Saturday, April 7, 2007

"The Great War" on Canadian State Television

Our State TV network has a two-part show on WWI: The Great War: first broadcast April 14 2007, and with the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau as one of the actors.

On the other side of the Statist-Private divide, in 2008 Canadian actor Paul Gross privately financed and produced the major film Passchendaele. This patriotic work (in Orwell's sense of partiotism as favourably distinguished from nationalism) did not feature any offspring of former Prime Ministers....

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Canadian High School Students at Vimy Ridge


Vimy: Students arrive in France today.
Each will carry the memory of a Canadian soldier.
Tony Atherton, CanWest News ServicePublished: Tuesday,
April 03, 2007
OTTAWA -- On Easter Monday in northwest France, a crowd of 25,000 is expected to gather on the long, broad green in front of the Vimy Memorial. It may be the biggest gathering in the Douais region of Picardie since King Edward VIII dedicated the heart-stirring monument 71 years ago. That number of people, coincidentally, is the same as the number of Canadian soldiers who surged out of tunnels and trenches on April 9, 1917, and over the fortified ridge on which the memorial now stands ....
Beginning Wednesday, through newspaper stories, photographs and in their own online blogs, these six teenagers will let readers back home peek over their shoulders as they marvel at the sights of Paris and bow their heads over the graves of Flanders. As their journey progresses, each will strive to learn a little more about the soldier for whom their act of deliberate remembrance is a kind of living memorial.

Jessica Mitford: edited Letters

An illuminative review at on a new collection of Jessica Mitford's letters, edited under the title Decca
Although it is not uncommon for big families to produce a rebel or two along with the chip-off-the-old-block offspring, there are few that can lay claim to as much dissension within the ranks as the aristocratic clan of Mitford. This gaggle of wayward sisters (six in all, with one brother, Tom, who was killed in combat in 1945 at the age of 36) included Diana, the family beauty, who married the dastardly Oswald Mosley, head of the British Fascist party; Nancy, the family wit, whose novel The Pursuit of Love kick-started the proliferation of novels, memoirs, and biographies that would come to be called the Mitford "industry"; and the family madwoman, Unity, who went bonkers for Adolf Hitler and put a pistol to her head when Britain declared war on Germany.

Monday, April 2, 2007

'No More Tories" -- the very last Tory

When Madox Ford named Christopher Tietjens "the last Tory" he meant that, as a consequence of World War I, the Tory way of thinking is now completely impossible. Evidence supporting this claim can be found in this New English Review article, published today, from a writer who is as close to being a Tory as would be possible in a post-Tory world: the ex-patriot Englishman in America, Mr John Derbyshire.
Using the facts of the behavior of the complement of English sailors taken capture by the Iranians, Deryshire's article demonstrates the very argument it is making: that Tory Englishness is utterly dead in the world today, even where formerly it was most evident.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Bridget Jones in Paris" Blog

'Petite anglaise' blogger wins sacking case
By Henry Samuel in Paris
An Englishwoman sacked for bringing her employers in Paris into disrepute by writing an internet diary under the pseudonym petite anglaise was awarded £30,000 for wrongful dismissal yesterday. a test case for bloggers in France and beyond, a tribunal concluded that Catherine Sanderson, whose blog is said by some to be the equivalent of "Bridget Jones in Paris", had been dismissed "without real and serious causes". >>more

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sunday, March 25, 2007

"Twitter": Cell-phone Mini-blogging

Verily, the end of the world, for those who view frivolity, puerility and narcissism as an eschatological anti-trinity:

By Richard Waters and Chris Nuttall in San Francisco
Silicon Valley is abuzz over a new mini-blogging service for mobile phones that some predict will be a mass-market hit with the reach of a YouTube or MySpace.
Over the past two weeks, Twitter has attracted the sort of hyperbole the Valley reserves for its next internet darling – though such self-reinforcing adulation also led to dotcom mania.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Group Projects: Update

We'll have class time this week to get caught up on the Group Projects.
I had an idea after chatting with a few of you before last Wednesday's class that might pique your engagement: why not adapt your project so that it is a pitch to a Hollywood Media Company for a film version of Parade's End? You would then emphasise the aspects of war, gore, sadism, decadent aristocracy, feminism, Satanism, and fall-of-the House-of-Groby in Madox Ford's text. Can't fail!

Term Paper: Support

From the Student Learning Commons people at the great W.A.C. Bennett Library:

As we near the end of the term, the Yosef Wosk Student Learning Commons would like to remind you of the additional academic support we provide students in writing and learning skills. (Via one-on-one appointments or drop-in .)

As....students enter the semester's 'writing crunch' and then final exams, please take a minute to remind them that there is additional writing and learning skills support available in the Student Learning Commons (room 3695-Podium Level 3-to the right of the Library). (Emphases mine.)

Some of the areas our friendly and knowledgeable Peer Educators and myself can assist students in are:

- planning and flow of a paper,
- integrating quotes (sic) and paraphrasing,
- improving coherence and cohesion,
- controlling sentence structure and punctuation,
- exam strategies,
- overcoming exam anxiety,
- ....more.

.....we do not edit or proof papers. The YWSLC Coordinator and Peers provide the insight, skills, and techniques to improve a students own performance, including learning how to write, edit and proofread their own work.

First World War in Canadian News

Support for my contention that the First World War still has very powerful resonancy in Canada today comes from two recent news stories.

In one, DNA evidence has solved the mystery of a Vimy Ridge soldier.
EDMONTON — Doreen Bargholz's family rarely talked about her uncle, Private Herbert Peterson.
His parents and five brothers were heartbroken when the 22-year-old soldier from rural Alberta never returned from the muddy French battlefields of the First World War. The military told them he had gone missing, and was presumed dead.
"There was a big photo of him hanging in my grandparents' living room. That's how I knew him," the 78-year-old Ms. Bargholz said in an interview.
But thanks to hard work by a team of Canadian scientists, genealogists and Defence Department historians and officials, the private's body was recovered in 2003 and identified earlier this year.
Next, is a story from the Toronto Globe and Mail concerning ongoing argument over the legitimacy of the maple-leaf Canadian flag (accused of being a partisan Liberal-party product) versus the traditional Red Ensign (supported vigorously by Canadian veterans.)

