Archive for the ‘Sin categoría’ Category

JOSE SARAMAGO’S HERITAGE ONLINE: REVISTA DE ESTUDOS SARAMAGUIANOS (BRAZIL), VOL 10, NO 2

Now on-line is Volume 10, No 2 (August 2019) of the Revista de Estudos Saramaguianos, the Brazilian-based online journal devoted to the study of Portugal’s Nobel-winning writer José Saramago.

The journal’s site is at:

https://estudossaramaguianos.com/

and the current issue can be downloaded at:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PxjdpcUS3avQIGx0Wm7MySP195JP_eXj/view

The new issue includes (all texts in Portuguese) an editors’ introduction and six critical essays, respectively on the novels (to give their English titles) Raised from the Ground, Baltasar and Blimunda (original title: Memorial do Convento; two essays), The Stone Raft and All The Names, and on the dedicated Saramago journal Blimunda.

It also includes – pp. 151-154 and (same url as complete issue):

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PxjdpcUS3avQIGx0Wm7MySP195JP_eXj/view

my review of Ricardo Viel, ‘Um país levantado em alegria (20 anos do Prémio Nobel de Literatura a José Saramago)’,

previously published in English on this blog on 8 February 2019

at: https://rollason.wordpress.com/2019/02/08/review-of-ricardo-viel-um-pais-levantado-em-alegria-20-anos-do-premio-nobel-de-literatura-a-jose-saramago/

The editors are to be congratulated on this excellent and ongoing scholarly endeavour, in favour of José Saramago and Lusophone culture.

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‘WITH HIS POINTED SHOES AND HIS BELLS’: Review of: Andrew Muir, ‘The True Performing Of It: Bob Dylan and William Shakespeare’

Review of:

Andrew Muir, The True Performing Of It: Bob Dylan and William Shakespeare

Penryn (UK): Red Planet Books, 2019, paperback, 368 pp., ISBN 978-1-9127-3395-8

**

This was a book waiting to be written. With Bob Dylan’s literary credentials burning bright since his 2016 Nobel, and with the man from Minnesota now being increasingly acknowledged as one of the greatest artists of modern times, it is entirely apposite that a study like this should bring Dylan into direct comparison and interaction with another figure considered among the key creators of his time (if not all time), William Shakespeare. The author, Andrew Muir, is more than qualified for the endeavour, having already published on both to the tune of one book on Shakespeare and three on Dylan, the latter including in particular, Razor’s Edge: Bob Dylan and the Never Ending Tour (Helter Skelter Publishing, 2001) and Troubadour: Early and Late Songs of Bob Dylan (Woodstock Publications, 2003).

Muir’s self-defined brief is nothing if not ambitious (the title too – The True Performing Of It – aims high, being a direct quotation from A Midsummer Night’s Dream). The volume is, approximately, structured as follows: Dylan and Shakespeare as parallel cultural figures and as performing artists or ‘bards’; ‘Shakespeare in Dylan’ (Shakespearean quotations and references in Dylan’s work); ‘Dylan in Shakespeare’ (use of Dylan’s work in Shakespeare performances’); issues of use of sources, biblical allusions and plagiarism/intertextuality in both; and, finally, an extended compare-and-contrast exercise on The Tempest, Shakespeare’s late-period gem, and the similarly titled Tempest, to date Dylan’s last self-penned album.

The author commences by affirming that ‘Bob Dylan has been regularly compared to Shakespeare for many years’, both for the ‘scope and depth’ of his work and its ‘style and quality’ (5). He also recalls that Dylan said in 1998: ‘Have you ever seen a Shakespeare play? … It’s like the English language at its peak’ (6), and stresses how the son of Duluth, like the Swan of Avon, has enriched the English tongue with numerous unforgettable phrases that, as Muir puts. it, are now ’embedded in our language’ (242). For Muir, both are bards in the sense of a lyric poet who stands as the ‘voice of a people’, be it of a nation or a group (13), with the capacity to  ‘influence the language, and therefore the minds, of their and future generations’ (14). In this context, he takes for both Shakespeare and Dylan the line that both are fundamentally performance artists, with live performance (Shakespeare’s plays on stage, Dylan’s songs in concert) having priority over the published play or the lyrics on the page. Muir thus comes down on the performance side in the ‘poet versus performer’ debate in Dylan studies, while in no moment negating the singer’s immense poetic gifts (he includes a useful account of Dylan’s Nobel and its vicissitudes, bringing to the fore inter alia the enthused reaction of Kazuo Ishiguro, the Anglo-Japanese writer who would prove to be the following year’s laureate (55-63)).

