RAE 2008: The waiting is over 
Thursday, December 18, 2008, 09:10 PM
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Although we had some sense of how the Department had done yesterday, it wasn’t until today that we were able to see how English at Anglia Ruskin had fared in comparison to other universities.

So first thing this morning I downloaded the full set of results and bored my husband by going through the whole list going ‘ooh we’ve done better than x,y and z’, a process which took a cheerfully long time.

But although it’s nice to be in the top half of the league table (based on the ‘grade point average’ of our submitted research outputs) it won’t be clear for some time how these scores will translate into actual funding.

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Yet another mystery Latin poem 
Saturday, December 6, 2008, 06:57 AM
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I think I can say with some confidence that my Mystery neo-Latin Poem quiz has proved the least visited entry on this site. But I couldn’t resist this more recent example of neo-Latin –it’s a translation rather than an original poem, but of what?

Ad fucum in vultum eius intuebantur
Ad crinem nigrem ridebant, et lepotem animalem
Puer in caerulea toga
In scaenam salivit
Domina Sidorum cantus canebat
Tenebrarum infamiamque
Etenim iucundus erat, chorusque simul erant
Etenim iucundus erat, cantus in aeternum durabat
Vero amoenissimus erat
Vere spectaculum
In cantu pernoctabat

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Nice work if you can get it: Eros in Montpellier 
Sunday, November 30, 2008, 05:57 PM
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Alex recently enjoyed a week long business trip to Jeju island, Korea’s top honeymoon destination. Jeju’s attractions include Loveland, a sex theme park or, for more timid newly weds, a museum devoted to displays of teddy bears enacting scenes from famous paintings. But now I’ve had my revenge, having spent four days at Eros, an erotic mythology conference in Montpellier. We enjoyed many stimulating and suggestive papers – but I’ll just pick out a few of my favourites.

I’d never really paid much attention to Cupid – I’d always thought of him as a rather static, emblematic figure (by contrast with say Actaeon or Pygmalion). However two papers offered fascinating insights into his representation and function in early modern literature. Andy Kesson gave an extremely assured and entertaining paper on Cupid – ‘Cupid, what hast thou done? The Career of the God of Love in Lyly’s plays’, and Jane Kingsley-Smith gave a fascinating presentation on Cupid within the (edgily erotic) context of early modern child rearing, ‘Cupid, Infantilism and Maternal Desire on the Early Modern Stage.

Laetitia Sansonetti’s paper, ‘Interpreting Desire in Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis’, addressed the (vexed) question of how far early modern writers and audiences imported the full context of an allusion’s source into the derived text, negotiating the opposed positions of Martindale and Bate with sophistication and aplomb.

I also particularly enjoyed Marguerite Tassi’s compelling reading of Macbeth, ‘Enraptured by Images: Eros, Myth and Violence in Shakespeare’ – a paper which built on her 2004 monograph The Scandal of Images: Iconoclasm, Criticism, and Painting in Early Modern English Drama.

Agnes Lafont, Eros’s déesse tutélaire, together with her colleagues, made us all feel extremely welcome – we were taken on a private evening tour of the Musée Fabre and treated to a splendid conference dinner at the Brasserie du Théâtre.

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Children of Peace: Send a Parcel to Bethlehem 
Friday, November 21, 2008, 06:40 PM
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Just a quick entry to publicise this very worthwhile charity’s seasonal appeal ...
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Return of the Vampires: Stephanie Meyer's Breaking Dawn 
Sunday, November 16, 2008, 03:57 PM
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I’ve just finished Breaking Dawn, the last (so far) of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight novels. (See recent post below.) It’s been fascinating reading about the flack Meyer’s been getting from all sides. Some have criticised the series from a broadly feminist perspective for making its heroine, Bella, so passive, unambitious and adoring (of the vampire hero Edward). The same readers often also object to the perceived anti-abortion slant of Breaking Dawn.

Others think the novel is perverse and immoral including some of Meyer’s fellow Mormons. The most sensible criticisms of Breaking Dawn I’ve read focus on its wish fulfilment excesses – Bella ends up with the perfect husband, perfect child, super nice in-laws, not to mention a huge walk in wardrobe stuffed full of designer outfits.

I haven’t waded through all the 3,000 or so comments which have been posted on amazon.com. But none of the comments/reviews I’ve read so far have said anything about what was, for me, the series’ genuine surprise ending. Bella has always wanted to be a vampire. The saintly Edward didn’t want her to face the perils involved in the transformation. The ‘will she, won’t she’ puzzle drove the opening books of the series. Now I’d assumed that Bella would stay human, and thought that perhaps Edward and the other ‘good’ vampires would be allowed to regain human form.

But Bella gets her wish and becomes a vampire. This is presented as an almost unequivocally positive outcome. Bella loses her trademark clumsiness, gains special powers which make her a kind of übervampire, becomes ten times more beautiful, practically indestructible and pretty much immortal. And there is no penalty – she and the ‘good’ vampires survive on the blood of wild animals and never harm humans.

I thought this was quite an audacious solution to the lovers’ dilemma – and, although I can see the case for feminist objections to some aspects of the series , it was at least nice that Bella was allowed to have it all and not (despite some trials along the way) be punished by the text for her rather transgressive desires. Given the nature of Bella’s wishes the ‘wish fulfilment’ fantasies provided by Breaking Dawn’s conclusion are really quite subversive.

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