[A blog dedicated to these type of topics is here.]

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has requested the Red Ensign flag fly at Vimy Ridge ceremonies next month, The Globe and Mail has learned.
Mr. Harper told his cabinet ministers yesterday that he wanted both the Red Ensign and the Maple Leaf hoisted in Vimy, France, at the 90th anniversary of the First World War battle, sources close to the Prime Minister said. "He said, 'The Red Ensign of 1917 will fly over Vimy,' " one source told The Globe.
The decision was hailed as a victory by veterans' groups and advocates, who have been lobbying Ottawa to have the historical ensign displayed over the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Parade's End end.

That is, our focused study of Parade's End is coming to and an end. For me, Madox Ford's master-work is the centre of our course: a major literary work which gives gravity to a select cluster of consequential satellite novels and first-class poetry. Not only a tetralogy but a foundational text in the development of literary modernism, Parade's End is daunting enough in its mere form. Moreover, its setting in the span, across the Great War, from the Edwardian to the Georgian eras; and its representation of a social ideal - English Toryism -- as dead entirely to us as the Myan priesthood, adds blank unfamiliarity to the challenges that the book seemingly presents to today's reader.

Yet, that being said, in my estimation, Ford has done what only literary genius proper can do: craft his art into a delightfully, trippingly, captivatingly readable narrative. Now, admittedly I have loved Edwardian fiction from youth, brought a passionate conviction that the absolute horror of First World War shaped our own world down to the smallest cultural effect (not the so-called butterfly effect but the rogue moon, Deep Impact asteroid-collision effect;) and allow, even encourage, the distortions caused by my Yorkshire diaspora to influence my reading. But still, Parade's End is simple & varied, fast-paced, engagingly clever, suspenseful and arousing, and a real tale of a love triangle between three alluring chracters.

In a phrase, it is not Ulysses -- though Madox Ford was instrumental in the successful creation, advocacy and defence of Joyce's cause celebre. Now we have completed our three-week study of Parade's End, we have, I believe, a very strong sense of the Great War in its historical context; of the political and social nexus that created and prolonged trench warfare; of the timbre of the men -- mass millions yet discretely individual -- who, if they did not die or lie smashed, fought for four years amid rats, gas and shell-shock, up to their necks in mud; of the character of an Age, dead and discredited, but with much, if seen advisedly and from a charitable prospect, to commend it and to admire.

The lectures on Parade's End sought to make the larger work accessible by concentrating on its binding themes: the history, characteristics and fate of English Toryism; the literary devices, techniques and methods of Madox Ford's vanguard modernism; the operation of Freudianism in the text; and the manifold binaries represented by Tietjens and Sylvia -- repression & impulse; Sadism in its clinical sense & continence on principle; Roman Catholicism & Anglicanism; promiscuity & monogamy; Whigism & traditionalism; id & super-ego, etc. etc.

Please be encouraged to add your comments (either signed or anonymous) to this post on your assessment of our engagement with Parade's End.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Modernism: Visual Mappings

Here are the scans of the schematic representations of Modernism in the context of Ford Madox Ford from our group work on Monday. Click on an image for a larger view (the worksheets used were slightly bigger than the scanner platen.)
I am really best pleased with the work here: my respects

WWI-type Gas Attack: Terrorists in Iraq

Iraqi terrorists have now begun using chlorine gas in a new suicide bombings that brings one of the horrors of WWI into our own day. This is as appalling and inhuman now as it was then. [Click here for the CNN video report....and then despair.]

Suicide bombers strike with chlorine in Iraq
SAMEER N. YACOUB Associated Press
BAGHDAD — Multiple suicide bombings struck the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, and about 350 Iraqi civilians and six U.S. troops were treated for exposure to chlorine gas, the military said Saturday. At least two policemen also were killed in the attacks.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

First Theatre Troupe: Success

Well, a strong opening to our theatre sports competition today, with Cristal, Mariya & Ann acting the "Lobscheid" section. Be ready the rest of you to have your shot of glory on Monday: email your fellow cast-members to be sure not to leave you holding the bag....
The tension is killing me.

Update: watching the theatrical presentations this class has already added dimensions to my conceptual experience of the novel. I hope the same for you.
Update 2: I found this link to a BBC screenplay of "A Man Could Stand Up." -- the Parade's End project will quite conceivably come to cinematic fruition.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Term Paper

The Term Essay is open topic, and is due April 6th in my Department mailbox(*). For the inevitable excuses or good-reasons-exclusive-of-those-exceptions-published-in-the-syllabus, there is a buffer period wherein late penalties will be waived until noon Monday, April 16th. (**)
The Open Topic will incorporate at least two of the primary course texts and be organised around central course themes. It is not required but advised that an outline of your paper or a draught of your thesis paragraph be discussed in advance of the due date with the Lecturer in Office Hours.

Update: I have added an option for a creative scholarly paper. For this option, you would detail strict failure standards for my written approval, and submit by the deadline a crative alternative to the full-length essay accompanied by a three-to-four page (i.e. a thousand word)scholarly justification for your project.
Update II; See here for more detail.
(*) Changed from April 4th in lecture, to match the previously published Syllabus.
(**) This is the last minutes so no more room to negotiate!
Update III: Assignment Deadlines.
There is a four percent per day late penalty for 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

Battle of the Somme: "Lions led by Donkeys."

Following our class presentation last week on the Battle of the Somme, here is reflection onlast year's anniversary or that "worst battle ever fought."

On the Somme, some 73,000 British dead were never identified; at Verdun, the "unknown" are buried in regiments.
Paul Stanway.

