Dante’s World

This looks likes a wondrous exhibition. It’s exciting to see the level of engagement and re-elaboration of Dante’s work across media at the moment.

The exhibition of Rachel Owen’s new illustrations of the Inferno at Pembroke College, Oxford, represents another rich addition to this tradition.

RachelOwenFlyer-jpgforwebsite

Part of this must certainly be to do with this particular temporal sweet spot, between the 750th anniversary of Dante’s birth (which we celebrated in 2015) and the 700th anniversary of his death (to come in 2021), but this isn’t the only explanation.

Dante’s have been a source texts for visual, musical and new literary art for centuries, something I’ve written about elsewhere, and it’s rewarding, as a researcher, to see the everliving and developing nature of his artistic legacy.

Ordered Universe

A new exhibition opens in Durham this week, at the Palace Green Library Galleries. Curated by Annalisa Cipollone Dante: Hell, Heaven and Hope – A Journey through Life and the After-Life with Danteopens on Saturday 2nd December 2017, and runs until early March 2018. Following Dante’s poem The Divine Comedy with its tour through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, the exhibition features rare manuscripts of Dante’s work, printed copies and artistic responses to one of the greatest imaginative achievements of the Middle Ages. 

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It’s been a while, so here’s some (translated) Petrarch!

A few friends, colleagues and students are getting together to sing musical settings of Petrarch’s poetry in St. John’s College, Oxford, on Thursday. For the occasion we’ve produced our own new translations of the poems we’ll be singing to go in the programme. I drew the not un-daunting lot of translating RVF 1, the first poem of Petrarch’s Canzoniere – his mission statement, if you will.

Here’s my attempt:

You, listening in scattered poems to the sound
of those sighs with which I nourished my heart
in my first flush of straying youth
when I was, in part, a different man than I am now,

for varied styles in which I weep and work out words
between vain hopes and pointless pain,
I hope I may find pity, forgiveness even,
in those who know love by ordeal.

But I can see clearly now how I’ve become
a long-told tale with folk at large
for which I am ashamed of me, myself;
and shame is the fruit of my meandering,
and regret, and clear bright understanding
that things which please the world are fleeting dreams.

And Petrarch’s original text:

Ritratto_di_francesco_petrarca,_altichiero,_1376_circa,_padova

A portrait of Petrarch from Padova

Voi ch’ascoltate in rime sparse il suono
di quei sospiri ond’io nudriva ‘l core
in sul mio primo giovenile errore
quand’era in parte altr’uom da quel ch’i’ sono,

del vario stile in ch’io piango et ragiono
fra le vane speranze e ‘l van dolore,
ove sia chi per prova intenda amore,
spero trovar pietà, nonché perdono.

Ma ben veggio or sí come al popol tutto
favola fui gran tempo, onde sovente
di me mesdesmo meco mi vergogno;

et del mio vaneggiar vergogna è ‘l frutto,
e ‘l pentersi, e ‘l conoscer chiaramente
che quanto piace al mondo è breve sogno.

I’ve tried to maintain, as much as the sense, the “mouthfeel” of the poem. The borrowing of this term from the language of coffee reviews perhaps reveals my other major vice apart from medieval Italian poetry…

What I mean is this: when I read a poem I get a certain subjective sensation of what it feels like to pronounce the words and I wanted to recreate that in my English version. I’m sure this is a common phenomenon. This sensation ties in with the sonic qualities of the text, the alliterations and assonances, the placement of plosives and nasals to put it in phonetic terms. So at heart, what I’ve aimed for in this version of RVF 1 is a phonic recreation, a sound translation as well as a sense translation. I hope you like it, and please to leave any thoughts, comments of responses below, I’d love to read them.

The last fragment falls into place

Fragments of Red

Fragments of Red

 

So, I’ve written about the Fragments Project before (herehere and here) and I’m about to embark on a trip back up to the Scottish Borders to sing in the last of the three ‘Fragments of…’ events, ‘Fragments of Red’. These events have staged audiovisual installations by The Red Field involving the performance of music from a C12th manuscript fragment alongside compositions inspired by the medieval chants.

There’s been music from Seán Doherty (for ‘Fragments of Blue’) and Michael Nyman (for ‘Fragments of Black’) and this time we’ll be singing new compositions by Grayston Ives in an event at Melrose Abbey alongside a variety of medieval tunes!

The music is beautiful and I can’t wait to join up with the choir in Scotland and hear it ring out in the abbey ruins.

Dante, Doré and Satire

So while not strictly about Dante, this is definitely Dante related.

Gustav Doré: Dante and Virgil's Ice Skating Adventure (or the traitors in Cocytus)

Gustav Doré: Dante and Virgil’s Ice Skating Adventure (or the traitors in Cocytus)

All you Divine Comedy fans out there will likely be familiar with Gustav Doré’s superb illustrations of our favourite pilgrim’s progress through the afterlife, but did you know he was a major mover and shaker in the world of satirical illustration?

Hot on the heels of a visit to the Musée D’Orsay’s fascinating and comprehensive exhibition of Gustav’s outrageously varied output (clock casings, epic canvasses, sculptures, sketches and oils) my wife wrote this piece for the Oxonion Review of books, which focusses on his place in the history of satire.

The exhibition really was fascinating, and if you manage to be in Paris before 11 May I highly recommend swinging by. There’s a deftness and wit to so many of Doré’s pieces, balanced by a keenly observed tragedy and social commentary in his paintings of bohemians and beggars. The severity and piety of his large scale religious works left me somewhat flat, displaying Doreé at his most stolidly 19th century, in stark contrast to his comic and often scathing caricatures or his proto-surreal bronzes.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with the starting point of an assessment far more eloquent than my own:

Nowadays, Gustave Doré is predominantly remembered for his woodcut illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which manage, in a peculiarly 19th-century way, to be both sternly po-faced and flamboyantly crammed with writhing, naked flesh. The Musée D’Orsay exhibition, however, is more interested in highlighting his prodigious contributions to the arts of satirical illustration and cartooning, and devotes nearly an entire, very crowded floor to his extraordinarily productive career.

Jennifer Thorp,  ‘Satire and the Illustration’

Gustav Doré: Dandyism Ruralising

Gustav Doré: Dandyism Ruralising

Radio, what’s new?

So, I know I promised to say things about my trip to Leeds, and I certainly will, soon, I promise.
But in the interim… whattaya know? An adaptation of the Divine Comedy is the Classic Serial on BBC Radio 4 at the moment!

It’s got even got John Hurt for Who fans (playing the ‘older Dante’ by which I guess they mean the narratorial voice?)
Either way, it should be interesting and there’s also a short documentary on the making of the recording. They take a delightfully old school, radiophonic workshop approach to sound effects, which is interesting. Look out for the rice pudding!
Now, this isn’t entirely irrelevant to my Leeds Centre for Dante Studies visit, as I tried my hand at a bit of podcasting on a few poets, of which more later.
I will leave you now to have a bit of a listen!

Oxford Medievalism strikes again!

For anyone interested in Medievalism  (how ideas of the Medieval reappear in later cultures), this seminar on 26 February with Dr. William Whyte should be just the ticket:

Next meeting: Dr William Whyte (St John’s College, Oxford):Ecclesiastical medievalism in nineteenth-century Britain: architecture, faith, and time

Wednesday of 6th week, (26 February 2014), 5 pm,  in the Goodhart Seminar Room, Logic Lane, University College, followed by drinks.