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Heidegger Reframed By Barbara Bolt


 

Martin Heidegger (September 26, 1889– May 26, 1976is renowned for the complexity and subtlety with which his thoughts on the philosophy of being (ontology) is expressed. His ideas are inspired by numerous sources from the pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle and much of his thought dependent upon his early training as a Jesuit. He read and imbibed St Augustineand Duns Scotus. He trained under the phenomenologist, Edmund Husserl at Freiburgand his approach is deeply engaged with German philosophers like Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. He also read Kierkegaard with close attention.

His ideas about the nature of being are in stark contrast with those of Descartes which involve a split between consciousness and the external world. This Cartesian framework or dualism is embedded in modern science and Western thought generally. One result of Descartes philosophy is that Nature is subject by the mind to measurement and calculation and also to manipulation. This borders on what is termed instrumentalism and indeed the consequent exploitation of the environment. This, Heidegger with his alternative view of the direction of philosophy, he deeply and radically opposed. The implication of Heidegger’s thought for the creative artist and the making and meaning of art forms the thrust of Barbara Bolt’s text. His project is illustrated with specific reference to international artists like Sophie Calle, Anish Kapoor and Anselm Kiefer.

Generally considered as a great classic of Twentieth Century philosophy Sein und Zeit, 1927 is not an easy book to read even if you are thoroughly fluent in German. Concerned with existence and the nature of being, it is equally interested in associated questions about time. This central text focuses on the nature of reality and the being-right-there of existence for which Heidegger uses the term Dasein. Part of the difficulty of understanding this central work is that language almost seems to break down under the pressure of difficulty in communicating the awesome nature of human existence, which many would see as essentially spiritual. Barbara Bolt provides a thoroughly useful glossary to such terms in support of her guide.

This glossary contains some eighty terms; it is relatively clear but illustrates some of the difficulties in expounding Heidegger’s collected work, Gesamtausgabe, which itself runs to more than eighty volumes. Barbara Bolt explains in her early chapters concepts associated with Dasein which involve care for the self and other beings, Sorge, and in the face of personal and certain knowledge of death, the termination of existence on Earth, anxiety or Angst. For Heidegger there are two possibilities, it seems either falling into immersion in the day to day, which he terms ontic existence or striving with resoluteness for authenticity. This bears upon artistic endeavour in several ways; the acceptance of strife when faced with unsettling artworks, the necessity of praxis in art education and research which hopefully produces a practical and respectful understanding of materials by a heuristic approach. Bolt is interesting and thought-provoking in her exposition on this.

A perhaps greater difficulty in appreciating Heidegger, which Bolt mentions, perhaps too briefly, continues in current debate. This was his active involvement with Nazism and his eulogy of Hitler involving praise for his moral regeneration of the Fatherland. This has been, not surprisingly, a sticking point in the appreciation of the Heidegger canon. A discussion of this may be found in Inauthenticity: Theory and Practice, contained in JP Stern’s essays on literature and ideology, The Heart of Europe. There is particular concern over his treatment of his German-Jewish teacher, a Christian convert and former colleague, the proponent of phenomenology Husserl, to whom Sein und Zeit had initially been dedicated. He also took a renowned student, Hannah Arendt as his mistress and she it was who later to testified on his behalf at a denazification hearing in opposition to Karl Jaspers.

In a key chapter, Barbara Bolt uses two central concepts of Heidegger to evaluate particular art works. These are ‘enframing’ (Gestellung) and ‘poiesis’-a Greek term for making from which the word poetry is derived. Enframing, according to Heidegger, has negative connotations and is applied to methods like those of modern technology which treats nature solely as a means to an end and shows Heidegger to be an early proponent of environmentalism and certainly a critic of agribusiness. This seems to be echoed by concerns about the manner in which the business of art has been cheapened and debased by commercialisation and celebrity culture. There is, she explains an unholy alliance developing between advertising in late capitalism as evidenced, for instance, by Tracey Emin selling Bombay Sapphire Gin. Enframement also appears to include a criticism of managerialism; disapproval of the manner in which humans are treated often with statistical techniques as mere available resources. Before examining the concept of ‘poesis’, it is worth noting that this book is actually entitled ‘Heidegger Reframed’ and is one in a general series. This tends to give framing a different, presumably positive connotation that sits uneasily with the particular use of the term by Heidegger. Unfortunately, there appears to be no general series editor that could add guidance and cohesion to this demanding project of applying the thought of modern philosophers to art.