Canada Day this year is the 91st Anniversary of the the Somme. The Canadian Press news wire leads with this story:
OTTAWA (CP) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General Michaelle Jean began Canada Day celebrations Saturday by taking part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the National War Memorial. The event marked the 90th anniversary of the Battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel. It was "very, very moving," Harper later said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
From the centre-left CBC to the centre right Edmonton Sun, an ideological range of Canadian media support my idea that WWI is loathed irrespective of a person's view toward war in general.

On Canada Day in 1916, some 100,000 soldiers of the British Empire climbed out of their trenches near the River Somme in northern France and advanced at walking pace towards the German line - only to meet death on a mind-boggling, industrial scale, in a futile contest that would redefine the meaning of slaughter. By the end of the day the British forces had suffered 60,000 casualties, including 20,000 dead - Canadians among them. At Beaumont-Hamel, the 1st Newfoundland Regiment was cut to pieces by the German machine-guns, with more than 700 casualties in half an hour.
An interesting video reflection of the battle itself can be found on the BBC as well as a useful study into the origins of WWI. There is also a meaningful article on Britain's Oldest WWI survivor as well as this remarkable contemporaneous letter. There are powerful memorials being held in the north of France by the British.

Revisionist accounts of the Somme are also available, in fairness sake, including an article with an audio recording of the son of the man responsible for the unimaginable carnage effected -- at a place, it must be said, against Haig's judgement -- merely to distract from an imbecilic French military action elsewhere.
I did find this one passage arresting, resonant with our Forester text:
Were Haig and his generals really "donkeys"? The evidence suggests not. Haig lost 58 of his fellow generals, killed or dying of wounds while leading from the front during the four years of war. Three died in the Somme in the first few days. So the General Melchett image of Blackadder - of arrogant Generals safe back at headquarters - is unfounded. They were brave...

Literary Modernist Diction

A recent article elaborates one cause of elevated diction in High Modernist literature is one James Miller's "Is Bad Writing Necessary" and can be read online at the Lingua Franca mirror site here.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Theatre Sports

Be ready for your Parade's End performances beginning this Monday: the judges are all ready and the Glenfiddich & chocolate truffles are safe backstage. We'll fit everyone comfortably in over the next week or so, and still have good time for detailed lectures the novel, indivdual presentations, and then moving into Vile Bodies. Oh, yes, we have the last five minutes of Regeneration to view as well, and a discussion of the issues that its script of Patricia Barker's novel raises.

Monday, March 5, 2007

WWI TV on Trench warfare

A great tip from classfellow D.S.
Just wanted to send you this link to a great show about the trenches I watched this afternoon....a great review of how the trenches were built and what a terrible placement (geographically - visually laid out in the show) that the Allies had at Ypres, and how it was pure British patriotism / stoicism / stubbornness that kept the Western line against all odds.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

World War I in the news: Victoria Cross

A great story reported in the weekend's Toronto Globe & Mail about the upcoming 90th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge. The Victoria Cross, the highest reward for military bravery in the Commonwealth, will apparently be again made available to Canadians in April when Her Majesty hands the Victoria Cross to our Prime Minister.

The medals are made from the bronze of cannon at a fort captured during the Crimean War.

The revival of the VC is a testament to the persistence of veterans' groups – notably the Royal Canadian Legion – which for years lobbied the federal government to reinstate it as Canada's foremost decoration for military valour. The VC was shunned in 1972 [i.e. by the Pierre Trudeau Liberals] when the government created a new Canadian honours system that neglected that the country might be at war again. The new system included military honours for meritorious service and bravery but nothing specifically for rare instances of military valour.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tietjens' Toryism vs. Today's English Tories

Christopher Hitchens has an article on today's on the current state of the Conservative Party in Britain, under the cover lede "When did Britain's Conservatives get so namby pamby?"
A Kindler, Gentler Tory Party: Whatever happened to Britain's Conservatives?
O Tempora, O Mores! During the week I recently spent in London, almost all the political gossip was about whether or not the latest leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, had made recreational use of marijuana—and perhaps other drugs—while at Oxford. There were also photographs of him in his undergraduate days, garbed in the uniform of an upper-crust student dining club that could have been captioned "Brideshead Regurgitated." Thus, if only in a slightly frivolous way, the association of the Tories with the nobs and the toffs and the privileged was still preserved in tabloid form. But there was a time when no serious Conservative would have been caught dead with a joint—the very symbol of '60s fatuity. And the interesting thing was to notice not how incongruous the story was with the style of today's Tory leadership, but rather how perfectly it seemed to fit it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

1902 Women's Fashion Paper

Classfellow A.O. sends along this link to a scan of a women's fashion paper -The Designer - from December 1903, the Corelli period. It's great to read the journal online, and the fashions match extant photos of Miss Corelli.

The interest in this topic -- cultural studies, sociology, academic literature -- never diminishes, and there is still many a doctoral thesis to be written about this. I hope to read one someday from the standpoint of the lead-in the the First World War.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Plant blogging

It's wet, cold & snowing outside, but inside my aeschynanthus is blooming. The full delight is in the contrast: true for the literary as well as the horticultural voluptuary.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

NYRB Exchange on Parade's End

Please treat yourself to this (typically catty) exchange between two literary scholars (one American one Canadian) on competing interpretations of Parade's End.

N.b. I'll see if I can get online access to the original article that sparked the exchange through our Library.

