Tag Archives: December 2014

All articles that were published in the December 2014 issue of MUSE Magazine.

Interview: Juliette Loesch and Eugénie Ribeiro

Image: Photo © Elvis Coimbra Gomes

Author: Corinne Morey

Interview with Juliette and Eugénie – 10th of December 2014

MUSE: Could you present yourselves briefly for us?

Juliette: Shall I start? I am Juliette, I am from Switzerland actually, I was born in Vevey. I have been doing ballet and contemporary dance ever since I was a child. I am in my second year of MA in English and French at the Unil.

Eugénie: Hi, I am Eugénie. I am a master student in English. Actually I don’t have any hobbies any more (joking). I don’t really have time to do anything else! But I used to like sports, tennis and snowboarding and such.

MUSE: Do you remember how you felt on your first day at Unil? Can you remember?

Eugénie: At that time, I had not gone to school for a year. I had taken a gap year between high school and Unil so it was pretty scary for me. I felt like I had forgotten everything I knew, but there was some part of excitement of course.

Juliette: Yes I guess for me too. It was a really new step. Everything was so big and there were so many people! I wasn’t used to that. But I remember the presentation for the English section. The teachers seemed all really nice and welcoming so that part reassured me.

Can you describe for us what your everyday tasks are as assistants?

Eugénie: My job usually consists in making posters and flyers for the department. When there is a special event in the section we usually also participate in the organization. Basically we are here for the teachers: we try to help them and do our best to make their life easier.

Juliette: I’m maybe more linked to the Linguistics section, for which I do administrative tasks, like contacting various people for different kinds of projects, or translations. I work more specifically with Jürg to help him set up his course for next semester on “Language Recovery after a Stroke”. Besides, we’re in charge of the Department Library, we do a few scans, and other administrative stuff.

And how would you describe how you feel in your current position in Unil?

Juliette: I would say I feel more at home now.

Eugénie: Yes.

Juliette: Actually, it really is like my little home.

Eugénie: Yes it is true. We study what we like, we do things we enjoy, teachers are always welcoming and very nice.

Can you think of a particular teacher who helped you decide and choose what you want for you yourselves and your life?

Eugénie: Go ahead, take this one.

Juliette: It is hard to pick just one, because a lot of them throughout my school years had an influence. My French teachers in secondary school and high school really helped me see that literature was my thing. And now at Unil, many of the English teachers have also mattered a lot in my choices. They really helped me see what I want to do in my life, maybe Martine more specifically since she’s the one who introduced me to Translation Studies.

Eugénie: My English teacher in high school influenced my choice truly. But I guess I would say that Agniezska is the one who made me discover that I really enjoy Gothic fictions and those kind of readings.

Which is your favourite quote?

Eugénie: “If opportunity doesn’t knock… Build a door” – Milton Berle

Juliette: It’s really hard to pick one quote, but maybe Nietzsche’s “Without music, life would be an error.”

If the English Department was an animal, what would it be and why?

Juliette: A Cat! she says bursting out laughing.

Eugénie: Yes, something cuddling, you know, something cute and always warm.

Juliette: but still independent!

Eugénie: Yes, something cute and nice. A little Guinea pig, or maybe not, I don’t know, she laughs. Let’s say a dog. It’s like your best friend but still you should not mess with it too much.

Do you have future plans, or should we not talk about that?

Juliette: I would like to do a PhD and stay as long as possible at University, though I know it is very very difficult to pursue an academic career afterwards. But I’ll try at least a PhD, then we will see.

Eugénie: Yes, me too. The more I study here, the more I want to work here. However if that does not work out I guess I’ll just become some kind of French teacher, though that is not really the first option.

What is your dream?

Juliette: Not to have regrets, I would say, and to be happy with the choices I made and where I’m going. And try to enjoy the moment.

Eugénie: Personally, I want to have the feeling that I have lived, you know, that I have done things, that I have travelled and I did not simply stay put, doing nothing at all.

If your colleague was a color, what would she be and why?

Eugénie: Juliette would be pink. She is always happy and nice. Or yellow like the sun. She is always in a good mood, ready to help you.

Juliette: Oh I really don’t know

Eugénie: Just say orange, no need to explain.

Juliette: Yes orange is quite good. It is lively like you. And it’s a warm colour, which shows how caring you are, always ready to help others (sometimes to the point of forgetting about yourself).

Which is your favourite band now?

Eugénie: For me right now it is Tegan and Sara, Canadian twin sisters.

Juliette: For me it is the Arctic Monkeys.

Eugénie: We have very different taste in music. I don’t know much about Juliette’s music. Every band she listens to I have never heard of, she laughs.

Juliette: I like what she listens to actually. Angus and Julia Stone for example. The last concert you went to of Ben Howard. He is quite nice as well.

Which was you favourite band when you were 13, if you remember?

Juliette: It was U2. Bands like U2 or Queen have been around ever since I was a kid, she laughs.

Eugénie: I used to love Sum41, Linkin Park, you know, these rock bands, Avril Lavigne.

Juliette: Oh yeah! Sk8ter boy and all.

Now for seasonal questions: Do you like the Christmas season?

Juliette: Yes! Because we can watch Love Actually again! she laughs. Christmas season is fun. It is the only part of winter that is cool, because I don’t really like winter actually.

Eugénie: Well for me winter is cool when there is snow, but there is not even snow now. It is just cold. Though I still think it is nice.

What does Christmas mean to you?

Eugénie: Gifts! Money! she jokes. Family gatherings and such, you know. My birthday actually comes right after Christmas so it is really a festive time and a celebration for me.

Juliette: I would say that too, it’s really about family gatherings around great food for me.

Do you still believe in Santa Claus?

Juliette: I can’t answer, she laughs.

Eugénie: Of course! Don’t you!?

Do you have a favourite Christmas song?

Juliette: I would say Wham’s Last Christmas.

(link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8gmARGvPlI)

Eugénie: I guess for me it would be Michelle Branch’s song called River. It is not a true traditional Christmas song but it is beautiful.

(link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gl1CefBWFZo)

Thank you!

Of Her – Poems by Edgars Mezaraup

Image: Painting © Anete Mezaraupa

Author: Edgars Mezaraup

“Of her”

 

Lipstick Red

 

Even drunk

I think.

 

Arousing shapes in disco shades

Tempt my eye and shake my mind,

Still I sit and still I languish

For the crimson red and, yes,

I think.

 

I don’t think.

I never think of you

I only dream of you,

Sweet as a sweet dream

Are you.

