Re-imaginings of myth in the landscapes of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ (Part II)

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 28 June

12.00-1.30pm in Room NTC.2.06

Robert William Allen (member of the Centre for Myth Studies)

We are very pleased to announce that Robert William Allen concludes our discussion of Trees & Forests this term with a session on Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles (Part II)

TessImage

‘Tess flung herself upon the undergrowth of rustling spear-grass as upon a bed’: Illustration by E. Borough Johnson published in the serial issue of Tess of D’Urbervilles in The Graphic  (1891), in The Victorian Web

In this meeting of the Myth Reading Group, we will continue our discussion of the ways in which Hardy incorporates elements of myth into his novel, paying particular attention to his figuration of landscape.

In Part I, we considered selected extracts from Tess of the D’Urbervilles [final part of Ch.X (from ‘Tess was indignant…’) & Ch. XI], Ovid’s account of the rape of Proserpina in the Metamorphoses (Book V, ll. 512 – 615), and Ted Hughes’ version of the passage in his Tales from Ovid [pp. 56-57]. Further reading from Hardy’s novel included Chapters XLVII & XLVIII.

In Part II, we will consider extracts from D. H. Lawrence’s ‘The Lost Girl’ [full text on the Project Gutenberg] and ‘Bavarian Gentians’ [available on the Representative Poetry Online site].

ALL WELCOME

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Odysseus, Penelope and the olive-tree bed of Odyssey 23

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 21 June

12.00-1.30pm in Room NTC.2.06

Dr Emma Bridges (Institute of Classical Studies, London)

We are delighted to welcome Dr Emma Bridges (Public Engagement Fellow at the Institute of Classical Studies) to the Centre for Myth Studies. Emma will continue our discussion of Trees & Forests with a session on the olive-tree bed in the Odyssey.

In this session of the Myth Reading Group, we will begin by considering a scene from Book 23 of Homer’s Odyssey, focusing on the bed which was carved by Odysseus from an olive tree. The tree is a key element of the narrative of Penelope and Odysseus’ reunion after the hero’s return to Ithaca and has symbolic status both at the centre of his household and in the poem as a whole.

We will also consider two poetic receptions of this scene, Jehanne Dubrow’s ‘The Rooted Bed’, from her poetic collection Stateside (Northwestern University Press, 2010), and Kim Lasky’s ‘The Bed That is a Tree’ (published originally in Agenda magazine in 2011).

The text of Odyssey 23.172-232 will be taken from Emily Wilson’s 2017 translation published by Norton.

For artwork related to the olive-tree bed [brought to our attention by Dr Isabella Streffen], see Geraldine Pilgrim‘s 2007 installation, Dreams of a Winter Night, commissioned by English Heritage as part of the Picture House Exhibition at Belsay Hall, Northumberland, & her latest installation: Their Most Obedient Servant (2018) [at Harewood House, Yorkshire, until 2 September 2018].

 

ALL WELCOME

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Yggdrasil: from Norse Mythology to Anselm Kiefer’s art works

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 14 June

12.00-1.30pm in Room 4.204

Gillian Lock-Bowen (member of the Centre for Myth Studies)

We are very pleased to announce that Gillian Lock-Bowen continues our Summer term discussion of Trees & Forests with a session on Yggdrasil

Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer, Yggdrasil (1980), drawing, photograph,
82.6 x 58.7 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

In this session we will consider Yggdrasil as an archetype World Tree and Tree of Life – Axis Mundi and Sacred Tree as translated from ancient Scandinavian oral traditions into the thirteenth-century Poetic and Prose Eddas.

A brief overview of other ancient Axis Mundi and Tree of Life narratives will widen the framework for our discussion of Kiefer’s works and mythological & religious concepts relevant to twentieth-century Germany.

To conclude we will review significant characteristics of trees which render them effective devices for communicating multi-layered narratives even in the face of a crisis of representation.

Set texts:

H. R. Ellis Davidson, “The Beginning and the End”, in Gods and Myths in Northern Europe, London: Penguin, 1964, pp. 190-195.

Extracts from Michael Auping, Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth, London: Prestel, 2006.

Optional sources:

Anselm Kiefer: artworks & exhibitions at Tate Gallery

Anselm Kiefer: Remembering the Future, Part 1/5 of BBC Imagine… , Winter 2014 Arts series presented by Alan Yentob [available on Youtube]

ALL WELCOME

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The Significance of Trees in Japanese Culture, Religion, and Folklore

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 7 June

12.00-1.30pm in Room 4.204

Amelia Starling (Senior Editor for Folklore Thursday)

We are delighted to welcome Amelia Starling (Senior Editor for Folklore Thursday) to the Centre for Myth Studies. Amelia continues our discussion of Trees & Forests with a session on the significance of trees in Japanese mythology and culture

Fukusa

Fukusa (type of Japanese cloth used for gift wrapping) embroidered with Jo and Uba beneath a pine branch, early nineteenth century, Wikimedia

