Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Teaching Assistants

Our course Teaching Assistants are the excellent Messrs. Stephen Zillwood and Ryan Stephenson. As I think you say, "FYI."

I, of course, am Dr. Ogden.

Class Cancelled January 30th

The picture here, from a school in Surrey (Pacific Academy) says all.
One dead-line will change as a consequence: the Group Project Outline is now due in your February 4th or 6th tutorial. Otherwise, all is as it was.
A word regarding the reading schedule in relation to the Final Examination. Beside attending all lectures, the single most effective means of succeeding on the Final Examination is staying on top of the reading schedule. It will, I can say, be all but impossible--absent genius--to do well on the Final without having read smoothly & evenly throughout the Term.
Coming to lecture without having read the material is to be in the fog, interpretively speaking; and as literature studies are a training in extrapolating meaning (be it written, spoken or situational), cramming is all but worthless. On the other side of that coin, reading ahead of lecture (i.e. following the syllabus reading schedule) puts one in excellent position to do well on the Final Examination.
"A word to the wise doth suffice."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tennyson Lives!

Well, a phrase from his poetry, "The Charge of the Light Brigade" specifically, is used in the headline of an article today online in the Toronto Globe and Mail:
Into the Valley of Death
Anger at vote-rigging has worked to rip a thin scab off many years of frustration at poverty, corruption and inequitable land ownership
From Saturday's Globe and Mail
January 26, 2008 at 12:28 AM EST
KIPKELION, KENYA — With the sun barely over the edge of the valley, the colours on the hills were muffled. The banana leaves were dull green, the sugar cane stalks pale yellow. And so the flames, when we saw them flare in first one house, then a second, then streets and streets on fire, were shocking, vivid orange, more alive than anything around.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Academic Options Day

For students who are still undecided about their academic programme there is an Academic Options Day, this coming Wednesday, January 30th, 2008. Pick a time between ten thirty and two o'clock and visit the AQ North Concourse and talk with representatives from the various SFU programmes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wednesday's Lecture

Today, we spent half the lecture each on the remaining two poems available for use in the Close Reading assignment. You were given a framework for understanding the two poem and suggestions to the important aspects of each. Thus prepared, you have broader context in which to present your personal selection of interesting elements -- a word, a phrase, a line, perhaps a couplet -- from your chosen poem.

For Monday's lecture, give some thought to what a Final Exam essay question based on the lecture on "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came"would look like.

Monarchy's Continuing Power

An illustration of the real practical power that the Monarchy still has, even in the Commonwealth, is given in this story from the State media division online about a Canadian soldier who had refused to pledge loyalty to our Sovereign:

"....the fact is that the Queen is....Commander-in-Chief and Canada's Head of State"...."A refusal to display loyalty and respect to the Queen where required by Canadian Forces' policy would not only be an expression of profound disrespect and rudeness but it would also represent an unwillingness to adhere to hierarchical and lawful command structures that are fundamental to good discipline."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Life in Victorian London: The Real Sweeny Todd

From Britain's Daily Mail, an article excerpting Sweeney Todd: The Real Story Of The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street by Peter Haining, published by Robson Books at £8.99. ° Peter Haining 2007. [The picture I include here is the most frightening, terrifying, maleavolent, horrifying Sweeny Todd image that I could find. Shudder. Anyone music fan from the '70s-'80s will feel their flesh crawl....]

Sweeney Todd's name is seen in Victorian 'penny dreadful' newspapers and then 19th century melodrama, complete with his own catchphrase, "See how I polish 'em off!" .... This undercurrent of malevolence was compounded by the young Todd's bizarre interest in the instruments of torture displayed at the nearby Tower of London. To escape his parents' brawling, he lingered in the Tower's museum, where thumbscrews, racks and other macabre tools were displayed to discourage citizens from dissent.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Essay Grading Criteria

I have posted a detailed analysis of the criteria for grading academic essays—such as our Close Reading essay and Mid-Term essay—for your continuing reference.

[To my best recollection, the document was originally authored by Dr. Whatley of the Departments of English and Distance Education.]

