Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Film Version of "Brick Lane"

The film version of Brick Lane was released in North American theatres last year, June 20th, 2008.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Chick Lit

The feature that a classfellow raised in class today looked like this. Chick Lit had a large cultural and literary footprint at the time we should not forget.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Final Essays

Impressive final essays so far. A reminder that the essays will be accepted without lateness penalties until tomorrow, August 8th, at noon. Any of your course work can be picked up in Office Hours starting in the Fall term.

Thank you especially to those of you who have given me their permission to use their completed group project as resource materials for the future iterations of this course.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Shut Up Steve"

Here is the link to the Cheerios commercial seen in lecture courtesy of classfellow N.B.
(N.b. I am not responsible for the YouTube commentators....)

More: from N.B., on Peter Pan (and with an added "random" sighting bonus.)
This is sort of a random thought, but I was watching the Disney version of Peter Pan last night on TV and I was struck by two of our course themes running rampant throughout. The first is of course the idea of the dueling matriarchs- Tinkerbell and Wendy- and the second is the idea of performative masculinity- Mr.Darling and Peter Pan. For some reason the whole time during the movie I kept thinking about all the scenes that would exemplify these course themes perfectly. As an example of the dueling matriarchs: when Peter Pan first decides to bring Wendy back to Never-Never land with him, Tinkerbell goes nuts and has the Lost Boys attempt to shoot her down. Peter is bringing them back a"mother" for them, which the movie explicitly states. For the part of performative masculinity: In the beginning scenes of the movie, Mr. Darling is very angry at both Wendy and Nana (the nurse dog) and tells the whole family that it will be Wendy's last night in the nursery and Nana must sleep outside. Then when both he and Nana are shown to be hurt, the whole family runs to make sure the dog is okay, leaving Mr.Darling to fend for himself. He has not done what the women want him to do. At the end of the movie, Mr.Darling is shown to lead Nana back inside and to tell his wife and Wendy that he did not mean what he said, and she of course can stay in the nursery, and so can Nana. This makes the two women very happy and they show him by hugging him and showing the affection he would have received at the start of the movie had he done what they wanted.It seems so funny to me that now I notice these themes everywhere- even in a Disney movie!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Local Women Triumphant

On the topic of triumphant women, as we wrap up this wonderful course, here is a picture of some locally triumphant women from this past weekend. (A Women's Under-21 Premier Reserves team from the Pacific Coast Soccer League.)

Video Performance

For a video performance, courtesy of one of our assignment groups, of course themes in an humourously informative presentation, go to this online directory. The files can be viewed, or, better, download and burned to DVD.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Heroic Male Model & Female Equivalent

Here is an elaboration from classfellow A.C. given in seminar last week around a discussion around the idea that we have encountered in our course texts that adopting male values as the standard for females is not a progressive move.
Female characters who follow the typical male heroic journey are few and far
between. Those who have become successful female heroes are predominantly
written by men. The question I posed regarded the absence of strong female
characters written by women. It seems that if a woman were to write a character
like 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' she would not be successful. My presentation did
take on a different path than I had originally intended and the question posed
to me by you, Dr Ogden, was do I think that in order to be equal women must
follow the typical male heroic journey, or could they have their own equal
female heroic journey. For my own personal reasons I would like to see a female
character follow the typical male heroic journey, but more specifically I would
like to see her written by a female. However, I do not think that both sexes
have to follow the same formula for the heroic journey in order to be equal.
Unfortunately....if a female were to write strong female characters she would be
labeled as a feminist and avoided by the majority of mainstream readers. While
female heroes are getting more popular, it seems that they are only popular if
they are written by men.
Variations on this question are treated vigorously in many of your Group projects.....

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Student Activity During Lecture

What do students do during lecture?

Well, this, for instance, by classfellow K.R.. It could, indeed, be worse. Like text messaging, or e-mail, or surfing the internet, or playing computer games ....

