J. W. Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs: A Modern Debate

The Manchester Art Gallery recently removed what is probably their best-loved painting ‘to prompt conversation’. The story of Hylas and the Nymphs dates back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans and has come down to us in a variety of tellings which means the story can be interpreted more than one way. I like J.W. Waterhouse’s painting of the subject and was sorry to learn it had been taken from view.

Controversy was intensified by this Guardian interview with the curator Claire Gannaway which included the quote:

“We think it probably will return, yes, but hopefully contextualised quite differently. It is not just about that one painting, it is the whole context of the gallery.”

By the time my sweetheart and I called in to the gallery earlier this week, the picture had been replaced, now above a sea of post-it notes.

People looking at a Pre-Raphaelite painting with post-it messages

Continue reading “J. W. Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs: A Modern Debate”

Ten must-read Gerard Manley Hopkins poems: Poetry to scratch our bellies on

Gerard Manley Hopkins was an innovator who wrote about nature and faith, rapture and despair. For me, we are all eccentrics, all individuals. Not everyone will share this view, but Gerard Manley Hopkins was idiosyncratic on anyone’s terms, often to his cost.

While at Balliol College at Oxford, he converted to Catholicism, tearing himself from his artistic, loving Anglican family to a tougher life as a Jesuit. He never regretted his decision, but struggled with depression and the drudgery of some of his duties. Conflicted about whether writing was compatible with his vocation, he wrote relatively little after his conversion. At the time of his premature death in 1889 his work was largely unknown. Continue reading “Ten must-read Gerard Manley Hopkins poems: Poetry to scratch our bellies on”

Tithonus: nature and poetry

Cicada

I’m not a voracious reader of poetry, but my favourite love poems and lyrics are part of my life, drawing me back to revisit them at the slightest prompt. This spring, I witnessed the culmination of the weird lifecycle of cicadas in Jackson, Mississippi. These creatures spend 13 years underground as nymphs before emerging together for a brief period of sunlight, flight, singing and mating to continue the cycle.

As we drove around the neighbourhood with the windows down, lured like the lady cicadas to listen to the loud chorus centres of males in local groves of trees, lines from one of my favourite poems – Tithonus by Alfred, Lord Tennyson – drifted back into my mind. Continue reading “Tithonus: nature and poetry”

Is it OK to read Charlotte Brontë’s books?

It’s ironic that Charlotte Brontë – who fruitlessly campaigned for her work to be judged on the same terms as men – is now about as close to the ranks of DWEM (dead, white, European, male writers) as a woman can be.

Her views – like herself – are from the 19th century. So perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised to see bloggers struggling with the idea of whether it’s OK for today’s women to read the pioneering books written by this Victorian writer. Continue reading “Is it OK to read Charlotte Brontë’s books?”