Literary Allusion in ‘The Silkworm’ Oxford’s Beatrice Groves on Strike 2

Last week our friends in the UK were able to watch the Bronte Studios adaptation for BBC1 of Robert Galbraith’s Career of Evil. We Galbraith fans on this side of the Atlantic Ocean were not able to watch.

What we did receive were two posts by Beatrice Groves, Research Fellow and Lecturer at Trinity College, Oxford University, on the subject of literary allusions in the second Cormoran Strike novel, The Silkworm.

This is a boon and grace on several levels.

First, The Silkworm is, to this reader at least, the most important single novel Rowling has written, either as ‘Robert Galbraith’ or ‘J. K. Rowling,’ Jo Rowling Murray’s two pseudonyms. More obviously and pointedly than any of her previous novels, Silkworm is a novel about novels, novel writing, and the reading of novels. It is dense in self-referencing, the book inside the book having the same name as the book the reader is holding, and in notes about Jacobean Revenge Drama via dialogue and chapter epigraphs while the story being told is just this kind of play. It deserves a book long gloss about the allusions in it alone. 

Second, it being a work largely about intertextuality or texts within a text referrring to other texts, anything written about it should be done by someone familiar with the art of literary allusion. He or she should also be more than familiar with the work of J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter to Lethal White. And, given what we know of The Silkworm and its heavy pointers to Jacobean Revenge Drama, our expert should be an expert in Early Modern Drama, Shakespeare and Marlowe of course but the lesser lights as well.

Enter Beatrice Groves,

  • author of the paradigm shifting Literary Allusion in Harry Potter,
  • fluent in the details and trends and keys to everything J. K. Rowling, from the novels to the decades of interviews to the daily Twitter feed, and
  • published authority on Early Modern Drama, her primary research interest and class subject at Oxford.

I have a healthy imagination. I cannot imagine a better match of exegete and subject than Bea Groves and The Silkworm. And, as you’d expect, I am taking no risk in saying this because we have the proof of the prediction (before I have posted it!) in the two MuggleNet posts on The Silkworm which Prof Groves has written.

It’s a downer for many in the States not to be able to watch the Bronte Studios adaptation of Career of Evil for television (I guess). We have been more than compensated, I think, by the happy providence of the nearly simultaneous arrival of glosses on Rowling’s best almost-stand-alone novel to date, one focused on the play, work, and business of publishing, writing, and reading, her Silkworm.

Don’t miss this opportunity to read the observations and insights of the only Potter Pundit skilled in all things Rowling, literary allusion, and Early Modern Drama. If Bea Groves did not exist, she would have to have been invented for this work, available via these links below. Enjoy!

“Didst Thou Not Mark the Jest of the Silkworm?”: Literary Clues in “The Silkworm”

“Does the Silkworm Expend Her Yellow Labours/ For Thee?”: Literary Clues in “The Silkworm” – Part 2

BBC1 ‘Career of Evil’ Trailer Released

Anyone else think that the BBC’s Jeff Whittaker favors Keith Richards?

Anyone else wonder why we don’t get even the hint of a wedding in Massham? of Elin?

Anyone else wish that Robert Glennister, the voice of the audio books, could speak for all the characters in this teevee adaptation, especially for Cormoran Strike?

Should we expect a publication date for Lethal White in the run-up to this release or in the aftermath?

The show will premiere Sunday, 25 February, in the UK (and maybe in the US the next day if our friend in Iraq who has posted them on YouTube in the past follows through). 

Lemmeno what you think of the trailer hints and teases in the comment boxes below! We’ll be writing about Career and Lethal White in the coming week to get you ready.

Who is Jonny Rokeby? Five-Part Series Review and Round-Up:Three Take Aways

HogwartsProfessor has posted ChrisC’s thoughts about the literary and mythological roots of Jonny Rokeby and Charlotte Campbell the last five days. Here are my three take-away thoughts on the subject, and, after the jump, there is a one-stop round-up of links to the five parts of the series. Thank you, ChrisC, for your Guest Posts!

(1) The Duke Ellington-Doctor Faustus Link is an Over Reach. Fun, though!

I love a literary puzzle, right? And Rowling is a puzzle writer. Check out this brief passage about Robin from Career of Evil:

Quite suddenly, she experienced one of those jolts of excitement with which she had become familiar since starting work for Strike, and which were the immediate reward of looking for a tiny piece of information that might mean something, nothing, or, occasionally, everything. (p 90, cf., pp 249, 402)

 I think what Brian Boyd describes in Nabokov as the “magic of artistic discovery” which that author goes to great effort to bring to the reader is perhaps the single greatest link between Rowling and the “writer I really love.” Robin’s excitement about finding a clue, the secret entry to what really happened, is a parallel with what we are supposed to be doing and feeling as readers engaged in a contest with author and text to discover the greater reality not yet visible in the plot details and character musings.

Having said that, moving from a picture of Jonny Rokeby and Duke Ellington (and other men) and then making a link between the character Rokeby and Marlowe’s Faust because Ellington once wrote a score for Orson Welles’ Faust just won’t work.

For one thing, despite the reference provided via an embedded link, it’s doubtful Ellington wrote a musical score for Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. The 1950 Welles event in Frankfurt for which Ellington wrote music, ‘An Evening with Orson Welles,’ was not Marlowe per se but the actor’s “own version of ‘Faust’ (based on material by Marlowe, Milton and Dante).” It was a variety hour for servicemen including songs by Eartha Kitt — one with her playing ‘Helen of Troy perhaps a nod to Faust– rather than a production of the Marlowe drama per se— which play was not a musical, right? [Read more…]

Guest Post: Who is Jonny Rokeby? Pt 5

Who is Jonny Rokeby? Part 5: Potential Plot Points By ChrisC

This whole series of rokeby posts is premised on the idea that J.K. Rowling means us to the see the character of Jonny Rokeby in her Cormoran Strike novels as a latter-day Faust character.  Through unpacking a number of inter-locking symbols within one single scene, at least a case has been made that she wants her readers to view the father of Cormoran Strike in a way that owes its style to the literary alchemy tradition of the Renaissance and to Marlowe’ Doctor Faustus, specifically.

In the final essay of this series, let’s look at what all this symbolism could mean in terms of both plot and genre.  Won’t you join me after the jump for one more walk on the wild side?

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Guest Post: Who is Jonny Rokeby? Pt 4

Who is Jonny Rokeby? Part 4: Helen of Troy By ChrisC

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships

And burnt the topless towers of Illium?

Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss –

Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus.

This is not the first time an echo from ancient Greek mythology has been discussed on this site.  A while back, Joanna Gray and John Granger collaborated on an essay about the mythological allusions in the relation of Cormoran Strike to his mother Leda.  Helen of Troy came up in the course of that feature, however its main focus was on Strike as a combination Aeneas/latter half of the ancient family team of Castor and Pollux. Mythological Leda Strike: Cormoran, Zeus, Castor, and Pollux,

However, if Jonny Rokeby is meant to be seen as a post-modern Doctor Faustus, then it is time to bring Pollux’s sister Helen into the spotlight.  To understand the reasons why, and how come even that isn’t quite what it seems, meet me after the jump on the wrong side of the street.

[Read more…]