strange_complex: (Penelope)
Hmm, we have a bit of a Situation here. This time next week, I'll already be in Cardiff for the Classical Association conference, ready to deliver my paper on Doctor Who and historiography on the Saturday. When I submitted my abstract for that paper, I quite assumed I'd have seen and reviewed all the stories up to and including The Highlanders (where my enquiry ends) by the time I needed to deliver it. In fact I've only just finished reviewing as far as The Myth Makers (see below) and watching as far as The Ark - which means I have another eight stories left to watch and eleven to review. In one week, that clearly ain't gonna happen – not with the lengths of reviews I write anyway.

On the plus side, the paper is shaping up fairly well, and given that watching and writing up these stories is part of the research, it's reasonable enough to use bits of my working day this week to get on with the reviewing – that's what I've done today in order to get The Myth Makers finished. So I'll push on as far as I can over the next few days – which is probably going to mean quite an outpouring of Whovianism on these here pages. Then if necessary I can just watch the three remaining historical stories out of sequence, and that way at least I'll have seen all my major source material by the time of the conference.

I've also decided to institute a more fine-detail approach to cut-tagging these reviews, since they're really too long for a single cut to be very helpful. It means no-one can see what sorts of issues I've discussed until they get behind the main cut, and also that I can't link directly to specific bits of earlier reviews when I'm discussing the same issue in the context of a later story. I really wish I'd instituted this a lot earlier (and might start instituting it retrospectively if I get the time), but better late than never, eh?

First Doctor: The Myth Makers )

The source texts as garbled records of real events )

The Myth Makers and The Romans )

Steven and Vicki's integration into local culture )

Vicki's departure )

There are a couple of things I'd like to pursue further with regards to this story – and may try to do so if I have time before the CA. One is Cotton's use of contemporary academic publications, which I learn thanks to a publication by [livejournal.com profile] parrot_knight is actually quite easy to follow up in this case. Apparently, a 'reading list' still survives for this story, listing items like the relevant volumes of the Cambridge Ancient History and Encyclopaedia Britannica as potential resources. I assume it must be from these that Cotton drew some of the ideas about the historical basis for the Trojan war which appear in the script – e.g. the Trojans as migrants from central Asia who have settled on the coast, or the idea that the Trojan war was really about control of trade-routes through the Bosphorus. I'd also rather like to read the novelisation of this one, since I see from Wikipedia that it takes the very interesting step of having the whole story narrated from the first-person point of view of Homer. I'd love to see what Cotton does with that, since it certainly has the potential to expand even further than the TV version on the relationship between Cotton's story and his source texts. But I strongly doubt I'll have time to fit that in before the CA.

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strange_complex: (Miss Pettigrew)
I picked this up rather expecting something along the lines of Saki or P.G. Wodehouse. From a purely stylistic point of view I wasn't far wrong - Fitzgerald definitely displays the same facility with language, choosing words which are surprising in their context, but at the same time highly evocative of the atmosphere he is trying to create. (There's a collection of quotations from the novel on Wikiquote which should give some idea of this).

The content, though, is much more gritty and sombre. Yes, there are parties at lavish villas on Long Island - but there are also frustrated hopes, social divisions, emotional betrayals, callous manipulations, badly misplaced priorities and two entirely avoidable deaths. On the whole, the New York of the 1920s is portrayed as rotten and superficial, and the novel ends with the first-person narrator (Nick Carraway) choosing to return to what he considers to be his more wholesome origins in the mid-west.

I also decided to read it now because I had heard that it related to Petronius' Satyricon, and wanted to see how. In all honesty, it's not a terribly profound resonance. Jay Gatsby resembles Trimalchio in that they have both made a lot of money after coming from a humble background and like to give lavish parties, but Gatsby is far less brash and vulgar than Trimalchio, and far more concerned to draw a veil over his true origins. Indeed, he comes across as a reserved an enigmatic figure, whom we get to know only very gradually. For the first few chapters, our narrator encounters him solely via distant glimpses and reports, and utterly fails to recognise him when they do actually meet. We also hear several exaggerated, sensational and completely inaccurate accounts of his past before we get anywhere near anything which might plausibly be true - and even then there is still room for doubt. Gatsby is very much at the centre of the events of the novel, but it remains always a rather thin and insubstantial centre - presumably in keeping with the superficial atmosphere which Fitzgerald wished to create.

