LITERATURE a journey in the heart of a language

Above: Entrance to the Temple of Literature, Hanoi

"I imagined it. I wrote it. But I guess I never thought I'd see it." -Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth

Our teacher once told us that learning grammar is not enough to understand a language; you need to know its origins and its evolution to really master it. She asked us to write a diary to better realize how we feel about literature.

What literature is to me

I see literature as a medium to travel trough time and space with no need to really move. Through documents and with the help of a giude anyone can explore infinite places in different times. I would define it as a link between present and past that can not possibly be riven. To be honest I am very excited to begin this journey in the heart of a language.

GEOFFREY CHAUCER - the father of English literature

"People can die of mere immagination" -G.C.

Above: 70002 'Geoffrey Chaucer'. Liverpool Street Station. 2 September 1953

"Chaucer is regarded as the father of English literature and as the first major secular poet [...] His language, the dialect of London, gradually became standard English, thus becoming the basis of Modern English."

Portrait of Chaucer

I really appreciated Geoffrey Chaucer because he was able to portray English society at his time by describing people belonging to different social classes. We contrued the prologue of his most famous poem, The Canterbury Tales, to have a better setting and dive right into the narration. We also analysed some of the main characters with the help of our teacher. The personage I liked the most is the Wife of Bath since she represents the figure of a strong and independent woman. Being emancipated was not simple at the time, and by reading The Canterbury Tales I better understood the importance of being freelance. I found the Monk disagreeable, since he impersonate the corruption of the Church, but I loved Chaucher's ruling to mock him.

Another aspect that duzzled me is the writer's decision to be a character of his own tale, which was a true innovation for the ancient standards; it also makes it easier to empathize with the events, rendering everything more interesting and involving.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE -the greatest writer in English language

"Though this be madness, yet there is method in't." -W.S.

Above: Robert B. Williamson as Hotspur, and Harold O. Koenig as Prince Hal Dueling on Stage during the King William Players Production of "Henry IV, Part I" by William Shakespeare. Publication Date: 1970-11

"William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet, and the "Bard of Avon".[...] His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright "

Portrait of William Shakespeare

I'm in love with Shakespeare. He is fresh and actual, even if his works were composed 500 years ago. He was an absolute genius and I believe everybody should study him at school. Morover our teacher really likes him and her passion is influencing me a lot, so that, sometimes, when I have nothing to do, I read his poems out loud to pass the time.

New words

Shakespeare is said to be the inventor of 1,700 new words. In reality many of these words would likley have been in common parlance, just not written down prior to Shakespeare. I was amazed by the fact that most of these words have survived trough centuries and, even today, we use them without realizing that they are almost 500 years old.

My mistress' eyes

Above: Letizia Battaglia-Mimmo Ortolano's daughter, 1991

We analyzed a few poems with the help of our teacher. I liked them all, but my absolute favourite is My mistress' eyes.

In this sonnet, the writer describes his lover in a totally new way. In fact, Shakespeare wants to subvert courtly love; to do so he abandon the exaggerated metaphores that are tipical of the courtly poerty and he gives a realistic portrait of his woman. Even if his mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun and coral is far more red than her lips red, he concludes the sonnet stating that he is in love with her regardless of her not being perfect, which is, to me, the most romantic thing he could say. (I like romance, could you tell?)

Hamlet

Hamlet, 1948

Hamlet is one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies and my personal favourite topic we have dealed with in literature this year.

We analyzed the plot and some of the dialogues, such as Hamlet meets the ghost and Have you eyes?

To be or not to be

To be, or not to be--that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune Or to take arms against a sea of troubles And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep-- No more--and by a sleep to say we end The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep-- To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub, For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause. There's the respect That makes calamity of so long life. For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely The pangs of despised love, the law's delay, The insolence of office, and the spurns That patient merit of th' unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscovered country, from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will, And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all, And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprise of great pitch and moment With this regard their currents turn awry And lose the name of action.

