MG Puck

Shakespeare the Renaissance Week 1 2015: Elizabeth 1st and the theme of Love/Lurve in Shakespeare


Elizabeth the First’s poem “On Monsieur’s Departure” shows well how literature of the Renaissance was so often deeply concerned with the inner workings of the human soul. The rich texture of the language, dramatising her conflicted nature in loving the French Duke of Anjou, draws the reader in to her effort to understand by describing what is going on inside: “I grieve and dare not show…. I love and yet am forced… I do, yet dare not say…. I am and not…. Since from myself another self I turned….” It is a very modern psychological language that shows how close she (and people in the Renaissance in general) were to our way of thinking, feeling, experiencing the world. Shakespeare’s characters are often very like the character depicted in this poem: appealing to something in their higher nature while in the same breath sinking to something lower: “Some gentler passion slide into my mind/ For I am soft and made of melting snow…. Or let me or(either) float or sink, be high or low…” As Anthony Burgess memorably said about Shakespeare he had a “talent which, more than any other that the world has seen, reconciles us to being human beings, unsatisfactory hybrids, not good enough for gods, and not good enough for animals.”

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare explores the way in which the complex, uncontrollable force of love can wreak havoc in people’s lives, how it can also bring a happy stabilising framework and how it can remain a bubbling unrequited aspect of human nature no matter what the external circumstances. In some ways Shakespeare sees it as the life force itself, that we have to live with, ride with and maybe tame…… let’s watch this force unfold in A Midsummer Night’s Dream… in As You Like It….. in Henry IV…….in The Tempest…….

Love to Ride

Blog Questions for Week One


1/ Using Elizabeth 1 as a starting point, write a short poem that captures the internal complexity of your own emotional state in a relationship. Try out the texture of inner conflict that Elizabeth uses to “nail” the shifts in her own feeling.

2/ Write a shore paragraph of prose (illustrated with visual images if possible) that shows how love in the 21st century is no easier than it was in the 16th Century.


3/ Briefly explain (to help your own understanding and that of your readers) the push and pull of all the relationships that emerge in Act 1 Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: There are those who have been forced into love, those who are resisting love, those who want to break out of enforcement and those who want to break into love!…. Can you catalogue all these processes, putting the names of characters to them?

4/ Briefly describe the stark differences in language that occurs between the beginning of Act 1 Scene 1 and the beginning of Act 1 Scene 2 in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Focus closely on word choice, rhythm, register, imagery….. enjoy the process leading to deeper understanding.

An important note about Blogging this semester: we want to create a real interactive community of bloggers in Shakespeare and the Renaissance. The only way to achieve this is to comment regularly, frequently on each other’s blogs. Take this task seriously and enjoy the challenge of giving and taking criticism and giving and listening to other ideas. Also, most importantly, post your name (+ a little bit about yourself), and your URL into the WordPress URL Forum Set up in LEO.

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MG Puck

Romantic and Victorian Literature; Week 1


William Blake’s “The Garden of Love” and William Wordsworth’s two poems “Expostulation and Reply” and “The Tables Turned” provided a real gateway into some of the central insights of the Romantic Movement: their disaffection with mere book learning, with conventional morality and their belief in the power of nature and the resources of childhood to vanquish the problems of modern civilisation. Their ideas still have a powerful relevance for today. Where can we find the source of a real knowledge that could bring some healing to a world riven with conflict? This is what the Romantics were looking for. They expressed what they found in their poetry, their art, their novels. Wuthering Heights (which we will be turning to shortly) can be seen partly as a vision of what kinds of experience could save humanity from its natural destructive tendencies. I look forward to exploring that book with you in particular. So there is much ahead of us this semester in terms of ideas, imaginative worlds, and challenges to our habitual ways of thinking.

Here are a few starting topics for your 19th Century Literature Blogs (remember your blogs are leading up towards an ePortfolio which should be underpinned by the question:

Do the interests, concerns and experiences of writers in the 19th C still have relevance to human needs in the 21st C?

Creative Topics:

1/ Take a line from any poem looked at this week and build your own poem, based on your own experience, from the chosen line.

2/ Describe your own experience of “wise passiveness” either basing it on an experience in nature or somewhere else that has real meaning for you.

Critical Topics:

1/ Create a mini- digital kit that focusses on the key Romantic ideas of either William Blake or Wordsworth. Write a brief evaluation of any resources that you put into your Blog.

2/Describe what you think Wordsworth is proclaiming in his short poem“My Heart Leaps Up” (page 335 Norton).

An important note to close on: our Blogs this semester are intended to give you a space where you can develop and share your best thoughts on the literature and ideas being studied. They will be a great resource for your final exam. More importantly they are a space where you can share ideas and interact with others in the class. We can together build a vibrant space of meaningful ideas and creative expression that can supplement what we have each week in our face-to-face class time. So I look forward to seeing how you build this group experience. One of the first things you must do is post your WordPress URL (and a few details about yourself) in the WordPress Forum which you will find in the very first LEO Module. So go there and do that right away……



MG Puck

Literature and Life: Autumn 2015

Autumn Semester 2015

by michaelgriffith1 • February 19, 2015 • 0 Comments

Hi All, I am looking forward very much to working with you in all of the following units: Nineteenth Century Literature (ENGL200); Shakespeare & The Renaissance (ENGL210); Introduction to Literature (Clemente- Mission Australia Students, ENGL104); Learning in the Community (HUMA247)and (ARTS232). This is the space where I will be posting my weekly reflections on our collaborative teaching and learning and where I will also be posting questions for you (if you are in one of my Literature Units). So please make this site one of your favourites and log in frequently to read, see and hear the delights I can dig up to accompany your learning experience.