Mid-term essays & Monday Office Hours

I hope all is going smoothly for your mid-term essays. Feel free to bring a hard copy of your thesis paragraph, your essay outline, or a particular problem of structure or expression, to any of my Office Hours. Because my Office Hours this Monday are previously booked for Tutorial visits to my 101W course for this term, I will be available from one o'clock to three o'clock Tuesday just for our class. Office Hours resume as usual Wednesday.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A WWI Veteran's Death

One of Canada's three surviving WWI veterans,Victor (Lloyd) Clemett, has just died.
Born Dec. 10, 1899, in Toronto, Clemett lived a rich, long life spanning
more than a century....In 1916, Clemett enlisted in the army at the age of 16, following in the footsteps of his three older brothers. All four returned home at the end of the war.
Article on-line here at The Canadian government is hoping to give one of its rare State funerals at the death of one or all of these remaining WWI veterans. Mr. Clemett has requested a private memorial.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ford, Freud, Modernism & Fragmentation

A highly relevant book that you might be interested in is available through this ebrary link from our Library homepage. Its title declares its relevancy: Fragmenting Modernism: Ford Madox Ford, the Novel and the Great War.
Two characteristic passages to get your attention.

But it is hard to talk about ‘modernism’ (or history) as a homogeneous mass, as will emerge in this Introduction. In my approach to Ford, then, I also fragment modernism itself. I focus on aspects of the modernist aesthetic that are particularly relevant to him and to his work; in so doing, I also demonstrate the fact that there is more to modernism than meets the eye. The prevailing wisdom concerning modernism and fragmentation (the ‘pattern’) is challenged in what follows. Ford, an advocate and cultivator of key modernist techniques, both uses these techniques to represent the fragmented experience and perception of modern life (in a text like The Good Soldier) and counters them (in what I call his positive fictions, like The Half Moon’).

Steven Marcus calls the relation between psychoanalysis and narrative writing ‘an ancient and venerable one’,11 and Freud himself stated in Studies on Hysteria that ‘it still strikes myself as strange that the case histories I write should read like short stories’.12 As Marcus then deduces, ‘On this reading, human life is, ideally, a connected and coherent story, with all the details in explanatory place, and with everything [. . .] accounted for, in its proper causal or other sequence. And inversely, illness amounts at least in part to suffering from an incoherent story or an inadequate narrative account of oneself’ (p. 61).
Haslam, Sara. Fragmenting Modernism : Ford Madox Ford, the Novel and the Great War . Manchester , GBR p21 . Copyright © 2002. Manchester University Press. All rights reserved.

"A Lady of a Certain Age"

Classfellow M.S. sends along this delightful post:
I can picture any one of the girls from Vile Bodies ending as the lady in this song by The Divine Comedy. At any rate, I think it's fairly easy to discern that is being said. I hope you enjoy it; I think this song is absolutely gorgeous. Something else of interest is that The Divine Comedy have one album called Fin de Siecle and another called Regeneration....
The hotlink above (& this post title) take you to an audio of the song, and the lyrics can be read here. I agree wholeheartedly that the song is both gorgeous and pertinent.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Poetry: Monday upcoming

A reminder to bring your Penguin Book of First World War Poetry text to class on Monday .... we'll look at some selected poems through a question relating to an aspect of their literary and extra-literary uniqueness.

As I may have mentioned earlier in the term, this book is one of the rare anthologies which has attained classic literature status independently of the individual poems it collects. It has never been out of print and it sells consistently to a range of book readers: Silkin's editorship here is erudite, sensitive and loving. The latest revision to add writers for social, rather than artistic, reasons made Silkin uneasy (as he mentions himself in the Introduction, but seemingly it has not harmed the book's reputation.

Here is a worthwhile review from our friends at
Sarah"killyrtv9" (NH) - See all my reviewsI have always loved writing poetry, but have often found it hard to read the works of other writers. This book changed me; I have read and re-read the poems collected in this book countless times. It never ceases to move me. The poems offer insight into life, death, love, and the meaning of patriotism. These poems helped me come closer to understanding the experiences of soldiers. Though written many years before I was even born, the themes throughout the book can still be related to today.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mid-Term Topics

See the Course Syllabus for the assignment criteria.

  1. Author Marie Corelli enjoyed overwhelming popularity in all class levels in Britain, from Royalty to maids-of-all-work, and her fiction was admired by some of the literary notables among her contemporaries. Yet for all that, she was nearly universally despised among critics, and remains practically unknown today. From your recent reading of, and course lectures on, Sorrows of Satan, analyse Corelli's literary qualities in terms of the text's relation to World War I, and render your own critical judgement of its literary merit.
  2. Understanding Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room as an Impressionist rendering of fragments of experience, select any one fragment -- in length from one to three pages of text -- and give a close reading of its Modernist form. Organise your close reading around your own critical stance toward both the Modernist project and Virginia Woolf's upper-middle-class resentments and condescensions.
  3. In his "Author's Introduction" to The General, C.S. Forester notes wryly that Adolf Hitler misread, perhaps to his own eventual cost, the book's portrayal of the British officer class at the time both leading up to and during the First World War. Concentrating on the narrational comments outside the dialogue, give your understanding of Forester's double-edged representation of the British Officers' conduct and character.
  4. Open Topic. No later than February 21st, receive approval in writing of a hard copy of a thesis paragraph of your own devising that sets up a scholarly analysis of the course authors, texts and ideas.

Video Interviews of First World War Veterans:

Classfellow S. kindly sends along these links:
Here is the site containing video interviews of war veterans:
Videos specifically from the First World War:

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Course Matters

Three things: two reminders, one new feature.
  1. A number of you have still to leave a comment in the Assignment Post giving the planned subject of your presentation. There is some helpful presentation detail to be found in the post just before this one, below.
  2. Double-check the Group Membership assignments to verify your complement.
  3. Starting tomorrow, we'll have regular discussion circles on a question relating to the course material and focusing on how the particular texts and contexts, and our study of them here in this course, add to your general understanding of literary analysis and appreciation and, as well, your scholarly skill-set. At the conclusion of each discussion, the group will write up the conclusions reached, or questions arising, and hand them in, signed by the participants. I'll keep these as an accumulating document of your course work and, hopefully, have them bound for future reference and benefit (both yours and, most certainly, mine.)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Paglia warns internet: "Only Art Lasts"

Camille Paglia intends her latest book as a pertinent warning against putting technology before art, or, put another way, against giving the transient form more importance than the permament substance.
Paglia has been and continues to be a strong booster of the internet's benefits for scholarship & effective polity, so her caution has weight.

