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.)