In this soliloquy Hamlet face one of the most difficult question every man needs to ask himself at least once in a lifetime: To be or not to be?

I am genuinely in love with this passage, so much that I have also memorized half of it. I am fascinated by Hamlet's desire not to be a pawn in the game of life, but also by his fear of death. I love the inner-fight the protagonist has to decide wether it is better to end all of his problems by committing siucide or to survive and not to risk something worse.

My favourite interpretation of the soliloquy is the one by Kenneth Branagh, because I find it really expressing, as it represents Hamlet's indecision.

SUMMER HOMEWORK

Above: Cult Summer, Madeleine Buzbee

After a couple of months spent doing nothing it is time for me to start thinking about my homework again. To be honest I did not really miss this side of the school. But here I am, back at it again, so lets get started!

Before the ending of the school period our teacher gave us two books which have their own film adaptation. She asked us to read them and analize the relation between the book and the movie by answering some questions.

The perks of being a wallflower

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is narrated by Charlie, the titular ‘wallflower’, in a series of letters that he writes to a stranger, beginning the night before he starts his freshman year of high school in 1991. These letters catalogue Charlie’s attempts to “participate”, as he wanders wide eyed through a series of house parties and Rocky Horror Picture Show productions with his new, older friends. Along the way, Chbosky intelligently explores stock YA themes such as mental health, substance abuse and sexuality, whilst simultaneously reminding the reader about how exciting it is to be young and idealistic." -The Guardian

IMPRESSIONS ON THE PLOT

What does the novel make you think of?

The book makes me think of the importance of being accepted for a teenager during highschool. Feeling part of a group is fundamental, expecially during adolescence, when everything is constantly changing and the feelings are amplified. The book perfecly renders this idea by telling the story of Charlie, a teenager like many others, but different at the same time. Indeed Charlie is very sensitive and everything gains an extra worth. It is a beautiful voyage in the mind of a teenager.

THEMES

  • Frienship
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Sex
  • Passivity
  • Love
  • Family
  • Sadness
  • Literature

FILM ADAPTATION

What are the striking changings you notice?

I have not found any striking changing between the book and the film adaptation. Of course the director had to add or leave out some details in order to make the movie more appealing and of the right duration. For example all the parts referred to the protagonist's family were left out (I am specially talking about the family meetings, but also about his sister and her unwanted pregnancy); according to me they were quite important because they described a series of behaviors that better defined Charlie's personality. Moreover the song played in the tunnel did not have the same relevance in the book and in the movie: in fact the director decided to use it as a medium to link the first drive in the tunnel and the ending one, while in the book the song does not play such an important role. Furthermore Michael's suicide and the friendship with Bill, in my opinion, were quite neglected. Eventually the relashionship with Sam, which in the book ends up being a beautiful friendship, in the movie results to be the beginning of a love story: in fact Sam and Charlie kiss in the tunnel at the end of the movie, while in the book Charlie tells her that she is his bestfriend. Apart from these details I found the adaptation very accurate.

What about the setting?

The setting was extremely faithful. The only difference I noticed was the name of the pub: instead of being called "Big Boy" (such as in the book) it was named "Kings". Apart from that the setting was exactly how I imagined it.

What about the soundtrack?

To be honest I expected the music to be a lot more relevant in the movie. In the book Charlie makes a lot of references to the music he listens to, but the film adaptation emphasizes more on the plot rather than on the background music. Anyway the soundtrak includes one of the most important songs for Charlie (Asleep by The Smiths) and some of the 'good music' mentioned in the book.

What about the movement of the camera?

We do not have a lot of close ups in the movie; the most significant ones, according to my opinion, are the close ups on the actors when:

  • Sam and Charlie kiss for the first time;
  • Charlie gets bad again after Sam leaves and starts seeing his aunt Helen again;
  • Charlie threatens Brad after he had beaten the football team members in order to defend Patrik;
  • Charlie is under the effect of drugs.