Regarding the Shakespearean presence in Dylan, Muir duly notes a whole series of instances, in both prose and verse. For Dylan’s prose writings, Shakespearean allusions in Tarantula (163) and Chronicles Volume One are credited and there is a useful if non-exhaustive list at the end of Shakespeare references in Dylan’s miscellaneous prose (interviews and speeches), the Nobel lecture included (356-359).

What matters most, however, are the Shakespeare quotations and allusions in the songs. Muir reminds us that Dylan mentions Shakespeare by name on Blonde on Blonde, as a character in ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again’ (‘like one of the court jesters from his plays’ (143). He also notes that on Highway 61 Revisited, ‘Desolation Row’ showcases the love-lorn Ophelia from Hamlet with a whole stanza to herself (143-146), though curiously Muir does not mention the appearance in the very same song of a lovestruck Romeo (but with Cinderella rather than Juliet). Properly logged, however, is Romeo’s return – this time alongside Juliet – on “Love and Theft” in ‘Floater (Too Much to Ask)’, as well as the fact that on the same album ‘Po’ Boy’ features the husband and wife protagonists of Othello, the eponymous hero and Desdemona, with their roles reversed (146-147).

Muir also points out how a number of the Basement Tapes songs (‘Too Much of Nothing’, ‘Nothing Was Delivered, ‘Tears of Rage’, ‘This Wheel’s on Fire’), even if not quoting directly, are infused with the themes (anger, filial ingratitude, nothingness) of King Lear (154). As Muir notes, ‘Tears of Rage’ asks: ‘Oh what dear daughter   ‘neath the sun / Could treat a father so / To wait upon him hand and foot / And always tell him no ?’ (157), while ‘Too Much of Nothing’ points back in its title to Lear’s ’Nothing will come of nothing: speak again’ (154). The author also reminds us that, still on King Lear, ‘Handy Dandy’, from Under The Red Sky, echoes in its title a line from that play (indeed, a remarkably Dylanesque Shakespearean line, namely ‘Handy-dandy: which is the justice and which the thief?’) (162).

The above quotations and allusions are picked up and commented on by the author. However, he has not cottoned on to a number of additional, and important, Shakespeare-in-Dylan quotes. In ‘Forgetful Heart’, from Together Through Life, the image of the ‘walking shadow’ comes direct from the famous ‘Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow’ soliloquy in Macbeth. Shakespeare also strikes twice on the Tell-Tale Signs compilation (The Bootleg Series Vol. 8), in the outtake version of  ‘Ain’t Talkin’’, which returns to Hamlet (and Ophelia) as it evokes ‘the primrose path’ [to hell], and in ‘Can’t Escape From You’, which tellingly quotes the famous aphorism from As You Like It, ‘All the world’s a stage’.

More quotations and more allusions are no doubt waiting to be unearthed; and if Muir has not located every Shakespeare quote in the Dylan canon, he has certainly whetted scholars’ appetite to track down more (he also sensibly rules out some potential connections as far-fetched – as with the phrase ‘twelfth night’ from the title track of Highway 61 Revisited, which, indeed, would not seem to have much to do with Shakespeare’s play of that name (135)).

The theme of Shakespeare-in-Dylan is balanced by that of Dylan-in-Shakespeare, and here Muir, as an avid follower of Shakespeare performances, provides information on theatre and cinema versions of Shakespeare that include Dylan material and may not be widely known among Dylanites. He cites, among others, a production of Hamlet (directed by Robert Icke at London’s Almeida Theatre in 2017) (181-189), which incorporated extracts from numerous Dylan songs, as well as a film version of Cymbeline, directed by Michael Almereyda in 2014, which features Dylan’s song from Empire Burlesque, ‘Dark Eyes’ (178-181). These phenomena reinforce the connection of the two bards and provide further evidence, were it needed, for the universality of Dylan’s work.