Thursday, January 17, 2008

E-Mail Efficiency

I have been heartened so far with the class' adherence to the spirit of the e-mail protocol posted in the Pertinent & Impertinent links here. For instance, with only slight exceptions, e-mail to the Instructor and TAs has been limited to matters of unavoidable emergency.

If this keeps up through the remainder of the Term, a question for bonus marks will be added to the Final Exam by way of respect.

About "Charge of the Light Brigade"

Give some over the weekend to the way that Tennyson's poetry-type poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" might be have intellectual content" -- i.e. contain idea in the way familiar to us in prose essays -- but with a type of effectiveness unique to its genre.

For an account of the Charge, click here.

You can actually hear Tennyson himself reading the poem here (it is somewhat unstettling, actually, hearing a voice down through the ages) from a wax-recording arranged by another historic great; Thomas Edison.

In fact, speaking of great, here is the voice of one of the truly great: the angel of the Crimean War, the "Lady of the Lamp," Florence Nightingale.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Student Learning: Resources

The Student Learning Commons at the SFU Libraries offers "....friendly and knowledgeable assistance with a wide range of academic writing, learning, and study strategies. Our goal is to provide you with resources and tools for academic success. The SLC encourages collaboration, discussion, and peer learning."

Their new information poster is online here.

Close Reading Assignment

The Close Reading Assignment is a gentle way to get us started on the course; improving our understanding of Literature of the nineteenth century. Worth fifteen percent of the course grade, the assignment is to write up a close reading of any one of three of the longer poems from the first weeks of our course: Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh, Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott, or Browning's Childe Roland. The finished paper will be fifteen hundred words in length, and is due in lecture February 25th.

This long period of six weeks for the assignment allows for successive draughts to be worded and edited in seminar; both with peers and with the seminar instructor. The seminar instructer will provide you with a schedule for the dates of the draughts and discussion.

"Close Reading" in our context means reading the text carefully, paying attention first and carefully (i.e. closely) to the words and phrases: their diction, etymology, order, meter, metaphors, associations, and the like. It is starting with the particular before making remark on the general; letting, as far as possible, the poem speak to you before you speak to the poem.

When you have made notes and comments about the specifics, you can then write you discoveries up in essay form, and consider any conclusions about the author and his or her intentions and significance; historical, intellectual or æsthetic.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Seminar Group Project: Victorian Cool

This project is worth fifteen percent of the course grade. Groups of five members are set in seminar and will deliver the project on the last seminar day of Term. A written proposal of the project is due in seminar, course week 4 (January 28th - 30th.)

The project creatively engages present-day Victorianism; either Victorian Cool, or Canadian Victoriana.

Victorian Cool includes

  1. Steampunk (e.g. the Steamboy anime, books like Gibson & Sterling's The Difference Engine, pop-culture artifacts like Victorian action figurines, etc.);
  2. Gaslight graphic novels (e.g. Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, etc.)
  3. Neo-Victorian movies (e.g. From Hell (i.e. on Jack the Ripper); Sweeney Todd; various Sherlock Holmes adaptations; etc.)

Canadian Victoriana presents aspects of the fact that Canada is a Victorian country.

  1. Our province (British Columbia) and its original capital city (New Westminster) were named by & in honour of Queen Victoria, and our current capital is named after & in honour of her.
  2. Our neighbouring province is named by her & in honour of her husband.
  3. Our nation's Confederation -- in 1867 -- was a Victorian event: in her parliament & with her involvement.
  4. Queen Victoria's father lived & administered the military in Canada for over a decade; the Duke of Kent lived for nearly thirty years with a French-Canadian mistress (Adelaide Dubus, with whom, in all likelihood, he had illegitimate offspring) until his 1818 marriage to another woman, who became Victoria's mother.

The project can take the form of a blog; a video-taped theatrical presentation, documentary, a short film, etc.; a written collection; or any creative form of presentation.

The objective is to give evidence of a creative engagement with and understanding of the Victorian character; as a means of better comprehending the period and cultural character of the Age under our present literary study.