I find them interesting because each one of them shows a different and intense emotion. In fact, Charlie had gone trough a lot of pain and these close ups render the suffering of the protagonist.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I liked the book and I found the movie really well done because it followed precisely all the book's main passages. On the other hand, I have to say that the film could be quite confusing if you had not read the book before, expecially in the final part, when Charlie remembers the abuses of his aunt Helen. However I still find it one of the most faithful film adaptation I have ever seen.

Rate: 3/5

Frankenstein

"Frankenstein is an old classic about a scientist who creates a monster and the awful events he unintentionally causes. Victor Frankenstein is a hard-working young man at university who discovers how to give life to an inanimate body and uses his knowledge to create a man-monster. He believes his discovery will lead to further scientific advances but when he succeeds in bringing his creation to life he is filled with loathing." -The Guardian

THE AUTHOR

Mary Shelley was born on August 30, 1797, in London, England. She married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816. Two years later, she published her most famous novel, Frankenstein. She wrote several other books, including Valperga (1823), The Last Man (1826), the autobiographical Lodore (1835) and the posthumously published Mathilde. Shelley died of brain cancer on February 1, 1851, in London, England.

IMPRESSIONS ON THE PLOT

What does the plot make you think of?

The plot made me think about how important the appearances have always been in the society. The monster, altough was friendly and kind, was considered dangerous and aggressive due to how it looked. Even the creator, who was supposed to be protective towards the creature, was terribly frightened by it. The plot shows how lonely a type can be if it does not conform to society's standards.

The book made me feel sad because I could identify myself in the monster. Indeed sometimes it is hard to be understood, even by those who are suppoused to be the closest figures in our life. It is also true that we often judge a book by its cover and we should learn that it is what is inside that really matters.

THEMES

  • Life
  • Science
  • Appareances
  • Revenge
  • Language and communication
  • Forgiveness
  • Sacrifice
  • Fate

FILM ADAPTATION

What are the striking changings you notice?

First of all the protagonist is not dr. Frankenstein but his grandson, Victor Frankenstein, who is a professor in a medical school. Victor reputes is dead granfather mad and refuses to be considered part of his family (he even changes his surname not to be recognized). Due to his granfather's will, Victor is forced to return to Transylvania, where he finds a book called 'How I did it' written by his grandad. The story repeats itself, but in a comic key. Victor finds some weird assistants who will help him during his adventure.

The director decided to add a lot of events in order to make the story more appealing and fun to watch. Basically everything in the movie comes from the director's immagination exept fot the structure, which follows the story of Mary Shelley.

What about the setting? Is it faithful?

The setting is very faithful. Brooks uses black-and-white photography that catches the feel of the earlier films. The “Frankenstein” laboratory, with its zaps of electricity, high-voltage special effects, and elevator platform to intercept lightning bolts, is extremely realistic.

What about the soundtrack?

The music had been adjust to the right degree of squeakiness, in order to make the movie seem older than it actually is. The sound of the violin is repeated a lot of times in the movie and becomes really important in the progress of the plot.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I liked the decision of the director to transform a tragic story into a comic movie and I think it really revoluzionises the narration. Even if I liked the film and I thought it was funny, I found it hard to remain concentrated for all the duration of the movie. According to my opinion the film adaptation alternated moments with a slow rhythm to moments where too many things happened all at once.

Rate: 3/5

I ragazzi che amavano il vento

Above: Ferdinando Scianna/Magnum Photos/Contrasto

'I ragazzi che amavano il vento' is a book of poems written by Shelley, Keats and Byron. The book gatheres the original version of every poem (obviously written in english) and the respective translation in italian. The poems collected in the book are about Italy and all its landscapes: indeed the poets were all in love with our land.

The book is divided into two parts: the first one is a comment by Roberto Mussapi where he talks about the relationship between Italy and the three poets; the second part is all about their poems.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

A major figure among the English Romantic poets, Shelley led an unconventional life and died tragically young.

To a Skylark

'To a Skylark' is the poem I liked the best. I found it deep and intense. She descrives a skylark in a way I have never seen before. I was reading the poem while laying on my sofa, and all of a sudden I identified myself in the bird, and I felt like I was in a completely different place. I loved it.

