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Autumn Journal on Autumn Journal: 15-16

- By Michael Thurston


(Photo: Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes – The sleep of reason produces monsters (No. 43), from Los Caprichos)

Read Part 14 here

“Nightmare leaves fatigue”

Exhausted by the stresses of pandemic, racial reckoning, a nail-biter of an election on which hinged the question of whether something like democracy continues or we slide on into authoritarianism, I fall asleep. Sleep comes easily at first; I’m out almost as soon as the lamplight dies. A couple of hours into the...


Autumn Journal on Autumn Journal: 14

- By Michael Thurston

(Photo: Michael Thurston, The Underworld in Twentieth-Century Poetry. From Pound and Eliot to Heaney and Walcott. Palgrave, 2009)

Read Parts 12-13 here

“the triumphant cheers of the lost souls”

Circles and cycles, accidents and underworlds, elections and mandates and slight tardiness. All of these shape the fourteenth section of Autumn Journal, as MacNeice reports on an electorally driven descent into the Oxonian inferno, a descent that, in epic...


Autumn Journal on Autumn Journal: 12-13

- By Michael Thurston

Read Part 11 here

(Photo: Michelangelo's David, posterior view. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.)

“These days are misty, insulated, mute”

We are at the midpoint of autumn and the midpoint of the poem, far enough into both to realize that the incessant endings signaled by earlier sunsets, falling leaves, the endings of days/seasons/years/relationships, and the poet’s own dithering, are themselves only the prelude and necessary condition for new beginnings. Autumn brings cycles to MacNeice’s mind, and as we saw at the end of section XI, “No one can stop the cycle.” Nevertheless, the two mid-...


Autumn Journal on Autumn Journal: 11

- By Michael Thurston

(Photo: Kim Novak, from Hitchcock's Vertigo)

Read Part 10 here

“Everything wrong has been proved.”

Events of world-historical magnitude rage, both across the map and just outside our doors, rage even inside our homes, carried there by howling radios and their offspring. Work continues apace as we prepare, commute, spend the day in toil, and bring home all that has to be done for the next day. Sometimes the big political or public stuff grabs our attention for a while. Often we have no choice but to focus on the job (it pays the bills, after all). But most of us, most of the time, are probably...


Autumn Journal on Autumn Journal: 10

- By Michael Thurston

(Photo: Persephone reunited with her mother Demeter)

Read Part 9  here

“And so return to work.”

Just as a present-day trip to Birmingham sends MacNeice into memories of his earlier life in that city, section IX’s thoughts on teaching classics provoke a reverie in which MacNeice recalls “the beginnings of other terms,” a sort of capsule portrait of the artist as a young student, stretching back to his earliest days at Sherborne and his sojourn at Marlborough. And if section IX critically wonders about the value of what MacNeice teaches, section X appraises the...

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