Bolt sometimes writes convoluted sentences in a somewhat orotund style which may be an understandable effect of propounding the concepts of this demanding, intriguing philosopher. Nevertheless, the style invites the reader to question some of the propositions expounded. There is no doubt that Heidegger had a particular view about the dominance of the scientific method as he conceives it. Also mathematics seems deemed uncongenial, whereas language, and also history with its different conception of time and certainly etymology are viewed by Heidegger as more relevant to his project. It is interesting to speculate how much he might have responded to philosophers of science like Thomas Kuhn whose views on paradigm shift, and those too of Paul Karl Feyerabend, might have influenced him had he been fully aware of them. Heisenburg, a contemporary and also a controversial figure, might have influenced Heidegger on his notion of how preconceived theories operate in science.

Heidegger as Bolt explains was inspired by poetry and must have been sensitive to its lyricism. This makes the reader question his apparent failure to respond to the beauty of mathematics which is in a sense a universal language. In general he was at pains to oppose certain notions of aesthetics associated particularly with the Enlightenment and Romanticism and the artist as an inflated, self-dramatising subject. In his conception of poesis, Heidegger approaches another mode of artistic appreciation and indeed gratitude which is guided by sympathy. The term, as Bolt makes clear is Greek in origin and involves openness to the bringing-forth or unconcealment of being. It is, for example, the sense of wonder when a butterfly emerges from a chrysalis or in the transformation when a flower blossoms from a bud. Heidegger spent a year in 1942 lecturing on Hölderlin’s Hymn “The Ister” which relates to theDanubeand examined the limitations of a metaphysical interpretation of art and appears to argue the case for spiritual values in art together with a feeling for place attained by intimate journeying. George Steiner emphasises elsewhere how Heidegger’s titles are those of peregrination and comments, “He has been an indefatigable walker in unlit places”.

Barbara Bolt has written an interesting book on a difficult topic. The publishers might have supported her with somewhat better illustrations than the few disappointing images provided. However, she has shown how Heidegger can illuminate the work of prominent international artists. She has provided an introduction to a highly influential and controversial thinker supported with a sound biography. This work encourages the reader to bravely question art and promote radically innovative ways of observing and researching related issues.

The Runcimans- Liberals in St Ives (Part two)

Viscount Runciman of Doxford
Viscount Runciman of Doxford

Runciman managed to slightly increase the share of the liberal vote and majority in St Ives in 1929. The total turn out had risen by some 4,700, due to the fact that this was the first election where women under the age of 30 voted; it was termed the “Flapper election” The Liberals had promised to tackle the growing levels of unemployment, with a program of public works  in these bitter years after the General Strike. Now fewer in number, the Liberals had only 59 MPs as against Labour with 287. As the Conservatives had 287, the Liberals held the balance of power if they could stay together.

Runciman acted in close concert with the other Cornish Liberal MPs. In general, they were opposed to Lloyd George-especially his Land Policy- and in favour of policies of self-reliance and were keen to alleviate unemployment, especially inCornwall. They were opposed to constraints upon business and against any development of socialism. In this second objective, they received the full support of the West Briton.  As Hilda Runciman was to comment of the Labour administration it was, “curious how Liberal they seem to become when they are in office. Their Socialism seems to fall away from them. This, indeed, is inevitable” Their common ground with Labour, especially with influential figures like Philip Snowden, as Garry Tregidga has pointed out, was over temperance, free trade and foreign policy.

