Friday, August 04, 2006

Field Trip Group Photo

Courtesy of classfellow H.G.H.

Class Presentations Post: A Resource

The post I've maintained containing your Individual Presentations was designed to be a good research resource for specific details related to Modernism - hopefully a Help as you work on your term papers, due August 8th in my department mailbox.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Eveleyn Waugh's Prophecy

Adam Fenwyck-Symes, writing as "Mr. Chatterbox" creates a person -- Mrs. Andrew Quest -- in his column for the sole purpose of writing gossip about her. In 1930, when Waugh wrote Vile Bodies, this was high satire.
It is now real-life.
Sony pays $1.5m over fake critic.
A judge has finalised a settlement in which film studio Sony will pay $1.5m (£850,000) to film fans after using a fake critic to praise its movies. In 2001, ads for films including Hollow Man and A Knight's Tale quoted praise from a reviewer called David Manning, who was exposed as being invented.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Modernist Pop Music

Classfellow Ray curses me for making him unable to enjoy his iPod without thinking "Modernism," as follows ....
Yesterday, I had an urge to listen to a song I somewhat liked a few years ago ... I put it to my iPod, and went towork. While on the bus, I had a good chance to listen to the lyrics and then it hits me: "...this is Modernism! In fact, this is 'Vile Bodies'! The golden road... the living in Edwardian decadence without Edwardian reasons. Leaving suddenly ... the lost generation and those who just left to the war and never came back. Driving off in a car and it breaking down ... Agatha. "Where were they going without ever knowing the way "... walking straight into WWII. Here's a URL to the music video on YouTube, I hope you enjoy it. Honestly, 9am on a Sunday, half awake on a bus to work, and the biggest idea in my head was Modernism ....

Guilty, guilty, guilty!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Modernism & the Impossible Present

Classfellow Thor sends along this useful poetic definition of Modernism:
"[M]odernism is the struggle of the future to free itself from the clinging hands of a dying past"- from "Modernism as a World-Wide Movement." A. Eustace Haydon, The Journal of Religion, January 1925.
You will notice the support this lends to my repeated thesis in lecture about Modernism's troubled position vis à vis the temporal present -- yet one more concept that analogises to shell-shock.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Imagism & Vorticism (& Facism)

Here are the links I mentioned in lecture: of Imagism, and a scan of the Blast vanity publications of 1914-15.
Let me repeat that I entirely reprudiate, deplore & deprecate the loathesome and inexcusible anti-Semitism of Ezra Pound that so evidently animated the Blast tract.

Term Paper: Creative Option

For those classfellows who are considering the creative-writing option for the Term Paper, it will be necessary to have me sign off on your proposed format in advance. The proposal must take the form of a set of failure standards -- applying the falsification concept from experimental science, where a theory is ranked as scientific only when it is capable of being falsified in a reproducible trial.

So, if you chose to submit a creative paper or project for your Term assignment, in either essay or point form, list the full set of criteria by which your project can be gauged to have failed. To wit,
  • if the project does not advance an academic thesis
  • if the project does not identifiably incorporate material from relevent scholarship
  • if the project fails to relate directly to some number of the primary course texts
  • if the project fails to represent and demonstrate advanced understanding of the central ideas of the course
  • &c, &c.
This criteria requirement arises from creative submissions in previous courses, where creativity was more than once mistaken (by the student author) for open license. At the same time, it has proven to give the student a helpful planning template and a good stimulus to .... productivity.

The creative project must be accompanied by a concise scholarly essay justifying the academic validity of the project.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Loosely War Related

Any intrepid netheads amongst you able to determine whether this article is a hoax or the truth? Headshaking Headline: Nobel Peace Prize Winner to Schoolchildren: 'I would love to kill George Bush'...

Update: the person at least is real: her name is
Betty Williams, shown here with the Dalai Lama.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Term Paper: Reflections

Seminar Thursday included a fecund roundtable discussion on means by which the Term paper -- indeed, any term paper -- can be engaging, memorable and productive of scolarship rather than a mere chore. A variety of specific ideas were outlined:
  • reduce the word count but build consultative revisions into the full assignment.
  • in small groups, exchange draughts, offer oral critique, and work up an edit schema.
  • use alternatives to the scholarly essay form.
  • varieties of "take away student autonomy & set minute criteria in stone."