In Japanese mythology, trees can be home to kami (Shinto deities) and spirits of nature. Pine trees in particular are greatly revered, due to the classical Noh play entitled ‘Takasago.’ Behind this play are the legends of Takasago Shrine and the pine tree lovers, whose spirits are said to reside in the trees to this day. But who were they – human, or kami? In her book entitled Japanese Fairy Tales, Grace James’s story ‘The Wind in the Pine Tree’ offers an insight into this mysterious world of love and magic, where the Takasago pine stands on the periphery of the living and the dead; of the natural and the supernatural. In this session we will explore the layers of stories around ‘Takasago’ and pine trees, from ‘The Wind in the Pine Tree’ and the variation ‘The Pine-Tree Lovers’ recorded by F. Hadland Davis in Myths and Legends of Japan, to the Noh play and the Shinto kami legends it descended from.

For more on Noh theatre, Shinto traditions, and Takasago pines, see Amelia’s article published on our blog earlier this year.

Set texts:

Grace James’s ‘The Wind in the Pine Tree’, in Japanese Fairy Tales, ([1912] 1996). London: Senate (imprint of Random House UK Ltd.), pp. 101-107.

Extract about the Takasago Noh play, taken from Myths and Legends of Japan by F. Hadland Davis pp. 186-187 [full text available on Project Gutenberg]

ALL WELCOME

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Civilised garden or fantastical wilderness?: the ‘Garden Room’ in the Villa of Livia in Rome

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 31 May

12.00-1.30pm in Room 4.204

Abigail Walker (King’s College, London)

We are delighted to welcome Abigail Walker (Department of Classics, King’s College London) to the Centre for Myth Studies. Abigail will continue our discussion of Trees & Forests with a session on the so-called ‘Garden Room’ from a first-century BCE Roman villa found in the suburban region of Prima Porta

Photo for website

Detail of the ‘Garden Room’ frescos, Southern wall, in the Villa di Livia, Prima Porta, Italy [Wikimedia Commons]

In the session we will reconsider the horticultural interpretations that have given this room its modern name and explore a rather more fantastical reading of the depicted trees and forests. We will discuss the other-worldly experience of nature that the ‘Garden Room’ and its frescoes offer the viewer, transporting them into a mythological panorama, a fantastical forest of metamorphic narratives and wilderness, blooming untamed by civilisation.

Suggested reading: Bergmann, B. (1992) ‘Exploring the grove: Pastoral space on Roman walls’ in J.D. Hunt (ed.) The Pastoral Landscape: Studies in History of Art, 36, Washington, 21-46.

Images of Villa di Livia ‘Garden Room’ frescos are available on Wikimedia Commons

ALL WELCOME

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‘The Battle of the Trees’: from medieval Welsh legend to modern fantasy

Video Conference Myth Reading Group

Thursday 24 May

12.00-1.30pm in Room EBS.1.1

Dr Dimitra Fimi (Cardiff Metropolitan University)

We are delighted to welcome Dr Dimitra Fimi to the Centre for Myth Studies for a Video Conference session of the Myth Reading Group on ‘The Battle of the Trees’ 

Darkhenge

Cover image of Catherine Fisher’s Darkhenge (2005)

In this session we will first discuss the Welsh poem Cad Goddau (“The Battle of the Trees”) found in the 14th-century Book of Taliesin, in which trees and shrubs march to war. We will explore the ways in which the poem was later appropriated by Robert Graves in The White Goddess (first published in 1948), and from there how modern fantasy texts used motifs and ideas of this enigmatic text, with a main focus on Catherine Fisher’s fantasy novel Darkhenge (2005).

 

Set texts:

1. “The Battle of the Trees” from The Book of Taliesin – translation available on the Ancient Texts website

2. Extracts from Catherine Fisher’s Darkhenge (2005)

ALL WELCOME

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‘No roses, white nor red, Glow here’: the motif of the garden in the poetry of A. Swinburne & D. Greenwell

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 17 May

12.00-1.30pm in Room 4.204

We are very pleased to announce that Cristina Salcedo González (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) continues our Summer term discussion of Trees & Forests with a session on the motif of the garden in poems by A. Swinburne & D. Greenwell

UnderworldGarden

Underworld Garden” by Fanta Bunny (June 23, 2015) on Pinterest

In this meeting of the Myth Reading Group, we will discuss Algernon Swinburne’s and Dora Greenwell’s engagement with the myth of Persephone through an analysis of the motif of the garden, which takes central stage in both accounts. In the session we will consider how the authors’ outlined images of the garden challenge the dominant representation of the motif  within Western literary tradition, offering a re-interpretation of the myth as social commentary.

Readings include A. Swinburne’s “The Garden of Proserpine” (1866) and D. Greenwell’s “The Garden of Proserpine” (1869) [set texts], and “Hymn to Proserpine (After the Proclamation in Rome of the Christian Faith)” (1866) by A. Swinburne, & “Demeter and Cora” (1876) by D. Greenwell [further reading].

ALL WELCOME

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