Monday, January 25, 2010

For Group Projects

From SFU Can-Lit alumnus M.S., a possible avenue for your Group project:
CBC RADIO ONE and CBC RADIO 3 are once again pleased to invte your radio and journalism students to enter our Student Journalism Awards.

We are awarding prizes for the best radio documentary and inviting pitches for a radio programming idea suitable for broadcast on Radio 3.

The Mowatt Award for best radio documentary is named after Don Mowatt who is an award winning documentary maker and long time producer with the CBC program IDEAS.

The Alexis Mazurin Award is named for our late colleague who was a bright light at CBC and whose sudden and premature death in 2006 was mourned by many. We all hope that his unique and creative talent will live on through this award.

[At this link].... you will find the entry guidelines and forms for these awards. This year we are asking for the entry applications to be made online TO THE ATTENTION OF YVONNE GALL.

Please feel free to contact me, if you have any questions. Good luck to all your students!

Yvonne Gall.

Friday, January 22, 2010

On Canadian Parliament Proroguement

Following the tertiary discussion in one of our seminar groups on Canada's parliamentray system (as a part of our unique national identity) and its element of proroguement, there is this data, which I did not previously know and parts of which I found somewhat surprising, from today's online Toronto Globe and Mail:
"The Prorogue Score

Compared to a few Liberal PM's, Stephen Harper is a proroguing amateur.
Chretien 4, Harper 2.

35th Parliament Chretien 1996/2/2
36th Parliament 1999/9/18
37th Parliament 2002/9/16,2003/11/12 ...

And if you really want a lopsided score how about this one:

Trudeau 11, Harper 2

26th Parliament Trudeau 1963/12/21,1965/4/3
27th Parliament Trudeau 1967/5/8
28th Parliament Trudeau 1969/10/22,1970/10/7,1972/2/16
29th Parliament Trudeau 1974/2/26
30th Parliament Trudeau 1976/10/12,1977/10/17,1978/10/10,1983/11/30

....why are these numbers not front and center in the multitude of MSM stories on the topic?...

In our 143 years of existence as Canada, Parliament has been prorogued 105 average of about once every 1.4 years that this, very legal and constitutionally granted power, has been used."
The 105 number surprised me... and Mr. Trudeau's 11 time use.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ethel Wilson's "Mrs Porter"and the "Bluestocking"

There is a thumbnail distinction made between "Blue Stockings" and the "New Woman" as a means of explaining Ethel Wilson's use of the former term to describe Mrs. Porter in the "Hated House, Detested Wife" chapter.

This is a good opportunity for me to map out a process of simple academic literary analysis.

An unfamiliar term is encountered in the text: in this case, "blue-stocking." First, look it up in the OED. Under the etymology we find: its transferred sense it originated in connexion with re-unions held in London about 1750, at the houses of Mrs. Montague, Mrs. Vesey, and Mrs. Ord, who exerted themselves to substitute for the card-playing, which then formed the chief recreation at evening parties, more intellectual modes of spending the time, including conversation on literary subjects....
The general definition is " who frequented Mrs. Montague's ‘Blue Stocking’ assemblies; thence transferred sneeringly to any woman showing a taste for learning," but as the emboldened phrase in the etymology reveals, the sneering is aimed at intellectually-minded women.

The next step in the analysis is to see if the surrounding context of the phrase supports the definition. And indeed we see Mrs. Porter described as the highly-educated daughter of, and research assistant to, a Greek scholar; and the eventual founder and head of a School for Girls.

Now, further, and more pointedly, the term "blue-stocking" is applied to Mrs. Potter by Topaz Edgeworth's father immediately upon his reading of a letter informing him that Mrs. Potter has become separated from her husband. This, then, adds to understanding the suggestion of a specific mental logic to Mr. Edgeworth's use of the term: in the textual situation, the assumed ratio is that Mrs. Potter's cultivation of mind is at the expense of ability to enjoy the body

[By the bye, the same equation is drawn with the sexes reversed by another woman writer -- George Eliot -- in Middlemarch, where Dorothea leaves her scholarly husband Casaubon for carnal Will Ladislaw.]

