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...