Friday, 29 December 2017

Art Gallery of South Australia | PabloSebastianX

PabloSebastianX at the gallery was such a wonderful exhibition (it sadly closed earlier this month) and, being free-entry, I went numerous times to admire it. It featured the designs of South Australian couture designer Paul Vasileff situated among the gallery’s semi-permanent collection.

It was really wonderfully positioned throughout the gallery and I loved how they set-up the dresses in different rooms with different props that reflected the collection and interacted with the surrounding art in interesting ways.

And that’s what I loved most about this exhibition and something I really took in when I visited it for the last time: the contrast of the contemporary, romantic and otherworldly dresses with art that spanned across centuries and artistic movements and how it made me look at the dresses and art again, in a new light.

It made the whole thing more beautiful, engaging and inspiring.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

The English Review Vol. 6 | Icons of Decadence

Icons of Decadence is probably my favourite English course so far, I enjoyed the lectures, tutorials and reading list.

The Victorian Era, especially towards the turn of the century which this course focused on, was one incredibly concerned with change and the future of the race. How the Victorians challenged and tried to restabilise gender norms is of particular interest to me and all the texts on the reading list helped build a picture of the different arguments during the era.

The course really made me love the Victorian era and want to continue reading in the period. Far from being stuffy and boring, Victorian literature is just as engaging and dramatic as any modern lit. The reading list for Icons has a few really great examples (and some not so great) of Victorian literature to get stuck into…

Reading list: Women Who Did (selected short stories) ed. by Angelique Richardson, The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle, She by H. Rider Haggard, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, The Beach of Falesá by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Peter and Wendy and Peter in Kensington Gardens by J.M. Barrie.
It’s nice to occasionally have a topic that you enjoy almost everything on the reading list. The only one I really didn’t like was Rider Haggard’s She, which was long and uneventful until the last quarter and, even then, was questionable in the entertaining stakes. I wasn’t fond of The Beach of Falesá either, but it had more interest in its story and subsequent tutorial discussion than She.

I loved picking up a Sherlock Holmes novel again and the Women Who Did short stories were so interesting that I’m planning on reading the others that weren’t on the list. Someone complained that they were a bit too didactic, but I couldn’t help but be drawn to the voices of women trying to alter deeply seated notions of what it was to be a woman.

And my top three novels of the course, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dracula and Peter and Wendy. They are all deserving of a whole post of their own, there is so much to find entertaining and worthy of analysis in them. Particularly interesting to me is how they showcased ideas and ideals surrounding gender in the late-Victorian period. They also have engaging stories and characters. I highly recommend all three!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

currently reading…Sabriel

I’m about halfway through Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) by Garth Nix and I am absolutely loving it. I’ve been wanting to read this series for a while so I hunted it down in the library when I was free from uni and really craving a good Fantasy adventure/quest novel. Fantasy is my favourite genre but it’s not one I really get to read very often for study.
I am enthralled by this novel, it is as good as I was hoping (and it’s always nice when that happens): fantastic characters, a world and magic system that is both really cool and unique, and a mysterious and well-pace plot.
It’s also really inspiring and making me think as I try to wrangle my novel idea into an actual plot. I feel like I picked this up at the perfect time.

I also recently started reading I Call Myself A Feminist, an edited series of essays, and am looking forward to getting stuck into it. It’s the second of three feminism books I bought a while ago that I’m trying to finish by the end of summer, partly so I can justify collecting more…

Friday, 24 November 2017

Fleurieu Peninsula | Day Trip

To celebrate my younger sister’s birthday, the whole family came down to Adelaide for the weekend and then we headed off to explore the Fleurieu Peninsula for the day. I didn’t realise South Australia had such a beautiful coastline!
We visited Myponga Reservoir, Ingalalla Falls, Second Valley and finished the day in Normanville with a walk (and run) along the beach, getting more wet than planned before some obligatory fish and chips.
It was so much fun to have a mini-family holiday and was a much needed rest during the super hectic end-of-semester study period. 

Saturday, 18 November 2017

The English Review Vol. 5 | Adaptation

Adaptations was a great course, especially for the writer in me. Looking at how different people approached remaking and altering stories puts the focus on how stories are constructed in a way that other English course aren’t always able to do (because they’re focusing on other equally interesting topics such as the text’s society, themes, etc.).

