What if I like,, just didn’t go to my exams
Sunday in my college life | Friendsgiving
Published by Jayde Saylor
What if I like,, just didn’t go to my exams
Published by Jayde Saylor
22.11.19 • working on my next essay in the library 📚
Guillaume Apollinaire was born in Rome in 1880. He moved to Paris in 1899 and soon became known as a writer of poetry, prose and criticism. He was also a sergeant in the First World War, fighting for the French and eventually earning his citizenship in 1916. He began writing his first play, The Breasts ofTiresias (Les Mamelles de Tiresias), in 1903, though he added the prologue and last scene of the second act in 1916 after his involvement in the war.
This play contains many social commentaries on life in France before and during the First World War. Primarily, the issue of population decline is at the center of the action. The birth rate had started declining in France at the end of the 19th century and did not recover until after World War n. The decline was in full swing and the French people were feeling its impact when Apollinaire began writing The Breasts ofTiresias. The birth rate only grew .2% between 1871 and 1911; this rate was extremely low when compared to the rates of other European countries at the time.
This decline was blamed on a variety of factors, but no single cause was ever identified. Groups such as the National Alliance for the Growth of the French Population, headed by Jacques Bertillon, were founded in an effort to promote the increase ofthe French population. These conservative groups took a hostile view toward women who did not marry and produce French children, calling them sinful. The play itself is also significant in that it is the first surrealistic play.
This term was coined by Apollinaire himself when he described The Breasts ofTiresias as surrealisme in the play’s preface. He also gave the term to the ballet Parade by Jean Cocteau in 1917. Surrealism was later defined by the plays ofAndre Breton as it developed out of Dadaism in the 1920s. The Breasts ofTiresias premiered under the direction of Apollinaire himself on June 24, 1917, at the Conservatoire Renee Maubel in Montmarte to an audience of poets, artists and critics. It was met by mixed reviews and general confusion from Parisians as this was one of the first times they had been exposed to something that could be called surrealism. On November 9, 1918, Apollinaire died as a result of an influenza outbreak in Paris.
The Prologue expounds anti-naturalistic principles, that drama should offer not a ‘slice of life, but life itself’. In a Zanzibar marketplace there are a ‘speechless person who represents the people of Zanzibar’, a megaphone, and a dancing kiosk. Thérèse, a figure with a blue face, rebels against her husband: opening her blouse, her breasts rise, fly up like balloons, and explode. She grows a beard and moustache and shouts into the megaphone: ‘I feel as virile as the devil!’ Thérèse has become Tiresias and forces her husband to exchange clothes. She plans to continue her new life in Paris, while female voices chant: ‘Long live Tiresias | No more children, no more children!’ Her husband is concerned about the need for children, but discovers a means of procreation, which produces 40,049 offspring in one day. He boasts of his success to reporters but soon finds that Zanzibar faces a food crisis. After a number of other surreal episodes, Tiresias returns to reassume the role of Thérèse. Releasing balloons and throwing balls at the audience, she asks them to feed the new population. The people of Zanzibar sing and dance.
Although Apollinaire claimed that his eccentric play dealt with the role of women and the risks of overpopulation, perhaps the main interest of the piece is that its subtitle un drame surréaliste was the first use of the term ‘surrealism’. This movement of the 1920s and 1930s, which made more impact in painting than in the theatre, was explored by practitioners like Artaud and influenced plays like Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth and eventually the Theatre of the Absurd.
On Mount Cyllene in the Peloponnese, as Tiresias came upon a pair of copulating snakes, he hit the pair with his stick. Hera was displeased, and she punished Tiresias by transforming him into a woman. As a woman, Tiresias became a priestess of Hera, married and had children, including Manto, who also possessed the gift of prophecy. After seven years as a woman, Tiresias again found mating snakes; depending on the myth, either she made sure to leave the snakes alone this time, or, according to Hyginus, trampled on them. As a result, Tiresias was released from his sentence and permitted to regain his masculinity. This ancient story was recorded in lost lines of Hesiod.
Les Mamelles de Tirésias (The Breasts of Tiresias) is an opéra bouffe (comic opera) by Francis Poulenc, in a prologue and two acts based on the eponymous play by Guillaume Apollinaire. The opera was written in 1945 and first performed in 1947. Apollinaire’s play, written in 1903, was revised with a sombre prologue by the time it premiered during World War I in France. For the opera, Poulenc incorporated both the farcical and the serious aspects of the original play, which according to one critic displays a “high-spirited topsy-turveydom” that conceals “a deeper and sadder theme – the need to repopulate and rediscover a France ravaged by war.”
