Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries Tagged as '2010 Luke'

A Ramble in St. James Park

September 14th, 2010 · 1 Comment

A few days ago, I took a stroll through one of London’s finest acres of greenery, St. James Park.   As to be expected with any of London’s parks, St. James was gorgeous.    A quintessentially English garden, St. James consists overgrown grasses, a long serpentine lake and plentiful randomized outcroppings of shrubs, bushes and trees in place of bright flowers and orderly manicured rows of plants typical of the English picturesque movement of the late 18th Century.

Typically, gardens of the latter variety exist on the continent, where gardens, such as the famous gardens of Versailles and many others, exhibit the ornate, extravagant qualities of brightly coloured flowers placed in neat rows and circles.  The picturesque movement moved away from this doctrine and is seen throughout St. James.  In the park’s overgrown grasses and serpentine lake, a random, natural effect is created emblemizing the picturesque’s primary goal of replicating nature; an upholding of nature’s wilderness and natural beauty over the patterns and uniformity of continental gardens.

This is not to say, however, that St. James is not just as meticulously groomed as the gardens of Versailles.  St. James random look intended to replicate nature is neither easily accomplished nor maintained.  Countless effort goes into St. James Park by its numerous caretakers, as is true with all English gardens.  At the entrance to every one of London’s parks or green squares, there is a key to the garden demonstrating precisely the garden architect’s intent for the park and which areas contain which types of greenery.

However, there is a sense of hypocrisy to the picturesque.  With the effort that goes into making the park look natural, it is still a manmade area and not even the most gifted of garden architects can escape that fact.  St. James’ long winding serpentine lake may appear natural, but if one looks at the banks, they would see the concrete walls that enclose it, blatantly marking it an object of man’s creation.

Perhaps the picturesque quality of St. James and countless other gardens, both public and at the homes of the English, is another example of Kate Fox’s English hypocrisy.  The English seem to enjoy the idea of walking amidst untouched nature and seem willing to ignore the fact that their parks are endlessly manicured to achieve its natural look.  Either way, after spending a glorious afternoon within the park’s beautiful acres, I’m not complaining.

Tags: 2010 Luke

On Englishness, Protectionism and Entitlement

September 6th, 2010 · 2 Comments

Friday night, I stopped into a pub to watch the evening’s football match as the England national team embarked on their quest to put their World Cup misery behind them and qualify for the European Championships in 2012.

As England took the field, faces around the pub were not filled with joy, but with scepticism.  There were not cheers of “Come on England,” but groans that perfectly relayed to me as a foreigner how the footballing nation had been feeling all summer since its agonizing 4-1 exit at the hands of Germans two months earlier.  In the team’s first competitive match since the world cup, the squad knew they had to perform.  The day’s headlines in the sports section highlighted the importance of getting the team a strong win; for, although England faced easy opposition in the qualification round, the patience of their fans was drawing thin.

In the Three Lions’ previous game, a friendly against Hungary, fans booed.  Similarly, this summer in South Africa, after drawing 0-0 against a meagre Algeria side, fans booed.  And, as was made blatantly obvious by the regulars at The Rising Sun, at kick off, they were not pleased with their Three Lions.  What is even more peculiar than the fan’s dissent is the England players’ tolerance for them.  After England’s dismal exit from World Cup in June and even preceding the team’s friendly against  Hungary players consistently came forth to defend their fans’ right to boo.

After noticing this odd characteristic of criticism toward the national side, I asked the two stalwart England fans I had been chatting with throughout the match as to why fans felt entitled to judge and criticise England’s form and results.  The two blokes, Rory and Paul, both asserted their right to be critical, but noted a few crucial limitations.  Paul said, “I am English, and England has always been my home.  When football is this important, as it is in England and the rest of the world, they represent all of us, our country and the way we live.  You never boo England before any competitive match, only friendlys, but you can boo after any pathetic result, such as the 4-1 loss to Germany.”

It is this element of entitlement and right of opinion present in English football that I have noticed many other places in English culture.  In the Museum of London, an exhibit catered to this same form of entitlement of opinion, asking Londoners pertinent questions on how London should be managed, raging widely from what type of construction should constitute London to how many trees should be planted.  Unlikely as it was that the exhibit influenced any official opinion, yet there was far from a scarcity of opinions, again underscoring the general right of the English to voice their concerns and protect and preserve Englishness.

This entitlement of opinion, I feel, is linked with the same protectionist sentiments of “English National Identity” that we have encountered frequently in our readings.  The right to be critical, the right of opinion and the right to preserve are all intensely imbedded into Englishness.  Whether it be the fear of England’s national team letting down the nation, or the nation changing into something disastrously un-English, the English feel entitled to voice their opinions and protect against these changes.

These ideas are unequivocally absent in America.  We seem to define and pride ourselves as being a “melting pot” and that our national identity is a lack of one specific set of ideals or social norms.  We feel that being a diverse nation of all races and backgrounds is in fact who we are, whereas the English staunchly believe in specificity of Englishness.

It will be interesting to study during my year how these notions of entitlement and protectionism influence, uphold and define Englishness, what it means to be English and the right and privileges pertaining thereunto.   During this year, I want to discover what compiles Englishness and how this protectionism functions within its society.

Tags: 2010 Luke · Uncategorized

2nd Earl of Rochester: The Libertine

September 4th, 2010 · No Comments

Whilst touring the national portrait gallery, one notices a few immediate similarities:  first, virtually all subjects are men.  Second, all subjects are white.  Within these two parameters, however, the paintings were fairly diverse.  Subjects ranged from masters of the arts to pioneers of the sciences and then, predictably, to the useless courtiers.

