‘What it means to be a human being’

Gabriel Smith | 11 February, 2018
Upon entering a bookshop, the canny reader/consumer (a heart-breaking slash) becomes aware that critics’ praise now adorns the cover of every newly released book, and therefore no book can be chosen on the basis of what critics are saying on its dustjacket. A massively inflationary adjectival market has rendered superlatives valueless.

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Shakespeare vs. Pushkin – On Not Reading National Poets, or: A Tragedy in Two Acts

Anne Liebig | 4 February, 2019
To be or not to be – who has not heard, used, or abused this phrase, written down over 400 years ago? Who cannot conjure up a spontaneous image of the Bard, or name at least one of his plays? Shakespeare has performed a feat that few other writers have achieved across the globe: he has been elevated to a symbol of national culture. But when did you last stop and ask yourself what the point of having a so-called national poet really was?

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Being an Older Youngest

Katherine Carlman | 14 January, 2019
“I’m very good at math,” the boy said as I passed. He was five or six years old and made this declaration not to me, but to the adult who belonged with him. With his mop of long curls and declaration of brilliance, he had more self-confidence than I’ve ever had. How could a child have more self-assurance than a fifty-year-old woman? He must be an only child, I reasoned – maybe an oldest child, but certainly not the youngest.

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Cardboard Critics: The Language of Protest

Anna Kemball | April 30, 2018
A picture says a thousand words, they say. When it comes to how we take collective action, how much can be said through pictures and words, hastily scribbled on a scrap of cardboard? What impact do these transitory collections of text, image and object have in relation to more permanent messages associated with our universities?

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The Mary Beard Effect: A Brief Review of ‘Women & Power’

Mary A. Pura | April 12, 2018
If you’ve been wandering through Blackwell’s and Waterstone’s lately, you’ve probably noticed the beautifully arranged and aesthetically pleasing displays featuring popular female authors. Partly inspired by a surge in public attention to the #MeToo Movement, there has been an outpouring of new and old literature addressing women’s equality. Amidst the heaping piles, you’ve likely caught sight of the shining silver and gold design adorning Mary Beard’s new publication, Women & Power: A Manifesto. Over the past twenty years, Beard has become a kind of celebrity academic. You may recall an incident back in 2012 consisting of public outrage towards the late AA Gill regarding his statement that Beard was “too ugly for television.” Her response placed her among the feminist gods:

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Rethinking Celtic Medieval Tales: The Worlds of Sarah J. Maas

Sonia Garcia de Alba | April 11, 2018
I have met many adults who confess to reading Young Adult novels for fun. While we may be willing to admit that we use them to disengage from our routines or to while away time, we should question whether such entertainment is the sum of these texts. Some of these books, like the novels of Sarah J. Maas, prompt us to explore and learn about other things, like the fairy tale tradition and Celtic folklore.

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Fantastic Catharsis and Where to Find It

Laurie Beckoff | March 27, 2018
Fantasy, science fiction, and other speculative genres are often pejoratively labelled ‘escapist’, accused of being too distant from real-world issues and allowing audiences to dissociate from reality to indulge in daydreams. They let us forget about the problems plaguing our society so that we can enjoy an action-packed adventure or a whimsical jaunt through a magical land.

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Smelling the Colour Nine

June L. Laurenson | February 24, 2018
There is a phrase in the English language that is often used to express confusion and bafflement: ‘Understanding you is like smelling the colour nine’. You can’t smell a colour, let alone a number; and nine isn’t a colour. For most people, this chaotic multisensory phrase effectively conveys a deep incomprehension about a thing or a person. But to me the number nine does have a colour (although not a smell), and I am not alone in experiencing this; I am in very good company.

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The Canadian Boat Song and Scottish spirit in exile

Emanuela Militello| November 27, 2017
Fair these broad meads – these hoary woods are grand;

But we are exiles from our fathers’ land.

While flicking through some traditional Scottish songs, I came across one that got my attention. The lines quoted above are part of the “Canadian Boat Song”, a poem that first appeared in Blackwood’s Magazine (Edinburgh) in 1829. Being an enthusiast of Scottish culture, I am always interested in every expression of “Scottishness” – be it in literature, film or folklore. Learning about Scots in exile and the ways in which they coped with the loss of their motherland, and tried to keep their culture alive, is a subject that really fascinates me. So naturally, this song instantly grabbed my attention.

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Storytelling: Finding Humanity in Difference, and Difference as Humanity

Madison Pollack | November 6, 2017
The cartoonist Liana Finck recently published an article online called “Love Song,” where she worked through the issue of whether or not to post sketches about her relationship publically. A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, Finck has garnered a following on Instagram by posting autobiographical cartoons of her interpretations of moments on the subway, in coffee shops, and, often, in love. In “Love Song,” Finck writes that her cartoons are her “way of taking my story back from strangers on the street—and men I’d met on dating apps—who saw me as a minor character, if they saw me at all.” Finck’s Instagram is not merely a view into the artist’s inner life: it is her desperate and universal plea to be recognized as having one at all. By giving her inner workings a public platform, Finck enables herself to reclaim subjecthood in a world that is constantly taking it away from her.

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