Search Results for: literary allusion silkworm

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

Literary Allusion in Cormoran Strike: Curious Case of Yeats’ Leda & the Swan

Ever since Rowling was outed as the author of Cuckoo’s Calling we have been discussing the mythological framework on which the Strike mysteries are written.We were talking about Cormoran’s mother Leda and her relations with rockstar Jonny Rokeby as a reflection of the myth of Leda and the Swan, an avian incarnation of Zeus, even before Joanne Gray broke the code of Strike and Ellacott being story stand-ins for Castor and Pollux.

Beatrice Groves, in a MuggleNet essay on literary allusion in The Silkworm, made a reference to Yeats’ poem, ‘Leda and the Swan’ as a gloss on Rowling’s swan twitter header. Does the Silkworm Expend Her Yellow Labors for Thee?

Rowling put up a rather aggressive-looking swan as a Twitter header during the period she was working on this novel, and a fanciful viewer could relate this image to Yeats’s famous sonnet on Leda:

The great wings beating still/ Above the staggering girl” (“Leda and the Swan”)

That was in February 2018. I didn’t even look up the Yeats poem then, I’m embarrassed to say now.

In March 2018 I was asked by Josh Richards, a brilliant novelist and literary critic out of St Andrews University, to read his The One and Only Sarah Jones. I was delighted to be among the first to read it (I hope you will one day have that opportunity, especially if you love Henry James).

Prof Richards included some notes as epilogue to the book in which he mentioned Yeats’ ‘Leda and the Swan.’ Incredulous that I had not found this in any of my readings about the Leda myth, I pulled down my copy of The Complete Yeats (thank you, Friends of the OKC Library booksale!) and took a look. Here’s an online source for you.

Leda and the Swan (W. B. Yeats1865 – 1939)

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
                    Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

If you’re like me, your ears perked up at that “shudder in the loins” line. Strike says that about Rokeby: “As far as Jonny Rokeby was concerned, I was just a shudder in the loins.” I was sure I’d heard Robert Glenister say that in his audio book rendition of one of the first three Strike mysteries.

Here’s the thing: when Strike bemoans that he was nothing to Rokeby but a “shudder in the loins,” he is of course quoting Yeats’ poem.

I thought, having forgotten Prof Groves’ citation on MuggleNet, that I’d made a major discovery or at least a significant confirmation of the Leda, Zeus, Castor, and Pollux theorizing here at HogwartsProfessor. I wrote to the merry band of HogwartsProfessor faculty and assorted Pundits to see if I wasn’t covering something already well known. The response was positive and enthusiastic, if I was reminded about the previous citation. One correspondent wrote:

Superb, John!
I love it when scholarship works like this – I suspected that she knows this poem, but you’ve found the evidence. I had forgotten Strike’s line … so I’m confident you’ve got something completely new here – and what a great ‘lock in’!
I’m confident Strike knows this is a quote too – finally she’s got a literary-quoting hero: not just Catullus and Tennyson either it seems!

While I did my victory dance and looked for details to post on the subject, my Serious Striker sons burst my bubble.

I was searching for the “shudder in the loins” line in the actual print-copy Strike novels and couldn’t find the exact citation. Confident it was a Strike line — I knew I’d heard it somewhere — I asked my two sons, who have listened to the Robert Glenister readings of each book several times and both of whom have remarkable recall of all things Rowling/Galbraith.

They insisted the line was not in any of the books. Probably why my gracious correspondent said she “had forgotten” it, right? I’d made it up? I did a long, slow crawl through the then three books trying to find the line, to include searches of the online texts via Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ option, and found nothing.

So I finally searched the BBC1 scripts. The good news was that “shudder in the loins” definitely is in the television scripts, Episode 3 of the Cuckoo’s Calling adaptation (September, 2017). Exact location in script:

00:26:46.523 –> 00:26:49.843
“As far as Jonny Rokeby was concerned, I was just a shudder in the loins.”