And with this understanding gained, the chapter can be read at a greater depth, with Ethel Wilson drawing a portrait of an intellectual woman, who declares herself "strong enough" to flourish on her own without support from a man. Wilson, with her fine literary subtly, draws a potrait of Mrs. Potter that shows the strengths and failings of this assertive female separatist.

Finally, to fully understand the historical context -- to "historicise" in literary jargon -- we apply classical dialectic, and compare "blue stocking" to a term closely related enough for relevancy but different enough for illumination. And the term calling for attention is "New Woman": both applied to women activists at the Late-Victorian age in which Innocent Traveller is set.

The OED defines New Woman thus: "....a woman of ‘advanced’ views, advocating the independence of her sex and defying convention." The existence of the two terms for what we now call "feminists" implies need to define separate qualities, and, indeed, the anxieties (by no means always male) about proto-feminism among Late-Victorians needed wider scope than charging against the cold austerity alleged of blue-stockings (i.e. too little sexuality), and so found a threat of wild excess in new Women (i.e. too much sexuality.) An excellent place to see this debate as played out in the 1890s is in Appendix C, "Debate over the 'Woman Question'" in our Library's copy of George Gissing's The Odd Women, book edited by a scholarly acquaintance of mine, Dr. Arlene Young: pp 370-377, Eliza Lynn Linton "The Wild Women" versus Mona Caird "A Defense of the So-Called 'Wild Women'. (Nb. "odd women" refers to the numerical superiority of women to men: the 'odd-women-out' in the marriage pairings.)

These two terms, then, as lecture suggested, can be very roughly distinguished by a greater freedom of sexuality attributed to 'New Woman'; or, to put it the other way around, by the attribution of sexlessness attributed to 'blue-stocking.' This corresponds, again as a thumbnail measure, to a separation in the present day around the term "pro-sex feminism" -- of which, being a scholar of English, I know only that the debate around the term exists, and less than nothing about the human reality to which it refers.

So much, at this time, for "blue-stocking" in Innocent Traveller.

New SFU President & "The Innocent Traveller"

As you may have heard, SFU has announced that former NDP politician Andrew Petter is the incoming University President. We might all offer him our sincere best wishes for a successful premiership.

Please watch this short clip online at the SFUNews Channel in which "Incoming Simon Fraser University president Andrew Petter reflects on what makes SFU deserving of its title as Canadas top comprehensive university."

In it, play close attention to the way in which education is conceived vis-à-vis society. We will compare these on Friday in relation to the opening of Ethel Wilson's The Innocent Traveller.

Update: Broken link now fixed.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Relativity in "Innocent Traveller"

As we will discover, Ethel Wilson actually uses assumed chronology in Innocent Traveller as a device by which to represent in fiction the real effects that past and future have on present. The "Innumerable Laughter" chapter, for example, has Topaz Edgeworth's present experience of a sleep-out in the veranda materially transformed by one particular girlhood experience with her private teacher, Mrs. Porter. Or the following from "'By our First Strange and Fatal Interview'": "Mary was hardly prepared to see the future leap out into the open and transform her past into something which was not enough. But this was now achieved by the young man in black walking by her side."

The idea used by Ethel Wilson -- of Time as an efficient cause -- is not simply a fictional conceit. In contemporary Western society, Time is assumed thoughtlessly to be what a clock does: a rigid linear series of equal units. This was not the experience or understanding of time, certainly, in the pre-modern West, and likely not either in non-Western cultures.

Ethel Wilson is arguably first post-modern writer. Innocent Traveller certainly, as I read it, is in sympathy with Albert Einstein's relativity theory (again, insofaras this layman understands it.)

e = mc2 (energy equals mass multiplied by the square of the speed of light) is an equation that represents matter as being energy at a particular speed. For students of fiction this has as one important implication that the thoughts and actions of characters -- i.e. forms of energy -- have real and significant effects on the material world and on the movement of history, making the writing, reading and academic study of fictional representations of life a worthy enterprise.