On the last seminar day of term -- April 2nd or April 7th -- hand in along with the project any hard copy material -- scripts, blog URLs -- that you wish to have included in the grading.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Victorian Cool: Steampunk SuperHeroes

Follow the hotlink to "Gaslight Justice League" action figurines. The model pictured here is the Victorian Wonder Woman.

This is an excellent example of the Victorian Cool currently alive in our popular culture; and the type of material available to be worked into the Group Assignment for the course.

Steampunk superheroes: who knew?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Queen Victoria and Beyond

Canada, as you know, still celebrates a national holiday in honour of Queen Victoria.
I came across this oblique & tendentious article in the Daily Telegraph on the predominance of women at the political head of England following on from Victoria's eminent sixty-four year regnancy:
Have you noticed that modern Britain is the most matriarchal society in the history of the world? The four most famous figures in the public service since the war have been women - the Queen Mother, the Queen, Diana, Princess of Wales and Margaret Thatcher.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Browning, Barrett, Love

From "Today in Literature" a brief story on "Browning, Barrett, Love":

On this day in 1845 Robert Browning wrote his first letter to Elizabeth Barrett, so inciting one of the most legendary of literary love stories. The letter belongs to the 'fan mail' category -- the praise of a thirty-two-year-old up-and-comer for one just six years older and already internationally famous -- but it was more than just poet-to-poet. After commending "the fresh strange music, the affluent language, the exquisite pathos and true new brave thought," Browning confides that he is addressing "your own self," and that "for the first time, my feeling rises altogether."

Lecture Terms from Wednesday

Here are the terms used in lecture to detail some of the aspects of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's sonnet 43 from Sonnets from the Portuguese. They are simply a few very basic terms from poetics. The importance of the metrics in a poet of Elizabeth Browning's superlative calibre is the use that she makes of them for the meaning and import of the poem, as lecture detailed.
  • Iamb: a two syllable 'foot' or pattern - unstressed/stressed, or short/long. "Computer" is an iamb.
  • Pentameter: a meter with five (Gr. = 'penta') feet (two-syllable pairs) in a line.
  • Iambic Pentameter: a line of poetry, such as found in a sonnet or in blank verse, with five iambs. From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, "But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks" is iambic pentameter.
  • Trochee: opposite of an iamb: two syllable 'foot' or pattern - stressed/unstressed, or long/short. "Stephen" is an trochee.
  • Anapest: a metrical foot of three syllables, unstressed/unstressed/stressed. " Called the 'galloping foot' because is reads as "quick-quick-hard." (SFU's motto -- Nous Sommes Prêts -- is an anapest.
  • Dactyl: opposite of an anapest -- stressed/unstressed/unstressed. "Canada" is a dactyl.
  • Spondee: a stressed/stressed foot. In sonnet 43, the penultimate line opens with a spondee: "Smiles, tears...."
  • Anaphora: a repeated word or phrase. "I love thee..." is the anaphora in sonnet 43.
  • Octave: the first eight lines of a sonnet.
  • Sestet: the six lines concluding a sonnet.

I have put a link to a useful informal online guide to literary terms in the "Pertinent & Impertinent" link list. As always, use the Library for scholarly -- i.e. assignment -- research.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

E-mail Netiquette

A few salient points of productive e-mail protocol :
  1. Use only your SFU account for e-mail to the course Lecturer. All other e-mail is blocked by whitelist.
  2. E-mail (indeed, all communication) between Lecturer and student is a formal and professional exchange. Accordingly, proper salutation and closing is essential.
  3. 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.'
  4. Customary response time for e-mail to the Course Lecturer and Teaching Assistants is two weekdays. E-mail on weekends will ordinarily be read the Monday following.

In general, course e-mail is dedicated to essential matters of Course business and avoids questions about lecture material, course reading, assignment criteria, or deadlines, which are all reserved for tutorials and office hours. Missed classes and deadlines do not need 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 Tutorial Instructor's mailbox outside the Department Office.

Course Syllabus

Course Syllabus & Information

Schedule of Readings

[Page numbers are from the Longman Anthology. The schedule is for your readings: lecture inevitably keeps to is own, cheerful, responsive & organic, timetable.]

