Category Archives: Culture

“You either bend the arc or it bends you”

‘Attack Surface’ by Cory Doctorow. ‘Attack Surface‘ (2020) is a gripping action-packed story of oppression and resistance with plenty of insights into the potential of new technologies and big data. It is also a powerful manifesto for the necessity of … Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Fiction, Politics, Reviews, Science, Science in Society | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Light Perpetual’ by Francis Spufford

‘Light Perpetual’ is a wonderful celebration of life and love. It opens with some extraordinary time-stretching to describe the impact of a split-second destructive event in wartime. Then time is shrunk and stretched repeatedly in order to follow the ‘lost’ … Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Fiction, Reviews | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Zola’s ‘La Curée’ and the corruption of desire.

Rougon-Macquart #2 Emile Zola’s ‘La Curée’ (1872), translated as ‘The Kill’, is an extraordinary novel of unbridled appetites, material and sexual, and of the moral decay and rottenness of unfettered capitalism. It shares a setting and many common themes with … Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Fiction, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Seven ways to avoid a Frankenstein education.

Seven ways to avoid a Frankenstein education – Philippe Meirieu. The French educationalist, Philippe Meirieu, in his 1996 book ‘Frankenstein Pedagogue’ reviews popular accounts of attempts to fashion a person to a maker’s design. Such fictional person-making often proves futile … Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Education, Philosophy, Teaching and learning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Listen to this’.

There’s something to be said for being told to ‘listen to this’, ‘look at this’ or ‘read this’. An important aspect of any educational programme is presenting learners with something new or re-presenting something familiar in a new context. And … Continue reading

Posted in Culture, music | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘The Ministry for the Future’ by Kim Stanley Robinson

Fiction can change the world and the didactic approach or the ‘novel of ideas’ can be compatible with good storytelling. Like any work of art, a work of fiction can change us as individuals and, through us, help to make … Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Fiction, Politics, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tsitsi Dangarembga’s ‘Nervous Conditions’.

The personal is political, and this wonderful book is both entirely personal and deeply political. Nervous Conditions (1988) is the story of Tambudzai, a young woman growing up in rural Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia) in the late 1960’s, told … Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Fiction, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In praise of lightness – Calvino’s Leggerezza.

The Italian writer, Italo Calvino, was invited to give the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard University in 1985 but died before he was able to deliver them. Luckily, we have the text of 5 of these 6 planned lectures … Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The mighty pencil

The mighty pencil It’s just a pencil Making a mark in a specific place On a specific piece of paper On a specific day. It only takes a second or two, No time at all. Such a simple thing. But … Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Poetry, Politics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Unsheltered’ by Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver’s novels are always fascinating and rewarding and her latest, Unsheltered (2019) is no exception. We follow two stories over a hundred years apart and set in the same location; Vineland, New Jersey, a town originally established as a … Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Fiction, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers.

Richard Powers is an extraordinary writer. If you’ve not yet discovered his novels, I strongly recommend them. He tackles big ideas which concern all of us while at the same time telling compelling stories about complex and conflicted characters who … Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Fiction, Reviews, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Familiale (Jacques Prévert)

The mother is knitting The son is fighting She thinks it quite natural the mother And the father what is he doing the father? He’s doing business His wife is knitting His son is fighting He’s doing business He thinks … Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Poetry | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

My islands – by Line Mariani Playfair

I have always had a strong affinity for atlases and islands. Whether a single volcanic rock or one likely to fragment or disappear underwater, each one seems to be calling me, speaking to my imagination. I was fascinated by Thor … Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Guest blogs, History | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

‘What if?’ – dystopias in fiction.

Fictional dystopias use the power of ‘what if?’ to change something or extrapolate particular social or technological trends and imagine the impact on people’s lives. The best ones are also good stories, well told, about people; their hopes, fears, feelings … Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Fiction, Learning resources, Reviews, Students | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The last Corsican.

“I’ve decided to keep this diary because I’m going to die in the next few days…I am condemned because, having refused to be evacuated with the others, I will be annihilated by the incendiary bombs which are systematically ravaging the … Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Fiction | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment