Rising [Literature] Bollards

14 07 2007

It seems like it has both been far shorter and far longer, but yesterday was, in fact, Friday. There was the usual classes, me reading more Shakespeare (I’ll be dreaming with thous and thees by the end of the month), and a fairly good dinner at the end of the line.

In-between the end of classes for the week and dinner the Mason folks, among others, headed over to the opening gathering for the bookstore Heffers. Once there, we were plied with crisps, wine, and a 10% discount on all books in the store. On my Novel’s professor’s recommendation I picked up a novel called White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I also thought about buying The Satanic Verses by Rushdie. It might even have had some extra value, as I suspect the next printing will have a Sir attached to the front of his name. I didn’t get it (mostly because I really didn’t like Midnight’s Children, one of his other books, that much). I was somewhat surprised to discover that it was some pretty fantastical fiction (at least that was my impression from reading the summery on the back) that had gotten Rushdie banned from his own country.

After dinner and the evening lecture on Macbeth, at the invitation of the Mason professor who is our supervisor here, most of the other Mason students, a few others, and I headed off to The Anchor [Photos to come] for a sort of second dinner. We met up with a Mason alumni, one of the (only just) alumni who works here at Cat’s, and the Cambridge summer school equivalent of RAs for Cat’s. We had some interesting talk, ranging from guilty music pleasures, to American and British TV, to tax, to the specifics of the English higher education system, and beyond. Most interesting is the fact that all schools in England are played for by the country, essentially, they are all public schools (though an attempt is being made to change that). Surprising.

Also… free national healthcare. Man, I am definitely the citizen of the wrong country.

Also, we did a great deal of talking about the British grammar rules and how they apply to our essay. There are some minor differences (besides the spelling) that are very interesting and quite different from our American tendencies.

Finally, though it was earlier in the day, I want to note a conversation I had with one of the other students here (from the Ohio area) about how they teach Shakespeare here in Cambridge. Essentially (and I later noticed myself doing this unconsciously) we read in to Shakespeare our own present day politics and meanings. In a sense American schools teach us to read Shakespeare in order to pull out what we see as our own ideas reflected in the Bard’s writing, reinforcing ourselves and our opinions. When you think about it, it’s a very stereotypical American way to look at it. Here in GB, and I think it is a far (far? :P) better thing they do. They read the works of Shakespeare with an eye and mind towards what the Bard might have been experiencing at the time of the play. So we look at the political landscape and the natural landscape that Shakespeare experienced and how it is expressed in his work.

Perhaps it is a way of looking at things that we Americans might be better off applying, lest we find ourselves caught on the Rising Bollards of our own literary egotism.

As You Like It

12 07 2007

The usual classes, which continue to be quite interesting, occurred. The plenary lecture this time ’round was “Shakespeare, Skepticism and Belief.” Which had some interesting philosophical points, but was overall a bit towards the boring side, though that could have been my lack of sleep as well.

For lunch we ended up over at the Eagle, a pub. The food and drink wasn’t too overpriced, and it was delicious. No one had any complaints about their food, beyond the large size of the portions. I decided to go traditional and order fish and chips (and an ale). My decision was rewarded by a meal both filling and delicious.

After a later subject course it was shopping time. We hit up St. Andrews Street again and then it was off the large Market Place. I stopped by Boots (a CVS like store) to pick up some essentials. Also of special noteMarks and Spencers, which is a popular superstore selling a remarkable range of items from food to clothes, had a manned kiosk that changed money without charging commission; and at a descent rate too!

Dinner was followed by an evening lecture on Cambridge and the Colleges, a sort of historical look at the structure and origins of the University. The lecture was not exactly what I expected, but the speaker was humorous and it was pretty good. I ended off in the bar in St. Catharine’s, which had a good beer selection and was inexpensive. I ended off the night with a bit of Shakespeare.