Of interest to our understanding of Wilson's fiction is the fact that Einstein's equation also defines Time as being Matter and Energy in a certain relation. Reformulate e = mc2 as c = [root] e/m.

Reading this formula in a fictional way, then: if we read Wilson's novel as representing the human spirit as energy (Topaz a personification of energy) and the circumstances of the world (marriages, emigrations, etc.) as matter (using "matter" in the colloquial British sense) then the depictions of Time that Wilson has woven throughout her narrative are to be read by us as having the same reality as matter and energy do in our ordinary understanding

But to continue with the exercise, to help understand how the "c" - speed of light - in Einstein's relativity equation relates to Time, just look at it this way.

Think of distance ("D") as being a change in place ("ΔP"). And Speed in general is represented as velocity ("V"). And of course Time is "T". You'll remember from High-School that the formula for velocity is V = ΔP / T. (Recall that we're saying that "D" is the same as "ΔP"). If we recast this equation for Time "T", then T = ΔP / V
So, if our velocity "V" is a particular value - using Einstein's speed of light "c" - then c = ΔP / T and T = ΔP /c.
Now returning to fiction. This last formulation lets us read Innocent Traveller (the traveller is the one ΔP'ing!) as showing us that Topaz's travels - to Vancouver, then to ... where? - and her velocity (Wilson depicts Topaz as perpetual rapidity of speech) are a form of Time. Or in other words, Topaz did have an effect on Time-with-a-capital-T: or, in the word the text uses at important points, on Eternity.

This, then, is what Rose/Ethel sets out to achieve through her narrative fiction - an eternal life for her Aunt Topaz/Eliza.

Physics, Mathematics, &c. experts more than encouraged to correct the forumlæ.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Lucy Maud Montgomey Autobiography

L.M. Montgomery's accounts of her life, published serially in Everywoman's Journal, were republished as The Alpine Path: the Story of My Career and are fortunately online.
When the Editor of Everywoman's World asked me to write "The Story of My Career," I smiled with a little touch of incredulous amusement. My career? Had I a career? Was not – should not – a "career" be something splendid, wonderful, spectacular at the very least, something varied and exciting? Could my long, uphill struggle, through many quiet, uneventful years, be termed a "career"? It had never occurred to me to call it so; and, on first thought, it did not seem to me that there was much to be said about that same long, monotonous struggle. But it appeared to be a whim of the aforesaid editor that I should say what little there was to be said; and in those same long years I acquired the habit of accommodating myself to the whims of editors to such an inveterate degree that I have not yet been able to shake it off. So I shall cheerfully tell my tame story. If it does nothing else, it may serve to encourage some other toiler who is struggling along in the weary pathway I once followed to success.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Canadian Poet P.K. Page Died Today

From the Victoria Times-Colonist:
Award-winning poet, novelist and painter P.K. (Patricia Kathleen) Page died today at 3 a.m. in her Oak Bay home. She was 93.
The grand dame of Canadian letters — who was born in England but moved to Canada in 1919 —received many honours including the Governor General’s Award, the Order of Canada and the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for her literary efforts.
She was renowned as a poet but also wrote more than a dozen books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, as well as librettos for opera.
A sample poem is online from the U.of T. here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Prime Minister and the Writer: Polemic

Margaret Atwood, one of our primary course authors, a year or so ago released an essay into the fray of a partisan political exchange over the issue of handouts from the taxpayers to artists. In our Course, we separate ourselves from the partisan issue: our own personal opinion on either side is set apart, and our focus is solely on the rhetorical aspects.