From the Instructorial perspective, all the ideas reduce neatly to two simple dicta:

  1. "Use office hours."
  2. "Chose a topic from what excites, angers, puzzles or impresses you in the course material."

Don't try to be scholarly when you conceive the assignment. Look back on the course and find something that engages you for whatever reason. Then, find the tightest and most concrete idea possible and turn it into a thesis: "I think this is true." Draught in roughest form an introductory paragraph, or simply sketch a plan of development in point form on a sheet of paper and bring in to an Office Hour for consultation.

The form that the paper will take is then open for mutual agreement. The venerable canons of scholarship provide a scale of formal expression that gives wide scope for creativity & inspiration. Again, the type to which the paper adheres is settled during the individual consultation that Office Hours allow.

On the matter of secondary sources, my dictum is that connection with an established body and tradition of scholarhip is what elevates us above journalism. A classfellow sends along the following advice, given by Dr. Kate Scheel:

1. Present my own idea regarding the question / thesis / course work etc.
2. Find a [related] textual example .... from the course
3. Support this idea with a secondary resource [researched in the Library stacks.]

I am keeping [thus] my own voice, providing appropriate examples, and crediting my work through scholarly examples. This may seem trivial ... however, I know many people to whom this was [....never] clearly and simply explained.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Term Paper Book

As I said in lecture today, I am interested in setting a permament record of our course together by having the Term papers bound -- with Introduction (by the present writer) w. Table of Contents. Please believe that this will be something to which you will refer warmly as the years pass. However, I do understand that some may not be comfortable having their efforts thus immortalised. Accordingly, to ensure that no-one feel pressured, I will wait until after the Final Grades have been posted for the course and then have you submit a copy of your paper by email as you wish, or not. I am hoping that the cost from Duplicating will be nominal: I'll let you all know.
Update: Campus ReproGraphics quotes the cost as twenty dollars -- with a group photograph on the cover ;--)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Modernist Diction

The recent article that I discussed in lecture today as an elaboration of 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.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Vocabulary in Literary Modernism

Remember to be contemplating, for discussion in class Tuesday, a likely scholarly explanation for the esoteric vocabulary encountered in High Moderist texts like Madox Ford's Parade's End.

Term Paper

The Term Paper is due in just over three weeks. The criteria are as specified in the syllabus: "Open topic, due no later than August 7th at midnight in the Instructor's Department mailbox." This effectively gives over four full days past the final class of term. Please note that the midnight deadline is the latest time for the assignment to be submitted: you can hand it in earlier if you do not wish to come up to campus at midnight!

Provided the essay has a scholarly thesis, conforms to the English Department Style Guide, and develops material and ideas directly presented in our course, let your intellect & imagination be your guide. I will have extended Office Hours in the last week of term for in-depth consultation.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Bring "Return of the Soldier"

A reminder to bring your copy of Rebecca West's Return of the Soldier to class this week.

Group Project

I hope your Group Projects are coming along well. We'll have time set aside in seminar to do some work in real time (& real place!) This is a good opportunity to review the assignment criteria.

On the last day of term, August 3rd, we will play "Deal or No Deal?" (a variation of the Monty Hall Problem) pitting each group against the others with myself as genial host. By July 27th in seminar each group will submit to me a binder containing a single sheet from each group member on which will be written five questions [Update: & their direct & comprehensive answers.] These will form a pool of questions from which I will conduct the Quiz-Show (naturally, your group will not be asked any of your own questions.)

The assignment will be graded sixty percent on the quality of your submitted questions and fourty percent on your relative success in the Quiz-Show. The questions must relate directly to Course material: texts primary and secondary, lectures, and seminar discussion & presentations. As an example of specificity, I offered the following: "Name one of the two relations that General Curzon dismissed as aides de camp for incompetancy." Of generality, this: "Virginia Woolf is addressing her fiction to what aspect or concern of literary modernism in the passage in Jacob's Room which represents the class system using the seating at the Opera house?"

Your questions should be tricky enough to challenge, but fairly, your opponent groups, and thus maximise your chance of winning the Quiz Show. The format of the Show will have your Host periodically offering you the opportunity to take instead one of two or three alternatives from your original answer to a given Question.

