The Princess Bride: Reconsidering the Medieval in William Goldman’s “Storybook Story”

Anna McKay | 6 February 2017

Defining medieval romance has troubled scholars and readers alike for centuries, but the blurb to William Goldman’s cult classic The Princess Bride (1973) offers as comprehensive a description of the genre as any. Indeed, compare this broad taxonomy to the medieval Breton lays described in the introduction to the fourteenth century verse romance, Lay Le Freine:

Sum bethe of war and sum of wo,
And sum of joie and mirthe also,
And sum of trecherie and of gile,
Of old aventoures that fel while;
And sum of bourdes and ribaudy,
And mani ther beth of fairy.
Of al thinges that men seth,
Mest o love for sothe thei beth. (5-12)

Read Article →

Marvel’s America: Living in an Age of Oversimplification

Dylan Taylor | 6 February 2017

In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville observed that Americans have “a lively faith in the perfectibility of man…They all consider society as a body in a state of improvement”. Such descriptions help explain our common stereotype as pragmatic idealists with a penchant for exaggerated emotions and an uncomfortable awkwardness in the face of negative, or even ambivalent, sentiments. Studies [1] have implied what many introverts could readily describe: America is a land where being quiet or reflective can induce strange looks or even pity. Being slow-to-judge—a trait so often honored by moral philosophers throughout history—is, to that subset of Americans which subscribes to a masculine, red-blooded vision of our tenets, seen instead as a sign of weakness and naiveté. This diluting of issues into binaries—weak or strong, moral or immoral, right or wrong—is a cultural tendency that has seemed to reach its apotheosis in the theatrical build-up to the new presidency and its traumatic fallout.

Read Article →

99 Problems, Old Sport: The Meeting of Two Jays

June 27, 2016 | Niki Holzapfel

In 2013, when Baz Luhrmann released his adaptation of The Great Gatsby, more than a few people scratched their heads at his choice of soundtrack. Produced by Jay-Z, the album features rap, Fergie, and a U2 cover. Most of it sounds nothing like the 1920s. It led one writer for the music site Noisey to ask, “Who Let The Great Gatsby Soundtrack Happen?”

Read Article →

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?

Read Article →

Trying to Research the History of China and Japan While Knowing Absolutely no Chinese or Japanese. (And never going to China or Japan.)

November 1, 2015 | Adam Cohen.

I’ve now written two dissertations during two different degrees with a grand total of 25,000 words on Japanese and Chinese history and yet whenever I tried to tell anyone what I was working on I would, without fail, have the following conversation: ‘Oh so how well do you speak Japanese/Chinese?’ I don’t, and I sure as hell can’t read it. ‘When are you going out to China/Japan?’ I’m not, at least not before the deadline. These were fair enough questions to ask and no doubt someone who did speak the language would have written a much better thesis than the one that I churned out. I know a lot of people though who started to narrow down a global research area, came up against these language/travel barriers, and immediately veered away from non-English history entirely, and I think this leaves a wealth of potential scholarship unexplored.

Read Article →

Learning From Journals: What can we Learn From ‘The Landswoman’?

November 2, 2015 | Cherish Watton.

The Women’s Land Army was a civilian organisation set up during World War One and used again in World War Two until 1950. Women replaced men on the land, working in multiple roles in agriculture, forage (haymaking for food for horses) or timber cutting. What can we learn about the representation of women’s wartime work from The Landswoman journal?

Read Article →