Among these portraits, one caught my attention.  The 2nd Earl of Rochester, John Wilmot, proved to be a very interesting character.  Known for his poetry, Rochester’s verses ranged from the deeply philosophical and biting satire to obscene sexual fantasies.  Charles II was at times one of Rochester’s closest allies and bosom buddies, for both indulged in similarly licentious and flamboyant social lifes, but at other times proved to be the direct target of Rochester’s biting wit.  Given these two extremes, it is easy to see why the “Merry Monarch” Charles II endured a strong love/hate relationship with Rochester, banishing him from Court about once per year.

Rochester died at the age of thirty three.  The cause is believed to have been venereal disease.  After being a staunch atheist his entire life, Rochester converted to Christianity on his deathbed, after he overcame a long torrent of alcoholic abuse.

Rochester’s portrait, like the poet himself, is deeply satirical.  The portrait’s inclusion of a monkey, which is squatting on a pile of books handing Rochester a mangled page of verse, proves to be a deliciously self-mocking bit of wit, for Rochester then bestows upon the animal the laurels of a poet.  This commentary of Rochester’s proves to hold true to the poet’s general outlook on life.  In his most popular poem, and easily most controversial, “A Satyre against Reason and Mankind,” Rochester condemns the “reason” of mankind and praises the instincts of animals, concluding them to be logical, whereas men use their wits and reason out of fear and lust for power.

Tags: 2010 Luke

Shepherd’s Bush Market

August 28th, 2010 · 7 Comments

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We spent the morning at Shepherd’s Bush Market in the area of Shepherd’s Bush, near Hammersmith. To get there, we took the Tube to Shepherd’s Bush station, a modern and pretty elegant-looking building. Once we were at the station, we actually had trouble finding the market. There were no obvious signs near the station, and the first person whom we asked had no idea what we were talking about. We took a wrong turn and wandered through a very new shopping and restaurant development in the same style as the station, but could not find the actual market. Someone did direct us, however, and we found the entrance.

When we entered the market, we readily realized why this place was little known.  The Shepherd’s Bush Market is no more than a narrow strip of walking space, about the length of a city block and no wider than an average road, jammed with shops on either side.  As we ventured into the market, inspecting the market’s goods and snapping photographs, we drew strange looks from shoppers there, who were invariably first generation immigrants, mostly from the Middle East.  Popular items in the market were the necessities, food and clothing accounting for over half of the market’s goods.  This suggests that, unlike other popular London market destinations, Shepherd’s Bush caters predominantly to the area’s immigrant community and their day to day shopping needs, rather than to tourists and day shoppers out for a bit of fun.  Of the food shops in the market, halal butchers were the most prevalent.  In immediate area surrounding Shepherd’s Bush Market, the same type of commerce thrived, with more halal butchers and restaurants and a few money exchange centers scattered about. Despite a heavy immigrant influence within the market, residential areas surrounding the area were largely native and seemed more affluent.

One aspect of the neighborhood that really struck us was the proximity of the local, immigrant-centered market with an enormous, modern shopping center. The Westfield Shopping Center, which opened in October 2008, is supposedly the largest shopping center in Europe. Inside we saw hundreds of people shopping at stores that ranged from Prada and Gucci to Nike and Adidas to H & M and other [slightly] more inexpensive stores. The mall was so big that there were several interactive map kiosks that would map out routes to certain stores for people. To read more about the mall, see Westfield’s website, http://uk.westfield.com/london/centre-information/about. Most of the shoppers here seemed to be white, probably native British. Both the shoppers and the elegant, silver architecture were a stark contrast to the colorful and cosmopolitan nature of the much smaller market. It seemed very strange that such a huge concentration of high-end stores was right in the middle of an area of so many immigrants. It did not match the streets around the market at all, but we noticed that there seemed to be more commercial development taking place on the other side of the mall.

Tags: 2010 Benjamin · 2010 Holly · 2010 Luke · Markets

Elephant and Castle

August 28th, 2010 · No Comments

Our trip to Elephant and Castle took no more than fifteen minutes. We entered the Tube at Goodge Street, transferred at Charing Cross, and took the Bakerloo Line a few stops to Elephant and Castle. The route was fairly simple and easy to follow. We decided however, that the connecting tunnels are in dire need of shortening, and that there are a few misplaced “Way Out” signs. To return to the hotel, we transferred at Kennington and took the Northern Line straight home to Goodge Street. The ride back was almost identical to the trip getting there.

There were no obvious clues as to why the station was named as it was, so we decided to do a little further investigating. This lead to a rather awkward interview with an Underground employee. When we asked him if he knew why it was named Elephant and Castle, all he did was stare at us with the much dreaded “Stupid Americans” look. The internet proved to be a more helpful and much less embarrassing source. We started out by looking at Wikipedia and discovered that the area was named after a coaching inn. Another site explained that “The Elephant & Castle was once considered the ‘Piccadilly Circus of South London’, but these days it is a centre of student life”. The station’s presence is important because it is a center for South London transport. It seems that mostly local residents make use of the station.

As soon as you exit the Tube, you can see the statue of a red elephant with a castle on its back. It seemed, like many of its surroundings to be worn and run down. Its main purpose seems to be to draw attention to the fact that the area is a historical site. Sadly, we were the only people who seemed to take note of it. Everyone else was too busy or hurried to care.

The people in the area seemed to be of lower socioeconomic class. The street was lively, filled with conversation, and had an odd mixture of run down construction sites and classic architecture. In the far background a shiny, modern skyscraper is visible.

Tags: 2010 Luke · 2010 Sarah