Friday, July 18, 2008

Eclectic Mix of Background Materials

Here are some helpful, and I believe captivating, bits & pieces that give good ideas or elaboration on some of the broader matters that have arisen in seminar discussions.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Reclaiming the Validity of Emotion

A useful powerpoint prestentation, part of a project on the reclamation of the validity of emotion in relation to reason, entitled "Emotions, Development & Gender" from classfellows C.B. & K.D., is available online at this link.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Jean Brodie & her Flashing Eyes

The following useful note comes from classicist classfellow N.B., to whom I am grateful:
"Miss Brodie forced her brown eyes to flash as a meaningful acompaniment to her quiet voice. She looked a mighty woman with her dark Roman profile in the sun." (6)"[Miss Brodie's] eyes flashed, her nose arched proudly, her hair was still brown, and coiled matriarchally at the nape of her neck." (124) The description of Miss Brodie's eyes flashing, particularly in conjunction with her "dark Roman profile" and "matriarachally" coiled hair, brings tomind the Roman goddesses- Juno and Diana (Hera and Athena in Greek mythology). Whenever they are angered they are commonly attributed "flashing eyes" or "eyes flashing in anger."
This image seems to strengthen the allusion of Miss Brodie as a god-like figure, as well as emphasize the power- or at least potential for power- that she holds over the Brodie set.

Final Paper

The Final Essay in open topic, three thousand words minimum, due in my mailbox on August 5th any time up until midnight, engaging any two course texts strongly and centred explicitly around any one of the major course themes articulated in lecture.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Group Projects

To clarify a point on the Group Projects, I can confirm that, with exception of non-online projects, you hand back in the graded material to me for my records--ideally the week following--and I give you in return an evaluation report. After the Term is completed and the final grades are submitted, the material is then available to be picked up if that is your wish, rather than it forming part of my collection and teaching matter.

Panegyric Presentations

An examplary case of a strong panegyric in our present context, on the topic of "Rationalism & Emotion", has been made available online on the permission of the classfellow, for your appreciation at this link.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"To Write Love on Her Arms"

À Propos Joy Stone's struggle with self-mutilation, classfellow C.H. sends along a link to an admirable website entitled "To Write Love on Her Arms":
A non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.

Class Gems

Some pithily efficacious remarks on the course texts made in the seminars this week: I'll blog them as they come in.
  1. "Joy Stone is Bridget Jones, for real this time," via classfellow I.O.
  2. I also loved the sublime succinctness of this recapitulation of the critical question around the Joy Stone character: "Is her growth warranted to her situation?"
  3. [À Propos Virginia Woolf, again from classfellow I.O.] "It is important not to confuse death and destruction with failure.In fact, sometimes the release of death or the destruction of an importantbarrier or aid can be a triumph in and of itself."
  4. Delightfully contrarian classfellow T.H.: "We were talking about how initially, Chanu was presented with ridicule, but how throughout the book he became more and more truthful and hit things right on the mark (we wondered why). I commented that in a way, the reader is very much like Chanu, or is represented by him in the book. This applies especially in academia, where theorists are commonly accused for thinking too much and not doing anything - just like Chanu, the academia is plagued by sensitive thought but no application of it to real world. Furthermore, Chanu’s inability to act is reflected in the reader, as he/she are unable to act on the book – we are both just passive observers/readers. The final comparison (I thought of this after class) is between Chanu and Monica Ali herself – just like him, she sees and understands/questions the problem, but approaches it very passively (rather than an activist approach) –by writing a novel. This, in the end, question whether literature can ever be a form of activism (I don’t know the answer to this)."

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Camille Paglia

The indispensible Arts & Letters Daily features Camille Paglia, presenting her keynote address to The Legacy and Future of Feminism conference at Harvard University on April 10th 2008, entitled 'Feminism Past and Present: Ideology, Action, and Reform.'

Camille Paglia is a pro-sex feminist who’s still for porn and prostitution. But champions of chastity, she says, also stand in a great feminist tradition of defying groupthink... more»
The speech, here in .pdf format, details some differences between American Feminism and the Feminism in the British tradition that we are presently studying. Paglia also disavows the term "post-Feminism" and explains why.

Guest Speaker: Monday Next

Our guest speaker, bestselling author Nancy Warren, will be hear this coming Monday, July the 7th. She was recently featured in the New York Times 'Books' section with an article and impressive photograph.

USA Today also has this article on her Harlequin-NASCAR tie-in, focusing on the commercially-impressive demographic numbers of female NASCAR fans:

Nielsen Media Research figures from 2003 show NASCAR led the NFL and major league baseball in percentage of female viewers on broadcast networks. Women were 35% of the total audience for NASCAR, two percentage points more female viewers than for the NFL and MLB.

