le plus loin le plus serré

le plus loin le plus serré
mourning art

in memoriam

"yet I tell you, from the sad knowledge of my older experience, that to every one of you a day will most likely come when sunshine, hope, presents and pleasure will be worth nothing to you in comparison with the unattainable gift of your mother's kiss." (Christina Rossetti, "Speaking Likenesses," 1873)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Project Revue!

As part of my PhD program, I have to do this Project. It is a big ole project, in place of comprehensive exams. I have set an impossible reading list for myself (301 titles altogether, fiction and critical).

This past week - my spring break - I made it through four novels. Brief review of the four:

King Solomon's Mines (H. Rider Haggard). Somehow, I'd never read this before, though I've read so much critical work on it and other empire texts that I might as well have. Definitely terrible! but interestingly homoerotic - so much time spent describing the massive mighty bodies of the Kukuanas and Sir Henry, not to mention the beautiful white legs of Captain Good. I had quite a hard time reading about the slaughter of animals - elephants and sable antelope. 10,000 "savages" get killed off, too, after the white folk stir up a coup. Glad I read it, glad it's done.

Swallows and Amazons (Arthur Ransome). I had high hopes for this one, not sure why. I enjoyed reading it, but didn't love it - the sailing talk just bored me. And I don't know a halyard from a belaying pin, so I was lost for a lot of the techincal passages (and golly, there were a lot of them. Moby-Dick for the early 20th century child reader!). I DID appreciate the lack of sentimentality and nostalgia in the book; the kids are presented on their own terms, no condescension, no nostalgia. Highly unlikely I'll read the whole series of Swallows and Amazons books anytime soon - I can wait - but I wouldn't mind checking them out during some summer vacation. Made me want to go to camping near a lake.

The House of Arden (E. Nesbit). One of the few Nesbit texts I HAVEN'T read, this one was pretty good and strange and wondrous. I didn't love it as much as I loved the Psammead books, but it was still quite good. The names of the children - Edred and Elfrida - were sort of off-putting, but this was still classic Nesbit, and therefore better than most books written for anyone.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Orczy). I don't know why I put this on my reading list, except it seemed important. I wish someone had stopped me. DREADFUL! book!! Pro-aristocracy in a hideously snobby way, wildly anachronistic and historically off (how much duelling went on in 1790s England? I don't know, but swords don't come up much in Austen novels!). It was treacly and sentimental and i figured out very soon who the Pimpernel was. The characters were implausible - that Marguerite was intolerable! - and the anti-republican slurs remarkable. It was also just kind of a boring book.

Now I'm on to Tom Brown's Schooldays, and I wish old Thomas Hughes would quit babbling and get to the damn STORY already. Gad! I KNOW everything has gone to the dogs since he was a boy - let's move ON, already! But it is nice to have proof that everyone always thinks the younger generation are a bunch of good-for-nothings who have lost the true ways.

I'm also re-re-re-reading Peter Pan, which happily is on my reading list as well as being the book I'm teaching right now. Every line of that book is just loaded; it's hard to choose out what to focus on in class. Each re-read of Peter Pan makes me feel even more desperately sad for James Barrie. I wish I could give him a transhistorical hug.


k8 said...

I'd love to hear what your area(s) of concentration are. Are you in an English department, or school of Ed, or LIS? Children's and ya lit. are part of my minor area (my primary area is comp/rhet and I have an mls), but I'm always interested to hear about what others are working on.

(By the way, I linked here through the message you sent to the ChLA list).

Marius said...

Fortunately, I passed my comprehensive exams with flying colors. It was a great experience, and I learned so much. It was also a very stressful period in my life, and it forces you to come to terms with your own limitations. It’s impossible to know everything. Well, good luck completing your very ambitious project.