Sunday, July 23, 2006

Nothing Major to Report!

I have broken the back of both courses by now and have fifth (second last) assignment in the bag for The Nineteenth Century Novel course and am busy planning the sixth (and last) assignment for the Twentieth Century One. I am pleased to have even got this far, having spent the last three weeks seemingly marooned on a desert island with no fair wind to speak of, and some very ill-tempered children to boot.

That essay is to analyse passages from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and some poetry from Heaney’s New Selected Poems, 1966-1987, using the judging criteria for the Nobel Literature awards committee.

The trouble is there are two ways (of many I’m sure) that this could be argued. You could say that the vague line of Alfred Nobel’s will left interpretation wide open: "the candidate should have bestowed "the greatest benefit on mankind" – and the special condition for literature, "in an ideal direction" (possibly a good thing), or you could argue that the committee tends towards conservative choices with Beckett and Heaney appearing to reward that criteria (possibly a bad thing).

Oh the whole thing now seems so nebulous that I’m giving myself a headache!

I chose the Heaney/ Beckett option, thinking of it as a rehearsal for the final End of Course Assessment, thinking that looking into the judging of literature might open a few cracks for me with regard to that particular nut.

For that one, we must devise a literary prize of our own conditions; choose between Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah or The Ghost Road by Pat Barker (the third novel in her Regeneration trilogy) ; and then compare to a text chosen from the entire 20thC course (!) and then decide which book should win. All about literary decisions, and I am notoriously bad at making them.

So, first select your critical weapons and then try to use them, whilst aiming vaguely in the right direction – target practice anyone?


apprentice said...

Very lofty stuff indeed. I think the greatest benefit to mankind is giving us a laugh, so I'd have made the Marx Brothers Nobel prize winners, but that's just me.
I think it takes the Nobel committee a while to warm to someone, it's a bit like achieving sainthood they want to know the work has legs over a long time frame.
On the final exercise I'd go for Pat, as it seems a more accessible book, although perhaps hard to judge one book of a trilogy on its own merits. Is the 20c course book list a long one?

Hats off to you for managing all this in the school holidays.

bb said...

Bring me up to speed - I know you're studying but which course is this? Devising a literary prize? It sounds a very interesting assignement, but the thought of it does scare me a little. Makes me smirk that Beckett was awarded the Nobel prize for literature on the grounds of those criteria. Of course, I'm sure it made him smirk more ;-)

Cailleach said...

Haha Apprentice - thats very good about the Marx Bros. I agree with what you're saying; with Beckett awarded in 1969, but had produced a lifetime's work already. The NP does tend to go to people in their latter years as a "sainthood" as you say!

The list of texts in total is 16. But they are mostly quick reads. Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard,
The Short stories of Katharine Mansfield (really good find),
Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Poetry of the 30s, ed Robin Skelton, Orlando by Virginia Woolf,
Prufrock & Other Obs. by T.S. Eliot
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
Poetry of Frank O'Hara
Howl by Allen Ginsberg
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philp K Dick
Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig
Waiting for Godot by Beckett
Poetry of Heaney 1966-187
Paradise By A Gurnak
The Ghost Road by Pat Barker

I've been doing the course since February, in tandem with the 19thc lit course, which has 12 novels to read and study (although you can be quite selective about that one and just study the ones you choose for essays).

I'm very much looking forward to October when everything is finished and the 19thc exam is done!

Cailleach said...

BB - this is the 20thC lit course, the book list is as above.

Interestingly enough, Beckett thought about declining the prize, but decided against it, as Sartre had alrady refused it in 64. However, Beckett did not attend the ceremony, sending his agent along instead to collect the prize. He remained quite uncomfortable about receiving the prize as he worried about that 'seal of approval' and I suppose being seen to become mainstream, which even now, is not something you could describe his work as being.

apprentice said...

Oh I love Sunset Song, and Rebecca seems to be under going a revival of interest.

I hope you get through it all with flying colours, if your poetry is anything to go by I'm sure you'll do really well.

Cailleach said...

Apprentice, you're right about Sunset Song, it is a beautiful novel, and I have promised myself to read the other two parts when study finishes.

I'm going at a steady pace grade wise, so fingers crossed! This is the worst year so far, in terms of the work involved, but I'm so close now! Thanks very much for the encouragement :)