 

Little Clouds

 

To where the mushrooms grow

I shall go

Forget the world as it is.

 

Too much of imbecile is being done

Too many a hope – forlorn.

 

Naught but red flows in the heart,

Naught but red on the lips and puffy eyes

Make me lost.

 

Truly, if cuteness something means, it means

Those little clouds when you smile.

The Power of Fiction

Image: Photo © 2014 Sandrine Spycher

Author: Sandrine Spycher

The Power of Fiction

Last October, in my American Literature class, a question was raised about the “limits” of fiction and who decides about them. The debate was about an author who had to face a trial because one of his characters expressed racist ideas.

That is so wrong on so many levels, and I need to raise a few points in the matter.

First of all, let’s think about Roland Barthes. To simplify his theory of the “death of the author” to the extreme, it says that the author loses their identity in the act of writing. The author somehow dies symbolically in the act of writing. No, this doesn’t mean that all your favorite writers are dead (although, sadly, mine are…). What it means is that it is not the author, but the reader who gives meaning to the text. Each reader interprets the text in their own way, which might be different from the author’s—who, let’s not forget, is also a reader. Tell me just how then can an author be accused of their character’s behavior when that character is actually open to diverse interpretations?

Let me make another—different—point. I won’t even try to explain Derrida’s theory in detail (you should rather ask Elvis for that; he’s a big fan!), but I’ll just say this: there isn’t only one meaning to words and this enables fiction to speak about society in different ways. So instead of accusing the author, we should read in between the lines, deconstruct the text so that different meanings arise. Moreover, Derrida condemns binary oppositions. In this case: author versus reader, or reality versus fiction. By deconstructing those binary oppositions, we can put the reader on the same level as the author, with interpretations just as important (like I argued above using Barthes’s concept). And fiction would become as important as reality? you ask, skeptically frowning. Yes, just keep reading, you’ll understand.

I’m sure you all know the famous Doctor Freud and his theory of dreams as the perfect place to analyze the unconscious. In short, the theory says that dreams, although they’re most of the time absurd, show the desires/thoughts/lusts/will of murder/etc. that are hidden in the unconscious of the subject. Now replace “dreams” by “fiction” and “subject” by “society” and you’ll see my point (which was actually suggested to me by Elvis). So fiction is the unconscious of society; what on Earth does that mean? It means that society’s repressed problems appear in fiction, just like repressed desires appear in dreams. And, as an author, once you’ve noticed that, you can play with it, you become the psychoanalyst of society and, one by one, you reveal each problem. You then start making people aware—conscious—of everything surrounding them.

I will now come to a more personal explanation on the matter, using my own work as example. My work is fiction, yes, but to some extent I want it to be realistic and reflect the society in which I live. Therefore I will not write some sort of politically correct stuff. I will not have only WASP male protagonists. I will not write of a world where the norms of the elite rule society. I will not write of a world where everyone loves each other and goes happily hand in hand. My characters might be racist, they might be gay, or they might be cold-blood killers. I want them to have various personalities and origins. I want my readers to believe in them. So if you are shocked because my racist killer has shot my black character, just open your eyes and look at the real world. Look at how that kind of story happens every day.

I am by no means promoting racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other kind of discrimination. I am denouncing it. And to do so, I have to make my stories real, inspired from this “modern” society which needs to be cleansed up of all kinds of problems instead of repressing them into its unconscious. I want to deconstruct—or even demolish—received ideas about how fiction should make readers evade into some sort of otherworld made of happy endings. (I guess that’s why I drifted away from writing heroic/epic fantasy.)

Moreover, I think fiction should not be censored. If you do not want to see discrimination, then I would advise you to go live on your own in the most remote place, maybe somewhere in Antarctica. My work is not a victim of censorship because I chose to self-publish it. I am the writer. I choose my subject. I do not think there should be any “limits” to fiction, as long as the readers are aware of the extent of potentially “shocking” material in it.

So let’s re-focus on what was the main point of the article. That author (whose name I stupidly forgot) should not have had to face any trial because of his character’s racist convictions. I think it’s time we opened our eyes on our surroundings. And it is not by falsely accusing an author of staging discrimination that we will stop actual discrimination.

Sandrine Spycher

Poems by Elvis Coimbra Gomes

Image: source

Author: Elvis Coimbra Gomes

INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS

I remember how I got here,
How it surrounded me with fear.
Its mesmerizing texture,
Smooth layered dust luster,
Appealed my curiousness
To a certain excess.
The sun’s sweltered light,
Blinding and melting my sight,
Shined on the uncracked mud’s crust,
Tannish sand’s rust.
Eager to examine
This deep sludge-filled basin,
I plunge my hand
Into the surface of the sand
And lost my balance
Along with my prudence.
Sinking down into the unknown,
I feel how it wrings every single bone.
Now stuck in the dense viscosity
Of flabby, pulpy, mushy consistency,
Compulsively,
I try to get out of this trap
But liquefaction fills the empty gaps.
It stifles my body
With a breathtaking anxiety,
And I see no other solution
Than freezing my body’s motion.
The more I fight,
The more I sink
Tight.
Captured in this thick scare,
I see myself in sorrow despair.

 

WAKING UP

His feet are dragging on the floor,
I stand up and I applaud loudly in response to
This scrubbing sound (which) is raping my ears.
This girl, who cheated on me; she is aware of how
My sand filled eyes glimpse a tiny ray of light. Too bright.
She tore my heart. I’m stuck with this image where
The door handle is turned to the right. He leaves the room.
Two tongues sway the betrayal dance on saliva ground.

Silence surrounds me again. And I –
I’m pregnant! I feel an inner pressure against my testicles.
The door opens. His feet…The comeback.
Cut my belly with a saw and give birth to this being!
The noise! My dried mouth can’t yell at him.
What is that? Not human! This Xenomorph crawling
The water bottle, rustling plastic,
From the inside of my belly and grasp your face ferociously.

He uncaps it, drinks a Nano-gulp, followed by a sigh of relief.
I see people dropping down from the skyscrapers.
Hhhhhha… The sigh of great achievement.
The fall decays their bodies and their rotten odors invade
My nose! It burns. A reeking smell in the room.
The entire city! A virus! No adults survive, while
Chemical beauty is in the air; substances interact with skin and hair.
Childish anarchy is spread like fire. Power and chaos!

