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)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Course Syllabus: Summer 2006, English 338

Course Syllabus & Information

Novels should be read for at least the first time on the following schedule. The Poetry will be read passim and schedule announced in class: one week is dedicated for a concentrated study of the singular phenomenon of the War poets.

Virginia Woolf - Jacob's Room
May 9th & 11th
May 16th & 18th
C.S. Forester - The General

May 23rd & 25th
May 30th & June 1st
Rebecca West - The Return of the Soldier
June 6th & June 8th
June 13th & June 15th
Ford Maddox Ford - Parade's End
June 20th & June 22th
June 27th & June 29th
July 4th & July 6th

Evelyn Waugh - Vile Bodies
July 11th & July 13th
July 18th & July 20th
Penguin Edition of First World War Poetry
July 25th & July 27th
Review and Wrap-Up

August 1st & August 3rd

See support material available on Library Reserve.

Assignment Deadlines: Nb. There is a 3% per day late penalty for assignments, documented medical or bereavement leave excepted. For medical exemptions, simply provide a letter from a physician on letterhead which declares his or her medical judgement that an illness prevented work on the essay over the assigned three week period.

1. Mid term paper, twenty-five hundred words: due July 11th in seminar. Assignment sheet with suggested topics will be blogged on June 13th. Criteria will include literary analysis, engagement with course themes and writing mechanics.
2. Group quiz project: in last two seminar weeks.

3. Individual class presentation: schedule and assignment sheet handed out in seminar. A ten minute presentation on one of a choice of topics to be blogged. Ten minutes is a firm limit: the Instructor will blow the whistle ....
4. Final Paper, Thirty-five hundred words: Open topic, due no later than August 7th at midnight in the Instructor's Department mailbox.

Course Approach

Course requirement weighting:
10% Course participation
10% Seminar presentation
20% Group quiz project
20% Mid-term paper (approx. 2500 words)
40% Final Paper (approx. 3500 words)

Nb: “Participation requires both participation in seminar and attendance and punctuality at lecture and seminar."

Instructor Contact:

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 10:30– 11:20, Tuesday 13:30-15:00, Friday 12:00-13:00, and by appointment, in AQ6094.

Also and E-mail accepted from campus mail accounts only.