Saturday, 2 August 2014

last call for poetry summer school. Please book your ticket now

The poetry summer school was full last year, but at the moment, with staff sickness in the Education Department, they are looking to cancel the workshop.
We need a few more tickets sold by the middle of next weeks, so if you were thinking of going, or know someone who might be interested please look at the attached flyer.

I spent a few hours in the Tut exhibition on Thursday. It is very different from earlier Tut exhibitions, which showed the wonders of the tomb to people for the first time.
This exhibition is all about the context of the discovery, hence the title, Discovering Tutankhmun. Maybe it should be "Rediscovering Tutankhmun".

It was 1914, a hundred years ago, just as Europe sank into the terrible conflagration of a war that was supposed to end all wars,
that a very young Englishman and fine artist called Howard Carter was allowed to start excavating the Egyptian Valley of the Kings.
He was on the point of giving up in despair when the tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered in 1922.

The exhibition begins with images of that moment of discovery. In a single moment the world of three thousand years ago burst through
into the light of a twentieth century day. But will it make any ripples today?

I am looking for poets who can connect that shock and awe of a hundred years ago with the shock and awe of today.

The West seems set on humbling Russia, a country just one sixteenth of NATO's economic size, while standing idly by while hideous atrocities
are carried out by Israel in the middle east. A Third World War just might be looming. Our rulers are ignoring humanitarian needs again.

The second part of the Ashmolean Exhibition is called "Tutmania." It shows us the way in which the Western World responded
to the discoveries in the roaring twenties which followed the war and the flu epidemic which followed it, killing more people than the war itself.

We look at high culture and low culture, from the finest gold jewelry to the silliest pop song of the day.
The air waves hummed with "Old King Tut". The world loved it. But any poet of today could write a better lyric in five minutes.

Can anyone capture the spirit of our age through the mirror of the Pharaoh?

I was impressed by the skill and intelligence of the men and women who explored the contents of that tomb and brought it out into the modern world.
I was also impressed with the interaction between the lost and rediscovered Kingdom of the Pharaohs and the shattered and shaking Kingdoms of modern Europe.

As a psychotherapist and mythologist I perceive the culture of the twenties as manic, even hyper-manic.
The creators of the exhibition emphasize how economies and technologies were driving rapidly ahead as the effects of war faded.
They emphasize the great cultural enthusiasm for the Golden King, rescued from the obscure past.
They do not endorse the recent hi-tech research evidence that the young King was probably killed in battle, saying it is just one of many theories,
though they acknowledge that there was warfare both with the Nubians to the south and the Syrians to the north at this period.
They do cover the extraordinary history of the period a little, however. Tutankhamun, which translates as the living image of Amun, was originally
named Tutankhaten, the living image of the Aten. Tutankhamen, which my computer ties to tell me is the correct spelling, is a only historical distortion.

The exhibition does not explore the birth of a Communist alternative world out of the First World War, nor the collapse of that world over twenty years ago.
It could have emphasized the fact that King Tut undid the revolution of his culture-hero father, returning Egypt to the worship of the old Gods his father had briefly swept aside.
That is a far more interesting subject, but we do not have the right artifacts to support it.

Britain was very close to a general strike at this time. The old British/German monarchy had to reinvent itself to survive. The actual German monarchy was gone, replaced by a failing republic.

The mad mix of monarchy and capitalism which had created such an appalling war tottered on through the twenties in Britain.
Old King Tut was not so much a hero of a new world but the PR man's dream of a poster boy for continuing the old order.
In America, President Hoover named his dog "Tut".

"Tut", the emblem of an eternal empire, an unending golden Kingdom, is so far from historical reality.
I suspect he symbolizes most of all the attempt to push the genie back into the bottle, to restore the world to an old order,
which should have been swept away by an awareness of the madness of world war that order created.
Instead, we had the flappers and all that manic jazz, followed by round two of the unfinished world war.

Seven years ago, our capitalist Gods deserted us.

We propped them back up again, but for how long?

Is poetry or the museum relevant to any of this?

Come to the poetry workshop and explore it with me on 19th and 20th of August at the Ashmolean.

For Booking people need to visit to buy online, call 01865 305305 to book by phone, or call in to the Oxford Playhouse ticket office to buy in person.

taken from another weblog; very touching!

Why the world went wild for King Tut

But there is another, more poignant reason for Tutankhamun’s popularity: the impact of the First World War. The vulnerability of this pharaoh who had died while still an adolescent moved a public coming to terms with the loss of so many young men on the Western Front.

An article published in The New York Times in 1923 confirms that people at the time viewed the story of Tutankhamun through the prism of the Great War: “As the objects have been brought out, spectators have remarked that, from the manner in which they were bandaged and transported with almost tender care on the stretcher-like trays, they reminded one of casualties being brought out of the trenches or casualty clearing stations.”

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