He arranges his hair in front of the mirror.
The reflecting surface is waving liquid silver. Suddenly, a bony hand
Goes out of the room and closes the door.
Springs out of it and seizes my neck with
His floor sweeping steps fading in the corridor…
Its flesh boring, long fragile fingers. I’m screaming in the crimson stream:
Good morning! I’m awaken with abused senses.

 

 

AH DERRIDA…

The more I understand
That I don’t understand
Your philosophy,
The more I understand
That it’s impossible
To fully understand.
However,
This understanding
Of misunderstanding
Brings me further
To understand.
But then again,
I will misunderstand
To understand again,
That it’s always already
In understanding
The misunderstanding.

 

 

YOU ARE THE FIRST, THE LAST, MY EVERYTHING

In this clear night,
I took you in my arms.
Touched you.
Felt your smooth body.
Slid my hand on your sexy curves,
Up to your neck.
Pressing my fingers on stimulating points
And sweeping my other hand
On your thick straight, smooth soft hair.
Your sound…
You like it.
I like it.
Harmony.
I will make love to you
Under the eager voyeurs’ sight,
And we will resonate our passion
Through our rhythm.
Maybe tonight
Is the night
You will touch my soul.
Again. Skin shivering.
As you know
Performance anxiety persists
Every single time,
Pounding my heart
Out of my chest.
This fear of unexpected failure
You don’t care.
That’s why I love you.
It’s not worth to imagine a life without you.
For eight years you’ve been there,
Picking up my pearly tears,
Filled with untold secrets. With pain.
I’m completely naked in front of you.
Shameless.
You will never cheat on me, never hurt me.
Though sometimes I hurt myself
When I go too hard on you,
When passion boils in our bodies,
From our chest, down our spines.
But you like it, as I like it.
The lights are on.
The crowd is yelling.
The stage is ready for us.
I will rock your body.
Let’s make harmonious love
All night long…

Humans of the English Department

Image: Photo © Flikr.com

Author: Rebecca Frey

Humans of the English Department

2014 is coming to its term and again I realize how time flies by super fast. My plan to figure out what comes next, after I leave the cosiness of UNIL, has not much evolved since the beginning of the year. So I decided to ask around and see what other ‘humans of the English Department’ have to say about their plans for that thing called ‘Future’. But I also wanted to know more about their childhood and asked a number of people two questions:

MUSE: What did you want to become as a child? And now? What do you want to be now?

Frank, 23: When I was a kid I wanted to be something between an astronaut and an archaeologist, maybe like an archaeologist on the moon!

And now… I want to be a rock star! … I’m still at university, I’m allowed to dream!

Chloe, 22: When I was about 5 I wanted to become a post office counter woman, because I loved to stamp things.

Now I want to be what I am meant to be… I don’t know… a singer!

Raphael, 23: Between the age of 7 and 13 I wanted to become an actor. Now: a filmmaker.

Philip, 27: As a child I wanted to be a football player. Now I want to become a full professor at UNIL or Harvard as second choice, (or else a go-go dancer).

Constance, 26: I wanted to be a lot of things as a kid: a baker, a pilot, an archaeologist, an astronomer and an archer (most things that started with an a really…). Now I want to be a journalist, or else a Red Cross special envoy.

Florence, 28: I wanted to be a Disney animator after I watched the Little Mermaid. My dad showed me the making of and I got really exited about that. Now I want to be either a filmmaker or a theatre director. (MUSE: Or both at the same time?) And maybe you could also put ‘famous’ in front of that!

Renaud, 27: When I was small I wanted to become an oceanographer… or oceanologist? Anyway… now I just want to be happy!

Damien, 28: I always wanted to become a palaeontologist, but I didn’t manage… maybe because I didn’t dig deeply enough. Now I, I guess just want to be an outsider, a bit off and with a shovel in my hand…

Marie, 25: I wanted to become a fashion stylist and then an archaeologist. And now, now I just don’t want to be bored.

Agnieszka, 46: I spent my whole childhood planning to be a vet and I enrolled in university as I biology major at first. Now if I had to change jobs or could start over again I would become an investigative reporter. I think it’s a super important profession and it would be nice to feel like your work can make a difference. With teaching it’s harder to see long term results.

Valeria, 24: I wanted to become a fashion designer when I was a child, and now I am torn between actor and writer, or anything to do with theatre and film or publishing and writing.

Frédéric, 22: I always wanted to become a rail-road engineer driving locomotives. Now I want to become Boris Vejdovsky’s PhD student.

Luc, 24: I also wanted to be a rail-road engineer but on a very precise section of line, between Porrentruy and Alle. (For your information: the distance between Porrentruy and Alle is 4.7km, it is a 5min train drive. MUSE)

Now I probably want to be an inspiring French teacher somewhere abroad, starting with the US.

Patricia: I wanted to become a veterinary surgeon when I was a child. Now I want to be a linguist at university of Lausanne.

Merry Christmas from a Playmobile Santa Clause
Merry Christmas from a Playmobile Santa Claus!

English Department Quiz

Our partner, Books Books Books, the only English bookshop in Lausanne, and ourselves are launching a quiz that will allow you to win awesome coupons for the bookstore! All you have to do is complete the quiz and send it to muse.unil@gmail.com (please indicate in the subject “Books Books Books contest”) until the 15th January, and we will choose three lucky winners by drawing lots from the people who have successfully answered the questions.

The first prize will get a 50 CHF coupon, the second one a 30CHF coupon and the third winner will get a 20CHF coupon. Isn’t this great? Think about all the books you’ll be able to buy – this is paradise!

Good luck!

(Hint: you will find all the answers on the department’s website, so start browsing!)

 

English Department Quiz

  1. Who edited Kathleen Jamie’s poems?

a. Kirsten Stirling

b. Rachel Falconer

c. Enit Steiner

  1. Who worked on a volume called Essential Grammar in Use?

a. Boris Vejdovsky

b. Roelof Overmeer

c. Martine Hennard Dutheil

  1. Who is in charge of the department’s Language Lab?

a. Louise Gladwin

b. Marie Emilie Walz

c. Alexandre Fachard

  1. Who, amongst others, is working on late medieval religiosity in England?

a. Camille Marshall

b. Mary Flannery

c. Diana Denissen

  1. Who directed a Mémoire on “urban sprawl and the hip hop revolution”?

a. Agnieszka Soltysik Monnet

b. Alexandre Fachard

c. Marco Nievergelt

  1. Who wrote a volume on Hell in contemporary literature?

a. Philip Lindholm

b. Patricia Ronan

c. Rachel Falconer

  1. Who studied at the University of Vienna?

a. Anita Auer

b. Marije van Hattum

c. Najat Zein

  1. Who is working on contemporary Colombian television?

a. Rachel Nisbet

b. Isis Giraldo

c. Tino Oudesluijs

  1. Who is in charge of the Advanced Essay-Writing Workshop?

a. Kader Hegedüs

b. Denis Renevey

c. Marie Walz

  1. Who published a book on Jane Austen in Switzerland?

a. Valérie Cossy

b. Kader Hegedüs

c. Jurg Schwyter

Birthday

Image: Christmas tree. Source

Author: Marina Karpova

Birthday

I love winter.