Best wishes.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

"Paulo-Post" & Shellshock

An excellent insight from classfellow Jaason:
I was wondering if Ford's use of the timeshift and the paulo-post could also be linked thematically to shell-shock. For example, Chris (Return of the Soldier) returned from the war and was just thrown into his old life and then forced to fill in the details. Also, when Tietjens first comes home from the war, the reader does not know that he has shell-shock and it is only slowly revealed as we read on and the details are filled in. Perhaps Ford wants us to have a taste of what shell-shock is like and achieves it by using this technique.

Friday, July 07, 2006

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.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Somme: 90th Anniversary - "Lions led by Donkeys."

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 90th Anniversary of the Battle of 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...

Friday, June 30, 2006

The Fort Langley Graveyard Garden Party

Sunshine, spiders, Seeger, Johnny Walker, Rupert Brooke, really old trees, and a Rendezvous with Death.
Thanks Dr. Ogden for another memorable and unconventional literary experience!
[Posted by Pigeon]

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Thursday Is Reading Day

As announced on our delightful Field Trip today, this Thursday's seminar (June 29th) is designated as a Reading Break. With the long weekend, this gives you an excellent opportunity to finish the wonder that is Parade's End. See you all in class next Tuesday.

(No, there aren't any World Cup matches on Thursday!)

If any of you with digital photographs of our trip, would you consider forwarding them to be posted on the blog?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Tuesday Field Trip

For those going to and from campus, we will meet in the "L" lot behind the Library -- by the overnight book drop -- at the start of class, eleven thirty and we will return there by the end of class, twenty-past one. For those going straight there, we should be at Glover Road and 96th Avenue just past noon.

My plan is to spend our time in the area of the memorial tree and read & discuss some of the First World War poetry.

Looking forward to it ....

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Mid-Term Essay Topics

Here are three topics to chose from for the mid-term paper, twenty-five hundred words, due in lecture July 11th.

1.] There is a degree of attention in the modernist novels that we are studying in our course to the class system in England that, insofar as the general understanding of the literary movement is concerned, seems surprising. Using the many insights provided in lecture, present your argument for a unitary explanation of the prominent treatment that the English class structure receives from any three of our writers of modernism.

2.] Address yourself in your essay to two related paradoxes – one vexing, the other humourous – which must necessarily confound – or, at least, should confound – any honest and competently knowledgeable modernist scholarship. One is that a coherent, rational and tidy academic understanding is being pursued of a movement founded on an attitude deprecatory toward tidy resolution and closed systems by a disparate membership having contradictory designs, principles and practices. Two is the multifareous metaphysic asserted by modernists on one hand and the unprecedented Titanarchy that its creators formed themselves into on the other. (From the standpoint of years, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the most important concern of Freud, Lawrence, Joyce, Woolf, & many far lesser, & more local Modernists was inescapably .... Freud, Lawrence, Joyce, Woolf, &c.)

3.] Your course Instructor argues -- persuasively and with exceptional elegance -- that World War One is the defining event of Modernism. Using a minimum of any two course authors, support or rebut this argument by means of a comparison between representations of pre-War Edwardianism and the Great War.

The Life and Times of Edward James Sellwood – as told by Pigeon’s mother.

I never really heard my father complain, I think he must have been a fairly good natured soldier. He was underage when he signed up. Born in March, 1897, he was 17 in 1914.

He fought in Europe until he was wounded in the shoulder – a bullet went straight through. He was sent back to England to recuperate. When he was on the street in England strangers would come up to him and ask why he wasn’t at the front.

We have heard of the soldiers in the trenches on both sides stopping fighting on Christmas Day and taking part in a soccer game, resuming the war the next day. My Dad said that on Christmas Day where he was the men stopped the bloodshed, got out of the trenches and offered cigarettes to each other. The officers were angry because they felt this behavior showed the enemy where the Allied trenches were.

