“In Other Motes, of Other Myths”: Emily Dickinson and the Responsive Body – Disruption, Interruption and Timing
This session begins with a day-long workshop. Sally Bayley, Nicole Panizza, Suzie Hanna and Hannah Sanders will work with the audience to create new ‘experimental readings’ of Dickinson’s work by merging fragments of selected poems with lyrics from various songs found in her piano bench. Featured material will consist of textual fragments that exist in direct sympathy with and reference to the envelope poems featured in Bervin, Werner and Howe’s The Gorgeous Nothings. This will be followed by a c. 30 minute performance featuring musical performance and video projection: an exploration of the various ways in which live performance can develop and accommodate fragmented and disrupted motifs.
“Passages of the Soul”: Writing the Self in the Fiction of Marilynne Robinson
Little is known about the ways that Pulitzer prize-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson writes her fiction, except that she does it quickly, in long hand, dressed in comfortable clothes. In her novels Housekeeping and Gilead, however, Robinson explores turning the practices of thought and feeling into language by reinterpreting the tradition of the spiritual autobiography. Her first-person narrators, especially the Reverend John Ames in Gilead, wrestle with how to express their felt life in written form. Ames uses prayer, meditation, the parable, reflection, repetition, sermon-writing, the diary and the letter form to help him express his feelings about dying and leaving his young son. Led by Lucy Clarke, this half day workshop will look at the ways that Robinson’s characters – Ames in particular – present the uneven and never complete ‘passage of the soul’ in writing. Looking at passages from the novels and illustrative extracts from the Bible and some of the spiritual autobiographies that may have influenced Robinson, we will explore the many ways fiction allows for the writing of the soul and the self.
Keeping Miss Jan in Check: Virginia Woolf and the Gauche Art of the Diary
Sally Bayley will explore the art of the diary as a form of coming of age story. Beginning with one of the world’s great diarists, Virginia Woolf, Sally will look at forms of juvenile coming of age in the early journals of Virginia Woolf. Working with draft manuscripts of Woolf’s diaries and novels and family photographs, Sally will show how the diary form produces gauche and playful forms of experimental voice in Woolf’s early diary personae, Miss Jan. Her session will include aspects of performance.
“Show Us Who You Are”: The Role of Social Media in Creating Personal Identity
Many people in the world use social media as a public personal diary. Individuals narrate their lives, reveal personal details, promote themselves and even talk to themselves. Anyone can be a public raconteur. Some even become viral raconteurs. In the session, led by Catalina Gaya, we will reflect on the different types of narratives that are used in the world of social media and how people play with their own identities.
“I Sing the Body Electric”: Walt Whitman and Alternative Composition
‘I Sing The Body Electric’ is the title of a poem by nineteenth century poet Walt Whitman, whose ground breaking and radical poetics sought to channel the dynamic energies and voices of a rapidly transforming the United States. Led by Andy Green, this session will explore alternative composition techniques that take story collection and oral history as the creative starting point for generating better social understanding and creative compositions. Taking examples of poetry, oral history, notebooks and music, the session is intended as a practical and informal session that will be useful for anyone interested in new approaches to research, performance and/or art forms based in story-finding and sharing.
Shakespeare’s Sonnets and the Thomas More Manuscript
Jonathan Bate will lead a half-day session on Shakespeare’s Sonnets, with a brief excursion on the Thomas More manuscript. Alas, we have only one surviving manuscript by Shakespeare: his contribution to the multi-authored play of Sir Thomas More. We will begin with a close reading of this, to get a sense of Shakespeare’s compositional process. We will then explore the evolution of the Sonnets, focusing particular on those that exist in different versions: as well as the famous gathering of 154 sonnets in the 1609 edition, a couple appeared in his play Love’s Labour’s Lost and some in a collection called The Passionate Pilgrim; a couple of others survive, in fascinatingly varied versions, in manuscripts copied by early seventeenth-century poetry lovers. We will also see what happened to the Sonnets when they were reprinted in 1640 with titles for each poem.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Notebooks and Revisions
Jonathan Bate will lead a half-day session on Coleridge’s notebooks and poetic revisions. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s notebooks are the richest and most revelatory of any English writer. We will delve into them. We will also explore the process of drafting and revising of three of his greatest poems: “Kubla Khan”, “The Ancient Mariner”, and “Rejection”.
