Conference at Yale University

Journey Metaphor – University of Malta Works in Progress Seminar Series (January) | Journey Metaphor – ACLA Annual Conference – University of Yale (February)


 

Wednesday, 19th January, 2000, 5.30pm – 7.30pm
Museum of Archaeology, Valletta.
AN ISLAND STATE BETWEEN HOME AND THE TRAIN STATION

The Economy of Travel in Dun Karm and Oliver Friggieri

In the poetry of Dun Karm, the protagonist never ventures too far from the physical and psychological point of reference or oikos which isthe home. This is not the asphixiating home of the aging poet, but his childhood home, the spiritual space he associates almost exclusively with his mother. The home turns out to be a physical expression of the strong presence of his (dead) mother: everywhere in the poet’s many ‘travel’ poems, there is either a mother or a home or both. In his poem about ‘The North Star’, he explains how it sits in the sky, ‘like a wise mother’, to guide the seamen. The sea is an impulsive, violent masculine element in most Maltese literature and the North Star/mother is there to guide the seaman/father back to the safety of the home. This centripetal movement reflects Dun Karm’s religious convictions and his ‘conservative’ ideas about Malta’s national identity.

The journey metaphor in Dun Karm’s theocentric, romantic poetry, is then compared to the travel topos in Oliver Friggieri’s post-Independence ‘travel’ poems. While Dun Karm’s traveller never loses sight of the home, Oliver Friggieri’s persona travels from one airport waiting-hall or train station to another, searching for meaning in a world marked by black wagons and empty faces. His mysterious companion is a somewhat surreal young woman, typically ‘silent’ and ‘barefoot’. Friggieri’s poetic journeys are apparently without end, in constant search for a destination, for meaning: the elusive young woman is a reminder of the elusive semantics of his existence. In this context, the theme of the voyage also raises the question of the status of literary discourse itself. But beneath this apparent sense of loss of the individual and Malta, there may be also be an oikos, a point of reference, an idealized landmark guiding the seemingly homeless traveller.

The interpretation of the travel poetry of these poets is inspired, amongst others, by George Van Den Abbeele’s incisive book, Travel as Metaphor: From Montaigne to Rousseau (1992), while the analysis of the political and metaphorical aspects of nationhood takes its lead from Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism (1993) and Frans Sammut’s novel Samuraj (1975).

For full programme of the Work-in-Progress seminar series please go to:
http://www.um.edu.mt/news/workinprogress2000.html

Adrian Grima is an assistant lecturer in Maltese at the G.F. Abela Junior College and at the Faculty of Arts, where he lectures on metaphor and on the mediterranean in Maltese literature. He has read papers on Maltese literature and the Mediterranean in Malta, Reggio Calabria, Palermo, and Rome, and he will be reading a paper on the journey metaphor in Maltese poetry at the ACLA annual conference at Yale University (USA) in February, 2000. His paper, “A Village for an Island: Malta” in Frans Sammut’s novel Samurajappeared in the first issue of Humanitas. In 1999 he published a book of poetry in Maltese, It-Trumbettier, with English translations. Two of the poems have been included in an anthology of poetry of the Mediterranean published by Mesogea.


 

yale2000_small
Yale University, February, 2000 – American Comparative Literature Association Annual Conference – Travel as Trope Seminar co-chaired by Dr. Florence Widmer-Schnyder and Dr. Ulrike Brisson (first two from right, standing). Adrian Grima is sitting first from left.

 

Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association
Yale University, (USA), February 25-27, 2000
Interdisciplinary Studies: In the Middle, Across, or in Between?

 

AN ISLAND STATE BETWEEN HOME AND THE TRAIN STATION

In the poetry of Malta’s national poet, Dun Karm (1871-1961), the protagonist’s journeys never venture too far from their physical and psychological point of reference or oikos, the home. This is not the asphixiating home of the aging poet, but his childhood home, the spiritual space he associates almost exclusively with his mother. The home turns out to be a physical expression of the strong presence of his (dead) mother: everywhere in the poet’s many ‘travel’ poems, there is either a mother or a home or both. In his poem about ‘The North Star’, he describes how this star sits in the sky, like a wise mother, to guide the seamen on their journeys. The sea is an impulsive, violent masculine element in most Maltese literature and the North Star/mother is there to guide the seaman/father back to the safety of the home. This centripetal movement reflects Dun Karm ideas about Malta’s independence and his religious convictions. The journey metaphor in Dun Karm’s theocentric, romantic poetry, is then compared to the travel topos in Oliver Friggieri’s modern ‘travel’ poems. While Dun Karm’s traveller never loses sight of the home, Oliver Friggieri’s persona travels from one airport waiting-hall to another, from one train station to another, searching for meaning in a world marked by black wagons and empty faces. The typical ‘other’ is a mysterious young woman who is described as silent and barefoot. Friggieri’s journeys are a journey without end; his traveller is a traveller in constant search for a destination, for meaning: the elusive young mother is a constant reminder of the elusive semantics of his existence. Moreover, the theme of the voyage raises the question of the status of literary discourse itself. The interpretation of the travel poetry of these two leading Maltese poets is inspired, amongst others, by George Van Den Abbeele’s incisive book, Travel as Metaphor: From Montaigne to Rousseau (1992) and his economy of travel.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s