As soon as October rolls around and a lot of students start going back to school/university, blogs tend to fill up with reading wrap-ups that are full of obscure sounding texts that most of us haven’t ever heard of. I have to confess that this post is no different – and that I had never heard of most of these books before this month. I also have to confess that I love these sorts of posts, because for whatever reason I’m always fascinated to hear about what is on other people’s reading lists. This month, I managed to read three books, all of which were for my medieval literature module, so there’s something of a running theme that’s going to emerge in this post. I also re-watched some previously beloved films, which gave me a chance to look at them anew…
The Lais of Marie de France by Marie de France
This book is a collection of twelve short stories (lais) written by Marie de France in the late twelfth-century, and I would honestly recommend it to anyone with an interest in either fantasy or fairy tale literature. It has everything: gallant knights, bewitching fairy queens, werewolf statesmen, enchanted ships… Honestly, this is one of the few medieval texts that I’ve studied that I think could be appreciated in the mainstream of literature if it was given a bit more promotion, rather than as an academic-but-not-necessarily-riveting read. Although this is in translation, so I can’t speak for the original, the language is incredibly accessible and most of these tales are wild. I genuinely found myself wanting more, because to me they really captured the quintessential feel of what you’d imagine a medieval adventure to be.
Rating: 4/5 stars
The Life of Christina of Markyate by Unknown
Of all the medieval texts I’ve looked at so far, this is the one that I struggled with the most. Christina of Markyate was an anchoress in the twelfth-century, and therefore spent much of her life in isolated devotion to God. Unfortunately, apart from one very dramatic leap over a very high fence, there isn’t a huge amount done to bring a bit more life to this text. It became quite repetitive to keep reading about Christina’s worship, and I had very little investment in neither the story nor any of the characters. Also, Christina’s harsh treatment by those close to her is often quite hard to constantly read about, even if she does manage to get out of most of the situations she is faced with.
Rating: 2/5 stars
The History and Topography of Ireland by Gerald of Wales
I found this text so much more enjoyable to read than the title might suggest. Gerald of Wales recounts his first impressions of Ireland after arriving there as part of Henry II’s expedition to conquer the country and divides this into three sections: the natural landscape, the wonders (this is where whirlpools and supernatural creatures, AKA the best parts, come in), and the inhabitants. It’s obvious that especially in the third section there is so much which is problematic about the images of the Irish that Gerald constructs. As a whole, however, I found this a fascinating read, and I honestly don’t think that I have ever gotten so much amusement from illustrations before (see below!) Anything with mythical creatures or an ecological angle is usually a hit for me, and I really enjoyed the chance to pick up this book that I probably would never have gone anywhere near before. This does read as more as a manual/bestiary however, so if you’re looking for an engaging fictional read, this isn’t the one.
Rating: 3/5 stars
I feel as though this section needs a bit of a disclaimer (although should it?), given the films that I am talking about and the reputation that they have. The Twilight Saga was a major part of my early teenage years and I absolutely flew through all four books, becoming very much a member of Team Edward! Now that all of the films are on Netflix I just had to watch them, you know, for nostalgia’s sake…
(RW) Twilight – Edward is creepy in this, but the music and camerawork is actually just so atmospheric (4/5 stars)
(RW) New Moon – You can feel the folklore influence a lot more in this one and I actually began to like Jacob until he ruined it in the next film (4/5 stars)
(RW) Eclipse – I spent a lot of this film confused and slightly exasperated, especially by certain scenes, ie. THE TENT (3/5 stars)
(RW) Breaking Dawn Part I – You sort of have to laugh with this one or you’ll cry (the wedding scene genuinely did make me cry though, can you believe?) (3/5 stars)
If ever I was going to represent the fact that I have two vastly different sides when it comes to film and literature, I feel like this is the post that I’d put forward. I love my classic texts, but sometimes you just need to watch some vampires sparkle on screen for a while. In theory, I should have slightly more time to read the books that I want in November given that I am going home for a few days and have finally handed in one of my essays, so my next Reflection should be slightly more rounded (I hope!) Let me know, have you ever ventured into the slightly daunting but usually amusing world of medieval literature? Also let me know whether you’re Team Edward or Jacob…
Have a beautiful day,