Katherine Govier

The next week in art history Roxanne was still paying attention.

“Miss Morrow stood on her podium. “The End of the World is the myth of the twentieth century. It is present in every piece of art created. Take a note!” she commanded. “Black pens.” She waited until the shuffle subsided.

“We have no optimism.” In fact, Miss Morrow did not really like much ofher century’s art, or its thinking. Still, they had to study it. “Even the Eastern religions with their ideas ofreincarnation provide only fatalism. We in Western society fear that we are facing an explosive, utter annihilation of the world, brought about by nuclear war perhaps, or the destruction of the environment.” She paused for the students to catch up to her. “Or the destruction of the environment.

Because we in the West do not believe in rebirth, this end of the world we anticipate will be final.”

The pens scratched over paper.
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Francesca would have been a marvellous actress.

Perhaps what made her a good teacher was the great actress in her past, that oftremarked link to Ellen Terry. A bit of a reach for a relation, but that had never stopped Francesca. The Ellen Terry connection was one of the myths of the Manor.

Amelia took the myth at face value for her student years. But later, when she returned to teach at the Manor, she investigated. The facts were that “the Master,” G. F. Watts, painter of mythological scenes, fell in love with Ellen Terry when she was a mere fifteen, and playing on the London stage. He, forty-seven, considered adopting her but was told she was too old; he asked his friends if he might marry her, but they said she was too young. He kissed her, and she thought she was with child and told her mother they must be married. She wanted, she said, to live with his pictures.
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Myth, Amelia reminded herself,

exists to give order to life, which is chaotic. There are too many events for us to make sense of. Myth selects and arranges so that we may find pleasure in the shape lives take, even a dreadful fate arrived at by predictable means acquiring a certain elegance. Selection, direction, reverence, that is the function of myth. We could argue that love serves the same purpose: love says: here is the one you will attend to, cleave to, believe in. Now go ahead. Forsake all others.

That’s fine for the chosen one, she thought. But what happens to the bits that don’t fit the shapes, to the people outside the circle?
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