Dad was passing the time chatting to a fellow soldier...
click to read more

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Modernism Is ... OCEL

From the Oxford Companion to English Literature, edited by Margaret Drabble:
MODERNISM: an omnibus term for a number of tendencies in the arts which were prominent in the first half of the twentieth century: in English literature it is particularily associated with the writings of V. Woolf, T.S. Eliot, Pound Joyce, Yeats F.M. Ford & Conrad. Broadly, modernism reflects the impact upon literature of the psychology of Freud and the anthropology of J.G. Frazer as expressed in The Golden Bough.... it was marked by a persistent experimentalism; it is 'the tradition of the new' in Harold Rosenberg's phrase. It rejected the traditional .... Although so diverse in its manifestation, it was recognised as representing as H. Read wrote (ArtNow, 1933) , 'an abrupt break with all tradition ...'Modernist works (for instance, the poetry of Elot & Pound) may have a tendency to dissolve into a chaos of sharp atomistic impressions.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

"Modernism Is ...." --- Individual Presentations

I will use this post to collect the summaries of our individual class presentations, as an effective resource for our understanding of the wild & contradictory complexities of Modernism.

Modernism is ... the literary evolution of the traditional narrative.
1) Modernist literature does not subscribe to the traditional narratives of previous literature eras
2) Modernism brought a new way of writing
3) Stream-of-Consciousness
4) Symbolism as the linking force of ideas and narrative in the story
5) Deep philosophical themes soaked into the subtext of the story

Modernism is .... the confident assertion of uncertainty.
1. Modernist Confidence: High Modernism – ‘knowing everything about everything.’ Sense of superiority. ‘Legends in their own minds’
2. Perhaps this outward confidence is merely masking an underlying uncertainty/anxiety, for modernists seem equally concerned, if not intensely preoccupied, with the unknowable / incomprehensible.
3. Look at what modernists are replacing traditional ideas with: Modernists are NOT replacing certainty with certainty (old clarity with new-found clarity), but rather, replacing old certainties with ambiguities.
4. The use of a broken/fragmented style, to convey broken/fragmented ideas, could be seen as reflecting a state of mind that is similarly broken/fragmented.
5.Modernist writing is intensely self-conscious/self-reflexive

Modernism is....
1) past, present and future
2) in a state of constant change
3) adaptable
4) undefinable
5) individual

Modernism is .... Images of the First World War

1. If Modernism is an attempt to break from the past, images of World War 1 illustrate this through pictures of drastic changes in warfare.
-Forester, Pg. 25, 133 (changing opinions)
2. The literary fragmentation that pervades passages of Modernist literature we have read (for example, Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room) is physically manifested in pictures of fragmented bodies.
-Forester, Pg. 52 (fragmented bodies, blown apart in warfare)
3. Images of “child soldiers” and dead youth are reflected in the poetry of World War 1 poets and their messages of despair, confusion and utter shell-shock through their immediate lived experiences.
-Wilfred Owen, “Anthem for Doomed Youth” (193)
4. The loss of innocence (which can be perceived as the “golden period” of Edwardianism) is evident in each image of intense suffering and sadness.
-Siegfried Sassoon, “Counter-Attack” (129)
5. If Modernists are the epitome of self-confidence (or as we discussed last class in our colloquium, perhaps false confidence), this is contrasted by the feelings of inadequacy, fear and passive femininity experienced by the soldiers of World War 1.
-Forester, Pg. 68

Modernism is .... a time for luxurious garden parties.
5 key points to hosting a garden party:
1) Flowers: roses, daisies, lilies, karakas (tree)
2) Food: sandwiches (cream cheese, lemon-curd), cream puffs, cakes, passion
fruit ices, coffee, tea
3) Clothing: hats, dresses; "her black hat trimmed with gold daisies and
long black velvet ribbons¨ (256)
4) Amenities: marquee, tables, chairs, tennis court, waiters to serve food &
5) Activities: singing with the piano, strolling around the garden, badminton, croquet, chats.

(Literary) Modernism is .... the written attempt to take the chaotic & fragmented pieces of life and society before, during, and after the war, and piece them together in order to construct the "modern".
-With all the turmoil and chaos that the First World War brought, modernist writers attemtped to bring order to the modern world through their literature.-Modernist writers attempted to capture the driving force of life and place it in text.
-Modernist writers attempted to portray a realistic account of life duringtheir time. The past was the past, the present was unstable, the future was unknown. Their writing reflects these opinions both in style and content.
-Modernist writers attempted to begin rebuilding the destroyed past into the modern present through recognition that the past had been destroyed.
-Through their new way of writing, modernist writers challenged readers to search for and accept a new definition of "modern."