Strike says that to Robin after learning about Ageyman’s son in the Sappers. It’s not in the equivalent scene in the text of Cuckoo, but at least I wasn’t making things up. I wrote my Friends list to see if any of them remembered reading it in the novels. The best response?

Sorry John – I didn’t know the line was in Galbraith, just assumed you’d found it, and I’d missed it. It’s still interesting, given that it is her production company (do we know how involved she is in the script?), but disappointingly does look like its the script writer’s thought (which could just come from the Leda name) and might not make it any clearer that there is a Rokeby/Zeus tie-in.

I think Amazon’s ‘look inside’ still searches the pages that it will not show you? If this is the case then I’m afraid your search is pretty clear evidence that it is the script-writer’s innovation (though maybe we’ll see it later in the novels….?!).

There are plenty of shuddering loins in Lethal White, but, alas, no quoting of Yeats to describe them.

The good news is that I haven’t lost my mind; I’ve only confirmed how powerful visual media are (I’d only seen the BBC1 show once and hadn’t even been that attentive). The bad news? Well, as my correspondent points out, we have to assume this allusion is a screenwriter’s conceit rather than a bon mot from The Presence Herself. We just don’t know how much input or supervision Rowling has with respect to the adaptations.

I post it now because I have a backlog of more than 200 post drafts I’m working through and this is certainly one of the more interesting.

What do y’all think? Is the BBC1 writer of this Strike adaptation, Ben Richards, the source for the “shuddering loins” allusion to Leda and the Swan or was it J. K. Rowling, one of five ‘Executive Producers’ for this show (Richards is one of the five, as well)? Is it Strike canon or deuterocanonical teevee hash?
Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below!

Guest Post by Bea Groves: Leda and the Swan Mural at the Ritz: A Clue to the Opening of Strike 6? Part 1

Fasten your seatbelts for a fabulous two-part adventure from our brilliant guest contributor Bea Groves! Here is the first installment of a wonderful analysis of the murals that adorn Strike settings and may provide complex and captivating clues for what is to come! Enjoy part one, and stay tuned for part two tomorrow!

In Shakespeare and Jane Austen (two of J.K. Rowling’s greatest literary loves) there is a failsafe clue about whether two characters are in love without knowing it themselves. Which is that they pay attention when the other person speaks. And Strike has been listening to Robin. When Strike takes Robin to the Ritz for champagne at the end of Troubled Blood, he is not just giving a true present (something that appeals to the recipient not the giver), he is also remembering something she had once said:

            ‘I want you to give me something to eat and a strong drink.’

‘You’ve got it,’ said Strike, glad to have a chance to make repa­rations. ‘Will a takeaway do?’

‘No,’ said Robin sarcastically, pointing at her rapidly blackening eyes, ‘I’d like to go to the Ritz, please.’

Strike started to laugh but cut himself off, appalled at the state of her face.

(Chap 58, p.719)

At the end of the novel Strike turns Robin’s joke into reality:

‘So where—?’ asked Robin.

‘I’m taking you to the Ritz for champagne,’ said Strike…

‘Thanks, Strike. This really means a lot.’

And that, thought her partner, as the two of them headed away toward the Ritz in the golden glow of the early evening, really was well worth sixty quid and a bit of an effort…                                                                                     (Chap 73, p.926-27)

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Beatrice Groves: John Donne, The Beast Within, and Who Killed Leda Strike

Beatrice Groves, Research Lecturer and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, and author of  Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, has written a HogwartsProfessor Guest Post to mark the publication of Rowling-Galbraith’s Troubled Blood as a paperback. In it she discusses what Nick Jeffery’s discovery of a possible future Strike novel title and ‘The Beast Within’ theme of Rowling’s recent work tells us about who is the most likely suspect in the “Who Killed Leda Strike?” sweepstakes. Enjoy!

When thou hast done, thou hast not done:’ Rowling and John Donne?