I did spot one other Classical reference which I hadn't been expecting, though. At the beginning of chapter 4, our narrator presents a list of everyone who visited Gatsby's house in the summer when the novel is set. It's too long to include here in toto, but a typical paragraph runs like this:
"From West Egg came the Poles and the Mulreadys and Cecil Roebuck and Cecil Schoen and Gulick the state senator and Newton Orchid, who controlled Films Par Excellence, and Eckhaust and Clyde Cohen and Don S. Schwartze (the son) and Arthur McCarty, all connected with the movies in one way or another. And the Catlips and the Bembergs and G. Earl Muldoon, brother to that Muldoon who afterward strangled his wife. Da Fontano the promoter came there, and Ed Legros and James B. (“Rot-Gut”) Ferret and the De Jongs and Ernest Lilly—they came to gamble, and when Ferret wandered into the garden it meant he was cleaned out and Associated Traction would have to fluctuate profitably next day."
A list is a list when all's said and done, but the incidental details about the people being ennumerated reminded me rather of the Catalogue of Ships in the Iliad (lines 2.494-759, starting here). And I think the closing phrases in each case seal the deal:
"Such were the chiefs and princes of the Danaans." (Iliad 2.750, tr. Samuel Butler 1898)
"All these people came to Gatsby’s house in the summer." (The Great Gatsby (1925) ch. 4).
Not identical, obviously, and anyway I don't know whether Fitzgerald would have encountered Homer directly in the Greek, or what translation he might have used if not. But the device of recapping what the list has just been about is the same in both cases. The immediate effect appears to be a sort of parody, emphasising the insignificance of what is going on at Gatsby's parties by comparison with the epic warfare of the Iliad. But evoking the theme of the Trojan Wars perhaps also has a wider resonance for the rest of the novel, since it raises the possibility of casting Gatsby's devotion to another man's wife (Daisy) and the disastrous consequences which it ultimately has for him in the light of Paris' devotion to Helen. All in all rather more meaningful than the Trimalchio reference, I think - but knowing about it is still not an essential prerequisite for enjoying the novel. It merely adds an extra hint of spice to what is anyway a great read.

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strange_complex: (Leeds owl)
...keeping me up all night!

Actually, they aren't really owls, but apparently some openings in the roofing of the flats where I live, which make hooting sounds exactly like owls when the wind blows through them. Which was most of last night. Still, it gives me a great opportunity to introduce my latest icon (man, I just love the way us permies get yet another new one every few months!).

This particular owl may be found outside Leeds' Civic Hall, where he and a feathery friend stand as proud emblems of the city - whose patron goddess must therefore logically be Minerva. Now that I actually live in Leeds, I felt the need for a 'Leeds - town' icon to supplement the 'Leeds - gown' aspect represented by my Parkinson building one. So that's his job. Meanwhile, in the background, is Shelley's rendering of the Homeric hymn to his mistress, the first few lines of which run thus:

I sing the glorious Power with azure eyes... )

Hooting aside, I am having a very lovely weekend, which so far has included:
  • Going shopping and buying a very lovely fifties-esque dark purple party frock for upcoming Christmas dos
  • Getting the flat properly clean and tidy
  • Painting my toe-nails
  • Dying my hair (that one's happening right now)
  • Doing some very fruitful and rewarding Alessandro Moreschi research
  • Making lots of interesting notes (so far in English) for the Italian presentation I have to give on Tuesday
  • Some cracking lie-ins
Later on, [livejournal.com profile] my_mundane_life will be coming to stay over en route to an interview she has here tomorrow, and we will be going out for dinner with [livejournal.com profile] hieroglyphe. And in the meantime, I'd better get this dye off my hair and start turning those notes into an actual presentation, that's actually in Italian...

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