Week One
Perspectives: 1137
Fanny Kemble 1140
Parliamentary Papers 1143
Henry Mayhew 1158

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
To George Sand x2 1198

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Aurora Leigh 1203

Week Two
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The Lady of Shalott 1235
The Charge of the Light Brigade 1291
The Higher Pantheism + Response 1327-8

Week Three
Charles Darwin:
On the Origin of Species .... 1357

John Henry, Cardinal Newman
from Apologia Pro Vita Sua 1390
Thomas Henry Huxley
from Evolution & Ethics 1398

Robert Browning
Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came + Response 1427

Week Four
Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol 1464 (w.1520)
Elizabeth Gaskell
Our Society at Cranford 1522

Week Five
Thomas Hardy
The Withered Arm 1538
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
A Scandal in Bohemia 1556

Week Six
John Ruskin
from The Stones of Venice 1580-1590

Florence Nightingale
Cassandra 1608

Perspectives Victorian Ladies & Gentlemen 1626

Sarah Ellis 1632
John Henry, Cardinal Newman 1638
Queen Victoria 1651

Matthew Arnold
Dover Beach 1662
Culture & Anarchy: from Sweetness & Light 1695

Week Seven to Week Nine
George Gissing
In the Year of Jubilee

Week Ten
Dante Gabriel Rosetti
The Kiss 1718
The Burden of Ninevah 1719

Christina Rosetti
Goblin Market 1731

Week Eleven
Robert Louis Stevenson 1840

Hilaire Belloc 1845

Rudyard Kipling
Without Benefit of Clergy 1860
Gunga Din 1882

Week Twelve and Week Thirteen
Oscar Wilde
The Importance of Being Earnest 2003

Schedule of Assignment Due Dates:
Assignment details in "Pertinent & Impertinent" Links.

Nb: There is a four percent per day late penalty for all assignments, documented medical or bereavement leave excepted. For medical exemptions, provide a letter on a Physician's or Surgeon's letterhead which declares his or her medical judgement that illness or injury prevented work on the assignment. The letter must cover the entire period over which the assignment was scheduled and may be verified by telephone. For bereavement leave, simply provide, ex post facto, a copy of the order of service or other published notice of remembrance.

January 14th: Close Reading Project: release date.
February 4th or 6th: Updated Group Project Proposal due date.
February 25th: Close Reading Project: due date.
March 3rd: Mid-Term Essay topics posted.
March 31st: Mid-Term Essay due in lecture.
Week of March 24th & 26th: Unofficial Reading Break: No Lecture or Seminar .
April 2nd or April 7th: Group Project due date in-seminar.
April 12th 3:30-18:30: Final Exam.

Lecture Quizzes
There will be fourteen quizzes in Lecture throughout the Term: seven in the first half and seven in the second half. The quizzes will be given on random dates and at random times in the Lecture; on occasion twice in the same Lecture. Each quiz will have one question only, and the answer will be a gimmie. If all seven quizzes for the first half of Term are handed in to the Tutorial leader, the mark on the Close Reading assignment will be bumped up to the next letter grade in the scale. If all seven quizzes for the second half of Term are handed in to the Tutorial leader, the mark on the Final Exam will be bumped up to the next letter grade in the scale.

Research material is available on Library Reserve.

Nb: “Participation requires both attendance and punctuality ."

Instructor Contact:
Expanded Office Hours: AQ 6094 -- Monday two thirty to five thirty, Tuesday ten o'clock to noon, Wednesday two thirty to three o'clock, Thursday ten o'clock to noon. Bring your coffee and discuss course matters freely. E-mail to Use your SFU account for e-mail contact. Other e-Mail accounts are blocked by white-list.

Course Approach:

Surveying, analysing, understanding and enjoying the vast empire of literature in the nineteenth century, concentrating on the material written under the majestic matriarch, Victoria Regina. Attendance and enagegment in lecture, discussion and exchange in seminar, careful and close reading of course material, and group study and presentation of contemporary Victorian cool are the requirements of the course.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Getting an "A" on an English Paper

An excellent article here with practical advice from Jack Lynch at Rutgers University.