“Culture of the Dead:” The Victorian Fascination with the Influence of the Multi-Cultural at Highgate Cemetary

Circle-of-Lebanon-2 SCENES FROM HIGHGATE CEMETERY. UNUSUAL HEADSTONES AND GRAVES. EgyptianAvenue_HighgateCemetary index

 

During my excursion to the Highgate cemetery in Northern London, I noticed that the British influence was not the only cultural influence that was common to identify at this historic site.  From the architecture, to the structure of burial techniques, to the environment that surr0ounds each tombstone, mausoleum, and/or chamber, these all represent the different symbols of different cultures.  The variety of cultural influence at Highgate stems from the Victorian fascination that with the imports they brought over from the different regions under their rule.  This was during the “Victorian Age of Imperialism,” in which the Victorians would become absorbed into the culture of the lands they conquered.  A majority of the imperialist influence can be seen throughout the west side of the cemetery grounds. Not only were the Victorians fascinated with other cultures in terms of their imperialist rule, but as well they had an appreciation for the other cultures that stem from their roots as a nation.

There are three major areas in this cemetery that give us signs of these influences.  The Greco-Roman influence, the Egyptian influence and the Middle-Eastern influence.  Designs such as: the Egyptian tombs where hidden behind the walls that these tombs lay are mummified corpses; The Middle-Eastern inspired dome like tops and a Middle-eastern styled grave courtyard with a 300 year-old Lebanese tree standing tall in the middle;  and of course the Greco-Roman inspired pillars which surround mausoleum after mausoleum.  To conclude, if it was not for the Victorian’s love for their international imports and appreciation for the Roman influence that surround their own history’s roots, who knows where this historic “City of the Dead” would be.

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My First Solo Photography Exhibition

A woman writing London through blogging and photography. Check our Steph’s work and kick in on the kickstarter page to support her first exhibition in London, if you can.

Little London Observationist

I have some really cool news to share with you guys today – I have been offered space at The Chance Gallery in Chelsea to hold my first solo photography exhibition this November! So excited!

Little City Observations^ ^ ^ PIN ME, PLEASE! ^ ^ ^

There will be lots of London images, printed on canvas, as well as a few from my travels to other cities. The exhibition will be called Little City Observations.

To raise the cost of printing and the gallery fee, I’ve created a little Kickstarter page and it would be really really wonderful if any of you are able to sponsor me, or even just share the link on Facebook, Twitter, or in a blog post!

There’s some fun rewards (coasters, postcards, prints, notebooks) for anyone who can toss a few pounds my way. It would really mean a lot if you could support me in some…

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“The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire:” How the Decadence of the British Museum was Built Over the Victims of Imperialism

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Ever since the dawn of civilizations, imperialism has played a major yet pessimistic role on society and culture.  There are four major issues that have resulted from imperialism.   Cultural assimilation; cultural endangerment; cultural and environmental exploitation; and cultural diaspora.  From the Romans to the Napoleonic, the conquest of a widespread empire has been a driving force for imperialism.  However, after witnessing the all of the different collections of artifacts from nearly every civilization, there is no doubt that no empire has exemplified imperialism better than the British Empire. From half of the African continent; India; Pakistan; China; Japan to our own nation, the U.S.A.; Southwestern and South-central Canada; and Jamaica; for over 350 years British colonialism and imperialism ruled the world.  The British Museum is a prime example of these distraught feelings being represented in the form of preserved artifacts from these fallen nations.  For example when I saw the collections from orient I asked myself; why is this amazing statue of the Buddha displayed here in England when the birthplace of this work of art is in India?

It all goes back to how the culture was brought here to England which was a major result of imperialism.  In this sense of realizing the imperialistic intentions of empires like Great Britain especially back then, it was taken from the native land and brought here not to preserve its history but to preserve the history of Great Britain’s glory and power.  Do not get me wrong, I thought of my excursion to the British Museum to be one of awe-inspiring proportions.  To see the legendary Rosetta Stone; one of the only existing copies of the Parthenon; or as I mentioned before the different statues of the Buddha; it was truly an amazing experience.  But as I said before these artifacts should be displayed in their area of origin not in the nation who stole them from all of the different tribes and native people of these lands.  To conclude, I feel my share of excitement to see such historic treasures but I personally would feel better if I knew that these artifacts were displayed in their country of origin. Whether it is a collection from Egypt, or a collection from China; imperialism is the main reason we see these artifacts displayed there still to this day.

