Farewell to the Palace

This week between Christmas and New Year tends to feel something of a limbo, but this year that feeling is greater for me as I’m between jobs and homes.

I finished work as Bishop Otter Scholar in Chichester just before Christmas, and so have moved out of my flat in the Palace — I doubt I will ever have such a grand address again!

In January I start a new job as a research fellow at the University of Manchester (more on the new research to follow), where I may have a more humble home address, although I will have the joy of working in the gorgeous John Rylands Library.

In the meantime, here are some highlights from my time living at the Palace (if you are on twitter, you will find more photos, videos and anecdotes on #palatialproblems).

 

Wildlife in the garden:

dsc_0223dsc_0876

 

Fireworks in the garden (a suitably secure open space to set off public displays):

cyecetdxcaa9jzs

 

Gorgeous autumn foliage:

cwpgi92xeaqwitw

 

And some spectacular skies:

cveq-qhwiaaip7iczfz3vkweaaa5slcvjp26fwcaab8scczdjmdvxgaa6fum

Advertisements

Laden with Blakean fruit

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, Blake’s ‘To Autumn‘ is a favourite of mine.

Here in America, the season is of course, known as Fall, and glorious it is too – parks resplendent with deep, fiery hues, and skies crisp and clear; here’s a shot taken at Yale’s Cross Campus:

10378242_10153548941310961_2096545464194170427_n

I think Blake would have enjoyed the intensity of Fall colour – lovely as Autumn is, there is a different quality to the colours here.

I haven’t come across many trees ‘laden with fruit‘, but I’ve been able to see much fruit of the Blakean kind (i.e. Blake works), both at the Yale Center for British Art where I’m based, and on a long weekend in to New York, where I took in works at the Metropolitan Museum and the Morgan Library.

It’s wonderful to be able to see so many works in person, and I’m looking not only at works that I’ve already done quite a lot of research on, but also at things that I might not otherwise be because they are on hand – both works by Blake himself and by his contemporaries. Whilst I’m here, I’m giving the business of writing up a bit of distance – I’m taking stock of what I’ve written so far and thinking about what I need to write to fill in the gaps, but not writing or editing in earnest. I’m sure when I get back to working on the script more intensely on my return, it will be the richer for spending time with the works themselves.

Beyond the walls of museums, Blake’s habit of cropping up all over the place confronted me twice during my ‘off-duty’ time in New York.

First, I was staying near Columbia University, and therefore had the chance to take in Corpus Christi Church (see picture below), where in a seemingly unlikely combination of life events, Thomas Merton became a Catholic whilst writing his Masters’ dissertation on Blake!

9780_10153572057960961_4537806869830242812_n

Second, and more well-known, was Lee Lawrie’s ‘Wisdom’ above the entrance to the GE Building at the Rockefeller Center, inspired by Blake’s ‘Ancient of Days.’

10422138_10153572063845961_1645421751290256258_nLike Paolozzi’s (rather later) fellow compass*-bearing ‘Newton’ at the British Library, this figure towers over a place where large numbers of people pass every day. Both of these monumental sculptures seem to incite the beholder away from the tyrannical, short-sighted worldview which the plates that inspired them symbolise (at least, that’s the standard readings of the figures in both Blake plates, although both have been read in alternative ways, but that’s a matter better saved for discussion elsewhere) to a ‘wiser’ take on the world.

At more or less the halfway point in my time at the YCBA, the compasses can also serve as a metaphor of pointing two ways: a cause to reflect on my time here thus far, and to look forward to making the most of the fruits available for the remainder of my time.

* Last week during a talk on Blake, I was corrected by a mathematician than Newton and the Ancient of Days are in fact holding dividers, rather than compasses. This is of course a fair point, but ‘compasses’ is rather too ingrained in Blake scholarship for me to give up the habit of using the term.

The Number of the Beast

I’ve been very lax about blogging over the summer and it’s now definitely the season “stained with the blood of the grape” (Blake’s ode to Autumn is undeservedly much less well known than Keats’).

 

Summer brought with it a combination of research, holidaying, conferencing and encounters with the Number of the Beast.

 

First was the invention of a new rule for the card game S***head by my fellow PhD-ers Scott Midson, Rosie Edgley and Johannes Lotze relating to three sixes being played in succession (as the rule was not my invention I shall not divulge it here, but it is a pretty beastly rule). The invention came about en route from Manchester to Kent when they came to keep me company house sitting for my parents and the new incarnation of the game (known, unsurprisingly as “The Beast”) kept us amused throughout our sojourn in the Garden of England and has now become a firm favourite among our group of friends.

 

In other news, Blake’s watercolour The Number of the Beast is 666 (c.1805) is relevant in a tangential way to the chapter I am working on at the moment on Christ as the agent of apocalypse. A couple of weeks ago, I was adding some pictures in to some work to send to my supervisors, and as soon as I added in the aforementioned watercolour the file refused to save. After wasting half an afternoon panicking that maybe I should be superstitious after all and battling to save the file, I eventually realised that I had simply run out of space and thus solved the problem by deleting some other files. Now the good people in IT have given me some more storage so hopefully I can avoid such scares in future!