Modernism is .... not a radical break from the past but rather another period in the unified timeline of history.
-Modernism is a part of history in that it has roots in movements that preceded it and it cannot be understood fully without an understanding of its precursors.
- Modernism is revolutionary in that it is an attempt to overthrow the status quo and improve the world with radical developments in the arts, such as literature and art
- Modernism, like secular humanism and the Enlightenment, prizes individual reason and thought, the ability of man to shape his world above all traditions, superstitions and institutions (ie) monarchy and church
- Modernism is radical in that it prizes imagination over reason and this is one of its improvements on the past
- Modernism is a part of an age-old human quest to create to create the most perfect world that can be found – that is why it is called a revolution as it recognizes the failures of previous periods and attempts to improve upon them.

Modernism is ... real life.
1) Life in modernity is unlike anything experienced before.
a) WWI and trench warfare.
2) Real life in the way we think.
a) a more accurate way to portray reality through stream of consciousness.
3) Living in fragmentation.
a) recovery (from shellshock) through engagement with texts.
4) the Freudian perspective is the new reality.
a) analysis to find meaning and explanation in life.
5) The end of the ideal; the new reality is materialistic, driven by results.
a) from virtue to value, a punctured and deflated Edwardian society.

Modernism is .... Radical Music
1) Modernism is the formation of numerous symbiotic relationships amongst different mediums like music and literature. Music andliterature merged together through Arnold Schoenberg and Stefan George.
2) Modernism is music by composer Arnold Schoenberg, who reevaluated harmony, melody, and form. Sought alternatives to previously engrained technique. Things like tonal ambiguity, dissonance and musical abstraction changed the shape of music. Modernist music described by many audiences as radical and inaccessible.
3) Modernism is an interrogation and diagnosis of the individual mind occurring collectively amongst the arts. Schoenberg was inspired towrite the settings of poems by Stefan George because of this. Literary modernism took shape in Germany with Stefan George July 12 1868-December 4, 1933.
4) Modernism is worldly. Schoenberg and George capture the avante-garde, abstract, self conscious style of modernism in music and literature despite geographical distance to Woolf, Joyce, Eliot, and Conrad. Illustrates an amalgamation of mediums over the concepts of modernism throughout the world.
5) Modernism is coming to grips with how great the artist thinks they are. For both the composer (Schoenberg) and poet (George) focus shifts to being less on extrinsic presentation (for the audience or reader) and more on the intrinsic understanding of interrogating their own reality.

Modernism is .... Inspiration.

1. My modernists were creating the new and what caused them to change was time. Something came and it was new and modernist authors had to find new ways of expressing themselves in their literature.

2. We have a class dedicated to modernism and we are inspired to developour own ideas and create meanings of the word. EX: our class colloquium and with that we came to different ideas andconclusions if any at all. The presentations that we had to do for class were also inspired by the huge term “modernism.” We had to go and find ourown meanings and the class developed many different ideas.

3. Modernism is a historical artifact. Modernism is an inspirational tool to keep that time period alive. A sense of never being able to return to that or that it will never be the same because time has passed. Even though time has passed does not necessarily mean that modernism has lost its credibility. It might become even more elusive through time. It gets better the more we study it. EX: Modernism was a way to express a certain emotion that can only be captured at that time. Pure modernists were modernists of that time and canonly truly be understood at that time. As we’re studying Modernism it is only a fragment in the year 2006 which is almost a false modernism but it does not deter are pursuit of the meaning.

4. A new form of expression. There were different styles that themodernist writers started to explore. The use of language is different. There is no longer the simple narrative but rather a more deeper look intothe human mind.

5. Modernist writers were more aware of themselves. They draw inspiration from themselves and more faith in the self too. - the unflinching confidence (arrogance) of the modernists- They inspire themselves because of their greatness - we need to understand the author’s lives/motivations to understand their work- without the authors there would be no text and without modernism there would be no texts that were written in this new form.

Modernism is ... the revival of the "New Woman" controversy.

