Friday, February 29, 2008

On Journalism

The nature of journalism, applied in lecture as a dialectic antinomy to scholarship, is succinctly and memorably expressed in this astonishing clip, from, by none other than Wonkette.
"What is the great secret of journalism? Jon Fine and Wonkette both lift the veil."

For Monday.....

Ponder, in an idle moment, two questions for Monday:
  1. What concept, similar in name and idea, to "dialogism" has been used in (and even perhaps characterises) lecture?

  2. On finding a corpse, a Detective looks for [blank]. That [blank] is a synonym for what other word, given great importance in lecture to academic studies of English?

Ahead of Graded Close Readings.....

Ahead of receiving your graded Close Reading essays, why not take a few moments review the "Letter Grade Criteria for Essays" in the Pertinent & Impertinent list here on the blog....

(Properly adjusting, of course, the criterion covering thesis statements to the requirements native to close readings.)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dialogic versus Didactic Fiction

Additional on the distinction presented in lecture between dialagic and didactic works of literature by way of better understanding George Gissing's fictional method.

It is important to understand that the difference between these two types of novel is not a matter of literary merit. One can no more say that a didactic novel is worse than a dialogic novel (or vice versa) than say that fantasy fiction is worse than naturalist fiction. They are simply both different modes of art. (Although the originator of the terms 'dialogic" and "heteroglossic," Mikhail Bakhtin, did tend to write as if dialogism was an objectively superior artistic method, one is free to dissent from the maker--as I do, for instance.)

Examples of both dialogic and didactic modes can be found among the great world literature. Dostoevsky's Crime & Punishment, Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and Lady Murasaki Shikibu's Tales of Genji are dialogic in form; Dickens' Hard Times, Emile Zola's Germinal, and Dante's majestic Divine Comedy are each intensely didactic. Indeed, Divine Comedy and Milton's Paradise Lost are arguably polemical (Dante's polemic, interestingly, is not theological but rather of the grubby partisan politics of his city-state of Florence.) Furthermore, an author can switch between didactic and dialogic modes: Shakespeare being supreme exemplar.

Regarding preferences between the two modes, didactic fiction tends to draw intense, and binary, reaction. Readers who have prior agreement with the position that the didactic author is impressing will praise the book's artistic merit; readers with prior disagreement will calumniate it. And with a didactic novel, moreover, when it is not done artistically well it is easy for it to be disastrous: a heavy-handed, unsubtle, inartistic bludgeoning of the point; mere journalism rather than art.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New Gissing Biography

A "masterly new biography of Gissing" has just been published--George Gissing: A Life--through Weidenfeld & Nicolson by perhaps the greatest literary scholar to grace SFU, emeritus professor of English, Paul Delany.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ruskinesque Cinema?

Courtesy of classfellow J.W.
I rented "Manufactured Landscapes" a couple weeks ago and it is more than relevant to Ruskin's arguments about manufacturing and dehuminization (Eng 206). It is basically a decade long photographic/cinematic journal by Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky about how man has completely changed natural landscapes into his own 'manufactured landscape'. Completely moving. The film opens with a ten minute (maybe longer) filmed traverse of a Chinese manufacturing plant. I strongly recommend it and it may be worth a quick mention in class if any students are interested....

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Office-Plant Blogging

It's always spring in hothouse my wonderful office.

AQ6094: office hours are always as scheduled.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Penny Dreadful

As I suspected, there is excellent internet presence for Victorian penny dreadfuls, such as can be seen here. And also here.

These are, in my opinion, arguably the true origin of comics, an argument, indeed, I make in my recent lecture series on graphic novels. This, of course, is what a Englishman would say against the Americans' claim for genesis.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Course Reserves at the Library

Just a reminder of the Reserves texts set aside for our class only at the Bennett Library; growing term-long for help with research and Exam preparation.

BBC Cranford Production

As I said in lecture, I've been teaching Cranford for years, and ranting about how relevant it is, suddenly it is "hot." Or, perhaps, "cool." Or, if you are Marshall McLuhan, either hot or cool.
The BBC has just completed a BBC One television production of Cranford with a big-name cast.

Of course, there have been numerous versions of A Scandal in Bohemia (I happened to see one on State television two weeks ago.) Look for a motion picture of The Withered Arm in your lifetimes.....