Runciman’s father, a wealthy shipping magnate, loved the sea, and had written a number of popular books about sailing and shipping. These included titles like “Drake, Nelson and Napoleon”, “The Shellback’s Progress”, and “Windjammers and Sea Tramps”. These are reminiscent of the Edwardian period, the era of Georgian poetry of Walter de la Mare and Masefield. The life described in one book, “Collier Brigs and their Sailors” was very tough on the merchant sailors whose conditions were quite unregulated. His grandfather in turn had fought with Nelson at Trafalgar. He was also a founder member of the Royal National Yacht Club and  rumoured to have made a hefty profit from his   Union and Castle line during World War 1. Runciman Senior was well aquained with Hain (Lord of the Manor in St Ives.). As far back as 1910, Sir Edward Hain became Chairman of the UK Chamber of shipping in the same year as Sir Walter became Vice-Chairman.

The Hain family had been grieving the loss of his son in the 1914-18 conflict, and kept his memory alive by the building of the Edward Hain Hospital. Walter, the son, also came to own several shipping lines. The Runcimans owned a most superb yacht called  “Sunbeam 11” purchased  from Lord Brassey, she was some 535 tons and 155 feet in length and, “with her well-proportioned spars and sail plan and powerful yet graceful lines, she was one of the ablest and most comfortable –looking craft of any type”. When it arrived in St Ives Bay in 1931 it might have somewhat impressed local fishermen concerning the nautical talents of the man at the helm. The townspeople would have respected their MP as a fellow traveller on the sea; equally it would have illustrated the social distance between Runciman and his constituents. The “Sunbeam” was to be a spy-ship  employed by Special Forces in World War 11.

Hilda had carefully nursed the constituency, but Runciman now 58  had to fight hard to increase the majority, throwing himself into the task. In St Ives he told packed audiences at the Fisherman’s Institute and at the Palais de Danse of his views against protectionism, for temperance and in support of Women’s Rights. In Asquith’s cabinet before World War 1 he kept to the collective cabinet line against suffrage. There is an account of a bottle being thrown at his car by a woman demonstrator in Newcastle, with which he had many business connections and near which was the country home of Doxford.

Walter Runciman must have been used to hectoring and heckling at lively meetings. St Ives constituency kept itself well informed on political issues, a tradition that went back at least as far as the Chartists, who had held meetings on the Promenade- nearby   Oswald Moseley was to receive a memorable and vigorous rejection later in the same decade. Runciman was a keen supporter of women’s rights and his views in general were in line with the enlightened even Gladstonian opinions of the  Asquith/Grey faction of the Liberal Party against Lloyd George.There was no appeal by Runciman, along the lines that Lloyd George made to his fellow Celts at the famous meeting in Falmouth. Runciman had recently written a pamphlet on the issue of female rights. However,in the local press, the advertisments in relation to scullery maids and domestic servents show that to aspire to the status of governess was about independent as a  woman might become in the town. The influx of independent wealthy women, including art students had not yet made a significant impact upon religious belief or cultural norms. Later, Baldwin, with whom Runciman eventually reached  good terms, confided his own views on difficult women like Wallace Simpson during the divorce crisis. A point which Hilda recorded in her fascinating and busy diaries, which are in the archives of Newcastle University Library.

Historical Novels –Cornwall and Beyond


Was Lady Browning, Dame Daphne du Maurier quite reliable, from a factual viewpoint in her treatment of historical figures in her novels? Someone mentioned at a meeting this week that her portrayal of Sir Richard Grenville, the first Baronet, (1600-58), grandson of the Sir Richard Grenville who was the naval commander at the Battle of Flores when The Revenge was sunk to avoid capture off the Azores. (According to Tennyson, “Sink me the ship, Master Gunner—sink her, split her in twain! … Fall into the hands of God, not into the hands of Spain! “) The King’s General written in 1946, and there is a full review of it by Ann Wilmore at http://www.dumaurier.org/reviews-general.html.The novel is written from a Royalist viewpoint and has been recently performed at Restormel Castle as recently as just two years ago. Wilmore recognises that in the period that it was written it was intended to be an escapist romance. There is a suggestion that the Grenville character is perhaps somehow distantly linked to her own husband, a General who in April 1944 he had become commander of I Airborne Corps. He was a controversial figure and was involved in Operation Market Garden and later Mountbatten’s Chief of Staff in India. He eventually became Commander in Chief of the South East Asia Command. (He was played by Dirk Bogarde in the film A Bridge Too Far.)

