Archive for the ‘rivers: trope, chronotope, objective correlative.’ Category

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

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).

Technical Problems   Leave a comment

I went to the Finnegans Wake Reading Group in Zurich again last Thursday. It was good to spend an hour close reading with this group, numbering musicians, artists, neurologists and dancers – for many of whom Joyce is a muse. The imposing new Houyhnhnm Press edition of FW was passed around too and we admired the tome.

Back at the James Joyce Foundation on the Friday, I read Northrop Frye’s chapter, “Cycle and Apocalypse” in Vico and Joyce. On page five, Frye proposes that the Wake’s 4 sections correspond to Vico’s four cyclical phases of history. Hence:

Section 1 chapters 1-8 = mythical poetic period. (Legend and myths of the gods)

Section 2 chapters 1-4 = aristocratic phase.

Section 3 chapters 1-4 = demotic phase.

Final chapter = ricorso.

Frye asserts that “there is little evidence that the mature Joyce read technical philosophy with any patience or persistence – not even Heraclitus, who could have given him most of what he needed of the philosophy of polarity in a couple of aphorisms.” (5)  This is interesting given how the “riverrun” gushes right through the Wake.

Frye goes on to state that time for Vico is cyclical, but within a spatial metaphor; but that Bruno devised a new conception of space where “subject-object confrontation dissolves back into a temporal flux.Which makes for quite a folded and refolded image…(N.B. Joyce was interested in polarity due to Giorgano Bruno’s writings (5)).

My other reading last Friday included Joyce’s children’s story, The Cat and the Devil; and Alison Armstrong’s recipe book, The Joyce of Cooking. Consequently, this Christmas we will be delighting in “Combustible Duck”, as inspired by Ulysses (175).

I do hope I manage some more reading between now and then, but my mini disk player has conked out at the moment…

Please, check back here soon for more installments.

The Big Bear bit the Sailor’s Only.   Leave a comment

(267.22- 274.27)

In this passage all directions are whispered; all section “headings” are read loudly; and the footnotes are read all together at the end!

I’m fazed by this chapter. It is hard. The format reminds me of Ponge’s text La Seine, with the text flowing between wide white margins. And the italicised and the capitalised texts that crop up on the right and left hand sides of the page respectively, seem to bend the flow and direction of the central prose in unexpected ways. And then there are the foot notes: do they bob in front of the main current? Or are they underneath it – in another world?

After stories about trees on Friday, I’m now researching stories about snow, for a Pro Natura storytelling session in December. Today, I tried looking in Peter Berresford Ellis’s Celtic Myths and Legends for snow: nothing there so far. However Ellis’s introduction taught me more about about the Celts, their rivers, wakes, and metempsychosis:

“Death is never the conqueror…the ancient Celts were one of the first cultures to evolve a sophisticated doctrine of the immortality of the soul, in a form of reincarnation… The Celts taught that death is only a change of place and that life goes on, with all its forms and goods, in the Otherworld and when a soul dies in the Otherworld, it is reborn in this one. Thus birth was greeted with mourning and death with exaltation and celebration.” (19-20)

Ellis goes on to say:

“It is important to remember that, for the ancient Celts the soul reposed in the head… Sometimes the heads were placed in sanctuaries, or more often, were placed in the sacred Celtic rivers as votive offerings.” (20)

Finnegans Wake, isn’t it both head and river?

Water words   Leave a comment

Here is David Wheatley’s comparison of Alice Oswald’s and James Joyce’s wording of water.

And here is Alice Oswald’s article about the metrical meaning of language.

Washerwomen   Leave a comment

Chapter VIII Anna Livia Plurabella -Gossip of two washerwomen on the banks of the Liffy


As I was reading this extract, I remembered that I once worked in a laundry. I was a towel folder.  I even waded across a river to get to the laundry sometimes. And there was an Irish woman called Norah. She had false teeth and would flick them in and out as she counted the towels, checking they were clean and piled up in stacks of 10. She didn’t say much actually. But, I  remember an expletive filled conversation with a Kendalian women who worked the sheet roller machine. She said she always gave the best cuts of meat to her dog and never to her husband; and that I shouldn’t sit on the ground or I’d get piles.

Thinking about language and gender more formally, Stephen Fry interviews Professor Deborah Cameron on the subject of language and the gender divide here

The blurb for Fry’s English Delight quotes Cameron as writing,

“The idea that men and women differ fundamentally in the way they use language to communicate is a myth in the everyday sense: a widespread but false belief. But it is also a myth in the sense of being a story people tell in order to explain who they are, where they have come from, and why they live as they do”.

See also: Hyde data (Gender differences in verbal/ communicative behaviour)

(-d women predominate; +d men predominate)