Learning Analysis Blog

I’ve never had any problems being away from home or traveling. But I’ve never been out of the country before. I don’t think I was ever nervous about it. I had a few concerns, such as any possible medical problems I could run into and how I could counter them and the course load. But overall I was really just ecstatic about this opportunity. The only thing I really struggled with in London was allergies. At home, I go through immunotherapy because I have a lot of allergies.  I didn’t think through the idea before hand that going to a different area of the world that there would be different allergens around. Having to deal with extreme allergies again was a major adjustment to me.

All I remember about arrival is excitement and disbelief. We went to the Brunswick to get toiletries and lunch shortly after arriving at Connaught Hall. The Brunswick was like an open-air mall. I loved the market that was there. There was a small book sale, baked goods, and food from oter  After this, we all walked through Russell Square and past the British Museum, where we were supposed to go later that day. This of course did not happen until the next day. We went too Carphone and some of us picked up prepaid cell phones. I picked one up because Verizon decided not to activate my cell phone. Once back at the dorm rooms, I was able to correct the problem with my cell phone, and after waiting, my room was finally clean and ready for me to just put my stuff in and head out to the British Library.

Courtney and I wanted to grab something to drink, so we left separate from others and headed to Costa. I ordered a strawberry lemonade and didn’t expect what I got. It was blended with milk and a little ice, then served over ice. I would later learn that what is Sprite to us is lemonade in England. We then headed to the British Library. I admittedly did not expect it to be a museum. Seeing the Magna Carta, What really caught my attention though were the original copies of music manuscripts. Pieces by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, and others were all there. I always find looking at originals interesting, because you can usually tell an intention on how a piece should have been interpreted. I actually found a violin sonata that I’ve played, and Handel’s Messiah was also there, which I have both sung and played excerpts of.  This was so exciting to be in the same room as the DNA of these composers.

I was also very grateful that we came during a time where there was an exhibit on Benjamin Britten, an English war composer. Much like Virginia Woolf, many of Benjamin Britten’s pieces focused on war, specifically his hatred towards it. I have played Britten before, but never looked all that much into him past the one specific piece (which was not war related). This was the highlight of my trip to the British Library.

After looking around a bit more, I met up with more of the group, and Katrina. Katrina took us to a pub. Since I’m only 19, this was my first time being legal to drink, and my first time purchasing alcohol. This felt foreign to me, as if being in a foreign country didn’t. It was really nice to just hang out with everyone and make new friends.

The next day, I went with a group of people to do  “the tourist thing.” Growing up with New York City basically in my backyard, I’ve never really been a tourist in a big city. I’ve been to Boston and Cleveland for music, and the most I’ve done is walked around to get some cheap food. I really just followed people around since I had no clue where I was going. We ended up at Buckingham Palace, and we got to witness part of the changing of the guards. Right beforehand, I caught a glimpse of the royal marching band practicing for the ceremony. I thought we could hear Big Ben chiming, but I later learned that it was actually St. Margaret since Big Ben doesn’t ring anymore. We spent a lot of time in Westminster. It didn’t occur to me that a lot of places would not be open on Sunday. We ended up at The Barley Mow and had traditional fish and chips!

Outside of Buckingham Palace

 

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We then went to the British Museum. This place really packs a punch. There were so many pieces of history in one space. To me, the most impressive was the Rosetta stone. It’s still pretty unbelievable that I actually saw it in person. This museum reminds me of the idea “the sun never sets on the British Empire.” While this saying shows how much power the British Empire has in the world, where they are so widespread, this museum does the same thing. A place that can hold so many artifacts from other cultures is clearly a place with a lot of power.

