Year in Review – 2018

Janus Bifrons by Adolphe Giraldon

We’ve have another busy year! Our daughter is walking and talking and…scattering her toy dinosaurs all over the house…

And since last summer, I’ve been working on my dissertation, looking at the ways Victorians relate to the medieval past through liturgy. Whether Anglicans, dissenters, or agnostics, they’re using tons of liturgical allusions.

And I turned in another chapter just before Christmas:

With everything that’s going on, I thought we would take a look at some of the most viewed posts on the blog so far.

Most popular posts this year

1. Beginning Lent with Father Gerard’s “Nondum”

During the Lent of 1866, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote the hymn-like poem, “Nondum,” (“not yet”). It’s one of his early poems, written about a decade before The Wreck of the Deutschland. As juvenilia, it’s not considered one of his best–Julia Saville, for instance, compellingly presents the poem as “a hymn whose repetitive stanzas and regular rhyme scheme are still a far cry from the innovations of his mature work”–but I think it also has fascinating insight into sacred time. Find out more and see what you think about the poem.

Here’s the poem put to music:

2. We Need People with Down Syndrome

As a personalist whose guiding philosophy and approach to being focuses on human dignity, I think every time we treat the other as disposable we actually reveal our gaps in understanding the human person. An anthropological error, or an outright lie about human dignity, is the first necessary step to say someone else is disposable.

We need to encounter others whose gifts are different from our own to stay grounded in the truth, grounded in reality. We need the person with Down syndrome. If the current eugenics movement succeeds, we will–every single one of us–be diminished as a human community.

3. The Feast Day of Christina Rossetti

Surprised that Christina Rossetti has a feast day? Me too! But I’m happy to have a day when I have an excuse to read Goblin Market and and listen to the hymns and carols that come from her poetry.

If you want to find out more about how Rossetti’s poetry haven been put to music, check out Mary Arseneau’s site, Christina Rossetti in Music.

Here’s her Christmas poem, “In the Bleak Midwinter”:

4. Sustainability in the Victorianist Classroom

I’m preparing a class on Victorian ecology that I’m hoping to teach next fall: “Nostalgia and the Victorian Ecological Imagination.” Here’s the course description:

Why are we always looking backward when we think about the environment? Perhaps we want to restore a region to a past state—but what past? Before the Anthropocene, before colonialism, before humans? In the 19th century, John Muir wants to conserve the Edenic value of the “grand old patriarchs” of Californian forests. Gerard Manley Hopkins laments the “sweet especial rural scene” from his undergraduate days that will never return after his beloved poplar trees are felled. Thomas Hardy leads us to an idyllic dairy farm that will be replaced by the “despotic demand” of mechanized agriculture. Like us, the Victorians also look backward rather than forward when valuing their environment.

Throughout this course, we will uncover what we have inherited from the Victorian ecological imagination. We will read Victorian texts that resonate with the threefold division of sustainability into environmental, social, and economic categories and complement those readings with ecocritical texts and recent creative nonfiction from the Spring Creek Project. From the Victorian response to the Romantics to the utopian socialism of William Morris, we will examine the roots of our 21st-century melancholy and then take our own stance toward the future by crafting conference presentations and digital storytelling projects.

What would you like to do in a course like this? What are your favorite Victorian nature poems?

5. The Transitus of Gerard Manley Hopkins

The annual memorial of our literary patron’s death in 1889.

On June 8, 1889, he met the God who “Pást áll / Grásp” is “thróned behínd / Death with a sovereignty that heeds but hides, bodes but abides”

Most popular posts last year

1. What is Medievalism?

We can’t get enough of Lord of the Rings or Arthurian romance or even quirky cartoons like Adventure Time, but how do we interpret these medievalesque stories written so much later? Find out here as we take a look at medievalism and where the discipline (or antidiscipline) might go in the future.

2. Celebrating Pentecost King Arthur Style

Did you know that Pentecost is an important day in the high order of knighthood? In this post, we begin our exploration of the impact liturgical time has on Arthurian lore.

3. Discovering the Poetry of Father Hopkins

Take a look at what it was like to be into Gerard Manley Hopkins before it was cool.

4. Operation Eleanor

This is where we announced the coming birth of our daughter. We’re still open to book suggestions if you have any. Right now her favorite books are Where the Wild Things Are and dePaola’s The Friendly Beasts.

5. Thomas Merton on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

We need to hear Thomas Merton’s words and keep asking ourselves when have we promoted an “atmosphere of devotion” for destructive power.

You can read Merton’s poem, “Original Child Bomb,” here, or listen to a recording of it below produced and narrated by Vincent Di Stefano

Popular posts from the second year

1. Ten Bookish People You Should Follow on Twitter

There might just be donuts on the other side of this link…

2. How to Read Literature Like a Monk

And by monk, I don’t mean Br. Monday. He’s not much of a reader…

3. 3 Reasons Why You Should Read Difficult Poems

Find out why it’s a good thing when a poem resists understanding after the first reading.

4. All Shall Be Well

I think everyone needs to hear how “al shal be wel, and al shal be wel, and al manner of thyng shal be wele.

5. El Pájaro por Octavio Paz

Una poema que se trata de silencio, un pájaro, y la muerte.

Popular posts from the first year

1. The Power of Language to Transform the Human Heart

When Gerard Manley Hopkins writes a poem about a blacksmith and addresses him as one who “didst fettle for the great gray drayhorse his bright and battering sandal,” he is not merely bringing the blacksmith to life, but in a way is bringing us to life as well. Through the sound, rhythm, passion of his words, he is bringing to life in us, as might never have been brought to life at all, a sense of the uniqueness and mystery and holiness not just of the blacksmith and his great gray drayhorse, but of the reality itself, including the reality of ourselves.

– Frederick Buechner

2. Why the Leaden Echo Isn’t Enough

Find out why this beautiful song is only half the story.

3. A Person is a Student is a Customer is a Product is a Thing

I think the Margaret Atwood bump helped here…

4. 5 Myths about Writing

Judging from the keyword searches leading to this post, I think people are looking for ways to write the 5-paragraph essay instead of the hard truth that it’s a teaching tool that can get in the way when we start college.

5. Relational Reading

Well, I think language does bring us together. Fragile and misleading as it is, it’s the best communication we’ve got, and poetry is language at its most intense and potentially fulfilling. Poems do bring people together.

William Stafford

What’s Next?

This coming year, I’m going to redesign the site a little, integrating my teaching portfolio with the blog.

I also plan to start a little series on Victorians and tobacco. There’s the lyric tradition that tends to be written by smokers for smokers, and then there’s the sinister smoker in novels by non-smokers. Looking at them together can tell us a bit about smoking as ritual and Victorian gender dynamics.

Which posts were your favorites? What would you like to see more of? Doing a year in review post on your blog? Go ahead and link to your post below in the comments.


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