Altogether Grenville was not a very nice man. He had a violent temper which put pay to his marriage and ended in two acrimonious lawsuits. He was sent by Charles! to take part in the Siege of Plymouth and eventually had to retreat from there intoCornwallwhere he was to ensure vital supplies of tin for the Royalists. He appears to have got deeply involved with maintaining Duchy and Stannary rights and attempted to attain independent rights forCornwall. He is said to have enforced discipline in an arbitrary manner and hung some men and imprisoned others. He appears to have extorted money for his own purposes and after all this reacted with rank insubordination to Lord Goring and then refused to serve under Sir Ralph Hopton. He was imprisoned on St Michael’s Mount. According to Wikipedia, he became known as “Skellum Grenville”, the term may well derive from the German “Scheim” which means a scoundrel.

Georg Lukács, (1885-1971), the Hungarian Marxist thinker and literary critic is an important figure who has written about the Historical Novel,1937 in considerable depth.( See for instance http://www.marxists.org/glossary/people/l/u.htm#lukacs-georg) Having read Kierkegaard and Weber early in life, he later turned away from Kafka and Modernism in favour of Thomas Mann. He argues that following the French Revolution and its aftermath, people became more conscious of the change itself as an important factor in individual consciousness. He went on to praise this development in the work of Sir Walter Scott, who portrayed the dissolution of feudal life and the rise of mercantile capitalism in the Highlands. This realism he saw too in the novels of Balzac and Tolstoy. Constant change becomes an explicit theme and opens up the possibility of social revolution as the proletariat enters as a factor. Hence these authors despite their conservatism are preferable to modernists and Flaubert, receives disapprobation for his historical work, Salammbo, particularly for its emphasis on style, as opposed to realism. However, it is interesting that Lukacs did not appear to much approve of Zola. He preferredGorky but this may have been influenced by that with which he was more familiar and besides Engels seems to have had reservations with respect to Zola.

This argument derives, of course from the Marxist view of ideology and the separation which exists between appearance, by which he means the character’s thoughts and feelings divorced from reality, which Lukacs which is thought by him to be the existing social relations framed by the means of production under capitalism. Realism, Lukacs believes can penetrate and uncover,” the deeper, hidden, mediated, not immediately perceptible of relationships, which go to make up society.” Influenced, it seems by Nietzsche’s writings on decadence in writing, which criticised a lack of the sense of totality; modernism is isolated from the socio-economic reality. Hence, realists penetrate depths by confining their work to a more superficial and fictional subjectivity. This obviously raises many further questions including: – the role of the imagination in literature and what Lukacs might make of magical realism.

On a lighter note, apparently The Scarlet Pimpernel novels are historically quite accurate. Baroness Emmuska Orczy (1865-1947) wrote some fifteen of these. Her full name was Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála “Emmuska” Orczy de Orczi and came from a Hungarian aristocratic family. She was also a talented painter who exhibited her paintings in the RoyalAcademy. Her novels include Sir Percy Blakeley’s enemies, Robespierre, Collot d’Herbois and of course, Chauvelin.(The latter is an exception, Citoyen Chauvelin although based on a real figure – Bernard-François, marquis de Chauvelin is not at all accurate, but a military officer who served in the American Revolution). However, in respect of her depiction of St Just and Lambert Talien his erstwhile opponent and the conditions in the Temple prison, the treatment of the Dauphin and the assassination of the journalist Marat, the worship of Reason as a deity are all covered reasonably accurately.

British statesmen such as William Pitt, the Younger and Lord William Grenville are also portrayed and show Orczy having a pretty thorough grasp of detail. The narrative keeps the reader engaged which helps as well.