Victorian novelist Eliza Lynn Linton's description of the "Girl of the Period" corresponds to
the "New Woman" in literary modernism.
1.) The physical appearance of the New Woman in Modernism is similar to the image of the New Woman in the Victorian Age (Sylvia, Parade's End).
2.) Both versions of the New Woman shamefully discard ideals of family and loyalty in marriage (Sylvia, Parade's End; Kitty, The Return of the Soldier).
3.) Nature and the pastoral life are glorified over the image of the modern woman (Kitty versus Margaret, The Return of the Soldier).
4.) In Victorian and Modernist literature, feminine pacifism is ideal (Lady Emily, The General).
5.) Superficial beauty is disapproved of (Kitty, The Return of the Soldier). The revival of the female anti-hero contradicts the claim that Modernism supports the rejection of the past because the "New Woman" was a movement derived from the Victorian era.
Further reading of Linton's "The Girl of the Period" can be found at

Modernism is .... Horses

1.] The role of the horse in warfare changed drastically in World War One.

2.] The horse is a metaphorical animal, representing the change from Edwardianism to modernism.

3.] In Parade's End, the horse is described as having both feminine and masculine features, representing an ambiguous time.

4.] The bit and the horse's mouth if of great significance, symbolizing the power men have upon women.

5.] The horse represents a capitalist culture, in which profits can be madeor lost due to the quality, pedigree, and health of the horse.

Modernism is…an attack on the manner in which God is viewed and interpreted.
(My points come to you not in the traditional five-point format, but rather, as a collection of useful information.)
- Biblical Modernism (a modernist movement originating from within the church) results in the suspicion of unchallenged doctrines and ideologies while placing more emphasis on the individual, internal narrative.
- The goal of modernism is not necessarily to destroy religion, but to view Jesus and the Bible in new ways which allow the application of personal judgment. Biblical Modernism “is not a continuation of the traditional theology of Christianity, but rather a rediscovery of the historical Jesus, and an attempt to organize Christian devotion in relation to him rather than
in relation to the standardized doctrines about him.” (E. Vanderlaan, "Modernism and Historic Christianity," The Journal of Religion, 1925)
- Modernism is a threat to orthodox Christianity because it threatens the rigid doctrines and authoritative structures that are inherent in the religion. During the rise of Biblical Modernism, the church took numerous steps in an attempt at eradicating the threat.
- In Literary Modernism, the individualistic human identity is constructed through internal narratives which deal with perceptions and interpretations of events rather than concrete descriptions of them.
- Although biblical allusions appear throughout many modernist texts, these allusions often lack specific religious context. In other words, many allusions merely serve to reference facets of the bible which are portrayed as useless and obsolete by the modernist authors.
- There is a paradox inherent in the modernist stance on religion. Modernism may be viewed as a “religion” itself, in that it creates its own dogmas about humanity. The paradox is that in order for a one to come to an individual perception about God, they must first appeal to the ideologies
and doctrines established by modernism.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Nature of Modernism

There is a certain uncertainty about the nature of our titular concept modernism. I will have more to say here about this over the weekend -- most of which will be advice to reflect (a.) on the arguments presented in lecture and (b.) the nature of identity exemplified explicitly by Woolf in her Jacob's Room. In the mean time, please read this engagement with the problem by a Marxist: especially the key passage quoted here.

Modernism is a term used to lump together an enormous body of artistic work in all forms--poetry, cinema, painting, architecture--that was produced roughly between the 1890s and the mid 20th century. General definitions are difficult, but modernist work tends to be formally experimental and highly self conscious--think of the Cubist paintings of Picasso or the 'flow of consciousness' of James Joyce's novels. Gareth Jenkins is right to emphasise dislocation and fragmentation as characteristics of modernism. The 'high period' of modernism from 1900-1930 was of course a time of unmatched upheaval, in which the promises of the bourgeois revolution were finally shattered by war, slump and workers' revolt. The accelerating development of technology and the penetration of mass production techniques into every sphere of life added to a deep sense of uncertainty. In Perry Anderson's words, 'European modernism in the first years of this century thus flowered in the space between a still usable classical past, a still indeterminate technical present and a still unpredictable political future'.