On more general matters relevant to both Dylan and  Shakespeare, Muir’s study pays close attention to textual issues of sources and intertextuality – an issue which has of course come to the fore in more recent times with (readers will recall the well-known cases of Junichi Saga, Henry Timrod and Ovid).  On the vexed subject of ‘intertextuality versus plagiarism’ in Dylan’s work (243-266), our author comes down firmly on the side of the former (i.e. Dylan does not steal, he transforms), thus aligning himself with the likes of Richard Thomas and Stephen Scobie rather than taking the Joni Mitchell ‘thieving’ line. Indeed, Muir compares Dylan’s creatuve incorporation of source material with Shakespeare’s similar practice, quoting at length the famous speech ‘The barge she sat in’ from Antony and Cleopatra and its source in Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives (243-244). Here Muir shows how Shakespeare enriches and transforms the source material even as he incorporates it (as, be it added, Dylan does with Ovid in the Modern Times version of ‘Ain’t Talkin”).

With regard to the specific nature of Shakespeare’s and Dylan’s sources, Muir stresses how both have in common the large-scale mining of the Bible and the Greek and Latin classics.  Dylan’s use of biblical material – not only in his ‘Christian period’ but right across his career before and since – has received much attention, and comparing it with Shakespeare’s can only help deepen the study of this vital aspect of the Dylan œuvre. Regarding the Greco-Roman classics, Muir amply shows – especially in his chapter comparing Tempest and The Tempest, and acknowledging and drawing on the recent groundbreaking work of Richard Thomas in this field -– how these foundational texts of Western culture have left their traces in the more recent Dylan, not only in the by now well-worn case of Ovid, but also for Homer, Virgil and more – Homer, for example, being echoed in a number of songs on Tempest (305).

Andrew Muir’s volume ends with him reiterating the importance of ‘tracing the parallels between these two giants of performing and literary arts’ (354) and recalling with a devotee’s force how ‘Shakespeare and Dylan have been central to my adult life’ (362). All in all, it offers a highly convincing case, spelt out with the requisite textual detail, for the importance and fertility of the Dylan-Shakespeare connection on both causal (source-oriented) and qualitative (comparative) grounds. Where the book does to a certain extent fall down is concerning presentation. The font, it has to be said, is small, and the index is a shade chaotic and, above all, incomplete. Both those cavils would of course be answered should an electronic version be made available. For the moment, Andrew Muir deserves to be congratulated on marshalling so much persuasive evidence in defence of linking the work of the two vital bards, in such a way as to disarm the sceptics and mark a further step forward in the constantly expanding world of Dylan studies.

PALACE OF MAFRA (PORTUGAL), IMMORTALISED BY JOSÉ SARAMAGO, JOINS UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE LIST

Admirers of the writings of Portugal’s Nobel laureate José Saramago should be delighted to learn that the Palace of Mafra, built between 1717 and 1750 under King João V, is among the latest additions to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Its construction was the prime subject of Saramago’s historical novel of 1982, ‘Memorial do Convento’ (in English, ‘Baltasar and Blimunda’), which has sold over a million copies in Portugal and has been translated into numerous languages. Located near Lisbon, the complex consists of a royal palace, a basilica, a convent and a garden. Its consecration by UNESCO (dated 7 July 2019) in parallel with that of another Portuguese site, the Basílica do Bom Jesús do Monte near Braga, brings Portugal’s tally of World Heritage sites to 17.

See UNESCO’s official site, at (for the news):

https://whc.unesco.org/en/news/2005/ and (description of the complex):

https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1573/

See also article on this blog of 22 November 2007: ‘THE CONVENT OF MAFRA AND 25 YEARS OF JOSÉ SARAMAGO’s “MEMORIAL DO CONVENTO”’

CULTURE OF PLANTS AND VALUES: FLORAL DISPLAY IN ESCH-SUR-ALZETTE (LUXEMBOURG)

 

Each summer, the town of Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg), where I live, hosts a special floral garden in its main square, Place de l’Hôtel de Ville. This year`s garden, baptised ‘Culture.S’, combines the natural language of plants with the human language of ethical concepts.

