Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Tutorial week seven

William Tillyer at work on Cape Cod
Image courtesy

We crammed an awful lot into our tutorial today in London today.

The theme was Literary Autobiography and John Drew came down to talk to us. A year ago he gave one of the public lectures arranged by the University of Buckingham on "How Charles Dickens repealed the Corn Laws", so I had a pleasant feeling of anticipation as he began, taking us through extracts illustrating the genre which he had prepared as hand-outs.

A Little Learning Evelyn Waugh, mid C20 – "Only when one has lost all curiosity about the future has one reached the age to write an autobiography" – I'm still debating whether I'm ready – there would seem to be a perilously small window of opportunity between the time of being ready and the time of being unable.

Confessions St Augustine: start chapter 6, early C4 – his primary audience is not his fellow-man, but God – introducing himself to his reader(s), how, when talking about one's childhood, but how does one distinguish between what one remembers and what one is told? – (ex sociis) written after he had renounced Manichaeism

A True Relation of my Birth, Breeding and Life Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, mid C17 – gives a justification for why she, as a (mere) woman, should be writing an autobio – has foreseen the question and has prepared the answer – plus marvellously overblown extract from a mid-Western feminist's Autogynography: Is the Subject Different? "the author with a phallic pen ... casts [woman] as the usurper"

The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau end C18 – "full-on ego trip" – in-built assumption that people are going to be interested in him begins to waver halfway through the series – its influence on the Romantics

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent Laurence Stern, mid C18 – [at this juncture, beginning to wonder whether I'd properly understood meaning of lit. autobio.] – anticipating all the difficulties the autobiographer will face – start describes not birth but 9 months earlier – hylomorphism [check sp.] where "humours" of parents at moment of conception determine character of resultant child – "a meta literary autobiography" [Manuel: ¿qué?]

The Personal History and Experience of David Copperfield Charles Dickens mid C19 – quasi-autobiographical, but actual autobiographical fragment about blacking factory &c (writ 1847, 3 yrs. before DC) not known till revealed by 1st biographer 1872 – concealment to preserve public persona of propriety – chap. 1 I was born "meandered" – no straight A to B in lit. autobio. – meander through publication of Victorian novels – the 19 monthly parts (in 20 instalments) v "three decker" (e.g. Jane Eyre) – from Preface: "how sorrowfully the pen is laid down at the end of a two-years' imaginative task" [my italics]

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou mid C20 – black American feminist writing – prologue only fully understandable after finishing book, the which written to disprove contention that black women can't write lit. autobio. [really?] – meander into difference between white European and black American autobio. traditions: the latter's stories hugely condensed, e.g. the Blues – starts of The Color Purple and Augustine not dissimilar

Explanation of what JD et al. mean by lit. autobio: not real autobio. by literary figure (as [logically but incorrectly] thought by Sophomore and RFCG) but autobio., whether "true" or not, written in literary manner, as opposed to by ghost. Bildungsroman v Künstlerroman [Manuel: ¿qué?]

Next, presentation on artist William Tillyer – contemporary of David Hockney and a fellow-Yorkshireman but one who had stayed close to his roots all his life – the prevalence of clouds in his works in various media in various styles throughout – meander into Linnaean classification of cloud shapes by Luke Howard early C19 and influence on e.g. Goethe – why has TH not received greater recognition? – should one be able to appreciate modern art without knowing theory and thinking behind?

Finally, canter through comments on books from last week's session on Liberated Women: Landscape for a Good Woman Carolyn Steedman and Bad Blood Lorna Sage – showing unloved/unmothered childhood - urban/rural backgrounds – working/lower middle class – significance [?] of writing in both books about (badly-cooked) food [could wider exploration of this theme be basis for doctorate? dream on, Sophomore!]

Discussed final question in prepenultimate paragraph over tapas at the bar of Moro's with Number Two Daughter [eschewing Bloggis Personae in favour of maryb technique of identifying people] – in final year at Central St Martin's – she has regular HAT (History & Theory) sessions with (like mine, much younger) tutor, and argues that with TV programmes like the current Saatchi series the polloi will, as it were, get the picture.

She encouraged me to go and see an exhibition at the Whitehall Gallery which, she said, would show me some of the video art works of the kind that she is working on, but which also touches on what I am studying.

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