2012 Late Summer Lectures

Lecture 1: ‘Textualist and Contextualist Readings of the Qur’ān: Towards a Middle Way’

– Aslam El-Soudani

The questions asked regarding how to understand the text (scripture), the context, and how to distinguish the universality of it and its particular application needs a systematic methodology that moves away from the premise of seeing the Qur’ān as purely a law book.

There has been a general inclination towards a method that takes verses in isolation, leading to an atomistic approach that is arguably inherited from the legal tradition. The legal tradition has perhaps also interpreted verses that may have not been legally intended, encouraging the perception that the Qur’ān is a legal book. This paper is one attempt to provide a systematic methodology in understanding the Qur’ān, hoping to bridge between the textualist and the contextualist methods by looking at two interconnected approaches: the semantic and the thematic.

 

Lecture 2: ‘Mirrors of Madness: Emotional Blindness, Narcissistic Doubling, and Paranoia in Nabokov’s Lolita (1955) and Pale Fire (1962)’

Sabine Ursula Mercer

One recent way of looking at Modernism has been through the concept of paranoia and how it influenced early Modernist writers. In this paper, I suggest that during the 1950s – the heyday of psychoanalytic therapy – the representation of paranoid minds in literature reflected a problem endemic in Western societies: delusion in fiction questioned the ontological basis of reality and mirrored the cultural obsession that gave rise to Freud and therapy.

Building on David Trotter’s idea of a connection between the increase in professionalisation and paranoia, I argue that Nabokov’s portrayal of narcissistic and paranoid minds implicitly critiques the tendency in Modernism to professionalize artists as well as art criticism. Humbert’s stylization of himself as a poet supplies a moral plane for his narcissistic obsession with ‘nymphets’, and, by turning himself into the victim of female demons, he seeks to exonerate his guilt; Kinbote superimposes his overweening escapist fantasy onto a dead man’s poem, which reduces any reality inside the text to paradoxical world(s); Zembla becomes a surrogate world for the outsider in America. An ironic gap opens up between life and artistic productivity, which questions the relationship between morality and aestheticism.

 

Lecture 3: ‘The Scribe’s Handbook: Scribal Practice, Writing and Literature in the Ancient World of the Bible’

– Lindsey Arielle Askin & Laura Elizabeth Quick

We will approach questions of writing and scribal education, what scribes believed about literature and languages, what it meant to be ‘literate’ in the ancient world, and what all this – along with discoveries gleaned from the compositional practices evidenced in the literary corpora of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Ancient Babylon, and at Ugarit – can tell us about the formation of the Bible. This discussion will be augmented by two case studies specifically relating to our current research.

Our first study will take a thematic approach, in which Laura Quick will present on scribal practices and their relation to literary representations of dreams in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern literature. Our second study, conducted by Lindsey Askin, will be more substantive, concerned with the scribal practice of Jesus ben Sira, a Jewish scribe and philosopher from the late third century BCE. We intend the lecture to be interactive and accessible to a wide range of ages, using lots of visuals and teaching aids about how to read ancient writing scripts and how to reconstruct Dead Sea Scrolls fragments. It is intended to provide a glimpse for the non-specialist of the changing face of current biblical scholarship through an account of the legacy of the ancient scribal world that helped define our Judeo-Christian Western culture today, and so to demonstrate how historical studies of scribal activity can offer a firmer, more empirical basis for understanding the formation of sacred literature.

 

Lecture 4: ‘Beauty, the Most Moral of All Values’

James Woodward

In 2011 the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan caused worldwide concern. This has led to questions being raised in Japan as to whether we have lost our way with technology and become discordant with nature. Somewhat earlier, in the early twentieth century, Martin Heidegger suggested that the battle between myth and reason (mythos and logos) had been won by the rational, and that the benefits of understanding our lives through myth would be lost.

Humanity has lost its love of beauty, and that this has had a moral impact upon our lives; beauty is far from being in the eye of the beholder. I will suggest that it is important that we consider re-evaluating the notion of beauty by way of aesthetic education as advocated by Friederich Schiller. By doing so we may create a sound moral basis and indeed, hope for the future of humanity.

