Amanda Craig at the post-talk book signing.
Amanda Craig gave us a fascinating in-depth talk. Novels are now labelled. 'The State of the Nation' genre is one that is not currently popular despite the fact that it has wide reaching plots that include crime, detection, mystery, love, law, medicine, marriage and, of course, money. The progenitor of the genre is Anthony Trollope, his novel The Way We Live Now was prompted by his disgust of the literary, political, social and financial life in Britain at the time, he saw himself as both an insider and an outsider coming as he did from a poor background. Then came Thackeray’s social comedy Vanity Fair and then George Eliot’s rich, subtle novel Middlemarch.
Writer Ernest Hemingway famously said that “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.” The audience at October’s meeting of the Woodstock Literature Society was able to hear the considered opinions of Dr David Grylls of Kellogg College, University of Oxford about this feted book and its author.
Dr FREYA JOHNSTON
PROFESSOR MARION TURNER
Dr SOPHIE DUNCAN
Dr ROSS KING
PROFESSOR ROSEMARY ASHTON
An eager audience filled the St Hugh’s Hall for the launch of our 2022 programme, which got off to a flying start with Jane Thynne’s illustrated talk on the background to writing ‘Widowland’ and her fascination with Berlin, which had been a magnet to authors such as John Le Carre, Len Deighton, Richard Harris and Christopher Isherwood. Jane observed the majority of spy stories featured a male lead and she particularly wanted to create a female protagonist, and so began the series of ‘Clara Vine’ spy thrillers set in Nazi Germany, under the pen-name C J Carey. Jane said how as a journalist, with the ingrained discipline of writing fact-based pieces, it seemed counterintuitive to write fantastical ‘what if’ fiction.
PROFESSOR DAME HERMIONE LEE
Professor Mullan at the post-talk book signing.
Dr FRANCES WILSON
Dr DAVID GRYLLS
PROFESSOR DAVID DWAN
PROFESSOR ABIGAIL WILLIAMS
DR FREYA JOHNSTON
It was a delight to welcome back Dr Hopper to the Town Hall and hear his entertaining and informative lecture focusing on books which it was suggested are helpful pre-reads before 'Ulysses' ie: 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' and 'Dubliners' with particular reference to 'Eveline'.
The talk explored influence and relationship between James Joyce, Flann O'Brien and W B Yeats. The latter was a key critical element, being a quiet, strong advocate of Joyce's work, and source of encouragement. Joyce was self-confident and did not mince his words, which were not to everyone's taste in contemporary Ireland, to the point that George Russell, editor of 'The Irish Homestead' asked Joyce not to write anything that would offend their conservative readers.
Joyce said “I want to write something that will keep the professors busy for centuries”, and he certainly achieved that aim – apparently a Bodleian website search will bring up 600+ study references.
Dr Hopper observed how Joyce's naturalism and symbolism came together in 'Dubliners' which is easy to read but difficult to analyse with its subtleties. Joyce leaves the reader to determine the meaning of the stories, which can change with repeated readings. Dr Hopper's enthusiasm shone through and in conclusion he urged the audience to be confident readers of Joyce's accessible early works whose powerful rhythmic prose is perhaps best appreciated when read out loud.
Our speakers arrive/audience in anticipation.
In animated conversation.
A teatime treat awaits.
The Woodstock Literature Society's 10th Anniversary Event
On Saturday, 11th May 2019.
Review of Michael Billington in Dialogue with Peter Kemp
A large audience gathered at the Church of St Mary Magdalene and celebrated the society's tenth anniversary by hearing a conversation about theatre between two distinguished critics. Michael Billington has been the Guardian's theatre critic for nearly 50 years, and Peter Kemp has reviewed theatre and books for over 30 years. In the early 1960s star actors dominated the theatre; then many new writers emerged and their work became dominant; and in our time the director is king, supported by technology in sound and lighting. We now go to see classic plays re-interpreted. We also see more adaptations of novels or films – some, like Small Island, are excellent, but they are not great drama in the way that Ibsen's Rosmersholm (playing now) is. Great drama, for Michael Billington, achieves three things: it uses language excitingly, it uses the stage excitingly, and it has something to say about our lives today.
The practicalities of theatre reviewing have changed. Originally critics phoned in their review after the performance (with huge scope for errors, such as the opera Doris Goodenough). Now they email it early the next day. Both speakers thought, perhaps surprisingly, that they enjoyed performances more when they were reviewing them, because they had to focus so intensely. they felt strongly that a good review should give pleasure in itself and not merely support a star rating. At best the reviewer, in Anatole France's words, 'describes the adventures of his soul amongst masterpieces'.
An attentive audience in the Town Hall.