I first entered the Harry Potter on-line fan world in 2017 (invited here by the generous welcome of the Hogwarts Professor, John Granger, upon the publication of my Literary Allusion in Harry Potter). That meant that I was a decade late to the party of predicting how Harry Potter might end. So, for me, Strike and Fantastic Beasts have been the first time I’ve experienced the pleasure of sleuthing together. And it has been an absolute ball. By following Rowling’s tempting line of breadcrumbs, and building on the insights of many Potter fans and pundits, we’ve hit the odd bullseye – my favourites being guessing the murder location in Lethal White and the Spenserian epigraphs in Troubled Blood.

While following the clues Rowling leaves about future Strike novels may be a rather minority sport compared to following her Harry Potter breadcrumbs, in some ways these clues are likely to tell us more. For Rowling has taken a new turn in the Strike novels. In these novels the titles, and the epigraphs, have a much more complex relation to the plots of the novels than they did in Harry Potter (which did not, of course, have epigraphs at all until the final novel). This means that with Strike such guesswork might not just tell us what the title is but also something about the novel. When Rowling laid on a game of Twitter hangman to guess the title Lethal White, for example, the equine hint of the title (first pointed out by Louise Freeman) – just like the other clues that pointed towards the White Horse at Uffington – turned out to play a central role in the plot.

This blogpost is written to mark the paperback publication of Troubled Blood (coming out 22nd /24th June) – a novel which demonstrated Hogwarts Professor’s most successful title-sleuthing to date. When the title Troubled Blood was released on 20 February 2020, Nick Jeffery accurately guessed that Rowling had drawn the phrase from Edmund Spenser’s epic sixteenth-century poem The Faerie Queene.

 Now, to be honest, when Nick first suggested this, I was sceptical. Not because Rowling choosing an early modern text was inherently unlikely – it was of a piece with the epigraphs to Silkworm – but because The Faerie Queene is one of my favourite poems. So, it simply seemed too good to be true. But this does mean that now that Nick has once again suggested another early modern writer as the source for the title of Strike 6, and I am once again thinking this seems too good to be true, the déjà vu makes me feel hopeful….

The combined sleuthing of Patricio Tarantino of The Rowling Library and Nick Jeffery have turned up what sounds like a highly plausible title for Strike 6: The Last Cries of Men. John Granger has written up Nick’s suggestion that this title points us towards Donne’s Devotion Upon Emergent Occasions – the source of Donne’s most famous quotation, as well as the phrase ‘the last cries of men.’ 

There are lots of caveats here – The Last Cries of Men may be something else entirely, after all – but if it is a Rowling novel, it certainly sounds like a Strike novel. The phrase (found in Meditation VI from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions [1624]) is Donne’s evocation of the most heart-rending noise of the battlefield: ‘the sound of drums and trumpets and shot and those which they seek to drown, the last cries of men.’ Donne makes a bitter observation about the pragmatic reason that armies make such a clamour with the noisy pomp of drums and trumpets. It is in order obscure their real business: the business of killing.

There are a number of reasons that this sounds like a Strike title. [Read more…]

The Ghosts Haunting Troubled Blood

In January I wrote and posted a reading of Troubled Blood as an allegorical drama, a Medieval Morality Play, of the temptations and pitfalls that are met along the way of the Seeking Soul’s journey to its true home in God. The argument that this allegorical reading is a legitimate interpretative exercise rests on (1) the Faerie Queen epigraphs before every chapter and Part, (2) the character Cratylic names or cryptonyms that point to each being an allegorical figure (especially the Oonaugh/Una and Janus/Duessa ‘lifts’ straight from Spenser’s epic poem), and (3) the first act of the play’s ending with God’s appearance as ‘Theo’ and judgment of the fallen Pure Soul, the Pearl.