UPDATE: Here is her article version.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Poppy Day: Britain

To help you to prepare for the class discussion on Monday on the Remembrance wearing of the poppy, here is information on the British equivalent of Remembrance Day, Poppy Day - so my memory held up well there. It is not a "Statutory Holiday" (i.e. Bank Holidays in Britain,) but rather it is honoured the nearest Sunday with a Church memorial service. This is equivalent to Harvest Festival, which Canadians celebrate as "Thanksgiving Day;" adding a "statutory holiday" that uses the British time of year but the American name.
More cases, by the bye, of Canada creeping steadily away from Britain and toward the United States ....
Nb: in recent years, Britain has introduced a two minutes silence on November 11th, when all offices, government, factories, schools, &c, are encouraged to volutarily observe two minutes silence at 11:00 am in memoriam.

The BBC: Poppy Day

The BBC's "Remembrance" webpage is here.

On the two minutes silence:
On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 the guns of Europe fell silent. After four years of the most bitter and devastating fighting, The Great War was finally over. The Armistice was signed at 5am in a railway carriage in the Forest of Compiegne, France on November 11, 1918. Six hours later, at 11am, the war ended ....

All locomotion should cease, so that, in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Monday's lecture upcoming

Just a reminder that the agenda is to finish Jacob's Room, start on The General, and find out how the group project is getting started (we two or three people who were absent on the first Group Project day, & we will assign one to each of the three six-member groups.)

Oh, also we will hear what Charles Darwin wrote about women -- that is, what were his scientific conclusions about the female sex. You will simply need to recite the Evolutionsts Creed aloud & sign a waiver....

See you then!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Group memberships

Here are the memberships of the four Groups for the assigned project.

Some Do Not:
No More Parades:
A Man Could Stand Up:
The Last Post:
S ....
The three people absent last Wednesday can each slot into one of the six-member groups, next class.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

State & Citizen: Pre-WWI versus Now

Opening lecture detailed the far remove at which the State was held from the individual in Britain before the Great War. You can find the same thesis argued in this history. One of the radical consequences of the First World War, and of the Modernist movement, was, as stated, the involvement of the State in individual lives to an increasing extent.

Immediate evidence for the degree to which the State's responsibility is presently conceived can be found in this article from the Vancouver Province.

Its author, one Joey Thompson, reacts to the dragging death in Maple Ridge of gas station attendant Grant De Patie (pictured here) ..... by blaming the government for not having a law: in effect conceiving of the State as capable of preventing all human tragedy if it would just pass enough laws or apply sufficent taxation.

Whether this fundamental faith in the omnipotency of government is laudable or damnable is outside the purview of our course. What concerns us is how utterly alien Ms. Thompson's mentality would have been to people in Britain before World War One.

To them, it would be be as if Ms. Thompson read of the serial decisions made by the teenaged Darnell Pratt to (i.) drink to excess, (ii.) steal a car, (iii.) drive impaired, (iv.) drive without licence, (v.) steal petrol, (vi.) deliberately run an attendant over, and (vii.) remain indifferent to the screams while he slowly grinded the innocent man's face, limbs, and chest to the bone under the car over a five-mile drive toward an unimaginably agonising death .... and then after she had considered the matter, Ms. Thompson were to decide that the blame belongs to the athletic & administrative incompetancy of the Vancouver Canucks.

Update: the only noble thing about this sickeningly revealing event & its aftermath is explained in an article entitled "Grieving parents reject hate."

Update2: via the indispensable Arts & Letters Daily, a timely and somewhat biting article from Britain's Telegraph developing this topic, with the lede:
Despite being richer, people are not happier than in earlier times. Only government can solve the problem, with a more caring attitude. And more therapists... more>>>>

Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Damn Tempest" Discussion

A useful follow-up e-mail from a classfellow on our vigourous "damn Tempest" debate from this Monday. (And my respects go to students sticking to their guns in class .....)
Tempest's decision to choose heaven by becoming a better man and giving up his money is more noble and useful in a sense, because even while living in poverty, he will aid others and reform himself into a good man - both of which would take a great deal of perseverance and work. One can thus look at surrender to hell as a cowardly act. If Tempest had given himself to hell, it could have been considered a show of unwillingness to put the effort into becoming a man empathetic to others in pain, while leading a far more difficult life of poverty. In hell, Tempest would neither have been able to become a good man, nor help others. He also would not havelearned empathy, only regret and suffering.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Group Project: Wendesday Class

First & foremost, I want you to know how grateful I am for your kind forebearance at this time. I promise it will not unappreciated.

So, for the Group Project. As I detailed, an SFU emeritus professor of English, Dr. Ralph Maud, has, I'm told, the film rights to Parade's End. Now, Parade's End is a very great book, and -- like with any book great in both senses -- it will be a source of pride & of value to have read it as your life goes on.

Because it is a large book, the more assistance and time one has appreciating it the better. So for these two reasons, a Group Project engaging Parade's End will be very rewarding.

Accordingly, our class this term will create a compendium to the book: a sort of superior Coles Notes by university undergraduate scholars aimed at the generally-educated public who will be attracted to, and by, the film version of Parade's End.

This Wednesday's class, then, you will begin the project, in the following way.