The percentage is of a stunning seventy-five million total NASCAR viewers. So consider this to be a brush with literary celebrity....

Exemplary Mid-Term Outlines

Here are three class examples, with the students' permission, of mid-term essay outlines that are excellent examples of different alternatives. I recommend that you right-click on the hotlinks, download to your local drive, and open with Microsoft Word.
  1. This outline is concise, straightforward and complete.
  2. Then there is this detailed and comprehensive outline which still avoids vagary.
  3. Lastly, this outlines a polemical essay, and exemplifies the fact that scholarly essays can be openly one-sided and tendentious. The caveat is that the valuation and privileged position be obvious and open (as here) - and, of course, supported by cited fact and valid dialectic.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Janice Galloway on Feminism

The interviews with our present course author, Janice Galloway, on her evolving attitude on feminist ideology and her art are, in historical order, here and then here.

Health Magazines & Perception

Vis-à-vis Janice Galloway's protagonist in The Trick is to Keep Breathing and her self-destructive behavior in the context of her addiction to women's magazines, this article on exercise magazines and self-perception:
If you read muscle magazines while working out your own muscles, you may
want to rethink your routine.
Though it might seem like an obvious choice while exercising, reading fitness magazines full of images of six-pack abs, super-sculpted arms and rock-hard thighs may undo one of the benefits of exercise, according to new research.

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Brick Lane" and Inshallah

As we read, the alternatives of fatalism and free will as guides to life are central to Monica Ali's Brick Lane. Nazneen's mother refuses to intervene as her daughter hangs between life and stillbirth and prevents her husband from taking the child to the hospital; announcing instead that Fate will decide Nazneen's life. The mother eventually commits suicide while Nazneed rejects Fatalism and choses her future course -- life in England.

An article today in the New York Times looks at Fate and Islam in Egypt, through a study of the growing ubiquity of the phrase "God Willing":

Inshallah,” or “God willing,” the counterman said as he walked off to see about a burger without onions at the McDonald’s on the Alexandria Desert Road, 30 miles from the center of Cairo.

Egyptians have always been religious, from Pharaonic times to the present. Any guidebook to Egypt alerts tourists to Egyptians’ frequent use of inshallah in discussing future events, a signal of their deep faith and belief that all events occur, or don’t occur, at God’s will. “See you tomorrow,” is almost always followed by a smile and, “inshallah.”
But there has been inshallah creep, to the extreme. It is now attached to the answer for any question, past, present and future. What’s your name, for example, might be answered, “Muhammad, inshallah.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sample Class Contribution

A characteristically excellent analysis from our seminar members that I asked classfellow T.H. type up to share for record's sake.
We were talking about how initially, Chanu was presented with ridicule, but how throughout the book he became more and more truthful and hit things right on the mark (we wondered why). I commented that in a way, the reader is very much like Chanu, or is represented by him in the book. This applies especially in academia, where theorists are commonly accused for thinking too much and not doing anything - just like Chanu, the academia is plagued by sensitive thought but no application of it to real world. Furthermore, Chanu’s inability to act is reflected in the reader, as he/she are unable to act on the book – we are both just passive observers/readers. The final comparison (I thought of this after class) is between Chanu and Monica Ali herself – just like him, she sees and understands and questions the problem, but approaches it very passively (rather than an activist approach) –by writing a novel. This, in the end, question whether literature can ever be a form of activism (I don’t know the answer to this.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Brick Lane Bombing

This link, or this post's title, takes you to the BBC News report of the 1999 bombing in London's Brick Lane, with a useful sidebar list of "Relevant Stories."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Essay Outline & Draught

I have uploaded a lecture on strategies for outlining and drafting academic essays, available online at this link.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Margaret Thatcher -- BBC4 Film

A study of British Literature since 1945, with focus on women's power and success, must of course bring the regnancy of Her Current Majesty into consideration. But so too must the the long Premiership (1979–1990) of Margaret, Baroness Thatcher have had enormous effect.

BBC4 is broadcasting a film, next week, on the young Margaret Thatcher's ten-year struggle to become an MP. Writer Tony Saint's screenplay:

....tells how her attempts to break into a world dominated by male MPs were rebuffed time and again. But she refused to give up and ruthlessly used her womanly wiles to win through. The film's writer, Tony Saint, says Margaret Thatcher - The Long Walk To Finchley is simply how he imagines things might have been. But one former colleague says it's absolutely spot on.The film's writer, Tony Saint, says Margaret Thatcher - The Long Walk To Finchley is simply how he imagines things might have been. But former colleague Edwina Currie says it's absolutely spot on...

