Austen in Edinburgh: A Lecture at the NLS

Emma FlyerI don’t normally write about lectures and seminars that I go to, but I recently had the opportunity to attend a rather interesting lecture at the National Library of Scotland that I thought I’d share with you all. The lecture has some fun bookish connections: organised by the Edinburgh-based author Alexander McCall Smith, the Isabel Dalhousie lecture is dedicated to one of Smith’s beloved characters, Isabel Dalhousie, philosopher and amateur sleuth, and (naturally) lover of Edinburgh and Scottish culture. This year’s lecture just happened to be on a topic I’m particularly interested in. Juliette Wells, an American scholar, gave a talk on the first American edition of Jane Austen’s Emma and its significance for Austen scholarship and the study of Austen’s reception in America. I read Wells’ book, Everybody’s Jane, for Austen in August last year (I was also supposed to re-read Emma itself for that particular event, but as I mentioned in my review of the novel, that turned out to be a massive bust…) so I was curious to hear her talk. Continue reading

Lit Major Abroad: Great Scott! Abbotsford, Melrose, and Sir Walter Scott

Abbotsford ThistleFamous writers throughout history have often had their well-known quirks. Many of them have created work-spaces that inspire and surprise. They can be placed into all sorts of categories, from the mildly romantic to the Spartan. And amidst all these categories, Walter Scott’s Abbotsford ranks somewhere between ‘inspired’ and ‘downright mad’.

Scott, who rose to fame in the early nineteenth century as a writer of sweeping historical romances, is one of Scotland’s most famous writers. He helped romanticise Highland culture and brought the stories of Scottish heroes like Rob Roy to the attention of the world. In the early Victorian period, everyone knew his name. From Ivanhoe to Waverley to The Lady of the Lake, Scott was a medievalist extraordinaire. What’s more, he wasn’t content to simply write about the past. He was determined to live in it. Or, rather, to live in a re-created romantic ideal of the past. Continue reading

Lit Major Abroad: Edinburgh – First Impressions

Edinburgh CastleYep. I know I’ve dropped the ball again when it comes to blogging (although, let’s face it, when it comes to my blogging habits, I have all the athletic skills of – well, of me, really). In my defence, it has been a crazy time: new city, new people, new bookstores to discover and spend way too much time in…. But now that winter has begun to sink its teeth into the city, and tourism seems distinctly less appealing in the biting wind (seriously, what is up with the wind in this city?) I thought I’d share some of my first impressions of Edinburgh. Because to be honest, I haven’t had all that much time to stop and reflect on my experiences here so far. Also, it’s essay-writing season over at the university, and I’m a tried and tested procrastinator.

So… where to begin with this famous city of literature? (And I’m not just saying that, by the way – Edinburgh really was named a City of Literature by UNESCO.) Continue reading

Top Ten Literary Places I’d Like to Visit

Scott Monument EdinburghThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt from The Broke and the Bookish is a freebie, and seeing as I’ve recently come to the UK for a year of study, I thought I’d use this opportunity to share my list of top literary places I’d like to visit while I’m here. Whether I’ll be able to visit all (or any) of these remains to be seen; but like all travelling bookworms, I dream big.

Top Ten Literary Places I’d Like to Visit (in the UK)

Continue reading

Lit Major Abroad: Istria, Home of the Famous Colossal Trousers

Porec StatueAustralians are a travel-hungry people generally, not content to sit on this hot, boring little island for too long at any one time. So we generally go overseas and sit on hot, boring little islands there, because it’s interesting and the people are fun and the food is better. Also we can collect those little bottles of soap and hair conditioner that you find in nicer hotels. Because, let’s face it, you never know when you might ten millilitres of runny, fifteen-year-old shampoo from a bottle that is older than all three of your children.

So in true Australian fashion, I have once again abandoned my home, and have headed to the home of my forefathers – Croatia – on the first leg of a year-long stint which will include plenty of travel, and a year of university study in the UK wedged in there somewhere (but let’s not talk about uni just yet, because it makes me terribly anxious, and also I haven’t bought all of my books yet). Continue reading

Paris in February (in April): Part II

notredamebackThis is Part Two of my Paris trip. If you’d like to read the first part, please click here.

You might be wondering, amidst all this talk of Irish, American and Argentinian writers, whether there is actually anything to see in Paris for those fans of French literature. Fear not, world literature lovers; there is plenty to keep the French lit-lover happy. You could start a little bit away from the centre of town, at the Maison de Balzac. This is the place where the author lodged for several years. It’s now a nice little monument to the writer, though if you don’t speak French you might find the signs a little difficult to read, as there is no English translation. I managed to muddle through on the basis of about five years’ worth of high school French. Here is what I managed to pick up: Continue reading

Paris in February (in April): Part I

eiffeltowerWell, it’s been a while, but I’m happy to report that this is the final instalment in my Lit Major Abroad segment for the time being. It took me a little longer to put together these last two posts, but I hope you enjoy them. So without further ado, I give you… Paris in February (in April).

Here’s a little confession. When they hear the word ‘Paris’, most people think of romance: the Eiffel Tower at night, walks along the Seine, laughing in the rain, our last summer…. Oh, dear. Do excuse me. I believe I’ve had another Abba outburst. Or, as I like to call them (at least in my head), ‘Abbursts’.

But while most people’s heads turn to candlelit restaurants and sipping coffee with their significant other, some people (myself included) prefer another side of Paris. Specifically, the literary side. There’s no getting around it. Paris is simply the city that every literature lover has to visit at least once in their lives. Some of the greatest minds in French literature lived and worked here. Continue reading

Romantics in Rome: the German Edition

IMG_1457.2Last week I looked at some of the English Romantics who chose to call Rome their home. I’ve already discussed one of my favourite museums in the world, the Keats-Shelley House, but Rome also appealed to writers from the other side of the Channel. So while in Rome I decided to visit the Casa di Goethe and see where the famous German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe lived, wrote, and painted. It was also a place of particular interest because at the time I was knee-deep in Goethe’s book Italian Journey, about his time in Italy (though not literally knee-deep, of course. That would have been embarrassing while trying to read on the train to Pompeii).

So what was this famous German writer doing in Rome? Well, it’s a funny story, and it goes something like this: Continue reading

Romantics in Rome

ColosseumViewOut

Go thou to Rome,—at once the Paradise,
The grave, the city, and the wilderness …

-Percy Bysshe Shelley, ‘Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats’

John Keats, one of the best-known poets of the Romantic era, died in Rome in 1821. Not long after, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote these beautiful and heartbreaking lines, which encourage the reader to visit Keats’ grave in Rome. Since then, Keats’ final resting place has fascinated generations of visitors. A few weeks ago, I decided to visit it and try to grasp its significance for myself.

Keats left England for Italy in 1820. In a little house on the Spanish Steps, he spent his final months with his friend Joseph Severn, fighting the illness that would eventually claim him. Today the house is a museum, devoted to the writing of Keats and his contemporaries. Continue reading