In winter our garden becomes so clean that it sparkles in sunlight. I adore these little white flies that fall from the sky to make the air fresh. Yet I feel very angry with them every time they bite the hands of our kids. These two little fellows work hard all day to crunch out intricate patterns with their steps on the ground. However, unfortunately, every night those patterns disappear under the brand new carpet.

In winter I have my Birthday. When this day comes our garden loses its usual tranquility and becomes a luminous place with uncountable flashings. Each and every single light mirrors in my golden necklaces making them like fire. Poor white flies, they cannot bear all this brightness, so I see them vanishing when they approach the lights. My red festive outfit contrasts with the whiteness of the garden to celebrate the singularity of this day.

The world overloads with various sounds and seems to be constantly in movement. Even the glossy paper my presents are wrapped in cannot stay silent: it rustles, attracting the white flies’ attention. They fall on the colorful boxes of different shapes and sizes in hope to figure out what’s inside. It’s pointless to hide that I am also deeply curious, yet I always wait until next morning so the kids could open boxes with me. In the morning the air is saturated with their shouts of joy and happiness. All the family comes together to sing a Happy Birthday Carol for me which echoes with warmth in my heart…

Peanut Butter Cookies

Image: © Corinne Morey

Author: Corinne Morey

Peanut Butter Cookies

For all those of you who love peanut butter, this recipe is your jackpot. These cookies are truly my all time favourites. But be careful, once you start you cannot stop, I guarantee it.

This recipe is given in American measures (cups and spoons). But do not be frightened. 1 cup = 230ml. So grab a cup about this size and you’re good. Spoons is easy. Table spoon is a soup spoon. Tea spoon is a normal spoon. And there you go! American already!

Preparation: about 45min

Makes about 2 ½ dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • ½ cup granulated white sugar
  • ½ cup granulated brown sugar
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ½ butter softened (=125gr)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¼ cups normal flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  1. Heat oven to 180°C.
  2. In a large bowl, beat sugars, peanut butter, butter and egg with electric mixer on medium speed or with a spoon until well blended. Stir in flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  3. Take two clean table spoons or your hands in order to shape little balls of 3-4 cm of dough that you place on your baking sheet/pan. Leave at least 3 cm between each ball.
  4. Flatten each ball with a fork in a crisscross pattern like on the image. Do not press to hard. Cookies should stay about 3-5mm thick. If you wish you can sprinkle a little sugar on the cookies in order to give them a crystal shiny finish.
  5. Bake 9 to 10 minutes or until light brown. Cool for 5 minutes then remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Image: Photo © Wikimedia Commons. Source

Author: Corinne Morey

Chocolate Chip Cookies

You’ve all probably heard of the mythical Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream from Ben&Jerry’s. Perhaps you did not understand why Americans would create such a weird flavor. Well my dear friends, once you’ll have followed this original recipe, you will quickly understand America’s national enthusiasm for this dough. And to be totally honest here, tasting the dough when making pastries is clearly one of the best parts. Just saying.

This recipe is given in American measures (cups and spoons). But do not be frightened. 1 cup = 230ml. So grab a cup about this size and you’re good. Spoons is easy. A tablespoon is a soupspoon. A teaspoon is a normal spoon. And there you go! American already!

Preparation: about 55 minutes

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3⁄4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 3⁄4 cup granulated brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup softened butter (= 125gr of butter)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1⁄4 normal flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (=bicarbonate de sodium, easy to find at the pastry shelf in your food shops)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1⁄2 to 2 cups of dark chocolate chips
  1. Heat oven to 180°C.
  2. In a large bowl, beat sugars, butter, vanilla and egg with an electric mixer on medium speed, or a spoon, until well blended. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt (the dough will me quite stiff and sticky). Stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Take two clean table spoons or your hands in order to shape little balls of 3-4 cm of dough that you place a your baking sheet/pan. Like this!
    Chocolate Chip Cookies
    shape the cookie dough into small balls

    Leave at least 4 cm between each ball! The cookies will flatten with the heat and take much more space.

  4. Bake 8-10 min or until light brown. Cool 1 or 2 minutes (but not very long) and remove cookies from sheet to a cooling rack. If you wait longer, the cookies may stick to the pan.
  5. Repeat the shaping and cooking process until no more dough is left in your bowl.

Enjoy!

Learning A New Language

Image: Photo © Lila Mabiala

Author: Lila Mabiala

Learning a New Language

I’m currently trying to learn Flemish. This time it’s out of love. I say this time because I’ve had my fair share of learning languages. French and English are respectively my mother- and father-tongues. People are often confused by this; French seems natural as my mother is Swiss, but my Congolese father seemingly didn’t have any reason to speak English with his children. Explaining this would take a whole different article but let’s say that I probably got my language genes (if there are such things) from him. Long story short, he’s an English teacher and chose this language to communicate with us. So French and English were the first in my collection.

Next came Swahili, during a year-long stay in Tanzania. I was then just about to turn 10 and had no prior notions of this Bantu language. In order to help us to adapt and integrate, our parents opted for sending us to a local school. The trick was in putting us in a standard (year) 1 class with children much younger than us, but with whom we would learn the basics: the alphabet, spelling, numbers, etc. This, added to playtime conversations and neighbourhood games meant we were soon able to understand and be understood. It was also during this stay outside of a conventional school setting for us that we started to learn German. This was done with the perspective of later being able to re-join the Swiss system with the same language level as our peers. We did this in such a playful and almost detached manner that I never really had the feeling I was actively learning. I still remember the songs my sister and I made up to remember the genders of all the animals, so that was obviously an effective technique. More than 10 years later (and having had a refresher course of 6 months half-way through this time), I have realised that my Swahili, while completely operational at an everyday level never really went beyond that. In fact, I might struggle to have any specialised conversations involving specific vocabulary. Interestingly though, when we travelled to the eastern, Swahili-speaking region of DRC, our childish brand of Swahili was considered over-structured and almost pompous in comparison with the local dialect.