The title also plays on the double meaning of culture, as cultivation of plants and of values. Five pillars, each in the shape of a book, make up the display, integrated with the plant kingdom and proclaiming respectively (in French) the virtues of Bienveillance, Liberté, Solidarité, Tolérance and Unité (Benevolence, Liberty, Solidarity, Tolerance and Unity). The concept is the work of Luxembourg artist Florence Hoffmann, and apart from commemorating summer 2019, is also part of the run-up to the year 2022, when Esch-sur-Alzette will be joint European Capital of Culture. An artistic creation like this, simple yet profound, augurs well indeed for 2022!‘profound, augurs well indeed for 2022!

THE DYLAN REVIEW: BREAKING NEW GROUND IN BOB DYLAN STUDIES

Hard on the heels of the international Bob Dylan conference held in Tulsa (Oklahoma) in May/June 2019 (see post on this blog, 9 June 2019), and in parallel with the development of the Dylan archive, also in Tulsa, there now arrives a brand-new journal, the Dylan Review. This publication (online only and free of charge) aims to fill a significant gap in Dylan studies, its rationale being ‘to provide a forum for rigorous intellectual exploration of Bob Dylan’s art’. While Dylan fanzines of high quality levels are not lacking, a fanzine is not an academic journal, and in the post-Nobel Dylan environment such a journal was needed more than ever. Under its co-editors Raphael Falco (University of Maryland) and Lisa Sanders (Saint Peter’s University, NJ), and with an editorial board including among others Nina Goss of Fordham University, NY and Richard Thomas, professor of classics at Harvard, the Dylan Review is now posed to occupy a key role at the academic end of Dylan studies. It will publish critical articles, interviews and book, film and exhibition reviews and will come out twice a year.

 

The first issue (1.1, Summer 2019), now online, comes across as well-produced, professional, and infused with both the requisite intellectual rigour and the enthusiasm of true Dylan devotees. Among the articles, there are two contrasting takes on the latest Bootleg Series offering, the ‘Blood on the Tracks’ outtakes ‘More Blood, More Tracks’: Jonathan Hodgers’ technical-musicological perspective marks an approach rarely found, while Richard Thomas’s blow-by-blow account of the lyrics’ evolution is an invaluable reference. Lisa Sanders offers a fascinating account of the ‘Mondo Scripto’ lyrics and drawings exhibition in London, Nick Smart ably reviews a new book by Daryl Sanders on the making of ‘Blonde and Blonde’, and Joan Osborne, recent coverer of Dylan songs, is the subject of a lucid interview.

The journal’s site is at: https://www.dylanreview.org/

and the current issue can be downloaded as a .pdf at: https://www.dylanreview.org/contents

This first number fulfils its promise and looks indeed set to fill that academic gap: further issues will be eagerly awaited!

BRAZILIAN RESEARCH SITE: DOCPLAYER

I am pleased to report that an article of mine on José Saramago, which appeared in 1999 in the Portuguese publication FAROL in the wake of the author’s Nobel, can now be found on a Brazilian site hosting a vast collection of material in Portuguese, aimed at both students and researchers. There appears to be a particular emphasis ón pupils preparing for university.

The article is:
‘A História na Literatura, a Literatura na História: José Saramago, Nobel Português’, FAROL (Viana do Castelo, Portugal), No 12, May 1999, pp. 55-70 – primary on-line reference: http://yatrarollason.info/files/SaramagoNobelPT.pdf

The Brazilian site, Docplayer, is at:
https://docplayer.com.br

and the reference is:
https://docplayer.com.br/14768451-A-historia-na-literatura-a-literatura-na-historia-jose-saramago-nobel-portugues-christopher-rollason.html

The article appears as it was published in FAROL, with photos.

Docplayer is available free of charge to students and researchers, and members may upload articles.

If my work is of help in particular to a new generation of young people in Brazil, I am more than content, and I extend my thanks to
those who found and included my text!

THE ORCID SCHOLARLY DATABASE

I am pleased to recommend a recently discovered scholarly and academic resource, the ORCID database: https://orcid.org

ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) is a free-of-charge, non-profit international database, founded in 2012 and based in the US (Delaware). It allows members to enter full details of qualifications, affiliation, membership of associations and societies, invited positions and distinctions, grants and published works.

Each member is issued with a unique ORCID ID. Unlike Google Scholar, ORCID is user-controlled and members can at any time add, modify and remove data. In this way it is more like the former GetCited site.

Published works can be entered either manually or via ORCID’s custom links to other databases.

On my experience so far I am very pleased with this resource, and am sure other scholars will find it similarly useful!