Friday, April 6, 2007

More on Zero-Sum: Kitsch

I have a classfellow request to blog the kitsch I used to exemplify Zero-Sum thinking in regard to the sexes.
The first was a fridge magnet collection sold in the SFU BookStore. [Click on the image for larger view]:

The second was a metal plate found at a garage sale entitled "The Rules" and which read as follows:

1. The Female always makes THE RULES.
2. THE RULES are subject to change without notice.
3. No Male can possibly know all THE RULES.
4. If the Female suspects the Male knows all THE RULES, she must immediately change some of THE RULES.
5. The Female is never wrong.
6. If it appears the Female is wrong, it is because of a flagrant misunderstanding caused by something the Male did or said wrong.
7. If Rule #6 applies, the Male must apologize immediately for causing the misunderstanding.
8. The Female can change her mind at any time.
9. The Male must never change his mind without the express written consent of The Female.
10. The Female has every right to be angry or upset at any time.
11. The Male must remain calm at all times, unless the Female wants him to be angry or upset.
12. The Female must, under no circumstances, let the Male know whether she wants him to be angry or upset.
13. The Male is expected to read the mind of the Female at all times.
14. At all times, what is important is what the Female meant, not what she said.
15. If the Male doesn't abide by THE RULES, it is because he can't take the heat, lacks backbone, and is a wimp.
16. If the Male, at any time, believes he is right, he must refer to Rule #5.

From among the exchanges, two stick in my mind. One is the way that The Rules -- especially Rule 15-- highlight male insecurity / performative masculinity. The other was the suggestion that if "the Female" in The Rules is changed to "God", then you have sixteen points of understanding Kafka's conception of God.

A classfellow from a previous course emailed me the following commentary.
My personal response to popular examples of "kitsch" such as 'The Rules' and the "boys are stupid" magnets is very unsettling. More than the objects themselves, what I find especially disturbing is that these sorts of blatant exploitations of gender stereotypes are intended to be funny. 'The Rules' example in particular operates on exactly the same logic that allowed women to be oppressed for centuries, yet a simple gender reversal apparently makes it appropriate to laugh at today. I think any sort of humor that operates on the principle that a certain sex is contemptible because they necessarily possess some undesirable trait is unacceptable. It is offensive not only to the targeted gender but any person who doesn't feel like they fit the prescribed role for their sex. For instance, I feel insulted by the insinuation that the female is always the pushy, overbearing partner in a relationship, and while most children experience a certain amount of antagonism towards the opposite gender at some point, I certainly don't see how it's appropriate to encourage them to deal with it by throwing rocks. Despite all the intellectualizing university students do about gender theory and social conditioning, the existence of humor like this makes me question whether sexism hasn't simply been institutionalized.

Zero-Sum & the Sexes

A classfellow sends along this example of zero-sum thinking, on her Starbucks Coffee cup, in the context of relationships:

The most relevant piece of advice I received regarding marriage: You can only be as happy as the least happy person in the house, and two bathrooms are mandatory.
[Nb: This is a variation on the image displayed here.]

Friday, March 30, 2007

Mothers, Fathers, & Non-Zero Sum

In preparation for the concluding lecture on High Fidelity ("where is Hornby going with this?") I found an excellent example today to illustrate Zero-sum thinking, in the context of our course and, as they say 'ripped form today's headlines, on Broadsheet: the 'women's issues' blog.
Why "Broadsheet"? For one thing, we like the word "broad," which for us conjures up images of Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson, ferociously pounding out copy on deadline in "His Girl Friday," her tailored suit wrinkle-free and sexy. But the term also applies to our content. The issues we'll tackle are limitless, really, given the fact that our subject includes half the world's population. Katie Holmes' pregnancy, Harriet Miers' Supreme Court nomination, the FDA's stalling over Plan B -- we've got something to say about all of it. Our goal is to be opinionated about topics that affect women, but also a filter by which we can look at the news from a (mostly) female point of view.
Broadsheet is responding to a lawsuit that the activist National Organisation for Women has initiated against the use of "....federal dollars -- to the tune of $50 million a year -- [to] fund a program aimed at promoting responsible fathehood."

Broadsheet argues, in effect, that NOW is stuck in zero-sum thinking: acting as if the promotion of good fatherhood must be detracting from the promotion of good motherhood. Broadsheet's response (one very congenial to my way of thinking, I confess) is that one can promote one to the advantage of both.

Nb: the classic book-length argument against zero-sum thinking is Bob Wright's "Non Zero":
Meanwhile, some examples of non-zero-sum things: arms control negotiations, trading gossip, the relationship among genes on a genome, and such transactions as buying a car, buying a book, buying a book or, finally, buying a book.