My learning of German resumed 2 years later. I was then back in Switzerland, in year 7. I was allowed to have private tuition hours with my teacher considering I had missed out on such a long period of time. I didn’t have these for very long and again I don’t have a clear feeling of having had to work hard to catch up. Instead it meant that I felt comfortable and enjoyed these three years of learning. I went on to get my “certificat” and even got the class prize for German, which I’m still proud of today. This tendancy continued and after my “maturité” I went on to briefly take university classes in German literature and obtained my level B2 Goethe certificate.

Back in year 7 I had two other language learning experiences. First, having to study English with my classmates. Though annoying and mainly boring, I’m sure this gave me a deeper understanding of the language as a foreign one which I hadn’t got while at primary school in England. Then came Latin. Now as opposed to my breezy navigation of German, Latin did not come naturally, and I had the catastrophic marks to prove this. I really struggled with learning vocabulary, and translations were a troublesome, but at least funny affair. What do you mean in French? I cannot understand what you mean in English. I applied what my teacher called the “hat” method where I would disregard the cases of words and translate their meanings into a sentence in random order. This was the first time I struggled with a new language but I put it down to it being dead and therefore literally impracticable. At least I gained an insight into the DNA of French, and I guess I can have fun trying to make up some Italian when I’m abroad.

Then, ladies and gentlemen, I attempted to learn Japanese. This was some six years after last beginning a new language from scratch. I decided to take it up as my second subject at university. I took it as a challenge, to compensate for taking English Literature, which I felt very at home with (and considering English is still taught as a foreign language for the first few semesters, I feared the boredom would return). Looking back, I can’t really tell what exactly went wrong with that plan. But something did go wrong and I experienced true failure for the first time in my career as a student. I enjoyed learning to write kanas and basic kanjis, I understood the grammar, and could do exercises. But it’s as if I grew out of breath and soon couldn’t keep up with tests and eventually failed the first year exam. Twice. And when I repeated the first year and passed, I gave up half way through the second year. So now I had to work on a theory to explain this failure. If I failed at Latin because it is a dead language, why couldn’t I learn Japanese, a language which I could hear being spoken around me (I was tutoring 5 different Japanese students at the time, helping them learn English, French and German according to their school settings)? How come I didn’t find the motivation to outdo myself and enjoy communicating with people I was close to? I have a tendency to think that university isn’t the place to learn a language. Dusty old rooms aren’t made for learning a vibrant, living language (it’s a cliché but I can tell you we were stuck into the oldest, dustiest corners of the University of Geneva). Other times I think that the others in my classes were so enthusiastic, so into Japanese as a culture, a frame of reference and a way of life, that I couldn’t keep up. Having neither ever read a manga or watched an anime in my life, I didn’t connect with my classmates. Maybe this stopped me from being motivated enough to invest myself 100%. Or was it the teachers? Rather strict, with a grammarian approach to the language, taking things out of books? Either way, it just didn’t work out. I do hope that I’ll be able to use my basic skills to build up my Japanese somewhere further down my path, in a better setting. Though I started out just wanting to learn something new for the fun of communicating in a different way, obviously I lacked the motivation to take it seriously.

So now I’m learning Flemish. In fact I’m learning Dutch, and will count on my boyfriend to break down the aspects which don’t correspond to the Belgian way of things. So far it’s going rather well. I’m using a website/app which I can access whenever I have time. It practices the speaking, listening, writing and reading aspects of the language. Lessons are organised by subject, which at first I found rather frustrating (why learn about to say “turtle” and “rhino” before I can even count…??). But soon I found it drives me to learn faster in order to get to the vital bits. 2 years ago I had no notions of Dutch at all. After meeting my boyfriend and spending time with his family, I gradually developed an ear and can now understand most of what is going on during conversations. But I realised understanding was nowhere near enough to allow me to express myself. I was hesitant, shy, and relied too heavily on “frenemy” language German to say the most basic things.

So here I am, trying once more to fold my mind into the right configurations, using memorisation, intuition, and all those long forgotten techniques. Funnily enough, it also comes at a time when I’m studying education sciences and the best strategies for learning, and cognitive psychology of language. It makes me feel more aware of the processes I use and will hopefully help me to correct the elements that went wrong before. I think my experience proves that the setting in which we learn a language, rather than a specific age window, affect our motivation and success rates. Not only is it important to understand this when learning a new language, but for the teaching-inclined, these are vital things to keep in mind. So here’s to hoping I make a good impression at the Christmas dinner in my Belgian family! Oh and then what, you ask? Well, maybe Spanish. That’ll help with the next destinations on my travel wish list. Claro que si!

P.s: If anyone has the required skills to understand the riddle in the picture (seen in Venice, summer 2014), please come forward. Some kind of mystical language is involved I suspect.

Indie Author G. G. Atcheson

Image: Cover design for The Legacy: Fate by Yanik Dallaire. Source

Author: Sandrine Spycher

Indie Author G. G. Atcheson

G. Atcheson, born in Montreal, Canada, is an independent author whose science-fiction books are already high-rated by online reviewers. And although she hated writing at school, Mrs Atcheson has always been a self-proclaimed dreamer. Words didn’t find their way to the paper, but many stories still lived in her mind. “Whether it was to put me to sleep at night or on the long commutes to work,” she says, “I’d close my eyes and imagine.” That imagination only needed a little impulse to turn into The Legacy series. That impulse happened one night as Mrs Atcheson was discussing TV shows, movies, and books with her husband; they found out that the two things they liked most (aliens and vampires) never appeared together. Soon after, she sat down at her computer to write her sci-fi novels.

G. Atcheson chose to self publish her novels because of the freedom it allowed her. And above all, she “wanted [her] characters to stay how [she] imagined them and not how the publisher would want them.” She writes her books in the point of view of an alien as a kind of linguistic strategy. Indeed, born in Montreal from French speaking parents, Mrs Atcheson does not write in her mother tongue but in English, especially after moving to the United States in 2000. She chose to write from that particular point of view so that her mistakes wouldn’t show. However, she needn’t worry about this issue because, like a reviewer told her, her French origin doesn’t show in her writing. And this shows just how meticulous she is in her work.