  1. Divide yourselves into four groups of equal numbers.
  2. The groups will be divided according to the four books of the Parade's End tetralogy: one group for each of the four books.
  3. All four books were published separately in series, and are each written in a different style -- each of which has its own attractiveness. Some Do Not.... is set in pre-War Edwardian England; No More Parades in the early half of the War; A Man Could Stand Up-- in the ending and de-mobbing; The Last Post is post-War.
  4. Each group will exchange names & e-mail, list your names and Book assignment and e-mail them to me later, and decide on a rough plan of attack. This will include how you think a compendium of a book, to be used in support of a Film version of that book, will most effectively be formatted & informed.
  5. Decide if you want to run a blog (easy to set-up, easy to communicate by: virtually, at your convenience & from anywhere -- no need to meet in person then); or create a log-book or some other method of writing up your project.
  6. Then, repair yourselves to the Libray and (a.) pull out the Collections material on Ford Madox Ford & the books of Parade's End, then (b.) consult with the Librarians at the Main Floor Reference Desk and research articles under the Library Home Page, SFU Library Databases. Do Not use Googled articles and never use nor cite "Wikipedia:" this is a scholarly project.

One way in which this project will be supported is the background material to the period & World War One provided by our Individual Presentations: we might consider making our Individual work generally available in e-text form.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Victorians: Fin de Siecle & Degeneration

A question was asked about fin de siecle and end-of-the-world mentality. The apocalyptic attitude is ages-old. Even in the New Testament warning is given:

[1] This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. [2] For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, [3] Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, [4] Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; [5] Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. [II Timothy 3.]
Indeed, an argument I find myself making frequently is that History is a process of reaction away from, with each current denouncing its predecessor (in the manner of teenagers to parents) - frequently special pleading by label: "The Enlightenment" & "the Dark Ages;" and not to forget "Modernism."

Yet, for all that, among the Victorians was an obsession with they perceived as a crisis of degeneracy unique in its degree and different in its kind. To give a slightly trivial example, the tang of degeneration is part of the piquancy contributing to the enormous popularity of the Sherlock Holmes stories. A much better piece of evidence is ... Marie Corelli! The unmatched popularity of her fiction and its immediate and uniform concern with degeneracy is very strong testimony to the zeitgeist. I own a copy of one of the better scholarly treatments of the matter,
Degeneration, Culture, and the Novel, 1880-1940 by William Greenslade, which I will put on course reserve.

Reasons for the obsession with degeneracy among Victorians, ones that cut across class, sex and income, are manifold and over-determining. Ordinary fin de siecle consequences are of course important. Additionally, a technological explosion had originally driven the Industrial Revolution which at once created a working class and forced it into urban concentrations. The resulting slums throughout the proliferating major cities -- Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle, &c. -- ignored hygiene and bred disease and ignored social welbeing and bred vice: gambling, prostitution, brawling and drunkenness. Victorian England was the high water mark of Methodism and Evangelicism and its crusade for social reformation was uniquely intense. Slavery and child labour were abolished; fourteen-hour factory work days were reduced for women; prisons and hospitals, through campaigners such as Elizabeth Fry and Florence Nightingale, were made more humane. The Salvation Army campaigned to counter alcoholism and other vices. And the ever-intensifying technology of the Industrail revolution was turned, by reformers, to improve drainage, sewage and potable water systems.

To this social atmosphere I would add an element that I have not yet fully defined nor mapped the origins of (beyond its evolutionary connection to Puritanism), but which amounts to an aesthetic, emotional and an erotic preference for hid delights. It can be contrasted with an Age -- such as ours perhaps -- which prefers things revealed and decries restraint. The Victorians were titillated, and comforted, by what was known to exist but was draped from universal sight.

Add to this the intellectual earthquake which was Darwinism: a theory taken as a justification for progress and improvement -- the progress and improvement, that is, which is so much the character of Victorianism. The intellectual climate, then, produced a cast of mind which can be termed, not merely progressivist, but outright perfectibilian.

These, and indeed other, aspects of the Victorian Age, then, made it intensely (I don't say uniquely) expressive when developments which are comprehensibly termed "degeneracy" became evident. And thus it has become a commonplace among scholars of the Nineteenth Century to take obsession with degeneracy as a salient characteristic of the times.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"Sorrows of Satan" ... in song

Don Henley's song "In the Garden of Allah" has a very similar conceit to Corelli's Sorrows of Satan, which you will recognise when you read the lyrics, here, and would be able to watch, were it not immoral to go to the YouTube link, here, so ....Don't.

Borat & the British Class System

The following quotation, from this article , in today's Times of London interviewing Sacha Baran Cohen on the success of his "Borat" persona, is very revealing; not only of the continued existence of, but also some of the different defining characteristics between, the three social classes in Britain, as we have touched upon them in lecture. (The supporting comment on America is pertinent, on the MacNeil thesis that southern American landowners are -- as their Elizabethan accent reveals -- vestigal British aristocracy who emigrated to the American colonies.)

One of the most intriguing questions about Baron Cohen’s characters is: why do so many people fall for the act? Partly he relies on good manners and politeness: “Ali G and Borat worked very well in England with the upper class because they were so polite. They would keep this person in their room. Members of the working class might have thrown him out; members of the middle class might not have revealed themselves as much.
“We found that the Deep South of America was very good for Borat because people were so polite and so welcoming of strangers. They were so proud of their American heritage that they would talk to this person about America and American values for an hour and a half.”

Saturday, January 20, 2007

More on Marie Corelli

Here is some more helpful background on Marie Corelli, specific to our course engagement with her.
  • This article on The Victorian Web shows her attitude to the decadents, in the form of a denunication of Algernon Swinburne. (Pace Sibyl in The Sorrows of Satan: "Swinburne, among others, had helped me live mentally, if not physically, through such a phase of vice as had poisoned my thoughts for ever."
  • From the Literary Heritage, an article on her Shakespearean aspect: Marie Corelli and the Stratford-upon-Avon controversy.
  • Corelli's succinct entry in The Literary Encyclopedia, click here.

