Caught up in the excitement, he booked us onto a one-day celebration of Jarmania. We were expecting a Saturday screenings and gossip. Actually, it turned out to be a serious academic conference. A really serious academic conference. Once we got over our initial shock, we actually had a good time. One scholar explained how he'd recently found a first edition of Marlowe's Edward II by accident, another that Jarman cast Adam Ant in a film after seeing him wandering down the King's Road with "FUCK" carved into his back and bleeding through his t-shirt. All good fun. And then...
Back at university, I studied English Literature. It was going through a period where everyone involved felt guilty about spending their days reading books and so invented a lot of words to make it sound like science. Ironically, at exactly the same time, science was learning to use words to make itself sound like good fun. But English Literature lectures always had earnest people in earnest glasses in the front row, ready to pounce like Puritans on anything that looked suspiciously like enjoyment. "But what about Derrida?" demanded one hotly. The lecturer rolled her eyes wearily. "What about him?" she sighed, guaranteeing I went to all of her lectures ever.
Anyway, if you ever wondered what happened to those earnest pebble-glasses-wearers with their long words and forbidding demeanours - well, they've grown up and secured tenure and one of them had flown all the way from Sydney to be rude about Derek Jarman with vocab. I think the substance of her lecture was that, feeling guilty for making The Angelic Conversation without any women in, Jarman had hastily hired Judi Dench to intone some sonnets over the spongebaths. But here's how she expressed it:
- binary calculus
- wholesale diacrhronic change
- contrapuntal overlay
- chiasmic logic
- patrolineal obligation
- heterotopuan oxymoronic miscegenated cross-coupling
At lunchtime we went round the beautiful Jarman exhibition at Kings College. We noticed Dr Long Words trailing moodily behind us and hid behind a projection of a nude man spinnins slowly. On the way back in we got talking to a slightly gossipy old don. Who then won the afternoon with a gossipy, joyful talk about Jarman's The Tempest, and, in a demolishing aside, said of The Angelic Conversation, "Of course, he originally asked John Gielgud to do the voiceover, but he let him down at the last minute."