Carnival Row: Literary Value Worth the Unsavory Package?

Image result for carnival row

This week, I had one of those wonderful moments that reminds me why I teach. In my ENG 112 class, we were having a great literary conversation, starting to unpack W.B. Yeats’s fantastic poem “The Stolen Child,” which describes the fae and their efforts to lure a human child away from the human world. The students had already asked great questions about the geographical references and some of the vocabulary, but I could see they were trying to really grasp the poem. I explained about the amorality of the fae, their differences from cutesy fairies and their connections in literature and Irish mythology, and then, one of my students exclaimed, “They’re kidnappers!” I wish I could have captured the look on his face, an a-ha expression that combined both his delight at making his connection and his discomfort with the unsavory undertones of the poem. His combined reaction is very similar to my own in response to the new Amazon Original series Carnival Row, starring Orlando Bloom, Cara Delevinge, and an impressible ensemble cast in a tale of good and evil, of fae and of men.

The steamnoir series is set in a world where the fae world is not a myth or fantasy, but a very real geographical location that has been torn asunder by warfare between competing armies of men. It is visually stunning as well as thought provoking, making some fascinating allusions to history, mythology, and literature, but it is definitely not family viewing, with language and scenes that would make Cormoron Strike blush. [Read more…]

Crimes of Grindelwald: Shakespeare!

Image result for crimes of grindelwaldBack in the summer, as we were speculating on the then-forthcoming new Fantastic Beasts film, I pondered the possibilities that loomed for our next installment in the magizooilogical adventures of Newt Scamander and his associates, especially as those possibilities connected to Shakespeare’s textbook comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Now, after seeing the film and taking a week to process my thoughts, I’m delighted to kick around some of the ways in which the film fulfilled and challenged the Shakespearean conventions I hoped to see taking center stage in this segment of the five-film series: Alchemy, Character Pair-ups, and the use of Humors and Elements. All of these are central to many of Shakespeare’s plays, including the romp through the fairy-haunted forests of Athens, and are crucial to the latest adventures from the Wizarding World. Join me after the jump as we take a look at each of these factors, in reverse order this time, to see how the link between these two performance-focused texts helps us understand where our story is heading. [Read more…]

Fairies and Wizards? A Midsummer Night’s Dream and What We Might Expect from The Crimes of Grindelwald

In my Muggle professor job, I love teaching some of the greats of literature. One of my favorites, for my own enjoyment and for sharing with my class, is Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream | William Shakespearemodel comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In addition to literary depth, symbolism, themes, and plenty of laughs, the Bard’s romp through the fairy-haunted forest also offers my students some great connections with other texts, including popular ones they enjoy, like J.K. Rowling’s stories of the Wizarding World. With the second film in the Fantastic Beasts series galloping into theaters this November, it’s a good time to check out some of the connections this story already shares with MND and to make some guesses about what we might see in The Crimes of Grindelwald that will echo the adventures of some really bad actors, two pairs of hapless lovers, and a few aristocrats, when the mortal world intersects with some quarrelling fey and their minions. Follow me after the jump for some thoughts and possible predictions! [Read more…]