Ben Jonson, and geography.

Last Friday morning, I found myself walking down King Street, coat over one arm, and carrying Schelling’s edition of Jonson’s works and Norton Shakespeare: Romances and Poems (I’ve been writing my first chapter on Jonson’s Epicoene and reading Shakespeare’s The Tempest for the Shakespeare class I TA). It struck me that at the same time last year, in the same weather, I was carrying the same two books, working on my long (40 page!) paper for my “Apocalypse in Art and Literature” class (I was writing on magic and time in Marlowe’s Faustus, Jonson’s The Alchemist, and Shakesoeare’s The Tempest). And at that time a year ago, I was  feeling the same sort of familiar return to the habit of walking with my Schelling Jonson, in the spring, just beginning work on the second chapter of my undergrad thesis (on Jonson’s The Staple of News and Middleton and Rowley’s The Roaring Girl).

Last year, it was a relief to return to any sort of work on early modern drama. This year, the relief and comfort that attends that by-now familiar habit of carrying about my copy of Jonson in the spring was accompanied by a bit of melancholy.  I’ve started to notice the different context for the familiar habits: the different neighbourhood I walk through as I read, the different people around me as I work. The apartment I now type in instead of the home I lived in for 24 years. The presence of the little cat who follows me as I pace and think through the difficult paragraphs.

I think I’m experiencing a bit of homesickness. This seems strange to me, because I haven’t felt any of that in the six months I’ve lived here. It’s been a hectic year, and I’ve been preoccupied in a number of ways. Now I’ve started noticing the differences however, I realise there’s a number of things I miss about St Catharines. At the moment: the giant tree in my backyard (which has been replaced by construction sounds and smells), living with a dog (no offense meant to Celia, whose habits of eating everything make her an honourary canine), and the friends whose apartments I used to do my research, and who got me interested in cooking (my archive project thanks you!).

At this time next year, I expect I’ll be carrying about my Jonson, thinking of my comps list, and feeling a bit startled about how familiar it feels to be walking about Hamilton in that way. I suppose this was the first weekend that this (and not St Catharines) is the space in which I’ll be reading Jonson for the next four years.

22 March 2010 ~ Hamilton


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