‘On living with the unresolved’: Chaucer, elections and the mystery of Griselda

In the self-help book Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair (2013), Californian author Anne Lamott, writes: ‘Maturity is the ability to live with unresolved problems.’ Faced by the devastation of broken promises, failure, pain, and cultural angst, advice on how to live with the ‘unresolved’ sells well. To the tidy-minded, over-confident and despairing […]

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‘Biden to the rescue’: A perspective from Dublin on Brexit and the future for the island of Ireland

There has been a visceral sense of relief here in Ireland at a Biden victory in the recent US presidential election. Ireland has always held America and American Presidents in high esteem. This was eroded during the presidency of George W. Bush (b. 1946; Pres. 2001-09) and has been damaged further during President Trump’s time […]

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Who ‘stoops to conquer’ anymore? On humour, humility, guile and diplomacy

Scholars – and not a few wits – have debated for decades the definition (and importance) of a literary ‘classic’. In a 1900 lecture, ‘Disappearance of Literature’, the American author Mark Twain (1835-1900), who was always ready with an incisive quip, quoted a contemporary academic’s view that a classic is ‘something that everybody wants to […]

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For whom does the bell toll? On Donne, death and Marxist anthropology

Ernest Hemingway’s (1899-1961) novel about the Spanish Civil War (1936-9), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), takes its title from a meditation by a former Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, John Donne (1572-1631; Meditation XVII of Devotions upon Emergent Occasions). The poem ends with the poignant lines (mod. transl.): ‘And therefore never send to […]

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‘The lady’s not for turning’: on leadership, folly and tragedy

In a world of corrupted ‘news’ (see Weekly Briefing, 5 October 2020) speech writers have a vital role. Their job is to anticipate – and redirect – editorial agendas with timely one-liners. Sir Ronald Millar (1919-1998) – by profession an actor, script writer and dramatist – had been British PM Margaret Thatcher’s (1925-2013) speech writer […]

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‘Shut up, man’: on Everest, silence and presidential debates

The twists and turns of this year’s US Presidential Election are keeping commentators and electors unusually busy. Industries and individuals whose livelihoods depend on making and selling ‘news’ are delighted, of course. We don’t need them to tell us more is to come! Our world is full, overfull surely, of what is still (presumptuously or […]

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