Old wor(l)ds revisited

Excellent news: My paper proposal for the Images of Identity conference in Zurich has been accepted!

So what I’ll be working on in the weeks to come is a revisitation of one of my favourite literary places: Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. His Titus books (or Gormenghast novels, whichever you prefer) were the topic of my master thesis, and I hope to combine my old conclusions with new discoveries.

If you haven’t read Mervyn Peake, do so. He is demanding, but definitely worth it. Castle Gormenghast is still one of the most tangible places in literature I can remember, an experience both exhilarating and terrifying. For starters, imagine the biggest Gothic castle you can think of. City-sized, possibly even bigger. A labyrinth filled with other labyrinths. A whole dynasty of major and minor aristocracy including countless servants inhabit the castle, but large parts of it have been abandoned or simply forgotten or fallen into decay. For thousands of years, the Groan family has been ruler of the castle, but they effectively have become prisoners to an ancient and incomprehensible system of laws and sub-laws. But with the birth of Titus, the 77th Lord Groan, everything is about to change…

What I aim for in my paper is an analysis of the Titus books from a post-World-War-II perspective. The books were published roughly around the time of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and there is a strong sense of the fantastic or even fantasy in Peake’s magnum opus. Yet his characters and locations are far too British (Regency and Victorian) compared to classic fantasy, and castle Gormenghast is the ultimate Gothic space. Add all of this together, and you have an old and crumbling empire that sees the dictatorial threat of a usurper and the coming of age of a young and rebellious heir to the castle. I don’t want to read the books too allegorically and say that they represent the state of Britain after the Second World War (an idea as wrong as equalling Sauron/Saruman with Hitler), but Peake’s absurd and eerie situations are definitely reminiscent of the horrors of war and the stale continuity of post-War agendas.

In any case, Mervyn Peake is an author you shouldn’t miss. His books are quite easy to get and classics by now. Just make sure you don’t get lost in a derelict hallway of Gormenghast without provisions…

Aiming around the corner

Editing is time travel. I am both cursing and congratulating my past selves on writing such erudite rubbish which is growing into a finished thesis that does not exist yet. Sitting in the middle, surrounded by books and notes scribbled on the backs of articles and papers is a rather confused but also confident present me.

Oh, and after eight successful shows (four more to come), I have finally managed to finish reading Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory backstage between Acts 2 and 3. If you think German philosophy is needlessly complicated, have a go at an English translation thereof. There’s a lot of useful knowledge in Adorno, don’t get me wrong – but in order to attain it, you have to navigate a jungle of Germanic pretentiousness and lengthy wordings.

Foucault is almost refreshing as a change…

Close, but no cigar

As the end of November approaches, I have managed to write 50,000 words during this month… of which approximately 20,000 have been used for NaNoWriMo.

The rest has been distributed among essays, thesis, notes and random ramblings of no particular concern (™).

I feel a bit as if I have betrayed myself with the best intentions and don’t know whether I should be angry or pat myself on the shoulder. A bit of both, I guess. Be that as it may, I shall continue working on my mini-draft and see whether I can manage to reach 50,000 words and beyond.

Writing can be a very jealous affair, I’ve realised. Every word you put down for your thesis is missing from your creative writing, and it is only a matter of time and sanity until they start stealing from each other…

Still here (and there)

Just a quick sign of life because there is a lot going on at the moment. In no particular order:

- Perhaps the biggest time-consumer right now: Run-throughs of our theatre production of Albert Camus’ State of Siege at the English seminar. Tonight we have the main rehearsal with tech and lights and everything. I’m still trying to get used to eyeliner although applying it is really fun. So is yelling dictatorial announcements from a balcony and feeling threatened by officials. Premiere is this Saturday, so if you remember, keep your fingers crossed at 7pm GMT!

- I am rereading a few of my old seminar papers to check for any parts worthy for publication. Especially my 2008 paper about Frankenstein still seems to be quite sensible…

- The final sessions of my tutorial are coming up and so far, they can be coordinated nicely with the theatre production. We are going to watch Hogfather on 16th December as part of our seminar Christmas Movie Night, and I am somewhat hoping for a very tall and thin Father Christmas speaking in SMALL CAPS to drop by for some punch and cookies.

- And I have nearly finished my paper proposal for the Zurich conference. More on that once I’ve sent it in.

Not to speak of preparations for Christmas and pre-Christmas…

In Ink

It is official: My article “Toying With Fantasy: The Postmodern Playground of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Novels” will be published in Mythlore Issue 125 Volume 33, Number 1 Fall/Winter 2014.

Order your copy here: http://www.mythsoc.org/subscriptions/

Actually, the new issue of Mythlore journal is being printed right now, so it’s quite exciting to see my academic career work for me for a change…

Mind your humour

Off to a workshop in Zurich today and tomorrow. The topic is mimesis and how we are affected by that which we imitate. This is what Plato thought problematic in poets and actors – if you imitate something ridiculous, you make a mockery of who you truly are and set a bad example for others. But looking at his “ideal” city-state, I’d rather not live in a world that watches your every step and goes “Oy!” each time you laugh out too loudly.

Oh, and by the way: 12,027 words. I hope I can keep this up.