“Why Anxious Readers under Quarantine Turn to Mrs. Dalloway” by Evan Kindley
“How Pandemics Seep Into Literature” by Elizabeth Outka
“What Will Happen to the Novel after This?” by Emily Temple
“The COVID-19 Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by Annalise Silivanch
“Reading for the Plague: A Syllabus” by Bryan Alexander
“Mad, bad, and dangerous to know”: Lord Byron Links
I think you all need to know that Byron despised Wordsworth and called him “Turdsworth.”
“Portraits Of Lord Byron, In Order Of Lord Byron-ness” Enjoy this irreverent ranking of Byron portraits on The Toast (and if you like it, be sure to click on the #lordbyron tag at the end for more). Here’s the first:
Rabbie Burns, Dolly Parton, & Feminist Murder Ballads
I’ve been listening to this wonderful podcast (Dolly Parton’s America) on my commute, and the other day I learned that many of Dolly Parton’s songs have their roots in Scottish-Appalachian murder ballads.
Many of the people who have lived in Parton’s Smokey Mountains have ancestors that trace directly back to northern England and Scotland. When they came to the states (via Ireland) in the 18th century, they brought the “murder ballads” that were popular at the time with them.
Murder ballads are “an oral tradition of men singing songs about brutally killing women”. Here’s one, “Shady Grove,” as sung by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman:
Those ballads survived through many generations in the isolated communities nestled deep in the Appalachian mountains, and young Dolly Parton listened and sang along to them on her porch in Tennessee.
As she grew up and started to write songs of her own, Parton flipped the narrative. Instead of songs by murderers (mostly men) about their victims (mostly women), many of her songs were voiced by women wronged by the men in their lives. Here’s one example:
What does Rabbie Burns have to do with this? He helped preserve many of those Scottish murder ballads and (as you know) helped create a culture where they were elevated and appreciated, ensuring that they would live on.
You can hear the rhythm of those ballads in songs like Parton’s “Jolene.” For fun, try reading Rime of the Ancient Mariner to the tune of “Jolene” or “Shady Grove.”
Be sure to check out the William Blake Archive to get a broader sense of Blake’s work and vision.
And here’s a link to a video by the British Library about Blake’s printing process: William Blake’s Printing Process
On Whalebones & Petticoats
To fifty chosen Sylphs, of special note,
We trust th’ important charge, the Petticoat:
Oft have we known that seven-fold fence to fail,
Tho’ stiff with hoops, and arm’d with ribs of whale;
Form a strong line about the silver bound,
And guard the wide circumference around.
Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock
Here’s an article that might help clear up confusion about the kind of petticoat the Sylphs were guarding in Rape of the Lock: “Why Hoop Petticoats Were Scandalous” – Erin Blakemore