The course also changed how I look at book to film adaptations. Analysing what the adaptor did with the source material in order to fit it within a filmic narrative and time limit, what they brought from the novel and what they altered or added, allows you to see that in every story there are thousands of ways it could have been told. I’ll now view adaptations, not as either as good or not as good as the book, but with interest to see what the adaptor’s reading of the story was, whether they are making a comment on the source text, etc. (side note: often an adaption is adapting a number of texts, not just the core novel).

English in general has taught me to be more open-minded about texts that aren’t within my interests and likes and still be curious to analyse and learn from it regardless of whether I like it or not. I think that’s one of the best things I’ve gotten out of university studies so far.
Reading list: Momento Mori by Jonathan Nolan, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, The Shining by Stephen King, The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brain Selznick

Film list: Momento (2000) dir. Christoper Nolan, No Country for Old Men (2007) dir Coen brothers, The Shining (1980) dir. Stanley Kubrick, The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) dir. Anthony Minghella, Plein soleil (1960) dir. René Clément, Hugo (2012) dir. Martin Scorsese

Even though I enjoyed this topic immensely, I didn’t fall in love with any of the texts we studied. There were quite a few I enjoyed and one I disliked intensely.
On the good side, Momento (2000) was incredibly engaging and suspenseful, Hugo (2012) was a visually beautiful and narratively charming film, and I really admired Highsmith’s tightly written The Talented Mr Ripley.

On the not so good side, The Shining. The film and novel, though different in numerous ways, both shared the characteristic of not being very scary for a horror and taking three quarters of the text for anything to happen. The treatment of Wendy and the few other women in King’s novel was particularly irking for me and why I’d say I feel more animosity towards the novel than the film. The novel and film were put on the course partially because of the hate King gave Kubrick’s version and that was an interesting thing to discuss, especially since some of the things King criticised in Kubrick’s version were actually already in his novel. There’s always something to gain from reading out of your comfort zone and exploring different ways of telling stories, although with The Shining it’s a bit harder to see.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Quote | All description is an opinion about the world

March feels way too far in the past to have only been seven months ago, but at the same time, with both my major essays finally completed and only my Latin exam to go, it feels too soon for the uni year to end! It’s been a great semester, I’ve enjoyed all my courses and done well with keeping the stress down and grades up (more or less) and I feel a bit sadder than usual to be bidding these courses farewell.

Having said that, I’m looking forward to getting stuck into writing projects and a regular sleep cycle.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The English Review Vol. 4 | Literature and Society in Victorian Britain

As the name suggests, this was an English course with a serious History bent. It was super fascinating finding out more about the Victorian era (and super handy for this semester which is once again looking at the Victorian era) and how its novels were both influenced by and influenced society.

Since one of the main things you do in English studies, and one of my favourite parts, is looking at the connection between literature and the society and culture that produced, it proved to be both useful and insightful to have a topic so grounded with actual information about the era. Having said that, a bit more focus on the actually novels would have been good…  

Reading list: selection of poetry, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, Middlemarch by George Elliot, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

Middlemarch was much more enjoyable than I expected and Heart of Darkness much more confusing. Our Mutual Friend restored my faith in Dickens as a writer and the likelihood of Little Dorrit being as good as the 2008 BBC adaptation.

And then there was Jane Eyre.  

Jane Eyre was a novel I’d been wanting to read for a while, so I was excited to see it on the course list. But I was also apprehensive, worried it wouldn’t be what I wanted and expected. Jane was as fierce and independent and headstrong as I hoped and she more than made up for the fact that Rochester is actually a super dodgy guy. I liked being in Jane’s head as she came to terms with the world and found her place in it. I enjoyed that more than the romance, which was enjoyable but, like I said, Rochester is dodgy as.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Monarto Zoo | a day at the zoo

Before the mid-semester break, the Buds and I woke up early on a Saturday and took the two hour bus trip out of the city to South Australia’s open-air zoo, Monarto (apparently the largest open-air zoo in the world!).

After fortifying ourselves with an early picnic lunch, we jumped on the first bus to take a look around the zoo. The easiest way to look at all the animals on exhibit is by hopping on and off the tour buses, they take you all the way around the zoo and into the animal enclosures. The bus also stops at viewing platforms, so you can get off and see the animals from a more stable position. There are a few walking trails, but we didn’t get to those this time round.