The pale purple even Melts around thy flight; Like a star of Heaven In the broad daylight Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight

John Keats

English Romantic lyric poet John Keats was dedicated to the perfection of poetry marked by vivid imagery that expressed a philosophy through classical legend.

Sonnet to the Sleep

I liked this poem because I found the subject of the sonnet totally unexpected. I never read a work of a poet who loved sleeping this much! I specially liked the way he talks to the Sleep, he uses the same style I would expect in a poem addressed to a lover.

George Gordon Byron

Portrait of George Gordon Byron

Da Beppo: a Venetian Story

In this poem Byron describes a popular celebration in Venice. I liked the fact that the language he used is a lot more fluid than the previous two, but the words he chose are still very selected. The work is so detailed that it is really easy to be involved in the atmosphere he creates.

'T is known, at least it should be, that throughout All countries of the Catholic persuasion, Some weeks before Shrove Tuesday comes about, The people take their fill of recreation, And buy repentance, ere they grow devout, However high their rank, or low their station, With fiddling, feasting, dancing, drinking, masking, And other things which may be had for asking.

Final thoughts

I liked this book because I found it very interesting: indeed it shows how poets belonging to a different century saw our marvelous land. Of course sometimes it was hard to follow, but it was totally worth it.

Rate:4/5

Stop wasting time

The next part of our homework consists in watching one of the videos previously selected by our teacher and write a page of reflection upon it.

Since I am a serial procrastinator, i chose the following video:

The video makes me think of all the time I have already wasted. It honestly feels quite depressing, because if I was not a procrastinator I would probably have done a lot more things with my life. I am aware that technology has increased my tendency to posticipate all my commitments till the last minute, when I start to panic and do everything faster than I can. As a result, I rarely do something as well as I would like to. I feel like socials have absorbed a great amount of my time and I realize that I spend most of my time in front of a screen. The fact is that sometimes, even when I am with other people, I feel the urge to check on my instagram or my whatsapp to see if something interesting had happened. As you can tell, I get distracted a lot more easily if I have a Wi-Fi connection than I do when I can not enter the web.

But let me tell you that I have an amazing talent at getting distracted. I could pass hours doddling, polishing my nails, doing my hair, watching TV, listening to music or simply staring at something. I know it sounds crazy, but I realize when I am wasting my time: I just can not get concentrated enough to change the situation. I guess I should give up socials for a while.

After watching the video I feel a lot more motivated. It made me reflect upon the way I spend my time and how I could invest it instead: for example I could dedicate it to the people I love or I could use it to do something I like.

And if your attention ever fades, focus on this old thought, that time is a thief that never gets caught.

If I had to shoot a video with an important message for people my age, it would probably be about individuality. According to my opinion, we are so into the way people look at us that we often forget who we really are. I believe that everybody should be able to express his own style and spread his own points of view. I think that the human body is beautiful in all his forms, so we should stop worrying about society's beauty standards that have been imposed to us. I admire those who have the courage to stand outside the group and I find them really inspirational.

-Frida Kahlo was an incredibly amazing woman. Her life was filled with physical as well as emotional pain. She endured more in her short life than most people will ever have to face. But she endured. She put her emotions into her painting, and as it were, she wore her heart on her canvas. Her work is a rare blend of true emotion, heartbreak, love, and life, as well as death. Most of her paintings were self-portraits. She said, "I paint self-portraits because I am the person I know best. I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other considerations." Her paintings, like Tori Amos's music, are very open and honest. They reflect her emotions, the events in her life, changes in her feelings - whether good or bad. She recorded her life in paint. Her imagery and style were very original, dramatic, and courageous. Her husband, the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, said: "Frida is the only example in the history of art of an artist who tore open her chest and heart to reveal the biological truth of her feelings. The only woman who has expressed in her work an art of the feelings, functions, and creative power of woman."-AmyBrown.net

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