Sumer is icumen in!

I haven’t blogged much about the history of the English language, but the arrival of summer is just begging for a quick introduction to something called Middle English. It's a form of English spoken in the Middle Ages, between the 11th and the 16th century. During that period, Old English underwent massive changes that eventually …

Searching for Cernunnos in Villefranche: a review of ‘Black Spot’

If you like dark and gloomy crime TV with a touch of supernatural and mythological, don’t miss the French series Black Spot on Netflix. When I first started watching Black Spot (orig. Zone blanche), I assumed it would be a typical crime story set in a small place in the middle of nowhere (just the …

How to interpret a poem (with a little help from Walt Whitman)

[This post has been written with ESL/EFL students in mind, CEFR level B2 and above.] Let’s be honest, reading poetry doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Same as with visual arts or classical music, sometimes it's difficult to understand complex symbolism or to follow a poet’s train of thought. And what to do with …

Queer in more ways than one: “Carmilla”, a Gothic literary classic

Think of literary vampires, and everyone’s first association is bound to be Bram Stoker’s Dracula hailing from that dark, mystifying land of Transylvania. Enormously influential as it has been, Dracula had a notable antecedent in the form of an even more ground-breaking, yet lesser known, vampiric antagonist - Carmilla - created by the Irish novelist …