Jyanni Steffensen Her feet covered many cocoons...
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The History of Star-Crossed Lovers on Film

"When I love, I am very exclusive," Freud says. Barthes takes Freud here to be the paragon of normality.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life [13]

Orlando Jones had screened the film Shakespeare in Love for the third year students who were supposed to be studying The History and Anthology of English Literature. If there had been other resources in the library, she would have hurled it immediately. She was appalled that English Literature was taught in China according (to her mind) to outdated surveys of the 'canon.' As the Semester ground on, Orlando Jones found herself more enamoured with Shakespeare in Love. [15]

She showed the film gwynth&boy
(she always thought of it as Tom Stoppard's, the writer's film) to her first year Writing class as their textbooks were as appalling (to her) as the others. The class was instantly captivated. Orlando Jones's curiosity to know how much of the intricacies of the narrative was understandable to the students was quickly settled. Their own writing indicated that they had followed the plot in English with ease. Something else aroused Orlando Jones's curiosity -something else that is, other than the collective (and unabashed) murmuring in the class when Joseph Fiennes first smouldered onto the screen. The thing that made her snap to attention was the discovery that the students (including the male students) preferred 'romance' film to all other genres. She later found this to be so of her second year film class as well.

Orlando Jones thought, theoretically at least, that the cross-dressing of the main female character was more critically interesting. The students, of course, thought that the situation in which the character played by Gweneth Paltrow - Orlando Jones had long wished that someone else had played this role - had to disguise herself as a man in order to work on stage was a sure signifier of a feudal society.

The student's (seemingly) uncritical attachmentfeather to romance films alternatively disturbed and intrigued Orlando Jones. At times, she felt as though she had landed in a critical theory nightmare. Almost universally, the students analysed romance films as being "more realistic", "closer to real life" than other genres, particularly science-fiction texts which they read as computer enhanced 'fantasy'. Hollywood romance films were not seen by them as equally fictitious cultural fantasies constructed by (mostly male) directors -or so she thought at first. Later she was to understand that her student's critical relation to film discourses were more complex than she had imagined. Orlando Jones adored her students and sometimes doubted whether she had the stamina to dissuade them from their attachment to discourses on "love". They took such pleasure in viewing films and she had to admit that Shakespeare in Love was, in fact, a story of star-crossed lovers who don't live happily ever after - at least not together. As much as the students found pleasure in the film, the ending (somewhat) disappointed some of them. One of her male students (over time) developed theories of love and desire that Barthes would have envied.

adorable adj. very attractive; delightful; lovable

The adorable is what is adorable. Or again: I adore you because you are adorable, I love you because I love you. What thereby closes off the lover's language is the very thing which has instituted it: fascination. For to describe fascination can never, in the last analysis, exceed this utterance: "I am fascinated."

Orlando Jones began a list of films to include in the Semester 11 program called The History of Star Crossed Lovers in Film. These included: Shakespeare in Love (of course); Graham Green's The End of the Affair; In Love and War (about Ernest Hemingway); The English Patient; the film of Marguerite Duras' The Lover, Wayne Wang's The Chinese Box, Pushkin's Onegin and, of course, Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. She thought that there were skating scenes in both the Russian adaptations. She discarded Oscar Wilde's The Ideal Husband in spite of its great political machinations because the love story was disappointingly conventional. This she reserved for the English Literature course.

By now, Orlando Jones had her own VCD player and haunted the local video rental shop in Jiefang Lu (just across from the campus North Gate) and the minuscule one around the corner in Hangzhou Road. The young woman who worked in the Jiefang Lu store was very surly and hurled videos about casually but with intent. She frightened Orlando Jones, but Orlando Jones's desire for film was stronger than her fear. She also befriended one of the vendors (a fellow movie buff) who operated in the VCD section (mostly pirated) of the big electronics market downtown. At times she devoured three videos a day - sometimes more. She thought, "I should get out more, I guess." As her Chinese language classes come to an end and the holidays loomed, she began to watch films in French (the Trois Couleurs trilogy - Rouge, Blanc and Bleu) English films in Chinese (Sophie's Choice, Fargo), Chinese films in Chinese (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and undecidable films (Hotel Shanghai) in Chinese.

Some of Orlando Jones's students embarked on a project of re-inventing English poetically. Her favourite words were "bookhouse" (library), "epidermis" (the exterior of the Freud Museum). Other favourite re-workings of the language included signs at the Buddhist temple which read "No Burning" (No Smoking) and "No Photoing". One of her first year students described her family to Orlando Jones as "fragrant". Another of her students constantly wrote "afflatus" for "inspiration". At least that is what Orlando Jones presumed that the student meant. She had no idea who had told the student that "afflatus" was a useable English word - someone mean she suspected.

Orlando Jones longed to be so free with language. Her favourite word in Chinese was gong gong qiche (bus). Many Chinese people complained (modestly) that Chinese was a "gong gong" language, but Orlando Jones found it a softly sibilant language - laoshi (teacher), san (three), si (four), Wo she(I am), bu shi (not), shi (ten). Her students wrote astonishing poetry: "Her feet covered many cocoons"; "He stood there, dumb as a wooden duck".