Classfellow Comment on "Sorrows of Satan"

I have this stimulative email from a classfellow. I'll follow up on this in more detail in Monday's lecture. Any Wilde experts amongst us?
I've just finished The Sorrows of Satan and found a few resemblances to Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Both centre around a fairly naive young man who is corrupted by a worldy gentleman who intoxicates the naifs withthe possibilities their attributes will allow them to acheive - Dorian with his beauty and Geoffrey with his millions. (Also, both of the love interests were named Sibyl which stood out to me, although, perhapsthat was simply the "it" name for the end of the 19th century). However, one of the major differences, I found, was Corelli gives Geoffrey a second chance to mend his ways, Wilde leaves Dorian as a wretched corpse, completely unrecognizable to his servants. This redemption, of course, is important in the Christian faith and what I would imagine is Marie Corelli's world view. Also, this book has unearthed my Catholic guilt, which was quite unexpected.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Class Cancelled: Wednesday January 17th

Covering the wicket here besides the email notice, I have had to cancel today's class. My mother has a terminal illness out in MSA hospital & I'm going there now. Sic transit gloria mater. See you all Monday.

Stoicism in the British Charcter

In the aftermath of the 7/7 Islamicist terror attacks in London, the tenor of the British response was widely praised as Stoical. Blog entries, with expansive links, can he found here, here and here.

This strain within the traditional British character (it is, historically, intertwined with Christianity) is important to understand if one wishes a full understanding of the Edwardians' (in general) and Marie Corelli's (in particular) reaction to the Deacadent movement. One small example is Gilbert & Sullivan's satiric operetta on aestheticism, entitled Patience. You'll be familiar with its immortal lines:

If you're anxious for to shine in the high aesthetic line / as
a man of culture rare ... And ev'ryone will say / As you walk your flow'ry way, / "If he's content with a vegetable love which would certainly not suit me, / Why, what a most particularly pure young man / this pure young man must be!"

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Classfellow's Comment

A classfellow usefully reflects on our engagement Monday with Sorrows of Satan on The Times article by Dawn Eden, author of The Thrill of the Chaste, on the virtues of chastity.

Interestingly, while many had criticism for Dawn Eden’s article “Casual sex is a con: women just aren’t like men” little was said on Sybil’s dialogue excerpt from Marie Corelli’s “The Sorrows of Satan”. Both written pieces express similar opinions on the issue of chastity and women. Thus I wondered if the way each opinion is presented, had anything to do with the discrepancy between the number of criticisms raised for Eden’s article and Corelli’s book. For me, it is less shocking to see an opinion I object to in the form of a dialogue, than in an article. In the case of Sybil’s speech, the presence of Geoffrey’s voice objecting to her opinions, made it somewhat disputable as to whether Corelli truly or fully shared Sybil’s beliefs. Moreover, because Sybil is a fictional character, the manner in which she delivers her ideas (“preachy”) could not be assumed as the way Corelli would have presented the same opinions. It would be
understandably more difficult to critic Corelli directly for her opinions and how she articulates them. Eden’s work however, simply by being an article, left no doubt about the fact that the opinions and the manner they are expressed are certainly hers.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Stop Procrastinating: Right NOW!

A very helpful article in, of all places, the Toronto Globe & Mail, on the student's vice of procrastination:

....15 to 20 per cent of us are procrastinators. The condition is even more prevalent among the student population, where a third of most students' days are eaten up by procrastinating, something he pointed out yesterday while students seated around him gabbed, surfed the Internet and slept in a lounge on campus.
"Usually when I have an assignment I put it off until later," confessed Robert Maxwell, an 18-year-old biology student as he was distracted from his textbook on plants.
"It's a bad habit."
Three major factors contribute to precisely that habit, according to Prof. Steel. Self-confidence is key. Those who believe they can, essentially, will and those who don't, won't. The value of the task is important in whether it gets done. Is it something to enjoy or dread? And finally, delay. When does the task need to be completed? It's hard to get motivated about something that can be put off until some distant deadline looms.
Click here for more >>

Student Reflection

A typically-excellent SFU-student casual reflection on course material: showing why we're still great.

Regarding Crime and Punishment, it "appeared" in 1866, before Sorrows of Satan in 1895. I think why Crime and Punishment reminds me so much of Sorrows of Satan, is the desperation of the main characters. Yet whereas Raskolnikov, provokes sympathy, Mr. Tempest provokes disdain. Both books seem to provoke thoughts about tour human nature and its split in character about what is right and what is wrong. It is certainly an interesting read after Milton's Paradise Lost!

P.S. Pp. 108, 111,137,138 are some points of interest where Mr. Tempest shows his division of character best so far

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Yesterday Snow Disaster

I trust that you all made it safely off the mountain last night: I confess that duty alone made me hold the class against better judgement. If it is any consolation, I was trapped here until after seven-thirty and when I got to the bottom of Gaglardi by the Big Bend I, quite literally, could have got out of my car, put on my CCM Tacks & around skated with ease. A bus smashed in the middle of the hill, jack-knifed into a truck, & about a hundred cars simply abandoned. A compleat disaster.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Getting an "A" on an English Paper

An excellent article here with practical advice from Jack Lynch at Rutgers University on success, lovely success; "A" glorious "A."

Monday, January 8, 2007

Cause and World War One.

As argued in lecture, there was no cause to the First World War. The popular factoid that the death of a minor (though pleasant and competant) European royal in a dour Balkan capital caused the West to immolate itself in four years of a Dantean Inferno in French ditches is not false but merely silly on its face.

Attributing a cause to the War is not an empirical or academical problem, but a historical-conceptual failure to use the term "cause" properly.
Before the putative Enlightenment, it was understood that there are four causes, delineated by Aristotle in his Physics, that together explain an event.
  1. Material cause: the physical properties involved.
  2. Formal cause: the aggregate of underlying properties which amount to its unique identity.
  3. Efficient cause: the initial motion or action which began the event.
  4. Final cause: the event's function or purpose -- its end.)

Take a simple illustrative example. I am about to pot the black in a game of snooker. Thwack! It's in; I win yet again. Material cause is the solid constrution of the table, balls, &c.: if the cue ball were tissue and the black jello, the event (the potting of the black) would not take place. Formal cause is the rules of billiards, the shape of the table, cue, rack, and all the other contributing elements that shape and frame -- i.e. that form -- the event. Efficient cause, of course, is the mechanics behind the cue hitting the cue ball. And final cause is Stephen Ogden winning the match and having his universal supremacy at billiards re-affirmed for posterity . Or something like that.

