Something for everyone

August 24, 2023 in Featured News, News

Brendan Staunton SJ spent an enjoyable week at the 35th Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ annual Summer School in Newbridge College Theatre, 21- 27 July 2023. The event brought together people from Japan, Finland, Germany, USA., Australia, France, Holland, Sweden, Italy, England, and Ireland,

What used to be a ‘Summer School’, is now called an ‘International Festival’, to include not only poetry, but painting, music, philosophy, theology, and linguistic branches from the tree of poetical discourse, and Brendan commented on a talk on ‘alliteration’ which “enhanced our appreciation of Hopkin’s creativity with poetic devices, and the way he integrated content and style. The medium can be the message; the how, can be the what!”

Brendan was also impressed by a lecture on Hopkins and the composer Henry Purcell which highlighted Hopkin’s interest in opera, ‘Aeneas and Dido’ being a favourite of the Jesuit poet who believed that music was integral to the poetic pursuit: According to Hopkins, “Melody is what strikes me in music and design in design, pattern or what I am in the habit of calling inscape is what I, above all, aim at in poetry”.

The influence of St John Henry Newman was referenced at the festival. ” I was struck by learning about Newman’s part in Hopkins discerning his vocation to become a Jesuit,” says Brendan. “And a presentation on Newman and Joyce also highlighted the 41 textual allusions in Joyce, (12 alone in Finnegan’s Wake), all are parodies, with one exception, Newman – ‘the greatest prose writer in English’ for Joyce. Indeed Joyce was so prescient, “Brendan goes on, “that he proclaimed that Rome should canonise Newman! Holiness crawls to maturity!”

Silence, punctuation, and metaphors and their relationship to meaning were highlighted by five of the other 14 speakers, says Brendan, adding that other topics covered concerned Hopkins and his Jesuit formation; his view of beauty and grace; the influence of architecture; faith as a journey; phonetics, acoustics, and other formal elements, that frame the poems of Hopkins that require aural hearing. “Four people have translated Hopkins into French, Italian, Japanese, and even Irish,” Brendan notes, and say, “Imagine the challenge of capturing sprung rhythms, Greek roots and anglo saxon phrases!”

Breandan is anxious to point out that the festival was not just about scholarly imputs as important as they were. “I am not doing justice to the lively discussions, the informal conversations and the atmosphere of welcome. Importantly, and as some mentioned, most welcome was the absence of competitive challenges, and a willingness to learn from one another – not always a feature of academic conferences.”

The youth programme, the music evenings, the art exhibitions, the moving Mass, where those who passed away in the past year were fondly remembered according to Brendan, who concludes his assessment of yet another successful annual Hopkins event by noting that, “We ended the festival on 27 July, the day before Hopkins birthday in 1844. Like Hopkin’s poetry, it had something for everyone.”