In order to deeply read Joyce one needs an understanding of Irish politics of the 19th and 20th centuries and Catholicism in addition to an acquaintance with the classics and the canon of literature… But don’t worry, there’s help.

I find the only way to really understand Joyce in a significant way beyond the beauty of his prose is to read up on the political and religious background of Joyce’s Dublin.

There’s a terrific Annotated Joyce book which fills in the many blanks of The Dubliners and A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. It is an academic imperative to understand some of the history behind Irish politics of the 19th century, Parnell in particular and the events surrounding the Potato Blight and English estate agents for absentee landlords and early 20th century and some of the Catholic references when reading Joyce if you want more than an impressionistic or superficial reading of these novels.

http://www.themodernword.com/joyce/joyce_works_dubliners.html

When tackling a mammoth full of beauty, whim and occasional gobbledygook such as Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake, I suggest reading an annotated companion to the books! It’s worth the effort. There is also a fabulously entertaining and interesting free podcast by Irish writer Frank Delaney called Re:Joyce in which he dissects a page of Ulysses for each five minute show. It is often humorous and the anecdotes and history lend rich details to Joyce’s difficult book.

http://blog.frankdelaney.com/re-joyce/

A decent background skim of the Greco-Roman classics and the literary canon or the “Western Canon” is very useful as well. I like Harold Bloom’s collection of Canons from various ages and eras.

http://sonic.net/~rteeter/grtbloom.html

Obviously that is an immense amount of reading and disseminating. Therefore, I suggest reading a summary of the canon with highlights of the Hellenistic period, etcetera to follow the references and allusions to the myths and the gods in Joyce’s work.

Spark notes and cliff notes and the Cambridge Reader to Joyce are also exceedingly helpful shortcuts to peering a little closer into his work.

At the end of the day reading and learning is a gradual process which enriches our lives slowly over a whole lifetime.

I am currently embarking on a re-read of A Portrait of An Artist as a Young Man after reading it years ago as a teenager. I know I will have a different experience having read and lived much in the years between falling into the pages. And I’m going to have my study guides and annotations at hand for a heavier, more in the know experience. The prose and the spiritual approach to art and history and human psychology affected me deeply in my extreme youth and I expect some of that will still be there within me along side the more powerful notions of understanding the social, cultural, historical and religious contexts of the world of Joyce’s books.

Happy reading!

See also:
Nationalism in James Joyce’s work; http://mural.uv.es/romoma/nationalism.htm

Irish Mythology (very important to Joyce’s writing)
http://www.luminarium.org/mythology/ireland/index.html

The Myths of Stephen Dedalus http://m.voices.yahoo.com/the-myths-stephen-dedalus-james-joyces-portrait-2666810.html

Celtic and Irish Mythology and Folklore in the fiction of James Joyce http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4667&context=opendissertations

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tiny beautiful things

“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”

Cheryl Strayed, from “Tiny Beautiful Things”

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at the enchanting villa san michele’s gardens on anacapri

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A Greco Roman bust outside the chapel in the Italiani Giardini. The white tile stairs lead up to the former bird conservatory.

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The winged Egyptian bust overlooking the Marina Grande with Ischia faintly shimmering in the background through the low clouds.

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The sphinx watching over the sea, an ancient siren calling wanderlust to travelers.

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The bird’s eye view.

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The beautiful sweeping coastline of Capri.

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The tiny chapel in the garden.

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Cypress trees and gorgeous pillars on the terrace overlooking the sea.

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There are a series of stairs leading to sumptuous turns of the garden and pathways further up the hill.

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Although the villa is high up on Anacapri, there are soaring rocky cliffs surrounding the grounds. One rock was the the fort overtaken by the pirate Redbeard, which was later owned by Axel Munthe and donated back to the island (but owned by) his Swedish foundation.

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The veranda, home to the sphinx, is inviting in white tile and stone, with benches to rest on and views everywhere you look.

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The charming path way walks are lined with greenery, flowers and fountains.

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Every turn on the grounds is more and more enchanting. I cannot recommend enough an hour’s visit to the Villa for it’s peacefulness and beauty. On hot days it’s a cool and shady refuge.

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Olive jars, more cypresses and Roman Umbrella pines!

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A side view of the Egyptian winged pegasus-like female sphinx.

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The exterior of Axel Munthe’s chapel.

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Potted urns along the walk.

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Herbal garden, leaves and trees.

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Hedges and shrubbery grown over decades forming fences.

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Another angle of the sphinx’s view.

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A tiny boat leaving the shore.

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The clouds and mist find each other.

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Because of Axel Munthe’s tireless advocation for the exotic array of birds who migrate to the island each year, Capri is now one giant bird sanctuary. Bird hunting is outlawed. The beautiful song of many different birds can be heard from morning to night, when the nightingales come out. It is then when I can feel Keats poem, Ode To A Nightingale, alive in the air.FH060023

I worry some of the pictures are a bit repetitious but they were all beautiful reminders of being there. Even a subtle angle change is reminiscent of walking through the grounds and seeing the beauty unfold a step at a time. And believe it or not I am actually restraining myself.

