In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« The Economics of Elvis | Main | Free Reads -- John Allen Paulos »

October 18, 2002

Keats and British Acting

Friedrich --

I just finished listening to an audiobook of selected poems by John Keats, read by a variety of classy British actors. What a pleasing thing it is to listen to poetry on audiobook -- for some reason, much of the worshipful-English-major shellac comes off, and the experience seems more direct. Poetry! What a fun medium! Finite little verbal things, there to be enjoyed! Or not!

Keats: Melancholy baby

A couple of quick reflections, as well as questions.

*Does romantic poetry bug you as much as it does me? I can take Keats a lot more easily than some other Romantics. He seems more interested in form, the pre-Raphaelite-esque fantasies have their charm, and he wrote a few surprisingly down-to-earth (and even funkily erotic) bits. But the damn effusions, the coddled sensitivity, the willed epiphanies -- arggggh. The emotional exhibitionism of the Romantics can really get on my nerves.

I wonder, though, if I'm annoyed more by what Romanticism is, or more by its influence and impact. Romanticism has so much shaped how we think of the arts -- and to my mind in largely idiotic ways. Our image of "the artist," our ideas about art as inspiration and expression -- it's all still basically Romantic.

I (grudgingly) understand that some Romantic notions have some validity. But enough to explain the scale of their impact? These ideas (and fantasies) seem to be like highly addictive drugs. Though I'd prefer to see people kick the habit entirely, there's no avoiding the conclusion that, in evo-bio terms, Romanticism has been quite a success. I wonder why. Your theories?

*I also find myself wondering about something I've often puzzled over, which is this: why do I find English actresses generally very easy to take, while English male actors often embarrass me?

The women often seem to have the best of all acting worlds -- great technique plus immediacy, rootedness, and sensuality. The technique enhances the being and the reacting. The men, on the other hand, carry on, gush and declaim -- it's like an excruciating form of Kabuki. I cringe.

I wonder if this preening is the English-male-actor way of demonstrating virility and dynamism. (If so, what does that say about the English?) On the Keats tape, the actresses read the poems straightforwardly while the men seem to feel driven to "perform." They bellow, they whisper, they tremble. I want to say, Boys, please! Enough! The contrast with the women is so great that it's as if the women and the men have evolved separate -- and by now only distantly related -- schools of acting. How did this happen?

What's your reaction these days to English actors?



posted by Michael at October 18, 2002


Great post, Michael!

One note:

You mention the disparity in technique between male and female actors—I've long felt the same way. On the flip side, it seems to me that among American actors, there are a number of men whose technique is wonderful and who have real presence, whereas I struggle to think of more than one American actress who is simultaneously unforgettable and not irritating.

Posted by: Mac on October 18, 2002 10:20 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?