Rosetta Stone

The first day of classes, we discussed Bernardine Evaristo’s The Emperor’s Babe. I personally never knew of Londinium prior to reading this. This really put into a perspective of the new and old for this class to me, and how London is always changing. This book also focused a lot on woman’s sexuality. These young women were very open about their sexualities, and also very in tune to their body’s desires. While I believe women still know what they want and like, I do believe that the focus on the self has been lost today. These women were young and carefree. They didn’t serve men like it has been believed women should. While the times are very different, the characters are still relatable, at least for me. Zuleika does what she wants because she enjoys it, not because anybody tells her to. Her friends seem to be the same way, though we follow Zuleika more closely, as she is the main character. These are women to look up to I believe.

 

This same day we went to the Museum of London and viewed the Suffragette and the Roman Galleries. The Roman Gallery really put pieces together for how people lived in Londinium. Seeing what the modern day equivelant really helped me to see how this could connect to day’s day and age, and see how they got by without what we have now.

 

In McVicker’s class, we discussed Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. I have never read Woolf before, and this book made it very apparent that there is a lot of detail to pay close attention to in her writings. This essay clearly presented the idea that women need money and privacy to be successful in writing. This was a harder fate for women to achieve than men. Once women writers were finally becoming accepted, there was still an idea that they write about different things than men.  We of course know this is no t the case, as either sex can write about anything, but it’s the style in which they write. But this was not the case then, and Woolf indicated the importance of an androgynous mindset.

The second day we focused mainly on Tracy Chevalier’s “Falling Angels.” This was my favorite novel of the trip, and definitely one of my favorites that I’ve ever read. This also focused on the woman’s role. For Maude, we watch her grow up, and become a young woman. We can assume that she will end up being like her mother, as Kitty Coleman is a very influential individual. Kitty has struggles of her own,, and finally realizes the missing piece to her life. She not only joins the Suffragette movement, but transforms her home into a headquarters for this movement. She becomes one of the most important individuals in this group of women, Even when she is arrested and faces the possibility of jail time, she doesn’t take her focus off of her mission.

 

“…You’ll be fine. Thre is something I want you to do for me, though.”
Maude gazed at me eagerly.

Even before I pulled out the collecting card and began to tell her about self-denial week-a campaign drive the WSPU was initiating to raise money – I knew I was doing the wrong thing. As her mother I should be comforting and reassuring her. Yet even as her face fell I continued to explain that she should ask all our neighbors as well as any visitors to place donations in the card, and that she should send it to the WSPU office at the end of the week.

I don’t know why I was so cruel.

 

The Suffragette gallery gave me chills. It was so impressive to see the lengths in which these women went to fight for a right they deserved. This was my favorite part of the London Museum from the day before. Highgate Cemetery also helped me to connect and make Falling Angels come to life. There were so many different statues, and learning the symbolism behind them all was interesting. Of course, the sleeping angel was the highlight of the excursion, however it was overall very impressionable.

After this, we discussed Foucault’s “Of Other Spaces: Heterotopias” and Keats’ Ode to a Grecian Urn. This was relatable to the cemetery visit as well. Each grave marks a specific space We believe that they exist, but do they really? Or is what lies underneath just an illusion field? Perhaps the graves have decayed and now it is just dirt. Of course, we do not wish to believe this, so we believe the former.  According to Foucault, the Earth is disruptive since it does not stay in the same place. The urns in the cemetery also freeze a moment of time, and nothing endures but change.

 

The fourth day, we discussed Feminine Gospels. We mostly focused on the roles different adult figures in “Laughter of the Stafford Girls’ High” play. Dr. Bream is older, and keeps a tight control over everything. The other teachers went along with this, but eventually the laughter broke them, and they all realized that it was okay to change and be themselves. They decided to pursue their own lives and do what makes them happy. Once Dr. Bream loses control, chaos ensues, and the change eventually drives her insane. This breaks the automatism.

sleeping angel

In McVicker’s class, we discussed The London Scene. We defined a place as an order, and space as a practiced space. Then we questioned how presence transforms space. Visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral on our walking tour really answered this question. It was heavy with tourists. I know we weren’t there to worship, but when I walk into a highly religious space, I feel protected and safe. But this place seemed empty and cold. The infrastructure was incredible, but it infuriated me that a religious space would charge a fee for people to visit.