SFU, Rachel Marsden, Fox News &

During lecture on Bridget Jones in the context of 'post-feminism,' I brought up the notorious case of Rachel Marsden, and how it had been a tipping point of sorts that had resulted in substantial institutional change here.
À propos something else, I was surfing — a large-traffic left-of-centre American daily e-media — and to my astonishment found this major feature story on Ms. Marsden, who, I am to understand, is now a conservative commentator on Fox News Channel, being, it says, groomed for a very big profile. The article presents the SFU affair in prominent detail, puts the university (which it calls "....the famously progressive, Utopian Simon Fraser University") in high profile, and is compelling -- not to say alarming -- reading.
The sordid saga wreaked havoc on the lives of Marsden, [Swim Team Coach] Liam Donnelly, [Harrassment Co-ordinator Patricia] O'Hagan, and [University President John] Stubbs. But it also took a steep ideological toll on feminists....

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Devil's Writing

Do not read this article. It is evil.

Classfellow E-mail

I wanted to share this e-mail from a classfellow:
Given the number of times Jane Austen comes up in lectures I'm surprised none of her books were on the reading list....I found an interesting little bit about how her publisher find her appearance too plain and are sexing-up her likeness with Photoshop. I guess the idea is that you can't write romantic things if you're plain looking. Thought you might be interested [in this.]
....Also, I'm not sure if [a certain classfellow] mentioned this to you yet, but near the beginning of the semester, she was telling me about a nasty man-bashing calendar she spotted for sale in the Burnaby campus bookstore. It features images of men as wind up dolls and contained sweet sentiments like "men are only good for sex." We wondered why it's OK to portray men that way in a school that's so outspoken about gender issues. It seems even some women are offended by this. Not sure if that calendar is still for sale.
I'd love to teach Jane Austen -- I had rather thought that P&P would be too obvious & well known for you all. Perhaps we should have a marathon nightime showing of the A&E version....

Sunday, March 25, 2007

"Twitter": Cell-phone Mini-blogging

By Richard Waters and Chris Nuttall in San Francisco
Silicon Valley is abuzz over a new mini-blogging service for mobile phones that some predict will be a mass-market hit with the reach of a YouTube or MySpace.
Over the past two weeks, Twitter has attracted the sort of hyperbole the Valley reserves for its next internet darling – though such self-reinforcing adulation also led to dotcom mania.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Harlequin Romance Covers

This seems disturbingly relevant....

And this, perhaps more so...
Replacing Fabio with Regular Joe
This is so great, because you’re pretty much exactly what we were trying to avoid,” says Blake Morrow, one of the judges, and an art director with Harlequin, while choking back laughter. “Hit the gym man, and we’ll see.”

Writing Support

From the Student Learning Commons people at our Library:

As we near the end of the term, the Yosef Wosk Student Learning Commons would like to remind you of the additional academic support we provide students in writing and learning skills. (Via one-on-one appointments or drop-in .)

As....students enter the semester's 'writing crunch' and then final exams, please take a minute to remind them that there is additional writing and learning skills support available in the Student Learning Commons (room 3695-Podium Level 3-to the right of the Library). (Emphases mine.)

Some of the areas our friendly and knowledgeable Peer Educators and myself can assist students in are:

- planning and flow of a paper,
- integrating quotes (sic) and paraphrasing,
- improving coherence and cohesion,
- controlling sentence structure and punctuation,
- exam strategies,
- overcoming exam anxiety,
- ....more.

.....we do not edit or proof papers. The YWSLC Coordinator and Peers provide the insight, skills, and techniques to improve a students own performance, including learning how to write, edit and proofread their own work.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

High Fidelity: Book -vs- Movie

A good article evaluating the film version of High Fidelity in comparison to Hornby's novel, from

Saturday, March 17, 2007

"For publishers, every day is Mother's Day"

Mr. Green sends along this article, à propos Bridget Jones, from today's online edition of the Guardian (venerable British newspaper, Left of centre.)
Bridget Jones is 11 years old and immortal. She is pickled in chardonnay and shielded from the ravages of age by celluloid and the comic potential of big pants. But it is just over a decade since she first appeared in print. By the calculations of British publishers that means many of the women who first bought her diaries have since got married and had children.
Women over the age of 30 buy more new fiction than pretty much any demographic segment in the country, accounting for up to 70 per cent of the market. If you listen carefully on a quiet day in bookland you can discern the hum of a hundred agents making a hundred pitches: 'It's Bridget Jones with a boring husband, kids and a lover. Madame Bovary meets Grazia magazine. V funny, v sexy.'

Mid-term Final Version: Grading Turn-around

Ms. Keating & Mr. Green are hard at work this weekend, reading, contemplating and grading your revised mid-term essays. In order to give you as much time as possible to study your graded essay before the Final Exam, they are aiming to have them returned to you within two weeks ... incredibly, perhaps as early as one week this from coming Tuesday.