Males and "Props"

Pertinent to representations of masculinity in our course texts, all by women writers, that privilege size and power (in line with Charles Darwin's doctrine of sexual selection), is this article in today's Vancouver Sun on men who are avoiding fatherhood.

The article discusses an academic study, where "University of B.C. sociologist Nathanael Lauster examined more than 60 years of U.S. census data," and uses terminology explicitly in terms of performance:

Men are getting "stage fright" and turning away from fatherhood because many can't afford the "props," such as a house, that they believe are necessary to being a good father, according to research presented Wednesday at a massive conference of Canadian academics.
The article also invokes concepts relevant to the "freemale" idea, satirised in the character of Bridget Jones's mother, as well as the books attack on failure of "commitment" as a mark of failure of masculinity:

....starting in the 1970s, a shift occurred in which stay-at-home wives became less common, while owning a home became a more socially important "stage prop" for good fatherhood, he said.
That has contributed to lower fertility rates because some men choose not to father children, Lauster said, and to more single motherhood as others flee fatherhood responsibilities.
Lauster also studies cultural changes affecting families, including the sexual revolution.

Monday, June 2, 2008

More on Sex and the City

Interesting article, relevant to our Course themes, on the current indecorously-titled (and, I would hazard, constructed) motion picture Sex and the City in the popular centre-left journal The writer co-relates the immense popularity of the motion picture among the same (female) demographic as support Hillary Clinton's bid for the candidacy of the Democrat party in the United States.
By weird coincidence, during the same weekend when Sex and the City demonstrated women's unprecedented consumer clout at the multiplex, Hillary Clinton's campaign developed its death rattle. Clinton's campaign has enjoyed strong support among older white women. Sex and the City's audience, meanwhile, in addition to skewing heavily female, skews old (at least by moviegoing standards): 80 percent of the opening-weekend audience was over 25....Hillary's white-female shock troops are probably older than Sex and the City's white-female shock troops, but remember that Clinton's support among white women of all ages is quite substantial; a recent Gallup poll indicated that white female voters of all ages favor Clinton in a Clinton-John McCain matchup but McCain in an Obama-McCain matchup. Put all these numbers together and one gets the feeling that a Venn diagram would yield a good-sized proportion of white women who were both Sex and the City fans and Clinton voters.

More Relevant Contemporary Context

From the Pajamas Media blog, and also from the pages of Bridget Jones's Diary, "It used to be kids in TV families who caused the problems and the parents who solved them. In the brave new world of reality television, parents are the problem."
There was a time in American television when parents and children alike would gather in front of the TV to watch Leave it to Beaver or even The Cosby Show, programs that affirmed the importance of the family structure and reminded us that loving parents can guide their children through even the worst of childhood’s problems. Those days are long gone, baby....At the end of It’s Complicated or Living Lohan we are not left with the belief that a family, headed by a wise and loving parent, will somehow come through its struggles better off and stronger for having worked through them together. Rather, we are left shocked at the complete and utter absence of a true parental figure and certain that, somehow, any problems those families encounter are largely caused by the parents themselves..

More evidence, I think, of Fielding's artistic insight.

"Freemales" the latest Bridget Joneses

One cultural context for our present course of study will be explored in seminar this week. The present version of Bridget Jones is, mass media (here, Britain's Daily Mail) declares, the "freemale":
The number of single women has hit an all-time high, a study has shown - and most of them aren't looking for love.
They apparently choose to be alone, and rejoice in a life where they can spend time and money as they wish.
This new breed of singleton has been dubbed a 'freemale', because she chooses her freedom over a family.
Note the use of the Bridget Jones's Diary term in the article. Moreover, this social fact--if it is a fact--accords precisely with Helen Fielding's satire on modern middle-class consumer culture: freemale being simply the extension of self-indulgent capitalist participation:
"[Men are] Bastards!" yelled Jude, slurping her Pinot Grigio.
"Bastards," I yelled through a mouthful of raspberry pavlova mixed with
"Bloody bastards!" shouted Jude, lighting a Silk Cut with the end of
another one.
The article also locates freemales precisely with the class demographic of Helen Fielding's satiric target: middle-to-upper-middle class urban women engaged in the production modes of industrial Capitalism:
Dr Jan Macvarish, a sociologist from the University of Kent and author of a research paper Understanding the Popularity of Living that changes in society have made it more acceptable for women to remain single for longer, and says the trend particularly affects urban and educated females in professional or managerial roles.
Further, the article echoes the sub-text of Bridget Jones's Diary that children are barrier to optimal participation in the Capitalist economy:
'There is also less of a stigma about not having children. Now, these women call themselves childfree rather than childless.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sex and the City "Chick-Flick"