Till next week….

Meanwhile enjoy a few snaps if have made on my Autumn Bush Walking adventures (the image I have used at the top of my blog is looking over Galston Gorge at dawn- this is one of my very special favourite places).

An early dawn walk behind Winmallee took to me to Shaw’s Ridge where there was an incredible colony of flowering flannel flowers punctuating the way on this cool, misty Autumn morning.
Flannel Flowers

Coming down Shaw’s Ridge takes you to a Blue Gum forest with amazingly tall blue gums. I thought I would try out the panoramic function on my new iPhone 6 plus: pretty cool.

Finally arriving at our destination (The Gross Valley Lookout) we could hear the river loudly from below in the valley (probably around 1000 metres below!), but much of the other side and the valley itself was obscured by morning mist.

But we were greeted by a very impertinent Currawong who spent a good 5 minutes trying to work out how to get grapes from the bottom of our morning tea jar… needless to say he finally succeeded:


MG Puck

Additional Blog Topics for Week 10

Here are some additional topics if you have run out of ideas.

Australian Lit: Francis Webb: How does Webb manage to champion the life of the outcast in the last stanza of "Harry" in his Ward Two sequence? What strengths does Harry have that we in the world of so called "common-sense" seem to lack?

*Try to write a few stanzas in the style of Judith Beveridge. Chose a simple focus subject (like "Yachts" and see how your imagination sets to work on this idea). 

Twentieth Century Literature:

* Write a paragraph describing our own modern world (in the style of Huxley) that shows how far we have gone down the road to this "Brave New World".

*What one idea in Pinter's Nobel Prize Speech struck you as most relevant for our own times. Use this as starting point for a short review of Pinter's speech

Visionary Imagination:
*Do you think there really are ordinary/extraordinary people like White's Riders in the world around us. Create one in your own mind and write a brief description of their characteristics.

***Remember for your final ePortfolio entries you are going to have a number of peer reviews to include to demonstrate the quality of your interaction with your peers this semester. 

Enjoy your weekend..... get your toboggans out!
MG Puck

Journal Topics for Weeks 9,10 and 11- more to come!

Hi all, we have all been incredibly hectic in the last few weeks (what with conferences and visits from David Malouf). So it is now time to catch up with some ideas for the last few entries of your literature journal for this semester. Here is a selection of offerings- enjoy! There are many things you could talk about in your Literature Journal entries for last week, this week and next week. And remember –as many of you have- that you can always create your own topic: you don’t have to wait for the topics that I post up here.

Australian Literature:
1/ Write a short review of Fly Away Peter.  Say what you found most appealing in the novel and why you think the novel is relevant to our society today.
2/ Write a letter to David Malouf thanking him for his visits. Say what struck you particularly about the way he answered people's questions.
3/ If you came to the Conference Writing the Sacred say what were for you the most important ideas and experiences to come from the conference as a whole. Could you say, simply, what you understand the title of the conference: what does "Writing the Sacred" mean?

Twentieth Century Literature.

1/The last question above would be a good one for you to answer as well. In particular could you say what Prof Barry Spurr added to your understanding of the role and place of T.S. Eliot in 20th Century Literature?

2/We have also been exploring Huxley and Orwell. From your understanding of either or both of these authors could you say briefly why these authors still might be worth reading in today's society? Do any of the themes that you have come into contact with so far, ring a chord with the concerns of our own times (particularly your own times).For example did you take it on the chin when, with reference to Lenina, Huxley says that people can’t survive without having a constant din of noise going on between their two ears! Is that your life? 

3/Does Twentieth Century drama (the play you are working on in your group) still have “bite” for a 21st Century audience? That is to say, is their relevance in its themes and ideas to your own experience?

4/Write a letter to either Huxley, Orwell OR your playwright and discuss with them an aspect of today’s experience that shows they have been wrong in their assessment of what would happen in the future. 

The Visionary Imagination.
1/Could you say how your special seminar with David Malouf amplified your understanding of both the meaning of Ransom and of the function of imagination in a broader sense?

2/If you came to the Conference Writing the Sacred could you say what you learnt about the creative imagination and its relationship to the Sacred?
What questions, did the conference leave you with?  
3/Has your understanding of the nature and purpose of David Malouf's writing changed since you heard him speak (either at the Conference or at the special seminar, or both). 

4/Write a letter to David Malouf continuing the conversation that we started with him. Maybe you would like to deepen the questions that were asked about his religion?

5/What is your sense of the central message that comes through Ransom? What is David Malouf trying to tell his contemporary audience about what really matters in life?

MG Puck

Blog Topics for Visionary Imagination for Week 8: Ransom

So how did David Malouf's Ransom stand up to scrutiny in today's classes? I was impressed by what seemed to be an unusual attentivenessa and an unusual receptivity to his ideas. This bodes well for David Malouf's visit later this week and in the week we get back from our semester break. Please think of questions you might like to ask him about his work and about William Blake. 

Questions for this week: Can you remember any moment in your life where you have been deeply challenged to change the way you go about your normal affairs? Does this help you to understand what takes place in Priam as he confronts the need to reclaim his son's body?

What is it about David Malouf's style that enables him to bring so vividly to life the inner feelings and experiences of his characters? Select one short passage where you think he achieves this and see if you can talk about the creative strategies he uses to make his language so alive. 

Hopefully I will see many many of you at the conference on Sunday. Please register at this address so that you guarantee yourself lunch:

Also- if you have not yet heard- my ebook on Francis Webb is being sold for a short time (before the conference) for $2.99. The ebook can be read on any mac, pc or ipad (even iphone) with the free downloadable kindle app.