Forgive the long absence and expect a snow-flurry of new posts as I, like many other British academics, stir and unfurl now towards the end of term—and what a delicious term it has been, I hope, for all. The texts I have taught this semester have been scintillating, challenging, velvety, and baffling; in ‘Experimental Writing’ I have had the pleasure of revisiting Sterne, Tristram Shandy—Nabokov, Pale Fire—Joyce, Finnegans Wake—Perec, A Void (trans. Adair); for my survey poetry course, it has been a delight to introduce students to Postmodern American Poetry from Black Mountain to Flarf and everything in between (I use the excellent Hoover anthology by Norton and await its new, imminent edition.) For our editing course (which I teach with colleague and co-editor of Indent, Paul Houghton) it has been an indulgent close read of Burgess, Clockwork Orange, Paul Auster’s translations (from French) and Bernadette Mayer’s acrobatic defiance of genre. A new ‘Beat Writing’ course has featured Ginsberg, “Kaddish”—Burroughs, Soft Machine, and the slightly obligatory (but beautifully syncopated) Kerouac, On the Road. I think all of us who teach literature dread, from time to time, the recurrence of a particular text that has, for whatever reason, sucked away the last drips of your enthusiasm and soul (I still cringe at the now-fading memory of teaching Dickens, Hard Times every year from 2008-2011 on a undergraduate Lit course) but, this year, while I leant mid-term against a damp flank Stoke-on-Trent’s iconic Flaxman building, I ruminated over the ‘gorgeous gorgostiy’ of these books over a similarly damp cigarette. Am I really lecturing on Clockwork Orange, Soft Machine and Finnegans wake this week? I have the best job in the world…
I have had the enormous privilege to meet and work with two electrifying visiting writers and academics. Prof. Dick Ellis, from Birmingham U, bestowed us with kindness and virtuosic knowledge in our ‘Beat Writing’ course. Aside from his significant writings on Beats, and American and African-American writing, he was Curator of the Jack Kerouac –Back on the Road exhibition at Birmingham’s Barber Institute back in 2008/9—(and how I met Prof. Ellis for the first time). You can listen to and watch him speak about Kerouac here (cascade ‘biography’ for media links).
Our second visitor was Reality Street novelist, Sean Pemberton, who has a new novel, White (November, 2012). He generously shared with us his admiration of the proto-modernist, T.E. Hulme (prior to Sean’s mention of it, I was unaware of Hulme’s Staffordshire connection to Gratton Hall, Endon) in addition to a sincere and passionate account of his process and practice as a writer. White traverses open field sections and more traditional prose-lineation effortlessly as readers of this text are invited to wander the bombardment of language thrust outward from the city without, as Sean puts it, manipulation on the part of the author. This makes for a formally innovative text that is democratic in its involvement of the reader. Read as sample for yourself here (or buy a whole copy, which I advise you all to do) and visit (and follow) his blog here (a fellow word-presser).
Opportunity arose to write a new course this year. Naturally, my interest in visual poetry verging on the concrete led to the writing of ‘Visual Poetry/Text-Art’ which adds to my list of sexy literature: Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience, and Tom Phillips, A Humument. (There is a scrumptious app for this text, for the apple-minded ). I recalled (nostalgically) too my encounters with Dr. Julia Thomas when I was a student at Cardiff U and how much her research on the relation between text and image in Blake, Beecher-Stowe, and Dickens inspired me. Her work on the digitization of Mid-Victorian wood-engraved illustrations is triumphant and indispensable for those interested in text-image studies. A good dose of semiotics accompanies this new course and I look forward to return once again to Barthes, who perhaps led my foray into critical theory. The new course will open in September 2013 for English Lit, Creative Writing, and (I am ridiculously excited about this…) Comic Arts undergraduates.
Blake “The Sick Rose” in Songs of Innocence and Experience (Wiki Media)