 

The next day we discussed The Mara Crossing. Basically, Englishness is defined by culture. Not just amongst the people, but the animals as well.  This book connected the link with how humans define a culture (in this case, Englishness), and how animals define as well, and they really weren’t all that different. In McVicker’s class, we discussed Tess of the D’Urberbvilles as we were preparing to visit Stonehenge. Tess was very weak to Angel. I believe Angel’s name paints him as a perfect figure meant to protect Tess. Of course, he does this as best he can until she is arrested in Stonehenge.

 

The Natural History Museum was fascinating, but The Victoria and Albert Museum really stole my heart out of all of the museums. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Everything was white and pure. There was a lot of natural light, and I was really able to connect this to the lifestyle.

Stonehenge really was the highlight of the weekend. To actually be inside this place was just mindblowing. I’m still at a loss for words with this experience.

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Seeing places such as Lacock and Oxford really showed me how different other areas of England are in comparison to London. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I loved the teachers, the courses, and the people in the group. I never thought that 16 days could change my life so drastically, and honestly, 16 days just wasn’t enough.

 

 

London’s Layers

Formerly” refers to what used to be, the past. The idea of “Formerly” by Tamar Yoseloff is what used to be in London is often no longer around, or at least is not the same. Each poem shows how London has changed over the years. “Final Clearance” says it.

Fin, Fine, End, that’s all.

It’s clear that once upon a time

you were the life and soul,

the duke of blue o’clock.

Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre

The Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, as well as other locations in Formerly have changed significantly over the years. This one has changed the most though, as it isn’t even the same store anymore. This can and does happen anywhere in the world; not just London. While I can see how London has changed, I don’t see a “former London” per say. I see London in layers. It is a major contrast from New York City, where if something gets too old, they tear it down and build something newer in its place. Instead, I see a newer London built on top of a former London.

In Piccadilly Circus, for example, some years ago there were old buildings with blank faces. They neighbored newer buildings. However, now those older buildings have large TV monitors over what used to be bare faces. I wouldn’t see this as what was formerly London being changed into a new London, but instead the former London and the newer London coinciding with each other. The former London is still there. However, now it has a layer of new London on top of it.

This idea can be found all over London. Really anywhere you go in London, you can see how the old buildings still stand in their place. But of course on top of those, you can see the newer buildings. They stand taller, and are made to look more modern.  While the two coexist, they are still layered, separated from each other.

Formerly” really sums it all up. The poem itself has a line from each poem before it, which I feel is more than just poetic. This symbolizes how everything over the years comes together to form London. And the picture really shows how London is both new and old. The wall and the sign is still the same, but now a satellite dish has been added to it.

I loved how with this book we were able to actually see it everywhere in London. You could see how London has been changing. There was also a lot of construction, where they were building on top of was is pre-existing. But I think the part that impacted me the most is actually seeing one of the places that was discussed in the book. I ran into the “duk of gton” and if I hadn’t read this book, I wouldn’t realize what was significant about it now reading “duk of on”. I think this is an example of the old and new intertwining. This place of the past is still changing. Even the name isn’t the same anymore! I wonder where the letters go when they fall off.

 

London Skyline

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    London, day one. The air was different when I stepped out of the airport and finally took in the atmosphere of another country. I had just traveled thousands of miles but the journey had only just begun. 8 texts, lots of excursions, miles of walking, dozens of tube rides, and an incredible amount of learning lay ahead of me. In that first day I realized that this trip could be anything that I wanted to make it. I decided that I would take advantage of every opportunity, engage with every text, and try my best to soak in the culture, atmosphere, and ideology of England.
    I left New York with a few personal goals too. I wanted to be able to write every night to reflect on the events of the day. I wanted to take note of my feelings and any changes that I felt myself going through during the trip. I wanted to record what music would play through my head as I walked, or what song would lift my spirit in a coffee shop. Basically, I wanted to remember everything!
    Song of day: London Calling – The Clash 

