve as the introduction to a history of England for schoolchildren written by C.R.L.Fletcher. In all, Kipling contributed twenty- two original poems, or twenty-three if the two “American Rebellion” poems are counted separately, as they sometimes are. The book was published in July 1911 in two different formats. One, was large, lavishly laid out, and at 7/6d (37 1/2p in today’s currency) expensive. It was called A History of England. The other was small, relatively cheap at 1/8d (8 pence in today’s currency), functional in appearance, and given the significantly different title of A School History of England.” Here is the original text at the Kipling Society.

Perhaps Joyce came across this poem? Already in January 1907, Joyce contrasted himself with Kipling:

“…Plain Tales from the Hills stirred [Joyce’s] admiration for at least its factual accuracy: ‘If I knew Ireland as well as R.K. seems to know India,’ he wrote Stanislaus…’I fancy I could write something good. But it is becoming a mist in my brain rapidly.'” Quoted at The Modernism Lab.

“Alph the sacred river”   Leave a comment

Listen to a discussion about a relative of ALP’s here (Kubla Khan; BBC Radio 4; 5 days to listen).

I’m not taking apple sauce eithou.   1 comment

(3.2.452.6 – 3.2.464.3)

Jaun and Issy – Issy’s love-letter to Jaun – Jaun introduces Dave

In the opening lines of this reading, Jaun talks of listening in, of “picking up airs from th’other over th’ether”. My ears pricked up at the word “ether”, as I made this recording just after I’d got home from a guided visit round the Bodmer Foundation‘s current exhibition: Early Medicine, from the Body to the Stars. So, as Jaun’s reverie – addressed to his “Sis-sibis”-  veered off towards the “efferfreshpainted livy”  and “pharoph”, I was all ready with my references (452.8; 452.19; 452.20).

You see, the first exhibits in the Early Medicine exhibition are Hor’s Book of the Dead and a “Rhomboid cosmetic palatte” (Early Medicine from the Body to the Stars, 145). In the exhibition catalogue Irmtraut Munro writes how in ancient Egyptian cosmology, “the deceased having professed his innocence, appears before the judge of the deceased, Osiris, to give an account of his life.” (141). Clearly, there are many potential candidates for this deceased speaker in Finnegans Wake including, Finn Mc’Cool; H.C.E; the two headed Shem-Shaun; and shadowed behind these characters, Joyce himself. Alan Roughly notes how the conflation of Issy and Shem’s family home at Chapelizod plus Howth, where H.C.E.’s head is buried; gives rise to the place “Hothelizod” (Reading Derrida reading Joyce, 30). Hothelizod is where Jaun wishes to be continued like “thauthor”: Celtic heads laid to rest up-river from Dublin city.

Following in the tradition of the Book of the Dead, Joyce’s incantations in FW “draw on a vast magical, mythical, hymnic and ritual repertoire” that reflects contemporary Irish culture  (Youri Volokhine, Early Medicine, 530) . As Shem riley comments, “I’m beginning to get sunsick. I’m not half Norawain* for nothing” (3.2.452.35-36). Despite its dizzying effect, Egypt’s sun illuminates the cultural mix of FW. Alan Roughly flags the allusion to Isis in “Sissibis” (8), Jaun’s endearing address to his sister Issy (Reading Derrida reading Joyce, 30). Casting Jaun/Shaun as Osiris, Isis’s brother and husband. Also, Vico’s round and round road, recalls “the cyclical renewal through participation in the daily crossings of the heavens in the solar barge of the God Re” (Munro, 141).

Therefore “to be continued like thauthor” is not a gifting of immortality through the technology of the printing press, as in Shakespeare’s, “My love shall in my verse ever live young” (Sonnet 19, line 14). In FW love and verse are inherently palimpsests. “The Vico road goes round and round to meet where terms begin… Before there was patch at all on Ireland there lived a lord at Lucan.” (3.2.452.20-29).

Another palimpsest:

* Nora Wain. Norwegian and Nora, Joyce’s wife.

– Kind Shaun, we all requested   Leave a comment


Shaun vilifies Shem – Shaun in a barrel rolls downriver -Issy bids him fond farewell.

In the vilification of Shem, Shaun refers to Shem’s “root language” (424.17). It seems to be a compound noun, derived from Norse Mythology: “Ullhodturdenweirmudgaardgringringnirurdrmolnirfenrirlukkilokkibaugimandodrrerinsurtkrinmgrêrnrackinarockar!”

It ends with a phonetic version of Ragnarok (final destiny of the gods*). So, Shem’s is a root language that ends with destruction and regeneration.

*Simek, Rudolf (2007) translated by Angela Hall. Dictionary of Northern Mythology.