Punished or Not? The Problematic Ending of Mozart’s Don Giovanni

May 16, 2016 | Amadeus Chen

Mozart’s Don Giovanni (1787) is one of the most frequently performed operas of our time. Based on the Spanish legend of Don Juan, it also inspires philosophical and literary discussions due to Mozart’s unique musical rendering of the antagonist. The opera opens with Giovanni’s attempt to rape a noble lady Donna Anna, whose father, the Commendatore, challenges Giovanni to a duel but is killed by the latter.

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Authors, Readers and the Ethics of Imagination

May 16, 2016 | Sarah Stewart.

Roland Barthes’ influential essay ‘The Death of the Author’ presents a compelling argument against prevailing attitudes about literature that Barthes sees as ‘tyrannically centred on the author’ (260). Instead of attributing definitive meaning to what the author intended, Barthes advocates for the unity of a text being what any given reader makes of it. This reader brings their own experience and identity (whatever that might be) to author their own interpretation of the words on the page. Barthes’ liberation of text and reader by locating the ‘true place of writing’ (262) solely in the latter opens up the possibilities of meaning in texts which, he argues, should not be fixedly possessed by the person of the author.

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You are what you read? Why reading is a fundamental threat to identity

May 2, 2016 | Louise Adams.

In a moving passage of Dickens’ novel, the ill-treated David Copperfield remembers ‘sitting on my bed, reading as if for life’.[1] His words capture an experience of reading that will be familiar to many – one of freedom and fulfilment. By engaging with books we escape our immediate circumstances, broaden our horizons, and discover ourselves more fully.

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Defying The Canon: Fanfiction As The New Literature

May 2, 2016 | Anahit Behrooz.

The history of literary fandoms is long and varied. Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther is often credited as the novel which produced the first literary fandom in the modern sense. The so-called “Werther Fever” spread over Europe – capturing the imagination of even Napoleon Bonaparte – and inspired hundreds of young men to copy Werther’s fashion, travels, and purportedly even his suicide. A few decades later, Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly novels had a visible impact on Scottish tourism, while Sir Arthur Conan Doyle received hundreds of fan letters and even real crime documents addressed to Sherlock Holmes, asking how he would solve them.

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Transferable Skills: A Fool’s Gold?

April 18, 2016 | Matthew Tibble.

A recent post on the brand-new SGSAH blog highlights a growing trend amongst those seeking to acquire ‘transferable skills’, namely, finding the component parts of your everyday activities in order to apply them in new fields and make them applicable to whatever jobs you apply for. As the piece points out, correctly, transferable skills are now essential criteria for success on the increasingly diverse job market. But this transferable skills trend also encourages a tendency to forget that, at best, these skills are supplementary to targeted, job-specific knowledge or experience.

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Poetry: Who Cares?

March 21, 2016 | Adam Clay .

You might think that poetry is for schools and universities, for students and teachers, not for you and your busy job. But what if you found out that poetry also belongs where life-or-death situations happen every day, in a place with white coats, stethoscopes, and beepers? If you learnt that poetry is also for the contemporary hospital, for nurses, patients, and doctors, would you be willing to consider that poetry might be for everyone – including you?

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The Strange Case of Fanny Stevenson and Literary Partnership

March 21, 2016 | Robyn Pritzker.

Amongst the most misunderstood literary partnerships to date is that of Robert Louis Stevenson and his American wife Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson. The two coauthored several volumes, to wide critical disapproval, and Fanny was her husband’s amanuensis and editor for many years through his bouts of ill health. Fanny was an artist in her own right, a trained painter and an author who penned several short stories and captivating travel diaries during her family’s extensive travels across Europe, North America, and the Pacific Islands. Robert Louis Stevenson frequently mentioned their collaboration in his letters, referencing the two of them hard at work together on his latest pieces[1], but nonetheless critics and biographers like Frank McLynn and T.C. Livingstone have long asserted that Fanny’s influence was minimal if not actually detrimental.

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Who Goes There? Authorial Personae and the Relationships between Authors and Readers

March 7, 2016 | Tess Goodman.

Is there such a thing as a relationship between a reader and an author? Authors often structure their relationships with readers in different ways, in order to connect with a potentially enormous group of readers, widely variant in personality and opinion, whom he or she will never meet. How do authors frame these relationships in ways that can be sustainable over decades or even centuries? And what do those relationships help the author to achieve?

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Revisiting the ‘Angel of Assassination’

March 7, 2016 | Harriet MacMillan.

I wrote the above poem in 2012, but it had been in gestation for some time. I first encountered David’s painting The Death of Marat (1793) in 2006; I clearly recall finding the artwork, detailing the French revolutionary’s death in his bath tub at the hands of Charlotte Corday, at once stark and yet curiously sterile. I still retain a fascination with Marat and his murderer Charlotte Corday, described posthumously as ‘l’Ange de l’Assassinat’. I am not alone in my fascination; Corday’s brutal killing of Marat has inspired many artists and writers. But what do artistic acts of rewriting history teach us? Can they ever truly represent those figures who have inspired or horrified us?

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