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    The first text covered on that sleepy monday morning after a weekend of soaking in London was The Emperor’s Babe. This book made me so grateful to be in this century. Old Roman warriors and rulers of state, slaves, class order, oppression of women, power for the few elite men. Actually….it still sounds uncannily similar to the world today! Zuleika is the protagonist, and like me, has a journey that we are lucky enough to be witness to as we read her story. She is a girl (girl is a key word here) who has no idea what she is getting into when her family sells her off like a cow. She is sent off to an old man, an important man who shows his status by his girth. We all know the story, so I will tell you my story of engaging with not only this novel but with Zuleika herself.
    Zuleika challenged me to analyze my own life and the society I live in. So often, we look back into the past and see murky waters, bad decisions, and we often disengage from it because it is not current experience. But, if I’ve learned anything from history and stories of the past it is that the only veil between us and the mistake of past is linear time. But, time isn’t always linear and the spaces of 211 A.D. are far closer to us than one may think.  Albert Einstein once said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” This means that the only reason Zuleika isn’t here, in the present, is because lives have to be spaced out, timed out. But, she could very easily have been your, or my, next door neighbor.
    In the book Zuleika says, “Like scales, she had to rise / so that I would sink. / The result? To weigh me down / or perhaps balance?” This small passage of reflection had an immense impact on me. I didn’t know how to digest it; I wanted to relate it to my own life. Are relationships, with friends, lovers, parents, family, all on a scale? When we are tipped up and have the higher ground, do our close ones get dragged down?
    When we went to the Museum of London we saw the juxtaposition of the old world and the new. That tied together perfectly with the reading because even the language of the book was very modern and accessible. The Museum of London also made me wonder whether or not or protagonist would’ve been a suffragette is she had been in 1900’s London. In one passage of the book Zuleika is witnessing a brutal and common event, as popular as todays football games… The lines read, “The amphitheatre was a brazier. / it was too hot to look up at the sky, / the delirious crowds made me dizzy. / I wanted the band to play, / something loud, something heavy metal, / but they were quietly watching / as each woman was pushed into a cage. / I tried to put my eyes out of focus, / to witness and yet not, / as what had been human became chunks”. This witness of the brutal, disgusting mutilation and death of women makes me wonder is her pity for them and for herself as a women would’ve translated into action had she been in another century.

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    Song of the day: I Want To Break Free – Queen 

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    Another day, another novel! Falling Angels and the suffragette display at the Museum of London made a big impact on me. Being so attached to character that are so developed and complex on the page and then to imagine them as I walked through the exhibit was a fantastic and heart wrenching experience. I began to learn more about women’s rights outside of the facts and figures. I engaged with the movement in a deeper way than I ever had before. “I have spent my life waiting for something to happen,’ she said. ‘And I have come to understand that nothing will. Or it already has, and I blinked during that moment and it’s gone. I don’t know which is worse — to have missed it or to know there is nothing to miss.’ Kitty made me look at myself, in London, in a different way. I think Kitty made her life into something that had ‘things happen’. For better or worse, she had a lively existence throughout the novel because of the choices she made.