This week in seminar we will explore any connections between our course themes--including postfeminism--and the film release of the television series entitled "Sex and the City": concentrating on aspects which are vulnerable to the vector of satiric attack that author Helen Fielding takes in Bridget Jones's Diary.
With Friday's opening of "Sex and the City" shaping up as a big girls-night-out event at U.S. movie theaters, industry analysts say the film seems poised to set a new box office standard for "chick flicks"....An online survey of more than 10,000 moviegoers buying tickets from Fandango found that 94 percent were women, and that 67 percent planned to attend the movie this weekend with a group of female friends.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Individual Presentation: Monday Seminar Section

An unusually large number of changes between tutorial groups occured this term, effecting the populous Monday section most of all. Accordingly, it is neccessary to rationalise the schedule for the Individual Presentations. Those students who selected their date initially will have right of refusal on their original week, and the all rest will select in turn. A date grid will be handed around this coming Monday.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Group Project Proposals

An effective proposal describes (nb. look up the etymology of this word in the OED) three components of a project:

  1. Area
  2. Range
  3. Structure
Area is the subject of your project: representations of marriage, for instance. Range delimits the specific aspect of your subject: favourable portrayals of weddings in television commercials, say. And Structure outlines the manner in which the project will formed.

For the present project, one paragraph of each of the first two components and a page on the third component is a suitable length for the proposal.

Class Presentation: "2nd to 3rd Wave Feminism"

Here are some rough Presentation notes from one seminar section this week, on the enjoyable characterisation of Bridget Jones's mother, set in terms of 2nd-to-3rd Wave Feminism (feminism to postfeminism.)

  • Bridget Jones’s diary, and the presence of matriarchy.
    There are clear elements of second and third wave feminism in this book, in some way corroborated by the actions of her mother. At the end it is obvious that Bridget is subject to matriarchy in this novel.
  • Second wave feminism is present as the novel focuses on a career girl not quite happy with her position in life. However, this can be attributed to popular culture. She reads Marie Claire and is a product of cosmopolitan culture: indicated the text itself as failing: i.e. Bridget's mother leaves her father for "Julio"--unfulfilled; takes up a career as a tv presenter as clear sign that married life has not fulfilled her.
  • Third wave feminism is felt by the presence of Bridget’s friend Tom, and by the celebration of sexuality, by both Bridget and her mother.
  • Ideal feminine essentials are opposed by 3rd Wave Feminsm. At the end of the novel, her mother smoking, p. 262 indicates that her mother also lacks the feminine ideal. Once again her mother backs up 3rd wave feminism.
  • Thus, Bridget's mother’s actions place Bridget within a matriarchal society.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Original Bridget Jones's Diary Columns

Bridget Jones's Diary was written by Helen Fielding originally as a weekly column in England's Daily Telegraph and The Independant. These columns are partially collected on-line here.
An excellent précis of author Fielding's ideas and opinions is online at The Guardian:
"Nobody worries about what Bertie Wooster is saying about masculinity... If women are not confident enough to laugh at our shortcomings in public, we haven't got very far at being equal, have we?"