G. Atcheson’s science-fiction novel The Legacy: Fate is the story of LX (or Alex for Earthlings) who crashes on Earth, light-years away from his destination, while on an exploration mission. Alex knows he must not fraternize with the natives, and he does his best to keep away from them. That is, until he meets Mellie, an attractive young woman with speed and strength which, though unknown to Earthlings, are oddly similar to Alex’s own special abilities. He will thus start going out with her, first out of scientific interest but soon also because of tender feelings. For her, Alex will break his own people’s rules up to the point of no return. He will face betrayal at the hands of his new friends, and torture at those of his new enemies. And while Alex might be the only chance to save Earth from doom, he may have to break his primary Oath: the vow never to take a life.

The Legacy: Fate is a very well constructed novel with lots going on: unexpected plot twists, sub-plots combining into incredible climax, complex characters evolving on different levels, etc. The book starts with a short prologue which immediately throws the reader in the action, promising a thrilling and entertaining story. The language is fluid and makes for a quick read. Moreover, the pronoun you is used to address an implied reader in a quite light and witty dialog-like style. The novel is written through the eyes of an alien, with an internal focalization. This allows several powerful things. First, a lot of suspense is created as the reader discovers what happens at the same time as the protagonist. Then, a funny level is added to the story with the alien’s misunderstanding of Earthlings’ manners and jokes. More importantly, this particular narrator is cleverly used by Mrs Atcheson to criticize some human practices (such as hunting, for instance). The alien’s viewpoint is also an interesting device to defamiliarize certain common things. Money, for example, is referred to as “thin paper used in trades.” Earth’s description through alien eyes at the beginning of the novel is very striking as well. One more strength of this brilliant novel is the great intertextuality. One cannot read Alex’s exploits without thinking of Superman. A lot of historical events are also quickly mentioned to give some background to the novel and to enrich the character of Alex. There are, however, little reproaches that could be addressed to Mrs Atcheson about Fate. The most important one would be the projection of Earth traditions on her alien protagonist (he prays God, wears a wedding ring, etc.). Another negative point is that of the missing parental advisory. Indeed, the novel contains some swearing and sex scenes, but the reader has no way to know it before actually reading those scenes. Besides, these sexual encounters are almost the only descriptions of the protagonists’ relationship. The final combat scene is also slightly disappointing as its main focus is somewhat displaced from the main narrative (but I won’t say more, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you). The Legacy: Fate could also have done with a little more editing, but it is nevertheless a very clever novel which surprises by how well very different things—ravaging weather, aliens, vampires, and crime—are brought together. And what is most astounding is that it actually works; everything incredibly fits together despite the different genres.

G. Atcheson writes in the hope to give company to lonely people. As she says herself, “more people than we know are alone. Sometimes it’s by choice, other times it’s due to health reasons. They are stuck at home or in the hospital, and I believe books offer a good way to occupy their time. Our characters become their friends. As an author, we owe them good stories with relatable characters, something that will keep their mind off their everyday struggle.” Mrs Atcheson has this very humane mind (just like her character Alex) which also shows in her love for pets. Not only did she want to be a vet when she was a teenager, but she now owns three dachshunds and two cats. And although she admittedly writes for herself first, she also wants to share her fiction with sci-fi fans. “I hope that others who have a special love for [science-fiction] will be happy to discover there is someone out there who is writing about them. I can’t be the only one, can I?” Indeed she isn’t the only one. G. G. Atcheson writes original and unique stories, with great potential for more perfection and which would deserve a place on your shelf.

Building Your Very Own Gingerbread House

Image: Photo © Flikr.com

Author: Rebecca Frey

Gingerbread House(s)

Here’s a recipe for all those who want to get their hands not necessarily dirty but into some real tasty dough. After all the essay writing this should be a welcome change and I can assure you, baking can be quite relaxing! And if on top of that, you want to impress your friends and family and get back in touch with your inner child, here you go:

This recipe is for about 10 people or lets rather say a whole gingerbread village! Feel free to reduce the ingredients if you don’t want your home to be overloaded with a Hansel and Gretel atmosphere… Plan two days for this adventure: preparation time is roughly 2 hours but you have to let the dough rest over night!

Ingredients:

dough

  • 700g honey
  • 200g sugar
  • 200g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons coca powder
  • 2 little bags of gingerbread spice
  • 1 kg flour
  • 2 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 5 to 6 tbsp of milk
  • 4 tbsp baking powder

icing

  • 2 egg whites
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 6 drops of lemon juice
  • 1 vanilla pod

decoration

  • flower for the working plane
  • powder sugar
  • various sweets for decoration

How to go about it:

  1. gingerbread dough
  • melt honey, sugar, butter in water-bath, mix slightly with a wooden spoon, cool down
  • whisk together with eggs, lemon zest, coca powder and spices
  • add flour and mix well
  • in a cup dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in 3 or 4 tablespoons of milk
  • in another cup dissolve the baking powder in the rest of the milk
  • incorporate in both and knead together to a smooth dough
  • wrap the dough in transparent film and leave to rest over night at room temperature
  1. bake the gingerbread forms
  • (preheat your oven at 180°C)
  • on the next day quickly knead the dough again
  • spread out the dough 1 to 2 mm thick with a rolling pin on a floury working plane
  • draw templates for the roof and walls of your ginger bread house on cardboard, cut them out, check if your elements assemble nicely
  • put the templates on your spread out dough and cut along the edges with a sharp knife
  • use the rest of your dough to cut out chimneys, a door, Christmas trees, or any kinds of cookie shapes to decorate your gingerbread house
  • put all the forms on baking tray covered with baking foil and bake at 180°C for 5 to 10 min

Various Gingerbread house templates

simple: 2 triangles for the back and front, 2 rectangles for the roof

more complex: 2 pentagons for front and back, 2 rectangles for the roof, two rectangles for the sides

Rebecca’s Gingerbread templates

  1. icing
  • while your gingerbread is baking prepare the icing
  • whisk egg whites until stiff
  • add icing sugar and whisk till nicely thick and creamy
  • add lemon juice and vanilla (cut open the vanilla pod with a knife and scrape out the seeds)
  • fill the icing into a piping bag
  1. build the gingerbread house
  • prepare a solid and flat surface (for example thick cardboard covered in tin foil, or a tray of some sorts)
  • when your gingerbread forms are finished baking and have cooled down start building the houses by using the icing as glue to stick together walls and roof
  • let the house dry for at least half an hour before decorating
  • use the rest of your icing, sifted icing sugar and various sweets for decoration

Enjoy! And send us pictures of your magnificent Oeuvre!

Love,

Muse

A Paterian Charol

Image: Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Source

Author: Charlotte Coudresse

A Paterian Charol

“I shrink from approaching Pater’s style, which has a peculiarly disagreeable effect upon my nerves – like the presence of a civet cat”.

