Thursday, October 06, 2022

"That's not football; these are poems": Poetry as a figure in football commentary

During the match between Manchester City and Copenhagen last night, the commentator on Swiss sports channel Blue said this about the home team: "Das ist kein Fussball; das sind Gedichte, die Manchester City zeigt" ("This isn't football; these are poems"). I noted that to mention to students in my poetry classes tomorrow – and then a commentator for Swiss channel SRF made a similar remark about a goal by RB Leipzig in the summary of their match against Glasgow Celtic: "Dieses Treffen ist nur eines, ein Fussballgedicht" ("This goal is only one thing, a football-poem"). Athletes may not usually read poetry, but the poem is a figure for athletic expression and success. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 6 October 2022)

[See also this post from long ago about a goal by Sergio Agüero.]

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Lynne Truss, Liz Truss, and the "zombie rules" of grammar and economics

When I first heard the name of British politician Liz Truss, I mixed her up with Lynne Truss, whose 2003 book on language use I read years ago, "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation". Soon after its publication, the linguist Arnold Zwicky coined the expression "zombie rules" to refer to the language peeves that Lynne Truss and others write about: long since discredited, they live on anyway. Now that she's Prime Minister, Liz Truss has proven that she, too, loves zombie rules – in her case, those of "supply-side economics" and "trickle-down theory", with the long-discredited claim that tax cuts for the rich generate economic growth for all. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 4 October 2022)

Monday, October 03, 2022

The youngest Nobel laureates in literature were Rudyard Kipling and Albert Camus

The Nobel Prize in Literature, which will be announced on Thursday, is awarded not for individual works but for a body of work published in the course of a career. The youngest literature laureate was Rudyard Kipling in 1907, when he turned 42, but he had been publishing steadily since he was 20. The second youngest was Albert Camus in 1957, when he turned 44, but he had already published a dozen or more books, including "L'Étranger" and "Le Mythe de Sisyphe" in 1942 alone (at 29). By my count, six others have received the award before turning 50. It makes it hard to win it if you die too young. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 3 October 2022)

Sunday, October 02, 2022

Sherlock Holmes's "Parthian shot" in Arthur Conan Doyle's "A Study in Scarlet" (1887)

In Arthur Conan Doyle's "A Study in Scarlet" (1887), just before Sherlock Holmes leaves the scene of the story's first murder, he tells Inspectors Gregson and Lestrade "one other thing" (that "Rache", painted in blood on the wall, is the German word for "revenge"). So Holmes, like Mr. Bucket in Dicken's "Bleak House", anticipates Columbo's later use of the same tactic. But then Dr John Watson characterizes Holmes's remark as a "Parthian shot". This cavalry tactic made famous by the Parthians of ancient Iran involves the considerable skill of riding forward while using a bow to fire arrows backward; the phrase is also the source of our expression "a parting shot". (Andrew Shields, #111words, 2 October 2022)

Saturday, October 01, 2022

Three weeks of covid and two weeks of missed classes

After my wife Andrea tested positive for covid on 6 September and I had early flu symptoms, I knew I'd test positive, too. And I did on Friday, 9 September. Andrea was better in about ten days; for me, it took around twenty: I finally started to feel better on Wednesday and Thursday this week. I had to cancel the first two weeks of my classes for this semester, but now I'm feeling much better and am ready to teach on Tuesday. This semester, I'm especially looking forward to my seminar on Elizabeth Bishop's poetry; in the first session, we'll discuss her poem "Late Air". Yesterday, I prepared by memorizing it. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 1 October 2022)

Monday, September 19, 2022

Thomas Wentworth Higginson and post-Civil War textbooks on American history

In the world of poetry, Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911) is known as the literary critic that Emily Dickinson sent poems to in 1862; he later co-edited her posthumously published poems with Mabel Loomis Todd. He is also well known as an abolitionist who was colonel of the first black regiment in the Union army during the Civil War. But, as I learned today from Eric Foner's "The New York Review Books" review of Donald Yacovone's "Teaching White Supremacy", he was also the author of an American history textbook which, according to Foner, was one of a number of post-Civil War works that "placed slavery at the center of the American story." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 19 September 2022)

Sunday, September 18, 2022

The framing of the world and the generation of "aesthetic emotion" in W. Somerset Maugham's "Of Human Bondage"

After hanging up a photograph with a "view of the Cathedral" near his boarding school, Philip Carey in W. Somerset Maugham's "Of Human Bondage" begins to take "a new interest in" the lawns and trees "he saw from the window of the Fourth Form Room": "It gave him an odd feeling in his heart, and he did not know if it was pain or pleasure. It was the first dawn of the aesthetic emotion." The camera and the photograph made with it frame the image of the Cathedral, the window frames the view of the greenery outside, and such framing generates the uncertain feeling of an aesthetic response to the world. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 18 September 2022)