 

Lecture 5: ‘Homer and History: The Mycenaean Roots of The Iliad

– George Gazis

This lecture is concerned with the problematic relationship between the great Homeric epic The Iliad and any actual historic events that might have taken place in the Greek Bronze Age. My main focus will be the examination of those elements of The Iliad that can be safely traced back in the Mycenaean era, followed by a discussion of the implications created regarding any historical perceptions of the epic.

It will be the aim of this lecture to explore the historic amalgam that The Iliad presents, and to try to separate and examine the Mycenaean elements in the text, starting with the more obvious aspects and gradually moving to those that are most difficult to identify. The lecture is intended to rouse the interest of a non-specialist audience in the Homeric epics, the early civilisations of the Greek Bronze Age, and the mysteries their texts still pose for classicists and archaeologists alike.

 

Lecture 6: ‘Rock Rolls Over the World: France, Italy, Germany, and Greece’

– Maria Kouvarou

For the past few decades it seems that the whole world has shared a common popular music, and that each country creates music which is based on the same musical idioms as other countries, most commonly Britain and the United States. Although some might argue that popular music is globalised, and that a great deal of ‘international’ popular music today is merely an imitation of the pop music from the UK and the USA, the two centres mentioned above, I will try to present a different version of the story.

In doing this, I aim to critically reflect on a phenomenon which is often taken for granted: the ʽcommon internationalʼ popular music of today, which, instead, may be seen as many ʽdifferent nationalʼ appropriations of the same musical idioms, used differently in each country in both musical and ideological terms. Such a discussion should interest people of various backgrounds and interests, as popular music is now a medium through which we constantly live our lives.

 

Lecture 7: ‘Magical Miracles and Northern Legends’

A joint presentation, comprised of two shorter lectures:

(1) ‘Miraculous Perfection: The Supernatural in Hagiography and Romance

– Natalie Jayne Moore

The idea of spiritual perfection pervaded two of the most popular genres of Medieval English literature: hagiography, the stories of saints’ lives, and romance, tales centred around knights and courtly values. Saints’ lives focus on the extreme piety and holiness of the saint, often characterized in numerous and surprising miracles; however, miracles were not only confined to hagiography, but also percolated the secular genre of romance, most memorably in the Quest for the Holy Grail. Miracles not only validated the holiness of the saint, but also fostered the spiritual perfection of the knight. This paper will examine how miracles in hagiography and romance serve to demonstrate and further spiritual perfection.

(2) ‘Legends of the North’

– Meghan Glass 

Stories from the Medieval period in England include a number of legendary characters; from Arthur to Robin Hood, some names have lasted throughout the ages and live on in popular memory. There are, however, some epic heroes who have disappeared from popular culture entirely. Champions such as King Horn and Havelok the Dane, two very strong Northern characters of English fictional history, have all but vanished from our understanding of the past, and it is time we resurrected them.

The story of King Horn takes place in the fictional lands of Sudenne and Westernesse, which some scholars claim are really the lands north of Carlisle that follow the Cheviot Hills of Northumbria all the way to the coast of Berwick-upon-Tweed, and the Isle of Man, respectively. Havelok the Dane’s story similarly situates itself in the Northern parts of England around the town of Grimsby in Yorkshire; in fact, the tale of Havelok provides readers with the legend of the founding of the city, including a tale of its namesake Grim (who is Havelok’s adopted father). These early medieval romances give insight into the ways of life of Northern Englishmen during the medieval period. It is hoped that this lecture may help the local population better familiarise themselves with their own local legends and histories, and will give some insight into how far back some of the traditions in the region truly span.

 

Lecture 8: ‘The Changing Face of Collection in Folk Music: A Short Lecture in Ethnomusicology’

– Elise Gayraud

Personal collections held by folk musicians themselves were not intended to be published, nor were they always classical transcriptions of tunes with details on ornamentation or fiddle techniques; all that was recorded were short or basic reminders for musicians who already knew the tunes or callers who regularly called the dances. Since these are personal records, personal compositions frequently are included in the collections, most of them composed ‘in a traditional style’, as many interviewees like to describe it.

A modern way of making these collections available to a wider audience is to share them on the internet. The potential of this new medium as a sharing device has been widely studied, and has been used in the case of folk resources. Some examples of this are the creation of databases of more or less accurate transcriptions of tunes on ABC form or sheet music, and the use of video-sharing websites to share videos of dances or recordings of different versions of tunes. This short lecture intends to explore and place in perspective the evolution of collections of folk heritage.

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