We did managed to catch a couple of keeper talks though, which were really good, mainly for the opportunity to see some of the animals closer up.
My favourites were the giraffes.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Quote | There is nothing that Art cannot express

Mid-semester holidays are finally upon us! All my assignments (including all my scary-presenting assignments for the semester!) for term 3 are finally done and I can relax a bit … it feels odd haha.

It’s been a good, long, stressful term.

  • Currently listening to Tearin' Up My Heart on repeat.
  • Still reading Dracula, but hoping to finish this week and move onto Peter Pan
  • Looking forward to going home for the mid-semester break (this weekend!).

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Currently reading…Dracula

I am currently reading Dracula by Bram Stoker for English. It wasn’t a text I was looking forward to reading, but I’m barely 20 pages in, and so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I’m really enjoying it.

It’s written as a series of journal extracts and the immediacy of the present tense makes the novel instantly engaging.
I’m looking forward seeing to how the story unfolds (what the plot actually is) and getting to know the characters (hoping a good female character gets an appearance but not holding my breath).

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Art Gallery of South Australia | what studying Art History is really about

The Art Gallery is one of my favourite places to visit, even more so since studying Art History. Art History has given me a curiosity and openness about looking at the possible meanings in art and how that meaning is made through colour, style, medium, etc., regardless of whether I like it or not.

The great thing about studying Art History (studying English is much the same) is it teaches you and gives you the confidence to engage with art. It’s not about over analysing or saying an artist (or writer) was completely conscious of the array of meanings to be found in their work. It’s about learning to interrupt the ways, as humans, we create meaning and how the ideas and ideals of a time are reflected within art and literature.

One of my lecturers warned learning to analyse and think more critically about art and literature can interrupt your ability to just simply enjoy things until you reach a stage when you can enjoy and analyse simultaneously. Luckily I haven’t found it a problem so far, mostly it’s just made me much more curious.

And now I go to the gallery, not just for the atmosphere and architecture but actually for the art.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Why Representation Matters | thoughts on representation and the thirteenth doctor

Representation is a topic I’m immensely interested in in my studies and passionate about in my writing and, with the recent announcement of the thirteen doctor, it seemed like an apt time for a post on that very topic.

Stories are powerful, they can influence the way we see and think about people and ideas, they can comfort us by reflecting our likeness and challenge us by showing us a different way of being and experiencing the world, all while entertaining and enthralling us.

‘The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognising how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.’ - We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 34

My approach and interest in representation revolves primarily around women and gender in the fictional sphere. My goals in writing are about creating better, more diverse representation for women. How people are represented in stories affects how we, subconsciously, view ourselves and others, that’s why I think putting women into more central roles that don’t abide by old ideals is vital to helping to end gender stereotypes.

There’s a challenge that comes with all change, though, the status quo is comfortable and familiar and when someone tries to change that it can feel confronting and unnecessary. Which brings me to the recent casting of the thirteenth doctor in BBC’s Doctor Who, one of my favourite tv shows. The casting of Jodie Whittaker was predictably controversial, when a new doctor is announced the news is usually met with apprehension, but her being a woman complicated matters.

Whilst, I’ll admit, I’m a bit worried about this change, it’s mainly that I don’t want the show itself to make a big deal out of the change. In other words, I don’t want the doctor’s gender to become a gimmick. However, regardless of potential over focus of the changed gender, making such a prominent hero character, of an already much-loved and successful tv show, into a woman is an exciting move. Even if the doctor being a women is just to increase female representation, I don’t see that as a bad thing to be trying to do.

There is a comfort in things staying the same, which I understand, but taking the step of changing a character to be a woman, not just any character but the title role, is a positive step. I think Peter Davidson did a really good job explaining why people might be apprehensive of a female doctor and it’s true, the doctor shows a male role model that isn’t as typically masculine as quite a lot of others. However, making the doctor a woman allows girls to see themselves in a hero’s position, which is not something that’s as common for them as it is for boys.

Working to improve female representation allows girls to dream big and, hopefully, by raising the appreciation of women and traditionally womanly attributes, boys can be freed from their gender stereotypes, too. Reading and watching people who are like ourselves doing and achieving, helps us believe we can, too (except maybe time travel…).
And that is why I think representation and a female doctor who are so important. 