1920s Bridget Jones

Jottings of 17-year-old Ilene Powell show women's obsession with diets and dating is timeless reports Nicole Martin.
If you thought the angst-ridden singleton epitomised by Bridget Jones was a creation of the Naughty 1990s, think again. A newly-discovered diary, written in 1925, shows that women 80 years ago were just as obsessed with men, diets and relationships as their modern-day counterparts. The leather-bound journal, written in pencil by 17-year-old Ilene Powell, from Bristol, bears a striking resemblance to the fictional memoirs of Helen Fielding's neurotic thirtysomething heroine.
1920s Bridget Jones never found her Mr Darcy, by Nicole Martin and Richard Savill.
Just as Bridget Jones continued her turbulent love life in the second instalment of her diaries, it emerged yesterday that her 1920s counterpart had man troubles until the day she died.
Ilene Powell, sociable and fiercely independent, finally settled down and married Jack Woodley in 1940 at the age of 32, but the marriage ended in divorce after four years
when he committed adultery.
According to family friends, Miss Powell had no children and lived much of her later life alone, running a hotel in Bristol before retiring to the seaside town of Clevedon, Somerset, where she died nearly 20 years ago.

Friday, May 23, 2008


One of the major literary tropes that our course texts engage, in varying degrees, surrounds the fable of Cinder-Ella: Bridget Jones for one.
From today's indispensible Arts & Letters Daily, comes this SmartSet article:
You probably think being Cinderella is all glamour and Prince Charming. Ever try on glass slippers? Ever try to wear a fake smile all day?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mid-Term Topics

For the mid-term essay, select one from the list of topics and write a scholarly essay of two thousand words. The schedule of mid-term due dates, listed in the course syllabus, are as follows:

  • June 16th or 18th: Essay outline or thesis ¶ due in seminar for peer editing.
  • June 23rd or 25th: Essay outline or thesis ¶ returned with Lecturer's comments.
  • July 9th: Essay due in Lecturer's Dept. Mailbox.

Topic list:

  1. Stella Gibbons and Helen Fielding configure their male characters as devices by means of which their female protagonists, by exercise of power of will, grow toward self-fulfilment. Detail this literary conception for each of our first two course texts successively, under the model of the hive matrix made explicit in Gibbons' novel.
  2. The character called "Mr. Mybug" in Cold Comfort Farm is an historically important satire of a certain set of social values and attitudes which had prominence in Britain through the post-war years and which Gibbons precisely locates using the term "Bloomsbury." Through a close reading of Gibbon's characterisation of Mybug, and any secondary research that you may find helpful, explain (a.) what those values and attitudes are, and (b.) what Stella Gibbons finds mockable in them.
  3. Stella Gibbons and Helen Fielding effectively subject their respective protagonists to sharp 'emendation of folly' even as they use them as their satiric agents. This does not seem to be the case, however, for the protagonist of The Trick is to Keep Breathing, Joy Stone. Explain what this difference suggests about the literary quality and artistic depth of Janice Galloway relative to Gibbons and Fielding. Your argument may find significance in the fact that the latter two novelists, unlike Galloway, came to literature from successful careers in the Press.

Video article, The Times of London, a propos Bridget Jones.

Ahead of the upcoming lectures on Bridget Jones's Diary, have a read and view of this article and video interview under the title "Chivalry is dead, long live Chivalry."
Figures arrived at yesterday by dating website Dating would seem to suggest that some remnants of old fashioned male charm may still linger within the UK. Well, at least they do if you ask British men themselves. Of the 1,000 UK adult males polled, over half (56 per cent) said they ‘enjoy’ picking up the bill after dinner and over a third (34 per cent) say they will frequently defend a woman’s honour. Frequently? Are we talking fisticuffs or pistols at dawn? I am embarrassed to confess that I fall into the lily-livered 66 per cent, who would rather shuffle off quietly than take matters outside when my lady’s virtue is at issue. Perhaps that is why I am presently single. The most surprising statistic of all however was that 13 per cent of men still stand up when a lady enters or leaves the room. Who are these people? Liars I presume. I don’t believe 13 per cent of the population stands to give their seat to an elderly person on public transport, let alone to herald the entrance of a female to a room.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Don't Do This in your Essays

Via the indespensible Arts & Letters Daily, this online lament:
Linguistic butchery while texting is one thing. In school assignments, it is quite another. What's worse is how popular culture is encouraging this madness. A notorious offender called is a cute enough diversion -- it posts adorable pictures of cats, "lolcats" as they're called, with funny captions. But persevere beyond your first gag reflex and you'll notice that the captions are written in lolspeak.

"Cold Comfort Farm" -- Inventive Terms

How was your success at determining which of Stella Gibbons' evocative terms were real and which were invented? Is "sukebind" in botany textbooks? "Pruning snoots" in The Farmer's Almanac? "Rorty" in the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang? And what the Hell is a "scranlet" "when it's at 'ome'" (to quote Mrs. Beetle.)