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A semi hidden niche at the end of Villa San Michele’s labyrinthine gardens and loggias.

This was part one of the Villa San Michele series shot on portra 35mm film, velvia film slides and vintage kodak. The history of San Michele, more garden rambles, the cafe and interior of the villa, the flora and fauna of the grounds and excerpts from Axel Munthe’s book on his Villa to come in following posts. For visitor information visit: villasanmichele.eu . If you find yourself on Capri, even for a day, you must take a convertible taxi or the bus up to Anacapri (because it’s less crowded, lovely and full of hand painted tile, jewelry and sandal artisans) and it is the home of the Villa San Michele! You won’t regret it!

More to follow! These photographs and travel essays are copyright Rebecca Price Butler, alovelettertorome.com

That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

At the Mattei di Giove

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The Palazzo Mattei di Giove ,Via Michelangelo Caetani 32, other entrance in Via dei Funari, Ghetto, Rome, 00186

Last year I decided on our two visits to Rome I wanted my husband and I to spend some time hunting for off the beaten path spots we’ve not yet visited. I picked up some new books on the subject, City Secrets of Rome by Robert Kahn and Quiet Corners of Rome by David Downie. Upon seeing photographs of this amazing place I had to see it for myself. We started out having a splendid lunch at the Campo di Fiori after picking up gifts and alla’arrabbiata and carciofi alla romana spices at the charming outdoor market. We stopped, as is our custom, under the Bruno statue to pay respect and read the inscription,

A BRUNO – IL SECOLO DA LUI DIVINATO – QUI DOVE IL ROGO ARSE
(English: To Bruno – the century predicted by him – here where the fire burned).

We walked to the Jewish Ghetto section of Rome (an ancient and fascinating section of the city with a complicated history). We had to ask directions several times and still walked by the spot a few times. But, we found the Palazzo Mattei di Giove and it was worth the effort.

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Mattei di Giove, designed by noted baroque architect Carlo Maderno—who also designed the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica—teems with busts, bas-reliefs, and sarcophagi collected by the palazzo’s namesake owner, Marchese Asdrubale Mattei. (Info source: National Geographic Traveler)

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The House of Mattei was one of the most powerful noble families of Rome during the Middle Ages and early modern era, holding high positions in the papal curia and government office.

The Palazzo Mattei di Giove is the most prominent among a group of Mattei houses that forms the insula Mattei in Rome, Italy, a block of buildings of many epochs.
To distinguish this section from the others it carries the name of a Mattei fief, Giove. The Mattei owned a number of other palazzi that carried the family name including Palazzo Mattei di Trastevere across the Tiber as well as properties in Umbria, the Palazzo Mattei Paganica.

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Carlo Maderno designed the palace at the beginning of the 17th century for Asdrubale Mattei, Marquis di Giove and father of Girolamo Mattei and Luigi Mattei. He was also the brother of Ciriaco Mattei and Cardinal Girolamo Mattei. It was Maderno who was responsible for the extravagantly enriched cornice on the otherwise rather plain stuccoed public façade, the piano nobile loggia in the courtyard and the rooftop loggia or altana.

nyny1For the interior of the palazzo, Pietro da Cortona was commissioned to execute the pair of compositions on the ceiling of the gallery, dating before 1626. In the early 19th century, a group of paintings from the collection at the palazzo was purchased by William Hamilton Nisbet and removed to Scotland.

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Like others of the Mattei family, Asdrubale Mattei was an enthusiastic patron of the arts. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (better known simply as Caravaggio) is recorded as living at the palazzo in 1601. (source: Wikipedia)

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The loggia and architectural details are exquisite. This is the kind of place you see in sweeping vintage films set in Rome, the kind of place you read about in the Grand Old Tour by classically educated travelers from the 18th and 19th century. The students who spend time here are so lucky.

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There’s not a corner or ledge that is not interesting. If you visit make sure to view the whole courtyard and go upstairs to the top terrace.

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Go through the arched “doorway” in between the large statues, underneath the carved lamp.

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Across the small cobblestone road is an ancient fountain and face sun dial with beautifully carved in stone.

//photographs copyright rebecca price butler …

find my work on tumblr & pinterest … please link & credit me.

the borghese & pincio

The Pincian Hill statue and fountain, walk to the end of the Pincio and stand where the people are for a breathtaking sunset over Rome’s nearby and far away cupolas, churches, renaissance homes and marble and stone.

The Villa Borghese garden park is the most beautiful, breathtaking city park I’ve ever seen. When in Rome, we usually stay on the Via Veneto at the gorgeous Grande Albergo Flora. It’s next to an 1100 year old wall which leads to the park.

Families and couples rent these little golf carts to stroll around the park on the weekends.

We take a leisurely stroll through the park every morning, passing by cyclists and flaneurs, children and fruit sellers.

borghese ramble, rome, italy, 2012 (digital).

In one section of the large park there is fresh fruit and juice sold by a Parisian looking cart. The juice is amazing.

rome in the spring time, 2012, (digital)

Romans bicycle in the park and visitors rent bicycles to ride all afternoon through the beautiful surroundings.