I hope that all made some sense. If not, I think I can sum it up by saying that greater and more diverse representation of women in media is vital in breaking down gender stereotypes and I’m really excited to see the thirteenth doctor in action next year!

Recommended Reading/Viewing 

 ~ This Tumblr post. Funny, sarcastic and makes its point well (although it’s also kinda depressing…).

~ We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a brilliant little book that explains what feminism means. She brings up some great points about how we raise girls and boys to think in certain ways that damage and limit both genders.

~ This video on how the language we use effects the way we think about people and things, specifically the term ‘girl,’ is both enlightening and very similar to how representation works subconsciously. 

~ Past Doctors react to the Thirteenth doctor.

~ Freema Agyeman being wonderful and talking about how everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in art. 

Friday, 7 July 2017

Film Review | Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Beauty and the Beast (2017) dir. Bill Condon  
...Certain as the sun...Rising in the east.....Tale as old as time...Song as old as rhyme......Beauty and the Beast...

Disney’s 1991 version of Beauty and the Beast was my favourite movie when I was little and I still love it today, so I was excited when Disney announced an upcoming adaptation of that very film, starring none other than Emma Watson.

For those unfamiliar with the tale, the story begins with an enchantress cursing a selfish prince into a beast until he can ‘learn to love another, and earn her love in return.’ Belle, the story’s protagonist, becomes The Beast’s captive, but with the help of the castle’s enchanted servants, she begins to look past The Beast’s exterior and he, in turn, begins to change…

As I had no expectations that it would surpass the original, I really enjoyed Disney’s 2017 version. As a tale Beauty and the Beast is a great romantic adventure, with heart, humour and a fantastic female lead.

The 2017 movie is incredibly faithful to the 1991 animated film, its plot varies only slightly and even recreates some dialogue word for word. While the beginning of the film is a bit awkward, perhaps in its desire to lovingly recreate everything, it improves noticeably as it continues.
 Throughout the film, there are moments where the closeness of the two versions made the 2017 film feel stilted. Having said that, there were plenty of times where the dedication to the original was appreciated, particularly the ballroom scene. The details that were added to the plot seemed on the whole unnecessary but not unpleasant. However, the climax suffered from these small changes, lacking the drama of the 1991 version and dialogue added in scenes that otherwise exactly recreated the original lacked subtlety. I did love the humour that was added, especially in the banter between Cogsworth and Lumière.

The film was never going to be as good as the original in my eyes, however, 2017’s Beauty and the Beast is still a very enjoyable film.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Quote | If you have a real dream

Dreams and future planning have been floating around my head the last week or so as I’ve come home for the holidays and have a bit more time to spend on other things. I’ve been working on my novel again (yay!) and also started looking into universities for my exchange. I watched this TED talk the other day and it’s really got me thinking.

I’ll be celebrating my birthday over the next couple of days and like the New Year, it feels like the perfect time to have fun planning and thinking about goals and dreams and fears.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Reading Classics

Before starting my Arts degree, the only ‘classic’ book I’d read was probably Pride and Prejudice (after seeing the brilliant 2005 adaption). I’d always felt a bit apprehensive about reading older books, assuming they would be too difficult to understand or incredibility boring, perhaps both.
However, studying English literature somewhat forces you to read older literature and, thankfully for an English major like myself, I discovered it’s not as difficult or as boring as I feared. In fact, older literature can be just as entertaining, moving and interesting as contemporary fiction.

Classics and other older books that have survived long enough that you can still borrow them from a normal library have done so for a reason, because they’re actually quite good. The novel has gone through various incarnations, but at a fundamental level, it’s stayed the same for hundreds of years. Realism is still the gold standard, as my lecturer put it, and Victorian (and I’d argue earlier) realism is actually quite similar to the current realist genre (normally just called ‘fiction’). Different eras preferenced different subgenres and styles, some of which can be confusing (post-modernism, for example), however that can also be part of the fun as it allows you to see what people enjoyed reading.

Reading older books can also be a great way to get a sense of how people lived and thought at a particular time and, especially with realism, an authentic view of the world as a particular writer saw it. Books are such a marvellous way of getting to understand a different way of seeing or thinking about the world and that’s what makes reading books of every and any age, but especially classics, so interesting.

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