Monday, May 12, 2008


For the Monday seminar group:

Today's engagement with the question of Flora Poste's marriage as representing a triumph for the protagonist was a practical exercise in polemic, of the type that can be productively apply for the two-part Polemic Project this Term. One could use each of the two parts of the assignment to present a different course text to argue for one side of the debate-- say, that the marriage is a personal failure rather than a triumph -- or, alternatively, the two parts could each take an opposing side.

Today's seminar demonstrated how to engage a topic polemically: and as you experienced, the clearer and stronger the position is presented, the more enjoyable the polemic.

"Scary" Mary Poppins

À Propos my representation in lecture of Flora Poste's "fixing" and "disposing" of the affairs of Cold Comfort Farm as being somewhat disquieting, à la Mary Poppins, here is a viral, "Scary Mary" which makes the point well.

I'm interested to hear your responses: by all means leave comments on this post.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Course E-mail Netiquette

A few salient points of productive e-mail protocol for our course :
  1. Use only your SFU account for e-mail to the course Lecturer. All other e-mail is blocked by whitelist.
  2. E-mail (indeed, all communication) between Lecturer and student is a formal and professional exchange. Accordingly, proper salutation and closing is essential.
  3. Business e-mail is courteous but, of professional necessity, concise and direct. It rejects roundabout or ornate language, informal diction, and any appearance of what is termed in the vernacular, 'chat.'
  4. Customary response time for e-mail to the Course Lecturer is two weekdays. E-mail on weekends will ordinarily be read the Monday following.

In general, course e-mail is only for essential matters of Course business, and it avoids questions about lecture material, course reading, assignment criteria, or deadlines, which are all reserved for tutorials and office hours. Missed classes and deadlines do not need to be reported by e-mail: if a medical or bereavement exception is being claimed, the supporting documentation is handed in, along with the completed assignment, either in person or the Instructor's mailbox outside the Department Office.


The hotlink to the OED article on 'paulo-post' -- the grammatical construction related in lecture to Stella Gibbons' protagonist -- is active until Thursday. (A proprietary OED restriction.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Course Syllabus

Be up-to-date with the reading schedule and you will be ahead of lecture. Note, however, that this schedule is not a Procrustean bed : week by week, lecture will follow students' developing interests and the course dynamic. Thus will all material be covered, sublimely, by the end.


Required Texts:
Course Wk. 1: Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm
Course Wk. 2: Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm
Course Wk. 3: Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones' Diary
Course Wk. 4: Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones' Diary
Course Wk. 5: Monica Ali, Brick Lane
Course Wk. 6: Monica Ali, Brick Lane
Course Wk. 7: Janice Galloway, The Trick is to Keep Breathing
Course Wk. 8: Janice Galloway, The Trick is to Keep Breathing
Course Wk. 9: Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Course Wk. 10: Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Course Wk. 11: Sara Maitland, On Becoming a Fairy Godmother
Course Wk. 12: Sara Maitland, On Becoming a Fairy Godmother

Recommended Texts
Read Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good on your own schedule in the first half of the course. The book is delightfully brief, and I heartily encourage you to read it some spare hour or three in the opening fortnight.

Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, enjoyable, engaging, and easy to read, should be completed in a breeze somewhere in the opening weeks of the second half of our course.

Support material available on Library Reserve.

Nb: “For purposes of the Class Participation Grade, attendance and punctuality in seminar and at lecture, as well as contributions to discussion, are necessary conditions.

Schedule of Assignment Due Dates
(Assignments coded by colour. See assignment posts for details.)
Update: Assignment Deadlines.

Nb: There is a four percent per day late penalty for all assignments, documented medical or bereavement leave excepted. For medical exemptions, provide a letter from a physician on letterhead which declares his or her medical judgement that illness or injury prevented work on the essay. The letter must cover the entire period over which the assignment was scheduled and may be verified by telephone. For any matter effecting deadlines, consult with the Lecturer in person and before the assignment period.