Guillaume Apollinaire was one a group of poets whom Poulenc had met as a teenager. Adrienne Monnier’s bookshop, the Maison des Amis des Livres, was a meeting place for avant-garde writers including Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Paul Éluard and Louis Aragon. Apollinaire, the illegitimate son of a Polish noblewoman, was described by the critic Edward Lockspeiser as the prominent leader of Bohemian life in Montparnasse. Among his achievements were to bring to prominence the painter the Douanier Rousseau, and to invent the term “surrealism”, of which he was a leading exponent. In June 1917 the audience for the first performance of Apollinaire’s “drame surréaliste”, Les Mamelles de Tirésias, at a theatre in Montmartre included Jean Cocteau, Serge Diaghilev, Léonide Massine, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Erik Satie, and the young Poulenc. Many years later Poulenc said that though he had been immensely amused by the farcical piece it did not occur to him at the time that he would ever set it to music.
Poulenc first set Apollinaire’s words to music in his 1919 song cycle La Bestiaire, and returned to the poet’s work for the choral work Sept chansons (1936). During the 1930s he first thought of setting Les mamelles de Tirésias as an opera; in 1935 he adapted the script as a libretto, with the blessing of Apollinaire’s widow, and began sketching the music in 1939, with most of the composition done in a burst of creativity between May and October 1944. Although the play was written in 1903, by the time of its premiere France was in the thick of the First World War, and Apollinaire had revised the piece, adding a sombre prologue. Poulenc aimed to reflect both the farcical and the serious aspects of the play. The critic Jeremy Sams describes the opera as “high-spirited topsy-turveydom” concealing “a deeper and sadder theme – the need to repopulate and rediscover a France ravaged by war.”
With Mme Apollinaire’s approval, Poulenc changed the date and setting from those of the original. “I chose 1912 because that was Apollinaire’s heroic period, of the first fights for Cubism … I substituted Monte-Carlo for Zanzibar to avoid the exotic, and because Monte-Carlo, which I adore, and where Apollinaire spent the first 15 years of his life, is quite tropical enough for the Parisian that I am.”
Kaminski writes that the music, while in the line of Offenbach, Chabrier and Ravel’s L'heure espagnole, impresses the listener with its stream of “miniatures and vignettes”, dances (a valse for Thérèse, a polka for Lacouf and Presto) and pastiches from other lyric music such as ariettes in the style of opéra comique or chorales (after the duel).
interesting thoughts about the play:
- even in this surreal and new form of theatre, the french tradition of classicism still prevails in the greek story that inspired the play
- this is similar to cyrano de bergerac and the nostalgic yearning for panache and old france compared to the new formation of the alexandrine line which is more broken up
Published by Payton Pitts
Shrunken head, currently on show in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. Has the look of Elton John, I think.
Ancient Street, Oxford, England
Snowy Day, Oxford, England
The Riot Club (2014) (dir. Lone Scherfig)
These two objects are examples of Red Polished Ware, which is a term used to describe pottery of the Cypriot Bronze Age.
The ceramics from this period were hand-made and had smooth, monochromatic surfaces. They varied drastically in shape and size, and were often decorated with incised patterns, decorations and motifs. This type of pottery is associated with the Philia culture, which existed on the island of Cyprus during the Bronze Age between 2450–2200 BC.
See both of these objects on display in Gallery 18.
Today, I join the ‘hundred days of productivity challenge’ as a motivator to proceed with my thesis. Quite a bunch of words to write today, but if I’ll tackle it, I can do everything!
hailing from Oxford, England
a 2015 song about pretty girls and what they like
Oxford Supresser DS for the win on tonight’s mix #sonnox #oxford #suppresser #plugin #aax #mixing #studiolife (at New York, New York)
19.11.19 | oxford
this afternoon i went to a performance of donne’s sermon cxlvi at lincoln college chapel. i’ve loved studying early modern lit this term - can’t believe there’s only two weeks left! 🍂
19.11.2019 // I’ve been having a tricky term! I drafted a thesis chapter for my supervisor, and when we discussed what I’d written it became really clear what I’d left out! (Mostly historical context - not ideal in a project rooting literature in its time period…)
I’ve spent some time re-planning it though, and have been reading to try and fill the gaps in my knowledge. I’ve been given the go-ahead for it now, so am finally feeling a bit more motivated!
For daily updates on my PhD life, follow my studygram: https://instagram.com/_ellenbrewster/
Autumn in Oxford, 2019
Bodleian Library - Oxford, England 🏴