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    Walking through London made all the texts come alive. I was able to see the layers of space, the sharing of space over time, and the interconnected nature of the human existence. I could look up into the London skies, see the stars, and myself if I engaged with them like Maude’s father taught her; cold, scientific, calculated. Or, do I walk through London with heart instead of head? Neil Gaiman always has something that sums up my emotions,“I can pretend that lives last longer than moments. Gods come, and gods go. Mortals flicker and flash and fade. Worlds don’t last; and stars and galaxies are transient, fleeting things that twinkle like fireflies and vanish into cold and dust. But I can pretend…” I enjoyed pretending that Kitty and Maude existed as I walked through the exhibit and even the London streets. Because, even if they didn’t exist, their stories have impacted many people.
   Song of the day: 99 Red Balloons – Nena
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    Feminine Gospels! First off, I love the title. It made me want to raise my voice and sing! This collection of poems was another that engaged with the history of women of the past and transported them to our present audience. (I’m seeing a theme here!)
    This text made me think about how women construct spaces, public and private, within their lives. I wondered about how women in London, as opposed to in the suburbs, engage with the world around them and how they change spaces in order to make movement within London easier.
    Once I had these thoughts I took note of how the women around me, myself included, changed behavior and appearance once we stepped out into the streets of London and also how that changed depending on the time of day. I began to notice that I would always move aside on the sidewalk when anyone approached the other way. At night I would make sure to reapply makeup, maybe even change clothing. I noticed that the women around me all did the same thing. I always felt more ‘on my guard’ at night and I felt more freedom to not be on alert in the mornings. All these things are common place but it wasn’t until reading this text that I began to analyze why these things are ‘normal’. If we lived in a matriarch society would roles be reversed? Would the circumstances that appear because of gender be equal? Would women feel comfortable walking down the street late at night, alone, if society were different?
    I don’t really have answers for any of these questions. But this course made me start thinking critically about, not only the questions, but why I have to ask the questions in the first place.
Song of the day: Sæglópur – Sigur Rós
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    The Mara Crossing was easily my number one favorite book from this course! Padel managed to cram a million facts about everything from whales to family relationships in under 300 pages! Oh, and she also included beautiful poetry to add the appreciation of the unbelievable facts in this book. I clearly was impressed by the book itself but I also found a new appreciation and understanding of just how connected we all are. “We compare ourselves with nature and see ourselves reflected in it.” Padel understands the spider web that humans, animals, plants, air, gravity, and the entire universe share.
    I recently watched a documentary called, I am. When I watched it I realized how closely related it was to Padel’s book. It asked the questions, “What is wrong with the world.” And it proves that the answer that each individual should have is, “I am.”
    This book, along with the trip to the Natural History Museum allowed me to engage with the world in a more connected way. I remember a moment when I was waiting to walk down the street between the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. I saw people, old, young, one with a dog, one with bags, a lot with cameras. I also saw pigeons fighting over someones chips and I could see a worm trying to make its way off the sidewalk to a less hostile space. In that moment I felt a string that twist and wound itself around everything around me, even the trees and the grass, pulling us all together. Padel’s book and seeing all the history inside the walls of the museum made me feel closer to the critters swaying in the current that surrounds the Great Barrier Reef. It made me think about the monarch butterfly’s journey and the swallows and the animals of Africa. It, like all the other books, continued to add layers layers to my understanding of the world I live in and the spaces I inhabit. The shift in my understanding of the world is captured in a short excerpt from Padel’s book, “It moves you into a disoriented world which doesn’t add up in the way you are used to. You have to start putting things together in a new way.”
    Here is a link to NASA’s migration site!
    Song of the day: Fly Me To The Moon – Frank Sinatra

    Going to the the Museum of the Docklands and seeing the area of the Docklands helped me to understand the significant role that its plays in the novel. I had trouble relating to Matthew, the main character, in a personal way but I think I used the book as an insight into how London works behind the scenes. Matthew allows the reader to see the city of London as its own living and breathing entity.
    His daughter made me ask questions about space as well. She wants to know where her father is when he is not with her. She made me ponder what existence means in relation to the people around us. London is a city because of the people that inhabit it. Every moment that time progresses, London changes and moves with the people.
Walking through the museum was really interesting in its progression through time. We start where the docks started and as we walk through we get to see the change in the area and the development of capitalism. By the time I reached the exhibit that captured the protagonists world, I felt like I had enough history of the space to actually understand the importance of an architect walking through the city. He sees all these spaces up next to each other and has to try to picture a mark of his own. Walking through London streets made me realize that it is a city that has mastered a delicate balance of old and new. Matthew has to create with this doctrine is his mind. I think I can use these concepts to help me when I construct my own space. Respect for the old and for tradition, but the need for progression and change. Here is a link to a site that breaks down all the different types of architecture in London. It was really cool to browse this site after walking through London myself.
Song of the day: We build this City – Starship

