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!