The Prime Minister's remarks are online as reported here. Put dispassionately for our scholarly purposes, the two-part issue seems to be this:
  1. How large should the taxpayer's handout to artists be?
  2. What degree of oversight should taxpayers have over money that their governmental surrogates handout to artists?
To best appreciate Ms. Atwood's polemic, we need to see it in relation to the specific occasion to which it is a response. As it happens (again, happily for our present study), Atwood's own brilliant polemic is in response to another rhetorical strategy, in turn brilliant in its own right: specifically, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's use of the rhetorical device that has recently been given a controversial formulation under the term "framing."

Now, the tension between governments who administer tax money and artists who receive it is, of course, perennial. An episode of the 1980s British television comedy Yes, Prime Minister," titled "The Patron of the Arts" deals wittily with just this. Here's a sample quotation, taken from the previous hotlink to the episode guide:
Prime Minister Jim Hacker: "So they insult me and then expect me to give them more money?" Sir Humphrey: "Yes, I must say it's a rather undignified posture. But it is what artists always do: crawling towards the government on their knees, shaking their fists." Jim Hacker: "Beating me over the head with their begging bowls." Bernard Woolley: "Oh, I am sorry to be pedantic, Prime Minister, but they can't beat you over the head if they're on their knees. Unless of course they've got very long arms."
The usual formulation in turn from the artists is that the government is (a.) uncultured, (b.) miserly, and, (c.) totalitarian. But in the present, Canadian, case, Mr. Harper has changed the formulation -- has, using the rhetorical concept, re-framed the partisan conflict -- to present the artists as (and here I will use Ms. Atwood's own sub-title to her polemical response) "....a bunch of rich people at galas whining about their grants." Mr. Harper, in other words, has made this an issue of social class: presenting himself on the side of what he calls "ordinary working people" against privileged urban elites.

Rhetoric -- use of language to persuade --is judged by the degree to which it accomplishes its purpose. And, to some degree, by this criterion, Mr. Harper's rhetoric has been extremely successful, judged by the effect that it has produced. Ms. Atwood's polemic being just one of the immediate, vigorous and intense reactions.

A news story on the matter is at this hotlink. Or, better, read Ms. Atwood's essay by clicking either the title of this post or this hotlink. As you read it, note how well she configures her polemic. For one, she appropriates Mr. Harper's position on the side of "ordinary Canadians" as her own: her polemic is effectively structured around a series of claims that "ordinary Canadians" are in fact artists themselves. This is a brilliant inverted use of the rhetorical device known as metastasis (to deny your opponent's charge and to turn it back instead against him or her.)

For another, Ms. Atwood's polemic deftly avoids addressing itself directly to what is the very fact at issue (and obviously Mr. Harper's strongest point)-- to wit, tax money for artists--and uses only oblique reference. In fact, with refinement of excellence, Ms. Atwood's polemic does mention tax money (thereby giving the appearance of engagement with the central matter) but in a different, and thereby deflecting, context. (Specifically, general transfer of federal taxes to Ms. Atwood's home province of Ontario.)

So, if you have the chance, read and appreciate Ms. Atwood's politically relevant, vigourous and extremely well-crafted example of the polemical essay.

[A humourous response to the exchange is online here.]

17th C Poet & 'Emily'

The sentiment with which L.M. Montgomery expresses Emily at the book's opening recapitulates Thomas Traherne's vision in "Wonder."

HOW like an Angel came I down!
How bright are all things here!
When first among His works I did appear
O how their glory me did crown!
The world resembled His Eternity,
In which my soul did walk;
And every thing that I did see
Did with me talk.