Which are your favourite historical novels and authors?

A Year in the life of Padstow, Polzeath and Rock By Joanna Jackson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This attractive and captivating book of some 112 pages chronicles the appearance of the beautiful Camel Estuary and its inhabitants over the course of a year. As is mentioned in her introduction, for some 4000 years, this has been a major trading coast, from the Bronze Ages times, with ships arriving from areas as distant as Ireland to the eastern Mediterranean. Yet, Padstow retains its Elizabethan charm whilst Polzeath is better known for its contemporary appeal to surfers. The appealing images capture vividly the variety of life in the area including foodie Padstow, with pictures of brown crab and silver mackerel ready for Rick Stein’s kitchen and the National Lobster Hatchery.

As one might expect, the most stunning images are those of the peaceful horizontal curves of the coastline, the sand banks and the rocks sloping down to the coastline and the sea. There are stunning images of field catching the sunlight at dawn, the diversity of the flora and the activity and pageantry of the Royal Cornwall show. There are depictions of ‘obby ‘oss day, sailing and surfing, vigorous watersports and the energetic exertions of the lifeboatmen of Padstow and the RNLI beach lifeguards.

There are short introductory sections of text to put the splendour of the photographs into context. That on the Age of the Saints, for instance, mentions St Petroc, his monastery and his travels to Brittany, Rome and Jerusalem. This introduces the double page spreads of the battering waves at Treyamon contrasting in the following images of the contemplative security of the quayside of the inner harbour at Padstow. These photographs of North Cornwall which inspired the poetry of Betjeman and Binyon are a collection to have on your shelf for browsing or as an incentive to tranquil recollection.

Lelant-an unlikely village for rebellion?

St Ives Ruffians disrupt Lelant Fair (1823)

In a recent documentary concerning St Ives artists after the war, Lelant was inaccurately referred to, by a Cambridge academic as,” a dingy suburb of St Ives. In fact Lelant has usually been regarded as a prosperous and well appointed village. However, in 1823, some six years after the death of Jane Austen, the English countryside could become the venue for rebellious behaviour though perhaps without the political focus that have characterised recent demonstrations. The Bullingdon Club at this time was well established as a hunting and cricket club. William Webb Ellis was to “invent” rugby, a channel for excessive testosterone after the events described below, a few months later in that same year.

Disgraceful Outrage

“A most disgraceful outrage was committed at Lelant Fair, or rather revel, on the night of Friday last, by a gang of ruffians from the well known Borough of St Ives, Cornwall, who entered the place shortly after nightfall, armed with bludgeons; and whilst some commenced an attack upon the standings which were covered with tempting viands for the refreshment of rural beaux and belles, and the youthful miners and ball maidens; others behaved with great brutality to such of the females as came within their reach, and attacked such of the young men as attempted to rescue their female friends from the rude hands of these savages. The uproar that ensued may be more easily conceived than described; the crash of the standings, the screams of the affrighted damsels, the calls of their protectors and of the owners of the standings for assistance, produced a compound of discordant sounds not often equalled in this now peaceable county. The ruffians were, however, speedily masters of the field, and the discomfited and terrified multitude fled to the adjacent houses for shelter. The greater part rushed into the public houses which were filled with company:- here they were persued by the brutal miscreants , who commenced breaking the windows , demolishing the windows etc. They were at length opposed by a number of young men, who rallied in defence of the females and the houses; when, as cowardly as they were brutal and ferocious, the St Ives ruffians fled under cover of the darkness; but as soon as they saw an opportunity, they rallied and commenced an attack upon the windows. They were at length driven from the field ; but not before upwards of twenty of them were identified, who will have to answer for their conduct in a Court  of Justice. When it is considered that few, comparatively, are benefited and that numbers are seriously annoyed by the annual nuisance denominated Lelant Fair, its discontinuance would be regarded as a public benefit”.-(West Briton)

Reported in The Morning Post Wednesday, August 27, 1823



Marie Laurencin 1885-1956

I have just discovered from a friend the lovely paintings of Marie Laurencin and think they deserve wider acclaim. Ceramicist, painter and printmaker, she also became  the mistress of Apollinaire. They have a soft and appealing, lyrical and delicate quality that can be seen in the pastel above which is called “Le Chant”. Many of her drawings are in the keeping of The Art Institute of Chicago like this one below right, executed in graphite and coloured pencils.

