Sociable Spirit

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely…

A feminist adaptation of Paradise Lost

Hell is but a state of mind, they say, and I certainly feel like in Hell for not being able to attend in August the Stratford Festival’s modern Paradise Lost, a theatrical adaptation of Milton’s epic directed by Jackie Maxwell and written by Erin Shields. It’s heralded as a “witty, modern, feminist retelling of” Paradise Lost. So I do fervently hope that this retelling will go beyond the casting choice for Satan who is to be played by Lucy Peacock, although, I must admit she looks quite intriguing on the play’s poster image dressed in full snakeskin outfit (PETA be damned, its probably fake anyway ;)).

Lucy Peacock as Satan

Lucy Peacock as Satan in Stratford Festival’s modern Paradise Lost. Photography by Clay Stang – The Garden.

Van der Goes, The Fall

The Fall by Hugo van der Goes (1467-68). Oil on oak. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Not that I doubt Peacock’s ability to be a deviously witty tempter. I am cautious in my anticipation because of the long literary and visual art’s tradition of associating sin with Eve, and consequently with women, which has already produced paintings in which the distinction between Satan (the tempter) and its erstwhile target (Eve) has been blurred rendering the Tempter and its manipulated subject (the snake) into a single female snake character; a fit representation from the perspective of the patriarchal discourse that puts the whole blame of the-Fall-debacle on women. But this gender bending is hardly enough in and of itself from a feminist point of view that would ultimately challenge this resilient patriarchal assumption (i.e. that women are to be blamed for all the bad things befalling mankind). All in all, I am curious in what way is this retelling going to be a feminist one.

Also, I am positively intrigued by the authors’ decision to work with a small cast and, hence, have actors play two polar opposite characters in different parts of the play (e.g. Jessica B. Hill playing both the character of Beelzebub and Gabriel). Very early modern indeed.

I am looking forward to the play’s reviews but just in case G. S. is reading this and thinking about founding a scholar of modest means from East-Central Europe, I would be delighted to attend in person and watch it myself. Just in case.




NEPTUN: “And found no end, in wandering mazes lost”

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary the word Neptun originates from “late 14c., ‘god of the sea,’ from Latin Neptunus, son of Saturn, brother of Jupiter, the Roman god of the sea (later identified with Greek Poseidon), probably from PIE root *nebh- ‘cloud’ (source of Latin nebula ‘fog, mist, cloud’ ).” I don’t know whether the developers of the Neptun Student Information System (sic!) were consciously or unwittingly choosing its name, but there certainly is more fog, mist and cloud-shrouded uncertainty surrounding it, than clear direction and information. We also learn from the OE Dictionary, that “[u]ntill the indentificatin of Pluto in 1930, it was the most distant planet known” — hm, again, one wonders if the developers knew ahead how far removed their system will be from the actual, known needs of Hungarian uni populations. Also, how can one expect anything good from a system that is introduced with the following sentence by the University (BME) it was developed for:

“This can be a blessing or a curse, but a real means, a surface to manage your student self throughout your studies at our institution.”

There is not much solace in knowing that our University (SZTE) was the last to give in and shift to the government enforced system. So, if at the start of this semester you feel like finding no end, in wandering mazes lost, you are entitled to some despair. I too, whenever daring the nebulous entrails of Neptun, encounter–to quote Milton again–

But cloud in stead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the chearful wayes of men
Cut off, and for the Book of knowledg fair
Presented with a Universal blanc
Of Nature’s works to mee expung’d and ras’d,
And wisdome at one entrance quite shut out. (PL 3.45-50)

Space may produce new Worlds

Welcome to my corner of the web. It’s presently under construction but hopefully it will soon become more than a mere playground for my budding web-making-skills.

Illustration from The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine Pisan

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