It has been very tempting for Marxist criticism to glorify modernism given its origin in such a period of upheaval, and its--at least formal--rejection of the past. After the Russian Revolution the intellectuals of Proletkult argued for a rejection of all previous culture, claiming that modernist techniques were the basis for a brave new working class art. Such a simple minded response misses the contradictory nature of all modernism. Gareth is right to point out that modernist work often appears as a retreat from society. Its emphasis on dislocation and alienation could open the way to a kind of rampant subjectivity. His criticism of Virginia Woolf, for example, is telling: 'one cannot escape the feeling, beneath the richness of language, of artistic impoverishment which follows from impoverished grasp of social reality'.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

West-ern remembrance of human attitudes

"So it was not until now, when it happened to my friends, when it was my dear Chris and my dear Margaret who sat thus englobed in peace as in a crystal sphere, that I knew it was the most significant as it was the loveliest attitude in the world. It means that the woman has gathered the soul of the man into her soul and is keeping it warm in love and peace so that his body can rest quiet for a time. That is a great thing for a woman to do. I know there are things at least as great for those women whose independant spirits can ride fearlessly and with interest outside the home park of their personal relationships, but independance is not the occupation of most of us. What we desire is greatness such as this which had given sleep to the beloved."
(Rebecca West, Return of the Soldier, p.70)

Monday, June 05, 2006

L'Écriture Féminine

A student sends me this from her current research into L'Écriture féminine. "Ann Rosalind Jones (professor at Smith College) writes:
Symbolic discourse (language, in various contexts) is another means through which man objectifies the world, reduces it to his terms, speaks in place of everything and everyone else--including women." Jones explains that women historically, reduced to mere sexual objects by the dominant male voice, "....have been prevented from expressing their sexuality in itself or for themselves." Finding a female form of expression would succeed in revealing the phallocentricity Western language. As I understand it, feminine expression appears de-centralized. Women experience the world sensually with their entire bodies whereas men tend to transmit and receive from their 'antenae' located just below the belt. Male language = logical, linear, even. Female language = contradictory, ambiguous, inconclusive. Theorist Luce Irigaray contends "'She' is infinitely other in herself. That is undoubtedly the reason she is called temperamental, incomprehensible, perturbed, capricious-not to mention her language in which 'she' goes off in all directions and in which 'he' is unable to discern the coherence of any meaning."

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Reading Order - Reminder

Just a reminder that we are reading the West text now -- lecture Thursday coming -- & the Madox Ford masterpiece to following. The syllabus & the outline are updated. (Thanks to classfellow J.B. for the tip.)

Monday, May 29, 2006

Modernism by Comparison

One way of grasping the peculiar nature of literary modernism is by the method of classical dialectic: in short, by comparison with a alternative which is appreciable similar but effectovely different formally & substantially. A post on the topic in relation to Japanese modes of structure, set in terms of theorist John Hinds' systems of reader- versus writer-responsible texts, is here.

Update: the Hinds article will be available on Reserve Tuesday.

Tuesday upcoming

We'll finish with Jacob's Room and start on The General; probably no poetry covered in class this week. The design is for you all to feel strong on the types of literary technique that Woolf uses to fulfil her stated purpose of writing a new "modern" form of fiction. Accordingly, I will draw attention to a small number of additional types of experiment in her text which we havn't yet addressed.

The hope is that you will all recognise the diverse & complex mix of form that Woolf -- and what is now called "High Modernism" -- deliberately encode. The challenge -- and, depending upon the facility and bent of the reader, the delight -- High Modernist texts represent is just this process of de-coding and un-puzzling. It is just this that, in my view, made de-construction a necessary development in (certainly critical responses to) literary modernism.

Feel also somewhat comfortable with the terms "formalism", "structuralism" & "futurism" (for the first two, so that the "de-" now commonly prefixed to them can be better understood.)

Men's & Women's Fiction

One the topic of different reading preferences for men & for women -- à propos differences between Woolf's & Forester's modernist modes -- a blog post on the topic in a Canadian context with active links, & specific reference to inclinations for dialogue versus action, is here.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Celebrate Queen Victoria on her holiday

Hoping you're enjoying your holiday in honour of Queen Victoria!
I came across this oblique & tendentious article in the 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.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Women & WWI Recruitment

A propos Virginia Woolf's modernist literary experiment in the representation of the experiences between mothers and sons, Jacob's Room, here is the link to the on-line library of First World War recruitment posters as raised in seminar discussion of Sasson's poem "Glory of Women."

Information on the "White Feather" campaign can be found on-line here at the useful "Spartacus" website.

The 1939 Ralph Richardson film version of A. E. W. Mason's The Four Feathers - also raised in seminar discussion - is detailed here. [IMDb treats the 2002 version.]

Class Presentations: "Modernism Is ....."

Our Individual Presentation assignment gives us the opportunity to better understand the whelming riot of disparate (if not opposing) ideas, individuals and influences that comprise the Modernisms - Literary, Intellectual, and Theological.