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    Studying Patience Agbabi was a really incredible experience. I think that whenever people read a book they feel removed from the author. You connect with the story being told but you don’t think about the author during the process. Authors are typically stagnant to their readers; Agbabi is a tidal wave that keeps crashing while you read her words. She isn’t stagnant because her poetry is live, raw, and moving. She is constantly performing and has an active presence on the internet through her blog Telling Tales.
    I have always been really moved by performance poets, I find that they engage with the current world in a very effective way. Covering her collection, Bloodshot Monochrome in class was very insightful. In Problem Pages she taps into the canon of literature and engages with the authors. Researching the great authors that she was referring to taught me a lot about why its effective to reach into the past to help with present questions.
    Probably the most rewarding thing about the experience of covering Agbabi in class was when everyone took turns performing her poetry. Performing poetry is such a raw way of showing people who you are and I felt more connected to my fellow classmates after that experience.
Song of the day: Crayola – Esperanza Spalding
    The definition of formerly is ‘at an earlier time’. Yoseloff’s collection of poetry captures former and present London. Meeting Yoseloff was definitely the icing on the cake in the study of this collection. Reading it back at home in New York was interesting but I wasn’t able to connect with it beyond the surface because I didn’t know much about London. Once I saw the city for myself, and even accidentally ran into one of the places that was captured in the book, I was able to truly appreciate Yoseloff’s and MacDonald’s vision.
    These poems and the photography taught me how to engage with a city on a different level. I learned that the city is ever moving, never stagnant. And walking through London I could see why a poet and a photographer could fin inspiration from something as simple as an old storefront. I started to notice the little, hidden spaces that don’t seem important at first glance. The images in this collection are nothing like St. Paul’s or the Tower of London, they are just dirty, dusty, broken down places. But those places are just as filled with stories as the grand places of London. Maybe even more so because the stories are untouched, they are hidden under the weather worn buildings and the fallen down signs. I think I have come to realize that those hidden places can be even more filled with meaning because the memories are protected. Very few people probably found meaning in the old sign that read ‘duk of on’ at the side an awkwardly shaped building. But, Yoseloff and MacDonald did, and they passed on their inspiration to us.

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Song of the day: maps – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Going to The Royal Observatory after reading There But For The was really helpful for my own understanding on the novel. I am still grabbling with the themes of the book but being in the area that it was set was useful.

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    “The fact is, a mystery clock is an old-fashioned sort of clock that seems to go by itself on its own without seemingly needing any winding or ever being looked after by anyone.” In the Royal Observatory I got to see dozens of ‘old-fashioned’ clocks. These clocks made me think of time and especially about the time and perspectives of the novel. In the book we meet Miles through the eyes of others. We see him through their own biased lens and many of their reflections on him occurred in the same moment in time. The spaces the characters occupied were the same, the time the engaged with each other were the same. But, the readers time and space is completely different. The clocks in those rooms made me question our perception of the passing of time, especially time within a novel or even a movie. Here is a link to an interesting article that covers a lot of different ideas about individuals perceptions of time.
    Another concept that this book made me think about was what a mind remembers and what it forgets. Brooke brought this up part way through the novel, “Yes, but you can’t tell me what I’ll remember and what I’ll forget, the child says. / That’s true, Bernice says. But. The whole point is, we can forget. It’s important that we forget some things. Otherwise we’d go round the world carrying a hodload of stuff we just don’t need.”
    While I was wondering through Greenwich I was pondering what I would remember about this trip. Would I remember the moment that stood at the prime meridian? And when I say, “remember the moment,” I don’t mean the literal image of me standing there at the longitude center of the world. I mean, will I remember what was running through my mind in that moment? I hope I remember a lot of things from my trip in London, not just the sights but the smells, tastes, and the feeling of the London air in my lungs.    
Song of the day: Catch the Sun – Jamie Cullum
    The city of London is the pulse of England. It brings pride to a nation and being their, in the city streets, was life changing. Being able to sit in Russell Square, reading novels set in the very same city, walking where Virginia Woolf walked, was so fantastically overwhelming. I learned a lot from just being in a new place. I had to force myself to learn my way around, to find my own comfort within a new city. London is a city that forces engagement with others, it was impossible for me to walk down the street without having an interaction with someone. This trip and these texts have contributed so my to my knowledge of the world. I’ve learned that critical thinking and active engagement are key to live a full life.