According to one easily accessible website on her,”Marie Laurencin was a French painter and printmaker. Laurencin was born in Paris, where she was raised by her mother and lived much of her life. At 18, she studied porcelain painting in Sevres. She then returned to Paris and continued her art education at the Academie Humbert, where she changed her focus to oil painting. During the early years of the 20th century, Laurencin was an important figure in the Parisian avant-garde and a member of the circle of Pablo Picasso. She became romantically involved with Picasso’s friend, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, and has often been identified as his muse. In addition, Laurencin had important connections to the salon of the American expatriate and famed lesbian writer Natalie Clifford Barney. During the First World War, Laurencin left France for exile in Spain with her German-born husband, Baron Otto von Waetjen, since through her marriage she had automatically lost her French citizenship. The couple subsequently lived together briefly in Dusseldorf. After they divorced in 1920, she returned to Paris, where she lived for the rest of her life and where she achieved great success as an artist.”

Her portraits have a hieratic quality; an adjective which derives from the Greek ἱερατεία (hierateia meaning “priesthood”). By hieratic in relation to art one means very stylised, formal or restrained. The term is used particularly of figurative art with” piquantly tipped heads and mask-like faces”-as Peter Schjeldahl referred to the work of Amedeo Mondigliani.

This is a wonderful clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CDT5whWuGM

Here is a poem from Appolonaire to Marie

Vous y dansiez petite fille
Y danserez-vous mère-grand
C’est la maclotte qui sautille
Toute les cloches sonneront
Quand donc reviendrez-vous Marie

Les masques sont silencieux
Et la musique est si lointaine
Qu’elle semble venir des cieux
Oui je veux vous aimer mais vous aimer à peine
Et mon mal est délicieux

Les brebis s’en vont dans la neige
Flocons de laine et ceux d’argent
Des soldats passent et que n’ai-je
Un cœur à moi ce coeur changeant
Changeant et puis encor que sais-je

Sais-je où s’en iront tes cheveux
Crépus comme mer qui moutonne
Sais-je où s’en iront tes cheveux
Et tes mains feuilles de l’automne
Que jonchent aussi nos aveux

Je passais au bord de la Seine
Un livre ancien sous le bras
Le fleuve est pareil à ma peine
Il s’écoule et ne tarit pas
Quand donc finira la semaine

(La maclotte est une danse ardennaise )

Marie Laurencin, c.1924 (b/w photo) by Man Ray
Marie Laurencin, c.1924 (b/w photo) by Man Ray

Peretz Hirschbein, Yiddish Theatre and possible parallels with the History Plays

Hirschbein, actor and dramatist founded the first Art Theatre in Odessa in 1908 which produced plays in Yiddish. His first play, having been written in Hebrew, was Miriam. His most important plays; the Blacksmith’s Daughter (1915) and Green Fields (1919) are idylls of Jewish country life and according to the Oxford Companion to the Theatre, the second was considered to be one of the greatest works of Yiddish drama. It was translated into English by Joseph C. Landis in 1966 as The Dybbuk and other Great Yiddish plays. (In Jewish folklore, a dybbuk (Hebrew: דיבוק‎) is a malicious or benevolent possessing spirit believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person.)

The culture of the Eastern European Jews was permeated with music, song, and dance. These latter features commonly in the Yiddish theatre, and emerged at its earliest point in Warsaw in the 1830s. During Purim, a religious holiday, plays told the story from the Book of Esther and were known as Purimspiels. Purim, is when Hamantaschen are made with many different fillings, including prunes, nut, poppy seeddateapricotapple, fruit preservescherrychocolatedulce de lechehalva, or even caramel or cheese. There was a song called, Mein Hut der hat drei Ecken, which in Hebrew school related to Hamen’s three cornered hat; the shape of the pastry.