Applying, then, the robust pre-Enlightenment concept of causation to the problem of how and why the First World War began we see at once its great explanatory power as well as the relative feebleness of the Englightenment's shrunken understanding of "cause". The killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by an inept Bosnian terrorist is efficient cause of the First World War: and a good efficient cause it is. But being stuck in Englightenment-Cause thinking has trapped the generations of post-War scholars in an impossible search for more, or for bigger, or for better efficient causes: impossible, because no efficient cause and no amount or quality of efficient causes can ever fully explain an event. Now, of course, if the event should happen to be small enough, and if the mind contemplating the case be sufficiently bereft of imagination (or, it might be said, of rigour), then an efficient cause can seem adequate. But events on a large or more significant scale reveal the impotence of the Enlightenment-Cause model.

Material cause of the War includes 1914 Europe's demographics, military technology & ordnance, national-geographical, and perhaps the crossover network of treaties in effect. Its formal cause can be summed up as the ethnic, cultural and political histories of the nations and Empires involved. And final cause is ..... well, final cause is for each historian, historiographer and theologian to decide and to argue individually.

Ford Madox Ford in Parade's End puts one conviction of WWI's final cause -- the Tories' -- into the mouth of the protagonist Christopher Tietjens; and that would be the altruism of England. Tietjens is Ford's literary manifestation of Tory England, so when it is said of him that " is, in fact, asking for trouble if you are more altruist than the society that surrounds you," [Penguin, 207] it is actually England that has asked for trouble (and will, in fact, be smashed -- insofar as its Tory character is concerned) by entering the War altruistically to defend the "surrounding" societies of the Belgians and the French primarily for the sake of (to Madox Ford, cricket-inspired) Duty.

[Tietjens'] mind was at rest because there was going to be a war. From the first moment of his reading the paragraph about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand he had known that, calmly and with assurance. Had he imagined that this country would come in he would not have known a mind at rest. He loved this country for the run of the hills, the shape of its elm trees and the way the heather, running uphill to the skyline, meets the blue of the heavens. War for this country could only mean humiliation, spreading under the sunlight, an almost invisible pall over the elms, the hills, the heather, like the vapour that spread from .... oh, Middlesbrough! .... But of war for us [i.e. Britain] he had no fear. He saw our Ministry sitting tight till the opportune moment, and then grabbing a French channel port or a few German colonies as the price of neutrality.

You each will, I trust, be able to advance your own final cause of the War with our course under your belt ....

And to conclude, there was indeed no "cause" for the First World War: but there were, as for everything, four causes.

Update: Click this link for a typical school history attempting to explain the First World War in terms limited to efficient causes. It is actually a fairly sophisticated attempt of its type, differentiating as it does between "long term" and "short term" [efficient] causes.

View from "over the top"

First World War photograph of the view from an allied trench into no-man's land (that term was coined in WWI) to the German lines in the distance. Notice that nothing grows: all vegetation was annihilated as the entired ground was bombarded three times over. Only the rats thrived there. Click image for larger view.

Opening Class Follow-up

I've updated the syllabus for the mid-term assignment as discussed.

I'd sure like to come up with a strategy to make our Monday lecture hall more congenial. It has absolutely no seminar feeling, and it is quite impossible to make the proper human connection as
things are presently configured. Any ideas will be most welcome.

I hope the film was as enjoyable for you as it still is for me on the tenth or eleventh viewing. It certainly sets up our course material well. And you've had the background lecture up front, so its literary analysis & from here on out!

Feel free to add comments, critiques, suggestions, what have you, in the comments section of this -- or any -- blog post. Post anonymously if the criticism is especially harsh, ha ha.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Welcome To English 340

Rats, Gas & Shell-Shock: the Literary Scars of WWI
"The First World War is a period of history with which we have yet to come to terms, and which continues to haunt our culture." The Literary Encyclopedia

The success of contemporary British novelist Pat Barker's 1990s Regeneration trilogy and its subsequent film adaptation has opened new interest in World War One and indicates that Britain may at last be ready to confront the full atrocity of that unnecessary, unfinished and unconscionably mismanaged war. So unbearable were life and death alike in trench warfare that works of imagination in Britain struggled to face its full horrors squarely. Indeed, the literary history of 20th Century Britain to 1945 - including works as diverse as Lady Chatterley's Lover and Lord of the Rings - is traceably scarred by festering wounds of the "War to End all Wars." In this course we will read and examine several now-neglected masterpieces by important British writers of the period, and see how each in its own artistic terms both succeeds and fails to respond adequately the (perhaps literally) unspeakable horrors of the trenches. We will look too at a few of the great First World War poets, including Sassoon and Owen, who, writing as they did from front-line experience, more immediately recorded those terrors, like gas warfare and shell shock, not even named before their devastation was accomplished.

NOTE: The BBC comedy series Blackadder Goes Forth, set in World War One, will be seen in clips throughout the course to give dramatic background and satiric analysis of the events. Testimony to the unresolved status of World War One in Britain, laughter turned to cathartic sorrow when first broadcast of the series' poignant conclusion produced national weeping.

Corelli, Marie The Sorrows of Satan
Forester, C. S. The General
Ford, Maddox Ford Parade's End
Woolf, Virginia Jacob's Room
Waugh, Evelyn Vile Bodies
Silkin, John, ed. Penguin Book of First World War Poetry

The following texts will be placed on reserve in the library: Women's Fiction &; the Great War by Raitt & Tate; Regeneration by P. Barker; The Great War in British Literature by A. Barlow; and The War in the Trenches by A. Lloyd.

10% Class participation
10% Class presentation
20% Mid-term paper (approx. 2000 words)
20% Group project
40% Final paper (approx. 3500 words)