J.A. Symonds, Victorian poet, literary critic, and feline lover.

This article is a (futile) attempt to do justice to a figure that has progressively waded out from the conventional literary horizon. Walter Pater, as mesmerizing and influencing as he was in the Victorian “naughty nineties”, does not hold sway on the modern mindset. Too much does he typify the stiff and shy scholar with his natural quietude. His over-the-top theorisation of cultural icons, his swelling and stilted analysis grind the gears of modern critics. His purple and highly evocative style raises objections; bulimistic seems his foray into too many literary genres (essay, pseudo-biography, novel). Plus, not one single sane soul could confide in Pater’s objectivity. The impressionistic approach of the Studies in the History of the Renaissance bids adieu to any modern form of criticism. Pater does not vindicate Matthew Arnold’s classicism, which imposes a critical distance from the object of analysis. Contrariwise, he does not intend to escape the emotion engendered by a work of art (and paving the path for the reader-response criticism, by the way): the subjective reaction enacts the deeply elusive significance of the object of art. Therefore, the reader will not find any fact-grounded or historical criticism: only the “impression of pleasure” is the stake of interpretation, the lens that furnishes the key to Mona Lisa’ smile, or Du Bellay’s spleen-inducing exile in Roma. As surprising as it seems to the 20th century eye, the odds for Pater to shoot to stardom were high in the 19th, with Wilde crowning himself as his most prominent epigon. The outrageous aesthete (too quickly) drew the conclusion that Pater was the trailblazer of the new Hedonism. As a core figure in Oxford’s literary milieu but arcane author to the mass, Pater naturally felt flattered, notwithstanding an understandable wariness. For in the fray and bustle of decadence, in the collision between aestheticism and Victorian moralism, to purport the doctrine of art for art’s sake was a considerable danger, and Pater was soon deemed as poisonous and condemned to a metaphorical pilorit.

That too could be considered as an adjunct inducement for the modern reader, who will soon be enchanted by the long, winding phraseology and complex synthesis of every artistic manifestation in one single sentence. Take, as a foretaste, the literary portrait of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa:

“The presence that rose thus so strangely beside the waters, is expressive of what in the ways of a thousand years men had come to desire. Hers is the head upon which all “the ends of the world are come,” and the eyelids are a little weary… All the thoughts and experience of the world have etched and moulded there, in that which they have of power to refine and make expressive the outward form, the animalism of Greece, the lust of Rome, the mysticism of the middle age with its spiritual ambition and imaginative loves, the return of the Pagan world, the sins of the Borgias. She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave”.

Outrageously subjective, the all-encompassing association of diverse ideas conjures up an amiable wandering in a dream-like state, as well as it compels the reader to fuel the enthusiasm for old – to the verge of redundancy – topoi. The continuous fascination, from the fledgling allurement of the novice to the “hard, gem-like flame” of the weathered reader, holds sway in the long run, perhaps because of the diverse subjects that Pater embraces. His most praised essay on the Renaissance entails the pictural as well as the literary arts, from Leonardo de Vinci (quoted above) and Botticelli to less known figures, like the German scholar Winckelmann. This subjective line-up is easily explained by the fact that all of them embody a strong individuality that acts as a blazing torch for the centuries to come; an inspiration that would lead to a renewed understanding of life, to briskly sum up Pater’s conclusion.

For the gripped audience, Pater’s novel Marius the Epicurean would fulfil the wish of seeing a human, deep-coloured incarnation of the sometimes abstract philosophy (yes, let us confess that drawback, but we promise it is the only one). Pater wrote it out of fear of being hastily judged on his disreputable aestheticism, but notwithstanding the back-story, the novel, set up in the Roman age, remains compelling and singularly modern. Unless the Greek Studies reveal themselves as a must-read and compulsory input for the curious mind. Fortunately, the Oxford World’s Classics have recently re-edited the Renaissance studies for a modest price; the rest of the works can easily be bought in the Cambridge Library Collection. The Renaissance has not only swept the 14th,: it has also come for Pater, “dead many times”; nonetheless resurrect as swiftly as his dame Lisa.

PATER, Walter, Studies in the History of the Renaissance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

The Forgotten Muse

Image: Photo © Wikipedia.org

Author: Charlotte Courdesse

The Forgotten Muse

 

On the question: have you heard of Violet Piaget, most people will certainly answer negatively. So, one prim reader who is a (tiny) step ahead will try to make the best of your unforgivable ignorance by schooling you on an ill-starred and ill-defined figure. Let us hope that no bad writing will join these baleful premises. At any rate, I give you now Vernon Lee (aka the above romantic name); woman with many personae, whose knack in writing is not the most prominent of her numerous skills.

Curiouser and curiouser, you must mutter to yourself, and you will be right to do so. I personally would not have taken the trouble of delving into Mrs. Lee’s works – apologies, Mr.: one has to be on one’s guards, especially if one is a female in a phallocentric Victorian society (but the gender swapping is confusing; why hadn’t she thought about that?). Setting aside the mystery, I present you, this time in the customary formal fashion, an author whose areas of expertise cover not only cultural studies, but also Gothic literature (yes, that point should induce anyone who has got a sweet tooth for anti-normative horror– I strictly forbid any vampire-related pun).

The all-encompassing portrait does not stop here, for the exceptional nature of the writer still remains to be disclosed! Educating herself at home (with the notable help of a Swiss governess), polyglot (proficient in French and Italian, not mentioning her mother tongue), changing her name, were not the sole acts of daring Vernon Lee undertook. A counterpart of her male peers, she actively embraced the hack job, writing for periodicals; travelling worldwide ; publishing her first breakthrough work at twenty-four, not a model, albeit not a blueprint either: the Studies of the Eighteenth Century in Italy still propels attention nowadays. Moreover, as a female writer, Lee/Paget was primed to play with the oppressing norms, and many of her stories raise issues of female power; conflicting identities at odds with societal coercions. For instance, her novel Mrs. Brown rewrites Henry James’ Portrait of a lady, with a slightly different ending: the sour triumph of James’ heroine returning to the wedlock is here pictured as a capitulation (but this is not the place to rant on an author who deserves our respect and admiration. I will therefore contain my impulsions).