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Virginia Woolf captures the busy, bustling, chaotic, and beautiful streets of London. “In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment in June.”
Song of the day: Hopeless Wanderer – Mumford and Son’s

The Emperor’s Babe and Druid Culture

The Emperor’s Babe, by Bernardine Evaristo, is a tale of Londinium, 211 A.D. In this novel the main character, Zuleika, is married to a rich Roman man, Felix. To show his affection towards Zuleika, Felix buys two young women slaves for her. These two women are from a Druid tribe north of Londinium. During their time with Zuleika, they tell her about their lives and their culture. I decided to explore the Druid culture that, through these two women, is presented in the novel.

The first description we get of the difference between the Londinium, Roman-influenced people and the Druids is in physical description. “Two ginger girls arrived, captured / up north, the freckled sort (typical / of Caledonians)” (Caledonia is a Latin name the Romans gave to the lands north of Hadrian’s wall). Zuleika finds the girls “fascinating” yet “vile”. The verses continue on to describe these women in barbaric ways. Zuleika finally forces them to be bathed, so she could bare to be around them with being “nauseous”. Very little is known about the day to day life of Druids but one can assume, based on similar cultures we know more about, that there was little to no sense of cleanliness and certainly no sense of sanitation. What we would understand as being barbaric also extends to the girls’ behavior. They “escaped / out the window and climbed / on to the roof, howling.” These stark cultural differences are too difficult for Zuleika to handle so she begins a process of forced assimilation. She even tries to make them look less alien by covering their freckles with white lead.

Aemilia and Valeria, as Zuleika has named them, soon fall into step with their new roles in a Roman household but they like to tell Zuleika stories of their lives before being captured. Valeria says that their “Mammy and Faither were chieftens, ye ken.(‘ye ken’ means ‘you know’)” and their “granfaither / was chief Druid”. From my research of Druid culture I have learned that Druids were priests and that it could take up to twenty years of study and learning to become one. Once they had achieved this status, they had quite a bit of power among the tribes. They were pinnacles of wisdom and often acted as teachers and judges.

A particularly interesting aspect of Druid culture was the prominence of women in all the roles of the tribe. At one point in the novel Valeria says “Mammy would leid de sodgers into battle, / hir lang heir flying behind like fire, / standing on hir chariot she was so ferox, / all in de scud, face pentit blue wi an owl / tattooed on it”. This is significantly different from the roles that women played in Londinium culture, this role is illustrated by Zuleika’s situation, in which she is so insignificant to her husband that he simply, and rather nonchalantly, disposes of her after she has an affair.Here is a link to an interesting website that goes into the specifics of women in Druid culture.

http://www.druidcircle.org/library/index.php?title=The_Female_Druid

In the previous quote, Valeria mentioned that her mother wore blue paint on her face. This is an ancient tradition in Celtic/Druid culture and is primarily worn as war paint for an upcoming battle. Most of us have probably seen this portrayed in television or movies but here’s an example anyway courtesy of the movie ‘Braveheart’.

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In my research into the relationship between the Druids and the Romans during the time The Emperor’s Babe is set, I discovered that the native non-Druid Britons were  quite afraid of the Druids because they believed that Druids had physic and possibly other mystical powers. One article I read (linked below) stated that the Romans “were happy to make a peaceful settlement with most tribes/groups in England, they had no intention of doing the same with the Druids”. Apparently, the Romans were horrified by the sacrificial rituals that Druids performed for their religion and simply massacred them. They then began a forced Christianization, or forced total assimilation of the land and what people were left just like Zuleika forced Aemilia and Valeria to assimilate.

Link to short article about Roman-Druid relationship:

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/romans_and_the_druids.htm

How does this novel help me understand Englishness? Well, it’s been discussed in class that to determine Englishness, one must consider history. I think it is extremely important to know that London was created by the Romans, something I was not aware of until this book. We know that London’s influence on the rest of England is tremendous so the Roman influence on Englishness must be astounding.

-Julia