Today, I hope to offer an exegesis of the Morality Play’s second act, in which the Pearl, Margot Bamborough, is repentant in her after-life as a ghost and communicates as she can in dreams or nightmares, occult openings, and in the thoughts of those receptive to her messages. She guides, if this reading is correct, the cold-case investigation of her disappearance in 2014 from beginning to end and her trail in the years 1974 to 2014 is visible in the testimony of witnesses during this successful inquiry. To understand most of what follows, you will be best served by a quick review of Troubled Blood as Allegory,Part 1 and Troubled Blood: The Dead Among Us in which post I first reviewed the “ghostly images” throughout Strike5.

You’ll also, of course, have to suspend your disbelief in ghosts.

We Postmoderns as such do not believe in ghosts. It’s a function of skepticism about anything supernatural or spiritual, the inherent materialism and naturalism of our historical period, and the belief that, however compromised and undependable it may be in knowing reality as it truly is, reasoning based on sense perception and deductive logic is the highest human faculty and the surest way to knowledge (Science!).

Rowling-Galbraith, perhaps to shake us free of that delusionary baggage, stuffs her stories with ghosts.

There are the visible gang at Hogwarts, good for laughs and a melodramatic Gothic flavoring, and we learn via the Resurrection Stone that the dead are at hand, 24/7, to be called up for conversation and advice (cf., Harry’s walk into the Forest with James, Lily, Remus, and Sirius as companions). ‘The Ghost of Barry Fairbrother’ haunts Casual Vacancy, and, though his messages are written by living people in his name rather than by him, per se, his influence as other-worldly playwright on these writers seems obvious. Strike notes the presence of his mother’s ghost at the beginning of Troubled Blood: “the wraith of Leda seemed to drift on his cigarette smoke around him” (34). He has similar feelings about his Aunt Joan immediately after her funeral and at the beach in Skegnes.

Rowling’s post Potter spirits are not visible as the riders in her Headless Hunt. As with the ‘King’s Cross’ after-life conversation with Dumbledore and Harry at the otherworldly King’s Cross, she is careful to write the story so the moral is clear without being “moralizing,” a big no-no in her thoughts about what makes writing good or bad. Therefore, a reader doesn’t have to believe Harry has really gone to a Logos Land or Limbo at a mystical King’s Cross where Voldemort’s self-butchered soul is in a heap on the floor and enlightened Albus teaches Harry; if an after-life is an anathema idea to any reader, that Harry doesn’t learn anything he couldn’t possibly have figured out on his own, the meeting at King’s Cross might indeed just be “in his head,” real in some sense but only psychologically. 

Having noted Rowling’s care not to be preachy about the soul’s survival of bodily death, I think it is obvious that the ghost of Margot Bamborough is everywhere in Troubled Blood. This woman, whom Oonaugh, Cynthia, and Satchwell all testify would “never have left her daughter,” is in the thoughts, dreams, occult invitations, and ideas or inspiration of ten different characters. Margot, the Pearl, as with the pearl-maiden shade ‘over the river’ in the Medieval allegory Pearl, is an otherworldly guide to those seeking her; unlike the poem spirit, though, Bamborough is not at peace and haunts this world to protect those she loves, reveal those who killed her, and help those who are open to her guidance. Every instance that I provide as an example, however, can be read, certainly is read by the great mass of readers as just normal human thinking, dreaming, imagining, and game-playing with tarot cards sans ghostly influence.

That having been noted, reading Troubled Blood as a Spenserian allegory all but requires that the fallen but repentant soul of the good-hearted but wrong-headed atheist Margot be allowed to do what she can in her after-life to correct her mistakes and punish the truly evil before her coming to God’s final judgment. We have not only to believe in ghosts, but also to look for their traces in the psychic realm of our souls and minds in order to see them. Fortunately, Margot’s ghost trail isn’t that hard to see.

Join me after the jump for the Ghosts of Troubled Blood, both Margot and the other murder victims, the Nabokov connection, and what this all means for Serious Strikers re-reading the series.

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