A history of loneliness

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Is loneliness our modern malaise? Former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says the most common pathology he saw during his years of service “was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness.” Amelia S. Worsley The Conversation Chronic loneliness, some say, is like “smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” It “kills more people than obesity.” Because loneliness is now considered a public health issue – and even an epidemic – people are exploring its causes and trying to find solutions. While ... Read More »

Essays On Air: Joan of Arc, our one true superhero

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One need not be a parent of a young child, as I am, to be conscious of the full-blown resurgence of the superhero in contemporary popular culture. Ali Alizadeh The Conversation But there is more to a hero than courage and strength. On today’s episode of Essays On Air, the audio version of The Conversation’s Friday essay series, I’m reading my essay on Joan of Arc, our one true superhero. She’s been depicted as a national heroine and a nationalist symbol ... Read More »

Cinema and smart phones: the art of increasing audiences for opera, ballet and theatre

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Watching an opera, play or ballet has become an increasingly cinematic experience. “Livecasting” performances directly onto screens is now a major part of these kinds of production. Alan Williams The Conversation London’s Royal Opera House has an upcoming “Cinema Season” which includes live relays of Carmen and Swan Lake. In the US, the New York Metropolitan Opera House started livecasting in 2006, while the UK’s National Theatre Live began in 2009. The Royal Opera House and the Royal Ballet joined ... Read More »

What today’s anti-immigrant populists could learn from Homer about kindness to strangers

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Troy, a new BBC adaptation of Homer’s Iliad, shows the enduring interest we have in Ancient Greek myths. Aleardo Zanghellini The Conversation Today, Homer’s epic works remain both politically and ethically relevant. The Greek poet’s insight into why law and legality matter is particularly enlightening in the context of contemporary debates about immigration, which loom large amid the rise of right-wing populism on both sides of the Atlantic. Those who object to immigration and demonise immigrants argue that the West’s ... Read More »

Guide to the classics: Sappho, a poet in fragments

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For those who have read the fragmented remains of the Greek poet, Sappho the loss of most of her poetic corpus is something to regret. Marguerite Johnson The Conversation With a mere two complete poems extant from nine books of verse, much is left to the imagination in the reconstruction of the output (and life) of this most mysterious of ancient poets. In a world dominated by male voices whose view of life, the universe and everything was the loudest and most ... Read More »

A life in quotes: Ursula K Le Guin

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The award-winning fantasy and science fiction author on politics, death, writing and gender • News report: Ursula K Le Guin dies at 88 Calla Wahlquist The Guardian Ursula K Le Guin, award-winning fantasy and science fiction author and pioneer of feminist speculative fiction, has died age 88. Her extensive catalogue of published works includes novels, essays, poetry and children’s books. Here are some of her most memorable quotes. On mortality: ”You will die. You will not live forever. Nor will any ... Read More »

Essays On Air: Journeys to the underworld – Greek myth, film and American anxiety

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A central convention of Greek mythological narratives is katabasis, the hero’s journey to the underworld or land of the dead – and it’s a theme modern directors return to again and again. Sunanda Creagh Paul Salmond The Conversation That’s what we’re exploring today on our first episode of Essays On Air, a new podcast from The Conversation. It’s the audio version of our Friday essays, where we bring you the best and most beautiful writing from Australian researchers. In this ... Read More »

Pushkin’s pride: how the Russian literary giant paid tribute to his African ancestry

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His black great-grandfather was abducted as a child and raised in Peter the Great’s court. A new Pushkin translation includes the little-known history of Russia’s Shakespeare Jonathan McAloon The Guardian For Russians, Alexander Pushkin inhabits a space beyond taste, where nationalism has given subjective art the patina of fact. He is the undisputed father of their literature in the way Shakespeare is for Brits. Given the insular nature of contemporary Russian politics, it might be hard to imagine that the creator of ... Read More »

Message to the gods: the space poetry that transcends human rivalries

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Sputnik 1 started it all. The beachball-sized satellite was launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957 and, despite a relatively short mission of only 21 days in orbit around Earth, quickly became regarded as a device that changed the world. Phil Leonard The Conversation It represented the beginning of the Space Age – and immediately heightened tensions between the US and the USSR, prompting fears about the weaponising of space. But Sputnik, and the missions that were to ... Read More »

Kazuo Ishiguro: Nobel Literature Prize is ‘a magnificent honour’

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British writer Kazuo Ishiguro has won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature The novelist was praised by the Swedish Academy as a writer “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”. BBC His most famous novels The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go were adapted into highly acclaimed films. He was made an OBE in 1995. The 62-year-old writer said the award was “flabbergastingly flattering”. ... Read More »

Courageous quests: Keats, art and refugees

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The great sensualist Romantic poet John Keats arrived in Rome in late 1820 with his friend, painter Joseph Severn This was not to be a grand tour of Italy in the typical sense. Amanda Frances Johnson  The Conversation Fortune did not smile on Keats’s lungs or his bank balance; one year later he was dead. Passionate letters from sweetheart Fanny Brawne lay unopened and were buried with him, as he requested, in the tranquil oasis of the English Cemetery in ... Read More »

Benjamin Zephaniah: ‘I’m almost 60 and I’m still angry. Everyone told me I would mellow’

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The celebrated dub poet might grow his own vegetables in the shires – but he is still in a revolutionary mood. From carnival surveillance to the abandonment of the Grenfell families, he says Britain needs radical political change – now Stephen Moss The Guardian Benjamin Zephaniah’s 1998 poem Carnival Days is a lyrical love letter to the Notting Hill carnival, where “We dance like true survivors / We dance to the sounds of our dreams.” Or, more accurately, it’s a ... Read More »

Five reasons why Game of Thrones satisfies our needs (apart from all the sex and violence)

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Game of Thrones has become something of a TV event over the past six years – the last season attracted more than 5m viewers per… Tom van Laer  The Conversation On the face of it, the attractions are obvious: large helpings of sex and violence, bolstered by a serpentine storyline said to be inspired by the War of the Roses, one of the bloodiest periods of English… Yet, I think the series meets deeper, more fundamental human needs than just ... Read More »

Poet Tony Walsh Delivers Stunning Ode To Manchester At Vigil For Bombing Victims

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‘The songs that we sing from the stands, from our bands, set the whole planet shaking’. Graeme Demianyk HuffPost Poet Tony Walsh became an instant symbol of Manchester’s defiance in the face of terror after reading his powerful ode to the city at a… Addressing thousands gathered at Manchester’s central Albert Square, the poet – known as ‘Longfella’ – gave a recital of his poem This Is The Place that paid tribute to the city’s rich history as an… Poet ... Read More »

A poem about refugees you need to read

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Following the November 2015 Paris attacks, a wave of anti-refugee sentiment made its way overseas to the United States as multiple governors and Congressmen began expressing an… The Refugees, authored by Jason Fotso. To Jason Fotso―eighteen years old at the time―this shut-door stance contradicted the longstanding U.S. policy of welcoming in refugees, and more symbolically, the sonnet inscribed on the… He sought to capture this spirit in a… A poem about… Read More »

Gabriel García Márquez: working magic with ‘brick-faced’ realism

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One Hundred Years of Solitude’s author took cues from Kafka – and his grandmother – to tell an impossible story that disarms the reader’s scepticism Sam Jordison The Guardian When asked how he started writing fiction, Gabriel García Márquez told the Paris Review that it began with Kafka’s The Metamorphosis: “The first line almost knocked me off the bed. I was so surprised. It reads: ‘As Gregor Samsa awoke… Gabriel García Marquez… Read More »