Hay Festival

We’re a cultured bunch here on the LATE committee and we like to share our culture our ideas, culture and new found enthusiasms with you and also our students. Here is my (Myfanwy Marshall @Miff_) round up of the Hay Festival and how I’ve used some of the experiences in the class room this week.

Myths and Legendsmabinogoi

Neil Gaiman has been one of my favourite authors since I was about 11 and I read Coraline which I enjoyed and was spooked by in equal measures. When I heard that he was retelling the Norse mythology I was therefore extremely excited. Whilst Stephen Fry may have tried to steal Gaiman’s limelight at the session, I felt Gaiman’s story of Fenrir the giant wolf outstripped Fry’s amusing retelling of a Greek myth. Norse Gods is dark, mysterious and powerful whilst also being hugely entertaining. It’s perfect for younger readers (secondary school age I’d say) but has certainly captured my imagination too.

NorseMythology_Hardback_1473940163Also out at Hay was a new translation of the Mabinogi. Lesser known that Thor, Odin, Zeus and the Minotaur, the Celts have a strange, ethereal and Authurian set of myths all of their own. Matthew Francis has, according to my Welsh speaking grandmother, done a marvellous job of capturing the essence of the sometimes strange poetic language in his English translation. As a non-Welsh speaker who sits in London clinging to her Welsh roots I love it too and think it’s beautifully written.

In the classroom: I decided I wanted to mix up the Greek Myths SOW in my department so taught the story of Pwyll and Arawn to year 7s. In the story Pwyll, a hunter, steals the Prince of the Unworld’s trophy stag so as punishment must swap bodies with him for a year. During this time Pwyll has to defeat Arawn’s enemy for him before he can return. Though a seemingly happy ending, several of my female students pointed out that Arawn’s wife is rightly angry when he returns as he’s been ignoring her for the whole year- a woman caught up in the petty feuds of men…interesting starting point for a class discussion. I taught the story of Fenrir from Norse Gods too, leading to a brilliant discussion of hubris, pride, the value of friendship, power and fear. Both will be used as inspiration for the writing of our own myths.

Masculinity- Owen Sheers inspiresowen-sheers

It seems apt then after looking at those two myths which raise such interesting questions about masculinity, strength and power that I promote this link to Owen Sheers’ talk a Hay. He gave a truly thought provoking and intelligent talk on masculinity directly addressed to his daughters entitled ‘The men you will meet’. Really worth a listen and something that could be used in pastoral, political, RE, Philosophy and English classrooms. There are aspects of it relevant to all ages but generally speaking you should listen as I think it made me think about the men I know and the young men and women who I teach.

In his Q and A he talked at length about the men he’d worked with from all walks of life.

Link to the lecture



Reading as Writers

A number of members of L.A.T.E have started a teachers as writers group this year. We got together recently at the British Library (where better place to start) to do some writing, have some tea and cake and have a chat. We based our writing on the British Library’s Victorian Entertainment exhibition. During the sharing of our writing we began sharing our favourite books that were, in one way or another, related to the exhibition or the things it has prompted us to write about. Below is a list of the recommendations we gave one another- preparation for some Easter Holiday Reading!

Two non-fiction and 3 novels, hopefully a little something for everyone but all recommended by teachers to teachers!

Geek Love – Katherine Dunne

This book was discovered as part of a course on literature and bodies at Birmingham university by one of our writers. It tells the story of a woman who imbibes all manner of things in order to breed the perfect carnival act.

The Reason I Jump- Naoki Higashida

13 year old Higashida has a form of autism which means he cannot speak, but in this book he shows how learning to type allows him to express himself articulately and imaginatively. The book takes a Q & A form and he explains the way he behaves to those who might not understand. The book was translated into English when David Mitchell’s wife came across it in the original Japanese and it helped them understand their own child. The book ends with a story written by Naomi.

Nights at the Circus- Angela Carter

Set at the turn of the century, the magical realist novel follows a circus tour as it moves through Europe (London, Siberia, St Petersburg). The novel is typical of Carter’s style exploring sexuality, gender and is both dark and funny.

Middlesex- Jeffrey Euginides

A modern take on the grand American narrative following a second generation Greek immigrant, hermaphrodite protagonist through life and love. Its a fantastic read but a longer one that the others on the list.

Sapiens – Dr. Yuval Noah Harari

This books uses the fields of biology, anthropology, palaeontology and economics to understand how we have become what ever it that we are as a species today. It takes huge questions such as why we believe in Gods and charts the impact of language acquisition, agricultural innovation and much more.