The Dandy Travelers, Rome, Italy, 2008 (film)

The stone and marble details of the ornately carved benches and walls are commonplace, tourists perusing a map or Romans can sit and take in the lush outdoor decor. There is nothing like this in America.

yeah, so i’m pretty much going to be photo bombing this tumblr with a lot of pincio photographs because it’s only the prettiest place on earth & insanely photogenic, especially with the sun slung low.

You know you’ve walked into the Pincio part of the Borghese when you see all the statues and busts of Italian notables.

There’s a bird aviary, 18th centurary statuary, fountains, winding garden lanes and wide boulevards, with the scent of lemon and orange and cypress trees. There’s a pond and lazy Sunday park benches and fields where Roman’s lunch and steal kisses.

a beautiful escape, flaminio, villa borghese park, rome, italy, 2012 (digital)

Borghese pond, Rome, Italy, 2012 (digital)The pond in the Borghese is stunning. People rent charming little rowboats and children sail toy boats on the lake. There are ruins nearby and this “boat house” is historical and beautiful.

if you find yourself in rome close to sunset, get yourself over to the ancient pincio hill and allow the dusk to soften the cypress, the cupolas, the church bells, the renaissance busts, the gorgeous little paths. The golden hour right before sunset is the most magical time to be here. 

I thought nearly all of my holiday photographs of two weeks in Rome were gone forever… tonight I came home from work to find my 16GB hard drive key in the mail on my doorstep… I have loads of beautiful pictures to go through. I am so happy and grateful I could sing. Editing and sharing a few while I sip champagne pink grapefruit cocktails and re-watching the series Rome. Full of bursting gratitude my pictures aren’t lost forever!

Kids rollerblade on the Viale delle Magnolie (avenue of the Magnolias) – a magnolia tree lined paved street leading to the Pincio that reminds me of New Orleans when the magnolias are in bloom.

The Borghese homes (now museums,boutique hotels and lavish restaurants and quiet cafes) are all high renaissance architecture, housing some of the greatest of the world’s art treasures; Bernini, Bellini, Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael, Rubens, Canova, among countless beautiful objects and amazing paintings and sculptures.

nice little lunch and drink cafe in the beautiful villa borghese park. rome, italy, 2012 (digital)

This was a great cafe right in the park with good espresso, wines, juice, small plates and desserts. It had perfect outdoor ambience.

The original gardens were the famed ancient Gardens of Lucullus and later “became the favorite playground of Claudius’ Empress Messalina (after she forced the current owner, Valerius Asiaticus, to commit suicide – Tac. Annals XI.1), and was the site of her murder on the orders of the Emperor Claudius, her husband. In the 16th century they were owned by Felice della Rovere, daughter of Pope Julius II. In 1605, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V and patron of Bernini, began turning this former vineyard into the most extensive gardens built in Rome since Antiquity.” (Wikipedia)

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Orange trees from a “secret garden” – through the gate.

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Lemon trees from a “secret garden” – through the gate.

Villa Borghese statue niche detail, secret garden courtyard, rome, italy, 2012 (digital)

Outdoor garden architecture!

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One of the spot’s I love most is the secret garden with the orange and lemon trees, next to the incredible Galleria Borghese. One looks through an iron fence to the 17th century splendor of the greenery.

A far away shot of the garden architecture of one of the “secret gardens”.

I slipped my arm between the iron fence and picked two beautiful oranges from a tree in the borghese gardens, planted in the renaissance, forbidden to commoners, on the former spot of the ancient roman gardens of lucullus. The fruit was bittersweet.

A far away shot of the orange and lemon trees from one of the “secret gardens”.

After enjoying the park, the gardens and perusing the art, we then walk to the Piazza d’Espagna (the Spanish Steps) and drink tea and eat scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam in the most British of all afternoon tearooms, the sumptuous, very 19th century, Babington Tea room.

If we’re feeling really ambitious we pop a couple doors over to the Keats and Shelley house, recite a little poetry, watch the passersby, and walk further into the city.

“The Secret Garden, is a charming characteristic which can be found in italian parks and gardens of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, when there was a revival of interest in all things ancient. These lovely enclosed spaces, often near their owners’ homes, were reserved for the invited and the privileged. Such places have a lovely atmosphere of seclusion, secrecy and tranquility, adding new dimensions of beauty to their surroundings.

The Villa Borghese had two “secret spaces”: one, shrouded by trees, is the garden of bitter oranges (Giardino dei melangoli) and has a lovely eagle fountain in front of its adjacent mansion; the second “The Flower Garden”, is the beautifully laid out formal garden. A third secret garden stretches in front of the Aviary, accompanied by the Meridiana (Sun dial) mansion, designed by Rainaldi.”

( http://www.italyguides.it/us/roma/rome/villa-borghese-gardens/villa-borghese.htm )

This will not be my last writing on the villa borghese parks and gardens. It’s a place I keep returning to and each visit brings something new to my world. If you go to Rome one day you must walk through this park and see a sunset on the Pincio. I hope you can explore this lovely place. And see the art work at the Villa Borghese museum, too!

//photographs copyright rebecca price butler …

find my work on tumblr & pinterest … please link & credit me.