Saturday, 12 November 2016

OU – first impressions.

I've now done a substantial part of the reading for the first bit of this course, so it seems a good time to put some impressions down.

Firstly the set texts for the module, the first of which is the latest Cambridge University Press translation of Sophocles' Antigone, about which I can’t improve on my comment elsewhere, so apologies for the cut and paste:

‘I'm sure it's highly accurate and great for study, but for general reading - reading for pleasure - I would advise anyone to avoid. You'd barely know it was meant to be poetry and little emotion is coming through.’

I’m sure I read a Penguin translation before which was much more lively, but perhaps I shouldn't confuse things by reading it again; although there’s a fascinating line of study there I’m sure – different translations for different purposes and the tension between accuracy of meaning and accuracy of (for want of a better word) rhythm and effect.

The second text for the course is also Antigone, this time by Jean Anouilh, which has some substantial differences from Sophocles' version. The same things happen but the intentions and motivations are different. It’s also much more readable, the speech unstilted and the characters rounded.

From what I can glean from my secondary reading the idea of studying both versions is to explore something called intertextuality, which as a concept used to be called influence but isn’t anymore because that implies intention on the part of the first author, who wouldn’t actually have known about the later works and couldn’t have been trying to influence them.

Incidentally it has just taken me about a sentence to explain what it takes three pages for my textbook to tell me. I can't work out if it's showing off or just natural long-windedness, but sometimes the language makes me feel like I've accidentally wandered into a campus novel. Something from David Lodge’s early oeuvre, before he hit the 80s and started sending people into steelworks.  

Anouilh was good though (by which I mean I enjoyed reading it) and interesting in the historical context. I read it as a defence of pragmatism at first, but I’ve since learnt it was first performed in 1944 when France was occupied and now I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s more about however pragmatic you are the sky still falls, and you’ve lost all respect as well.

It also struck me that unless the Sophocles I read fell (or is destined to fall) through a wormhole back to 1943 there is no way it can be the version Jean Anouilh actually read before writing his own play. Even leaving aside the fact he would be far more likely to have read it in French or Greek.

Perhaps these are all the things I’m meant to be thinking about, but it still tickles me that I’m starting an English lit qualification with two books in translation.  

I also missed the first group tutorial (it’s fine, they’re not compulsory) because the email regarding it said Franklin-Wilkes building, Kings College, and it turned out to be at the LSE. Still there’s a good chip shop at Waterloo and I spent the intervening hour after work in Kensington library reading Post War World, so it wasn’t wasted (what do people who don’t read do with these inadvertent gaps and delays? Shop? Fret? Go for a coffee and rinse the wifi?).

I will go to at least one lecture or tutorial though. I want a nosy at the LSE if nothing else. I also have good reason for joining the British Library now, which is very tempting, although I think Kensington Reference will be my go to place for actual study. There’s something about the atmosphere of a proper library that slows the pulse and seeps into the pores and lends me focus. Also their desks are bigger than mine.

And now for some completely unrelated pictures from my trip to Greece.



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