Each presentation will fill in the blank to the statement:

"Modernism is ...... [blank.]"
The "blank" will reflect each presenter's individual interests and academic background, as well as library research, general investigation, and, if so wished, discussion with the course instructor on the perhaps uniquely indistinct topic of Modernism. Arrange each presentation into five key points that summarise & explain the "Blank."

If one thesis of our course is correct, I will not be surprising if some "Blanks" contradict others and if more than a few seem to be unconnected and in a history apart.

After the Presentation, e-mail the "Modernism is ...." statement and the five points to the course instructor, where they can posted on the blog for wider reference.

Here is the Presentation schedule by scholar's initial.

May 23rd: E.H. May 25th: C.C. May 30th: K.H.
June 1st: K.V.L. June 6th: C.M. June 8th: J.S.
June 13th: J.C. June 15th: O.G.
June 20th: G.W.
June 22th: J.L. June 27th: M.M. June 29th: C.C.
July 4th: R.M. & S.F. July 6th: J.W.
July 11th: J.R.
July 13th: A.B. July 18th: J.B. July 20th: R.L.
July 25th: M.L. July 27th: J.R. August 1st: T.P.
August 3rd: J.S.

Friday, May 12, 2006

State & Citizen: Then 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 today's Vancouver Province.

Its author, one Joey Thompson, reacts to the dragging death in Maple Ridge of gas station attendant Grant De Patie ..... 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: 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>>>>

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

WWI Trench: View "Over the Top"

Click image for larger view.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Literary Modernism

[Brought to Top]
This definition of (literary) Modernism, found here, sums up our approach to the complex & multiform set of ideas and designs:

"a general term applied retrospectively to the wide range of experimental and avant-garde trends in the literature (and other arts) of the early 20th century.... Modernist literature is characterized chiefly by a rejection of 19th-century traditions and of their consensus between author and reader: conventions of realism ... or traditional meter. Modernist writers tended to see themselves as an avant-garde disengaged from bourgeois values, and disturbed their readers by adopting complex and difficult new forms and styles. In fiction, the accepted continuity of chronological development was upset by Joseph Conrad, Marcel Proust, and William Faulkner, while James Joyce and Virginia Woolf attempted new ways of tracing the flow of characters' thoughts in their stream-of-consciousness styles. In poetry, Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot replaced the logical exposition of thoughts with collages of fragmentary images and complex allusions..... Modernist writing is predominantly cosmopolitan, and often expresses a sense of urban cultural dislocation, along with an awareness of new anthropological and psychological theories. Its favoured techniques of juxtaposition and multiple point of view challenge the reader to reestablish a coherence of meaning from fragmentary forms." (My emphases.)
(Chris Baldick, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms [New York: Oxford University Press, 1991], s.v.)

English 338 Course Outline

Rats, Gas & Shell-Shock: the WWI Causes of Literary Modernism

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

Life and death alike in trench warfare were unbearable to a degree that exceeded the existing capacity of literary imagination, outside poetry, to express it sufficiently. Indeed, Patricia Barker’s 1993 Regeneration trilogy represents the medical symptoms of shell-shock -- permanent mutism and stammering – as evidence that trench warfare simply exceeded humanity’s capacity to verbalise its horror. In this course we will read and critically examine several now-neglected masterpieces of literary modernism, and see how each in its own artistic terms represents a struggle to find and apply new literary devices capable of adequately representing – and perhaps soothing – the fragmenting effect on national consciousness of countless shell-shocked survivors of the trench horrors. Aided by selections from the work of some 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, we will work from the thesis that literary modernism is WWI set to fiction.NOTE: In addition to the Canadian film adaptation of Barker’s Regeneration, clips from the BBC comedy series Blackadder Goes Forth, set in World War One, will 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 Blackadder’s poignant conclusion produced national weeping.

Woolf, Virginia Jacob's Room
Forester, C.S. The General
West, Rebecca The Return of the Soldier
Ford, Madox Ford Parade's End

Waugh, Evelyn Vile Bodies
Silkin, John, ed. Penguin Book of First World War Poetry

10% Class participation
10% Class presentation
20% Mid-term paper (approx. 2500 words)
20% Group project
40% Final paper (approx. 3500 words)