Anyway, Vernon Lee kept on with the good work and published a compendium of short stories, Hauntings, in 1890, Decadence era par excellence. Fin-de-siècle influence transpires through the eerie atmosphere and the textual ambiguity of her plots: never do we know the standstill moment when, from the certitudes of reality, we swing into the realm of fantasies. Every male narrator of Dionea, L’Amour dure, or The Wicked Voice, partakes of this feeling of estrangement. We don’t, cannot know – save that the object we behold is supernatural, strange, and marvellous. Lee pointed out that her ghosts were not genuine, but internal; expressing repressed (and often immoral) desires, a Sigmund Freud would even state. As the critic Nicole Fluhr insightfully says, “ Lee’s stories emphasize the cataclysmic consequences for subjectivity that ensue when one person seeks to know another”. That is a gate-away to surprise, on both sides of the sheet. In Dionea, an Italian doctor finds himself befuddled before the feats of a foundling child, rescued from a shipwreck and brought up in a nunnery, but little does he know that she is, in fact, Venus herself. Likewise, in L’Amour dure, the (again) male narrator fells in love with Medea de Capri, long-time dead duchess of the XVIth century, and would do anything to bring her back to life, even to the price of sacrifice; of himself, of morality. The wicked voice of a tenor of the XVIIIth century hinders a composer from writing his own melodies, but no proof of the reality of the ominous influence is given. The unreliability of each testimony (epistolary genre and diary) makes the reader wobble between truthfulness and mendacity. Past pervades present; pagan gods tread this earth; dead resurrect and address the living. Multiple enunciative voices speak out and contradict every tinge of common sense, but this uncertainty is what makes Lee’s stories so gripping. The word haunting acquires a significance it has rarely had.

Plus, Lee does not content herself with quiver-inducing narratives. On a first level of interpretation, one can assume the high strain of tension mingled with fear that the reading induces. On a deeper level, the causes of this bristling perhaps resides in the mystery of the hermeneutics, and the endless questions the text engenders. To what extent the absorption of a personality could go? Is the femme fatale an objective element unrelated to the narrator, or is she his own projections? How can an epoch be encapsulated in one individual without fictionalisation? And finally, how does one conscience construct her network of meanings? Vernon Lee’s texts are hotbeds for speculations, and the reader would have to undertake a hide-and-seek game to flesh out all their meanings.

LEE, Vernon, Hauntings and Other Fantastic Tales (1890). London: Broadview Editions, 2006.

FLUHR, Nicole, “Empathy and Identity in Vernon Lee’s Hauntings”, Victorian Studies 48.2, 287-294, 2005 https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/victorian_studies/v048/48.2fluhr.html

A Selection of Christmas Pop Songs

Image: Photo © Sing Us a Song by Amanda Munoz. Source.

Author: Jonathan Afonso

Along with decoratively lit Christmas markets, heart- and hand-warming mulled wine and snow (well, if we are lucky), December is the month of Christmas pop songs! This has been a tradition that the pop music industry has entertained since several decades and it is now a tradition, with almost every successful mainstream artist releasing a Christmas album at least once in their career (if not more). So, if you do not know what you should listen to during the following days, we at MUSE have gathered 10 songs that we think match perfectly the atmosphere of the season:

10) She & Him – I’ll Be Home for Christmas

New Girl creator Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward form the duo She & Him, whose music centres on an acute sense of vintage hipster stuff, crowned with the sweet and deep voice of Deschanel. As such, the Christmas album was compulsory for them, and well, they did it in 2011 and were acclaimed for their genius. Their cover of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is an instant classic that will make you want to cuddle anyone that’s near you because of all the love you will feel!

9) Billy Mack – Christmas is All Around

Cult Christmas movie and British romantic comedy Love Actually offers the revival of ancient singer Billy Mack, who tries to earn some money by recording a Christmas song. The song has all the features of classic pop music, with its beautiful and subtle chorus, its deep and meaningful lyrics (“You gave your presents to me / And I gave mine to you / I need Santa beside me / In everything I do”) and a virtuosic guitar solo that will leave any amateur guitar player green with envy for the rest of their life.

If you really love me… come on and let it snow! (Sure thing, Billy.)

8) U2 – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

U2 are not just anybody: they are one of the greatest bands in rock history, and, as such, they even offer their latest album to anyone who has an iTunes account, because who wouldn’t want to spend their lives listening to them? The same pretty much happened when U2 recorded a cover of Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” because who would seriously want to enjoy their holiday if Bono’s heart-broken?

7) Bruce Springsteen – Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

The best part about Christmas pop songs is that we get to hear our most-beloved artists sing songs that we have all sung while we were children. That is the moment when we realise that we actually do not know how to sing correctly, and how uncreative we are. Thank you very much, Bruce Springsteen. (His rock rendering of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” is really great, though.)

6) Florence + The Machine – Last Christmas

Wham’s original recording of “Last Christmas” could have made it to the list if we had not already included another 80s song whose video features several flashy skiing outfits and tons of snow. Instead, here is indie band Florence + The Machine’s angelical rendering of the song, which is as good, if not better, as the original.

5) The Killers – Don’t Shoot Me Santa

We have all always wanted a more trashy Santa Claus that would look like that one friend we’ve got and who has completely forgotten to shave for the last five years, so that he can convincingly play Santa Claus in any school play production or Christmas party. Well, The Killers did it, and they end up begging him not to shoot them in the middle of a snowless desert.

4) Kate Bush – December Will Be Magic Again

Kate Bush is a genius. Her career has spanned several decades and she has pretty much done everything that could be done (talking about girls’ periods, singing while shouting, creating an album inspired by a fairy tale and subsequent movie, etc. etc.), and yes, she recorded a Christmas song. “December Will be Magic Again” is no cliché and instead creates this very Bushesque ambiance that you need for a crazy, weird but magical Christmas. A must-hear for anyone who’s always wanted to be a snowflake once in their life.

3) Loreena McKennit – Good King Wenceslas

What would Christmas be without a bit of Celtic music? Well, Loreena McKennitt, that famous fairy spirit that gets inspired by everything classical (Lord Alfred Tennyson, for example) and slightly traditional, did it. And, of course, it is beautiful.

2) Elvis Presley – Here Comes Santa Claus

The King of Rock did everything, and we thank him for that. Definitely.

  1. Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas Is You

Let’s confess this right away: Christmas is the perfect season to be cheesy. It’s the only time of year when we can allow divas singing through four minutes and chasing white rabbits in the snow without saying anything because we do not want to be naysayers and our families and friends to hate us. And, well, this song pretty much gets stuck in anyone’s head, and I want you to sing it during the entirety of Christmas break. You’re welcome.