Close Reading

I hope all is well with your Close Reading assignment. We've had lectures that use the close reading method, and I know your weekley tutorials have given direct assistance.

Consider the famous line from "The Lady of Shalott,"
Four gray walls, and four gray towers
What does the first "four" give us? With "walls" we have a image of imprisonment. The four right angles implied invokes rationalism: closed rather than open, and associated with controlling masculinity (cf. Gaskell's Cranford.) This masculine element of the enclosure is strengthened by the phallic "four....towers": alluding perhaps to four levels of men (incl. lover) The "four" additionally suggests enclosure for the four points of the compass (hat-tip classfellow J.F.). It is also a sharply non-religious number: odd additional from the scacred number three. It is also the number of iambs in the line. The second word, "gray," denotes colourlessness, which is a direct contrast with the vivid colour-words in the stanzas immediately surrounding (e.g. "blue," "yellow," "red.") Gray also has a moral connotation of being neither openly good (white) nor openly bad (black.) "Gray" is the colour of ambiguity, which sets up the quality of the Lady's ambiguous action in leaving the tower.

That certainly is the beginning of a close reading of this line (the structure of the parallel clauses has an intriguing relevancy.) It is just to give another illustration of the level of detail that a close reading has. And of course your own close reading will likely differ from this: in tutorial this week, a classfellow pointed out that l.485 of bk.2 of Aurora Leigh--'life develops from within'--adds a maternal dimension to the passage: a reading which, you won't be surprised to hear, had hitherto evaded me.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Film of Victorian Lit Prof

There is an upcoming movie, Smart People, in which the protagonist is a professor of Victorian Literature. This must mean that anti-cool is the new cool.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Notebook Computer Use in Lecture

Wisdom received by e-mail from a student:
I was actually wondering if you would mind making a comment in class (or e-mail or whatever) about laptop use in class? I've found it really frustrating during a lot of our classes that classmates have been checking their facebook, e-mail, photos etc during class time. The scrolling and flashing on the screen is really distracting in my peripheral vision. It's so disrespectful, I just don't get it.
Again, Verbum sapienti satis est.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Final Exam-type Information

A responsible & capable university lecturer, charged with providing students a survey-level understanding of nineteenth-century literature, devotes two lectures to prose sections from Charles Darwin, T.H. Huxley and John Henry Newman.

Ask yourselves the question, Why?

Friday, February 1, 2008

The "New Victorians"

From The New York Observer online:

The New Victorians
They Fall in Love, Dear Reader, Buy Strollers, Hire Cooks—Heath, Michelle, Liv, Nicole Join Prissy New Bourgeoisie! ‘We’ve Leaped to Our Parents’ Level of Success Right Away’
More, from the London Times online:
The new Victorians

This will be the “Diner des Tsars”, a sumptuous banquet that will take place in London next month: tickets are £1,500 a pop before you even think about the Louis Roederer Cristal champagne at £1,200 a jeroboam. In the Great Hall guests will tuck into an eight-course banquet prepared by the Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens. Caviar with avocado purée, lobster and artichoke salad, poached turbot with langoustine sauce and chervil gnocchi and many more delicacies are on the menu.
It is a feast fit for a tsar — which is exactly what it was 140 years ago. The Guildhall event is a recreation of a gut-busting blow-out staged in 1867 by Tsar Alexander II, Tsarevich Alexander and Kaiser Wilhelm I in Paris.
It is also a sign of these extraordinary times. This is the elite of a new empire at play, and a solid gold bookmark in the annals of indulgence. Imperial fortunes are once again being made almost overnight, not in the mines of far-flung colonies, but on the trading screens of global banks and the boardrooms of private equity powerhouses. And the epicentre of this plutocracy is London.

Can You Survive Dickens' London?

A brilliant Flash game from the BBC online: "SURVIVE DICKENS' LONDON"

Dodge through Victorian London, avoiding the gangs and villains and trials and tribulations of Dickensian London in order to seek out Charles Dickens in his chalet hideaway in Rochester. You'll face tasks and choices - you might have to pick pockets for Fagin, or rob bodies for Gaffer Hexham. Perform well and you'll be able to wend your way through dark alleyways and winding streets. Make the wrong choice and you could end up in jail, or worse... You'll need to keep your health up and you'll need to keep your eyes open in order to make money for your fare to Rochester. Be warned; time is short and the streets of London are not for the faint hearted...