Ted Hughes: Drafts and Notebooks
Jonathan Bate will lead a half-day session, in which participants will explore Ted Hughes’s notebooks and poetry drafts. Many of Hughes’ poems went through dozens of drafts — sometimes there are a hundred pages of drafts for a single poem (though we won’t look at all of these!). We will look at the process whereby some of his greatest poems, such as “The Thought Fox” and “Hawk Roosting” came into being. We will also look at the thirty year process of bringing Birthday Letters into being — this will involve us in discussion of his relationship with Sylvia Plath and the way that their poems enter into dialogue with each other.
“Look in Thy Heart and Write”: Shakespeare’s Emotionally Explosive Diarising
Shakespeare’s sonnets, like those of his models, were lyric expressions of obsessive love. Slaves to passion, these writers’ physical selves were as tortured as their emotional selves, and they turned pen to paper to explore, with aching self-awareness, their erotic relationships – requited or otherwise. Julie Sutherland will examine Shakespeare’s kaleidoscopic method of exploring his speaker’s feelings and observations about relationships – real or imagined. The session will consider Shakespeare’s fixation on both the poem and the beloved(s) as works of art, as well as the preoccupation with technique that was evident in his lyric verse. Above all, the session will showcase the spectrum of emotions that Shakespeare’s speaker experienced as a lover of, at least, one woman and one man. Through a close analysis of a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets, which will include hands-on interpretive work and the appraisal of sonnets in performance, participants will gain confidence in understanding how Shakespeare used the tightly controlled sonnet form as a method of emotionally explosive diarising.
Wordsworth and Coleridge: Romantic Revisions and Revisitings
Tom MacFaul’s session will examine the revisions made to their poems by two of the greatest English Romantic poets, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, considering how such revisions fit in with the poets’ preoccupation with other kinds of revisitings—to places, to people. We will consider the changes made to such poems as ‘The Ruined Cottage’ and ‘Frost at Midnight’, and the ways in which the poets used printed versions of their books in making their revisions.
“Struggles for Liberty”: Tracing the Body, Memory and History in Nineteenth-Century African American Writings and Visual Cultures
This interdisciplinary session led by Celeste-Marie Bernier will look at the letters, photographs, sculpture, and paintings written and created by enslaved and free Black authors, activists and artists living in the nineteenth century United States. They engaged in a lifelong war not only for physical but for psychological, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, imaginative and creative freedoms. As one self-emancipated revolutionary and writer, Sojourner Truth described it, “Now the war has begun!” Language, as all these writers, philosophers, painters, and photographs demonstrate, is a tool of liberation.
Stevie Smith: Characters Captured in Time
Filmmaker Professor Suzie Hanna has been animating the drawings of English poet Stevie Smith, with particular reference to her character stereotypes and the way that male and female aspirations and relationships are explored and expressed in her poetry. This session will focus on connecting the Poet’s textual and illustrative vision, and will include a hands-on character development workshop.
“White Godiva I unpeel”: Sylvia Plath’s Drama of Poetic Revisioning
Sally Bayley will explore the elaborate life on paper of poet Sylvia Plath. Working with archival manuscripts (from The Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College), Sally will draw participants into the dramatic redrafting process of Plath’s writing life. Beginning with the well known poem, ‘Lady Lazarus’ from her Ariel collection, Sally will move to the complex and multi-layered drafts of Plath’s 1962 summer poem, ‘Berck-Plage’. Plath’s life on paper is one of call and response: with the work of her husband Ted Hughes and with a long literary tradition. ‘Berck-Plage’ is in direct conversation with the drafts of Ted Hughes’s lost play, ‘The Calm’, whose dramatic remnants survive only on the back of Plath’s manuscripts. The poem plays with several forms of monologue, film stills and photographs. Sally will encourage a response to Plath’s poem that draws from the form and language of photography, film stills and dramaturgy. Over the course of this day-long workshop, Sally will work with Ted Hughes scholar, Jonathan Bate, and course-participants, to create a voice-piece that brings to life the buried layers of Plath’s several poetic personae.