Philosopher Profile: René Descartes (1596-1650)

Descartes 1648
Descartes, 1648

“I think, therefore I am.” It is probably the most famous statement in philosophy, and René Descartes was the man who wrote it. Born in France on the 31st of March 1596, he was educated at the Jesuit College Royal Henry-le-Grand at La Fleche, and then in canon and civil law at the University of Poitiers at a time when the medieval worldview was giving way to the science of the Enlightenment. Continue reading “Philosopher Profile: René Descartes (1596-1650)”

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Poems You Should Know: ‘Ode To A Nightingale’ by John Keats

John Keats (1795-1821) was one of the most innovative poets of the Romantic movement, and ‘Ode To A Nightingale’ is filled with the things the Romantics loved best: emotion, nature, death, and, in this case, drug use. It’s one of six ‘Odes’ composed by Keats in 1819 as a new variety of short(ish) lyric poem. Of the other five the best known today are probably ‘Ode On A Grecian Urn’ and one of my personal favourites, ‘To Autumn’. Continue reading “Poems You Should Know: ‘Ode To A Nightingale’ by John Keats”

On My Reading List: April 2017

I may have gotten a little carried away on my last visit to the local library, because my current reading list is long, very long, particularly when I still have around 400 pages to go in Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’ (which, to be fair, puts me over two thirds of the way through it). Still, at least it gives me a varied literary diet.

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Continue reading “On My Reading List: April 2017”

Author Profile: Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

 

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Virginia Woolf 1902

Acknowledged along with James Joyce as one of the foremost Modernist writers, and by Simone de Beauvoir as one of the few female writers to have explored what she referred to as “the given” – the assumptions made about what a woman ‘is’ – Virginia Woolf is best-remembered today for a handful of her most prominent novels, but during her lifetime was also a noted essayist and critic.

 

She was born in London on the 25th of January 1882, into an upper middle class family with strong literary and artistic connections. Continue reading “Author Profile: Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)”

Local Culture: Artists Open Studios 2017

 

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Troll head sculpture by Raymond de la Haye, viewed in his sculpture garden in upper Aramoho
The last weekend in March and the first weekend in April saw the return of Artists Open Studios, a highlight of the Whanganui artistic calendar during which local artists open their studios to members of the public. This year almost eighty studios and over a hundred artists participated, so I was rather glad when the Significant Other (who hadn’t ‘done’ AOS before) went through the artists catalogue and highlighted a dozen studios which particularly interested him, as it spared me the agony of trying to decide. I did, however, insist on a visit to the studio of my favourite local artist, Tina Drayton. Continue reading “Local Culture: Artists Open Studios 2017”

Poems You Should Know: ‘Remember Me’ by Christina Rossetti

Written during the Victorian period, the combination of realism (death is sometimes described as the ultimate reality), intellect (‘remember’, ‘tell’, ‘counsel’, ‘pray’, ‘thoughts’), emotion (the poem is permeated by the melancholy which accompanies the death of a loved one), and symbolism (referring to death as ‘the silent land’) in ‘Remember Me’ is all characteristic of the writing of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, of which Christina Rossetti (1830-1864) was arguably one of the foremost poets. ‘Remember Me’ speaks from the point of view of a person contemplating their own death and exhorting their loved one to remember them after death – but not at the cost of their own continued life and happiness. It’s apparently a favourite at funerals.

Remember me when I am gone away,
         Gone far away into the silent land;
         When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
         You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
         Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
         And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
         For if the darkness and corruption leave
         A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
         Than that you should remember and be sad.

New Zealand Literature

mapofnewzealand.jpgThus far in this project I’ve rather neglected New Zealand literature, so I thought I should pay it some attention. Doubly rooted in the rich oral tradition of the indigenous Maori people and the equally rich literary tradition of Britain and Europe, New Zealand offers a great deal that is worth paying attention to. The following is little more than a taster of works by some of our most celebrated writers, arranged in chronological order. Continue reading “New Zealand Literature”

Recommended Read: Book List Challenges (Facebook page)

Like many people whose dominant learning style is Reading (VARK: Visual, Aural, Reading, Kinesthetic), I just love lists, so a Facebook page dedicated to lists of books to read, where you can check off the ones you’ve already read and compare your score to other users, is an extremely happy-making thing for me.

They have an increasing number of other lists as well, but book list challenges still feature regularly. One of my favourites, and one which was a starting-point for The Culture Project, was The BBC Book List Challenge, which apparently has nothing to do with the BBC but did the rounds of the internet a couple of years back with the sub-heading ‘the BBC believes you’ve only read six of these books.’ The average Goodreads user has a score of 23/100. I started at 38/100 in October 2014 and am now at 66/100, not counting all the other books I’ve read which don’t feature on this list.

What’s your score? Are you pleased with it? Surprised? Displeased? Let me know.