May 21st, Mid-Term Essay topics posted.
June 2nd, Group Polemic Project, proposals and schedule of due dates submitted in lecture.
June 16th or 18th: Mid-Term Essay outline or thesis ¶ due in seminar for peer editing.
June 23rd or 25th: Mid-Term Essay outline or thesis ¶returned with Lecturer's comments.
July 9th, Mid-Term Essay due in Lecturer's Dept. Mailbox.
August 5th, Final Essay due in Dept. Mailbox.

Individual Seminar Presentation
A five-to-ten minute panegyric of some aspect of any of the course texts which is strikingly wonderful. The design is to convince the seminar of the singular literary excellence of your chosen aspect, using your highest abilities as rhetor. Sign-up sheet for presentation date in seminar course week 2, with schedule then posted on-line.

Technology should be used sparingly, if at all, and must be fully set up in advance of the start of the seminar. Any technology used in the assignment becomes a criterion used in grading: including its set-up, operation, and ultimate effectiveness.

Grading criteria include evident research, command of material, validity and salience of insight, worth of the literary aspect or aspects being advanced, oratory strengths and delivery techniques.

Group Polemical Project

Two projects designed to allow expression of strong ideas and engagements with the fiction, or the larger social ideas with which the course texts engage, or the ideas and analysis presented in lecture. "Polemic," from polemos, the Greek word for war; implying that the project will be designed with victory in mind.

  • Find a strong idea that your group is interested in—for or against. Some examples are, an idea of assumptions of women's fiction; or the power of one of the course authors; or the representations of male characters in the texts; or examples from popular culture which illuminate the literary programme in one or more course texts; etc. etc.
  • Decide if both of the two parts of this project will be for or against, or will each of the two take a different side in turn.
  • Decide upon the format that your project will take: e.g. scholarly essays, a blog, video production, submission to local media, etc.
  • Decide upon the due dates for the two projects: the one requirement for dates is that the two cannot be less than three weeks apart.
  • A written proposal and the due dates are due in lecture no later than June 2nd.
  • Time will be given through the Term in seminar to work on the group projects.
  • If a creative method is used—i.e. something beside a scholarly essay—then the proposal must be in the form of failure standards.

Instructor Contact:

Office Hours: AQ 6094 -- Monday 14:30-18:00, Tuesday 12:00-15:00, Wednesday 11:30-12:30, 14:30-15:00. Bring your coffee and discuss course matters freely. E-mail to Telephone 778-782-5820
The course will read the books on their own terms, from the axiom that they 'instruct by delighting.' The books share a characteristic of post-war British novels written by women that their female protagonist triumphs—in terms that are realistic and are her own. Aspects political, ideological, or social that are empirically present in the texts or the lives of their authors will be treated in lecture and seminar. Those which are present merely in the minds of the reader will either stay there or find expression in one or both of the group polemical assignments. The teleology of the course is toward understanding of how the fiction expresses confidence and triumph "....intimately connected to the workings of the society around it." [Peter Keating.]

Monday, May 5, 2008

Course Outline

It is not universal, but there is a trend among British female novelists since the Second World War to write a triumphal story arc for their female protagonists. A mood of confidence and self-attainment distinguishes these novels within their historical period; re-invoking, perhaps, the Austenian genius. In this Course we will ask scholarly questions such as, are these women novelists re-writing the traditional masculine quest so that the heroine sets out to conquer limitations, external and internal? We will be focused in our study by a non-fiction book from a premier novelist - The Sovereignty of Good by Dame Iris Murdoch - to see what explanans may be discovered there. Murdoch’s use of “sovereignty” in the title is suggestive of the actual Sovereign who has given Britain matriarchal regnancy for most of the years since 1945; surely not without influence, it has been mooted, on novelists of the magnitude of those on our course reading list. Our study, naturally, will be entirely literary, as will its methods, its scope and - interestingly and memorably - its conclusions.


Gibbons, Stella Cold Comfort Farm Penguin
Spark, Muriel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Penguin
Galloway, Janice The Trick is to Keep Breathing Mandarin
Fielding, Helen Bridget Jones' Diary Penguin
Ali, Monica Brick Lane Scribner
Maitland, Sara On Becoming a Fairy Godmother Maia

(Strongly) Recommended Texts:

Murdoch, Iris The Sovereignty of Good Routledge
Hornby, Nick High Fidelity Riverhead


15% Class participation
10% Class presentation
20% Two group polemical projects
20% Mid-term paper (approx. 2000 words)
35% Final paper (approx. 3000 words)