The skies in their magnificence,
The lively, lovely air,
Oh how divine, how soft, how sweet, how fair!
The stars did entertain my sense,
And all the works of God, so bright and pure,
So rich and great did seem,
As if they ever must endure
In my esteem.
... [con't]

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Course Website FAQ

Here are FAQ about the course website.
  • The 5 most recent posts are displayed on the main page.
  • A permanent link list, entitled "Pertinent & Impertinent" is always visible on the sidebar of the course website, containing direct links to crucial information.
  • Also on the sidebar, always visible, is the "Blog Archive" displaying direct links to all posts on the course website.
  • The "Blog Archive" has sections for years 2010 and 2009. Our course links are under the 2010 section. The 2009 archive is for a previous iteration of the course which may, or may not, be interesting for you.
  • An "Older Posts" hotlink is always visible at the bottom of the main page which displays the next 5 most recent posts.
  • Certain PowerPoint lecture slides are occasionally posted on the course website.

Course E-Mail Netiquette

Here are the points of e-mail protocol for our course :

  1. E-mail (indeed, all communication) between Lecturer and student is a formal and professional exchange. Accordingly, proper salutation and closing is essential.
  2. Business e-mail is courteous but, of professional necessity, concise and direct. It rejects roundabout or ornate language, informal diction, and any appearance of what is termed in the vernacular, 'chat.'
  3. Customary response time for student e-mail to the Course Lecturer is two to three office days. E-mail on weekends will ordinarily be read the Monday following.
  4. Use only your SFU account for e-mail to the course Lecturer. All other e-mail is blocked by whitelist.
In general, Course e-mail is for matters of Course administration solely. It is not an alternative to, nor substitute for, Office Hours or Tutorial. All questions about understanding of lecture material, course reading, assignment criteria, and deadlines are reserved for Tutorial and Office Hours.

Missed classes and deadlines are not to be reported by e-mail: if a medical or bereavement exception is being claimed, the supporting documentation is handed in, along with the completed assignment, either in person or to the Instructor's mailbox outside the Department Office.

Course Syllabus

Course Syllabus & Information
Be up-to-date with the following reading schedule and you will be ahead of lecture.
Nb 1.] This is a schedule for student readings; not a schedule of lecture material.
Nb 2.] This schedule lists the study weeks, and is exclusive of the university closure for the Olympic Games, February 15th to 26th. (e.g. Course Week 7 begins on March 5th.)

Reading Schedule

Week 1: Montgomery, Emily of New Moon
Week 2: Montgomery, Emily of New Moon
Week 3: Wilson, Innocent Traveller
Week 4: Wilson, Innocent Traveller
Week 5: Richler, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
Week 6: Richler, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
Week 7: Avison, Always Now, Vol. One
Week 8: Avison, Always Now, Vol. One
Week 9: Kogawa, Obasan
Week 10: Kogawa, Obasan
Week 11: Brown, Louis Riel
Week 12: Brown, Louis Riel
Week 13: Atwood, Payback

Assignment Deadlines.
Nb: There is a ten percent per day late penalty for all assignments, documented medical or bereavement leave excepted. For medical exemptions, provide a letter from a physician on letterhead which declares his or her medical judgement that illness or injury prevented work on the essay. The letter must cover the entire period over which the assignment was scheduled and may be verified by telephone. For any matter effecting deadlines, consult with the TA in person and before the assignment period.

Schedule of Assignment Due Dates.
(Assignments coded by colour. See separate assignment posts for details.)

January 5th, Group Project members set
February 1st Group Project proposal due.
March 1st, Mid-Term Essay topics posted.
March 26th, Mid-Term Essay due in lecture.
April 9th, Mid-Term Essay returned.
April 12th, Group Project due in seminar.
April 23rd, Final Essay due: no later than 23:59 Instructor's Department Mailbox.

Nb: “Participation (15% of course grade) requires productive participation, attendance and punctuality in seminar and lecture."