Also, there is a fairly well known production of quite another film which is also called The Dybbuk which has been translated into Yiddish, Hebrew, German, Polish, English, Ukranian, Swedish, Bulgarian, Czech, Serbian, French and Japanese. There are several significant or interesting points about the film. Firstly, produced in 1937, it features Gerschon Sirota, whose voice was considered heavenly by Caruso. Some of Sirota’s pieces (including ‘Ata Nigleita’) are compared in quality to Traviata and Madam Butterfly. The plot involves an arranged marriage and deals with intergenerational strife interwoven with mystical themes and experiences of possession. It was written by Shloyme Zanvl Rappoport who was known as S.Ansky who also came from Odessa, was interested in folklore and ethnography, and wrote the oath or song which became the anthem of the Jewish Socialist Bund party. Ansky also was a Socialist representative in the 1917 Russian Assembly. Odessa was clearly a lively centre for the discussion of theatre, history and politics particularly in the Jewish community which also included Simon Dubnow, another person worthy of further research.

My interest in these issues was sparked by starting to read (and in the process turning to the Oxford Theatre Companion) Shakespeare’s King John and its relation to the genre described as the ‘History Play’. It occurred to me that one obvious way of thinking about the question is to compare and contrast the genre in other, mostly European, cultures. Not at all an easy task! Clearly there are links with issues such as ideology, religious practice and belief, creating a tradition and reflecting back upon its cultural memories and so developing or reinforcing earlier myths. We have also just seen the gory preview scenes from Ironclad, based on the historical King John, and reviewed in yesterday’s Daily Mail, by Chris Tookey, “Ironclad desperately wants to be a historical blockbuster along the lines of Braveheart. Sadly, it has more in common with Monty Python and the Holy Grail” Some historical facts about King John are given at http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/king-john.htm

It is striking reading in The New Cambridge Edition (L.A.Beaurline) of King John, how the play influenced what has been called the archaeology of staging. Apparently, before Charles Kemble took over Covent Garden there was little interest in getting costumes historically correct. This matter was of great importance to Kemble and with James Robinson Planché (27 February 1796 – 30 May 1880) consequently attention to scenery being historically authentic developed commenced with productions of King John.

I wonder how Yiddish plays were originally performed and with what scenery. It is very well known that Yiddish Theatre was a great influence upon Kafka. Their comparatively recent development perhaps illustrates their cosmopolitan narratives of identity, including of course, Zionism. Possibly Shakespeare’s History plays are virtually sui generis. Early History plays in Germany evolved written by men like Andreas Gryphius (1616 – 1664) a lyric poet and dramatist. A notably significant figure is Schiller who wrote historical plays with support from Goethe. For instance, he wrote an interesting and sympathetic play about Mary Stewart in which Elizabeth appears thoroughly ruthless.

To conclude with two provoking essays from the Guardian, the first written by Jonathan Bate about Shakespeare’s history plays, “As history, the plays paint a panorama of England, embracing a wider social range than any previous historical drama, as the action moves from court to tavern, council-chamber to battlefield, city to country, archbishop and lord chief justice to whore and thief.” Still more can be read and enjoyed at:-http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2010/may/29/shakespeare-jonathan-bate-simon-callow Of course, when it comes to knowledge of drama, languages and cultures there is the redoubtable George Steiner who gave a characteristically ironic interview at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/apr/19/society

What became of Hirschbein? Well in the early 1940s Hirschbein moved to Los Angeles, here he wrote a feature film, “Hitler’s Hangman” (1943) and generally worked on propaganda. Now what did Olivier produce in the following year? “A colourful and highly stylised version which begins in the Globe Theatre and then gradually shifts to a realistic evocation of the Battle of Agincourt”, oh yes, Henry the Fifth!

The intellectuals of Odessa