Instructor Contact:
Office Hours: AQ 6094 -- Tuesday 1:00-3:00. E-mail to 778-782-5820

Course Approach:
"[Neither Christianity nor Atheism but] an equally ancient faith .... rooted in the Socratic dialogues. It is the faith that human beings, reasoning together in a disciplined way, are capable of reaching shared understandings that are not merely intelligent, but also practicable and spiritually uplifting. This form of rationalism uses both rigorous scholarship and discursive analysis, i.e. dialectic, to seek out the conceptual basis for action. This rationalism was bequeathed to the world by Socrates himself, and has been reaffirmed by the greatest modern thinkers. My faith is that the deepest magic of our civilisation has arisen from Socratic rationalism, and that this can happen again now.
Socratic rationalism holds that most people are capable are capable of seeing the highest truths and of acting well when they do."
Bruce K. Alexander, The Globalisation of Addiction: A Study in Poverty of the Spirit. Oxford University Press, 2007 (Forthcoming).

Term Alienation-Patriotism Project Criteria

Organising Concept

The group project provides opportunity for expression of personal engagement with the questions of national identity, alienation and patriotism that surround the course texts in the context of the Olympic Games institution this Term.

Analysing any media, social networking, or research sources of your choice, arrive at an understanding of Canadian partiotism or alientation and make a prescriptive presentation from this position.
Use some creative form--such as a blog, a social networking site, or a YouTube video--to present your study and conclusions on partiotism or alienation in light of the intensive government and media presentation of the Olympic Games.

  1. Groups of five or six will be set in tutorial.
  2. A written proposal, two pages maximum, is due in seminar course week five: February 1st.
  3. Information on how to write a proper proposal is available on the course website, at this address.
  4. Project grading will include the amount of effort put into the project. This is expected to be 20% of the course effort multiplied by the number of members in the group.
  5. The project is due in seminar on the 12th of April.

How to Write Group Assignment Proposals

Proposals for Creative and Group Assignments can be helpfully constructed as failure standards. Failure standards are a real-world use of the falsification concept from experimental science, where a theory becomes ranked as scientific only when it is capable of being falsified in a replicable experiment.

So, for your assignment proposals, if you chose to adopt this valuable format, you would list (in either essay or point form) the full set of criteria by which your project can be gauged to have failed. For example "Our project will have failed if:"
  • the project does not advance an academic thesis.
  • the project does not have [some measurable degree of] quality
  • the project does not identifiably incorporate material from relevent scholarship
  • the project fails to relate directly to some number of the primary course texts
  • the project fails to represent and demonstrate advanced understanding of the central ideas of the course
  • &c, &c.
This effectively prevents creativity from being substituted by open license.

Additionally, proposals are accompanied by a concise justification of the academic validity of the project being proposed.

An effective proposal describes (nb. look up the etymology of this word in the OED) three components of a project:
  1. Area
  2. Range
  3. Structure
The Area is the specific subject of your project: e-mail writing, for instance. Range delimits the specific aspect of your subject: courtesy and professional manner in e-mail, say. And Structure outlines the manner in which the project will formed.

Two pages is a reasonable length for a proposal of this type, four pages at most.

Note-Taking for University

"Learn how to listen and you will prosper even from those who talk badly.” Plutarch (AD 46-120) Greek Biographer & Philosopher.
The Student Learning Commons at the W.A.C. Bennett Library has an exceptionally helpful on-line guide to effective note-taking at university lecture. (It is a trifle disconcerting reading for the Lecturers themselves, because it implies--indeed, all-but declares--that many of us are dull, confused, inarticulate, habituated and otherwise deficient in our craft.)

The guide is available online in .pdf format at this hotlink.

The Student Learning Commons additionally has an entire page of links to on-line resources to imprioove the student's "Listening & Note-Taking" at this hotlink.

Note-taking in lecture is one of the skills that one learns at university with broad applicability in life. Arguably, learning how to take written notes from oral delivery is one of the most practically valuable benefits of a university education.
These resources linked here are very valuable: especially as it is increasingly common for undergraduates to confuse note-taking with copying down PowerPoint slides. It is rule worth learning that PowerPoint is not the Lecture: lectures are what happen when you are distracted by copying down PowerPoint slides....

Friday, January 1, 2010

Dividing Post

All Posts below this one are from the 2009 iteration of English 357. Thus all posts above this one of for the 2010 iteration.