In the mean time, I hope you are enjoying your (second) reading of High Fidelity this weekend.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Dr. Ogden's Schedule this Tuesday

Tomorrow after the lecture I will be taking Mr. Green's tutorials in his absence, from ten thirty to twelve thirty. To replace the Office Hours normally scheduled then, I will be in my office from twelve thirty to one thirty.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Helen Fielding on Hangovers

The (to me, hilarious) passage that I read out in lecture from Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim that, I suggest, Helen Fielding has in mind in her portrayal of Bridget Jones' hangover (pp 59-60) reads as follows, for you to better make the comparison.

Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. he lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again.A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he'd somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.
There is a literary point of some significance here pace Bridget Jones' Diary, to be discussed in Tuesday's lecture.

Dr. Ogden's Grading -- Scaled

For those of you in Mr. Green's tutorials whose first-version essay I graded or examined, here is the scale of the given number grades to SFU-standard letter-grades. This harmonises my grading & Mr. Green's for consistency across tutorial groups.
5 = A, 4.5=A-, 4=B+, 3.5=B, 3=B-, 2.5=C+, 2=C, 1.5=C-, 1=D, 0-0.5=F

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Mid-Term Revision

The mid-term first version essays have now been graded and handed back. As I laid out in lecture, the project for you now is to incorporate your marker's corrections, analysis and recommendations into a full revision. This final version will be graded on degree to which it incorporates both the letter and the spirit of what your essay's marker has added to the first version.

Any questions about the grading can be brought to the marker in Office Hours, keeping the following two things in mind. First, the grade for the first version can be revisited any time until the end of term: the concentration over the upcoming week is most advisedly put on the work of revision. Second, the first version grade is only five percent of the assignment: in my view, a key point.

For students in Mr. Green's tutorials, I will be available on Tuesday in Surrey for Office Hours at a different time for the week only, as I will be taking Mr. Green's tutorials during my regularly-scheduled Office Hours. I am also available at the Burnaby campus in AQ6094 on Monday and Wednesday between ten thirty and three thirty. Furthermore, I can be contacted for a by-appointment Office Hour outside these many hours.

Write away ....

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Sloan-iness Satirised

For more information on the Sloan set -- the object of Helen Fielding's satire -- see this 'quite posh' website. Younger Canadian women may recognise some of the fashion they originated....

The Laura Ashley site is right here. Observe the too too perfect Sloaney model they use.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Etymology of "Hooligan"

In light of a Clockwork Orange and the City of Surrey's "....very new broom", here is the origin of one of the slurs used against 'lads':

In the distinctive language of British journalism, the English football fans who caused so much trouble in Marseilles variously “went on the rampage”, “ran amuck”, were guilty of “thuggish behaviour”, or “caused mayhem”. They were variously described in news stories as louts, yobs, thugs and ruffians, but the word that was universally employed was hooligan.
It’s an odd word, which the Oxford English Dictionary says started to appear in London police-court reports in the summer of 1898....

Thursday, March 1, 2007

City of Surrey uses "a very New Broom" against its 'Droogs'

The recent stories in the local media on how the government of the City of Surrey's is taking intensified action (".....what they call a very new broom") against men -- referred to only as "criminals" by the politicans and media writers -- are repetitions of the opening chapters of Part Three of A Clockwork Orange:
I kaputted a gazetta....[t]here were very boastful slovos about what the Government had done, brothers, in the last year....improved social services and all that cal....But what the Government was really most boastful about was the way they had recokoned the streeets had been made safer for all peace-loving night-walking lewdies in the last six months, what with better pay for the police and the police getting tougher with young hooligans and perverts and burglars and all that cal.
From the City of Surrey's homepage:
Surrey Unveils its Crime Reduction Strategy
February 26, 2007
This morning (Februrary 26, 2007), Mayor Dianne Watts was joined by Attorney General Wally Oppal, local MPs and MLAs and community leaders to officially unveil Surrey’s Crime Reduction Strategy.
The Crime Reduction strategy (CRS) is a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to addressing the root causes of crime. It seeks to implement new and innovative programs with practical applications that will result in a concrete, measurable reduction in crime.
The CRS represents the culmination of the efforts of the Mayor’s Task Force on Public Safety and Crime Reduction....
“The Surrey Crime Reduction Strategy is a complete paradigm shift from what is currently being done in Canadian municipalities to combat crime,” said Mayor Watts. “It is an approach that seeks to incorporate all the key stakeholders and create one, unified, comprehensive plan to address the root causes of crime in our community.”

Locally, then, as with the English case, bad press for the hooligans, i.e. men.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Plant blogging

It's wet, cold & snowing outside, but inside my aeschynanthus is blooming. The full delight is in the contrast: true for the literary as well as the horticultural voluptuary.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

"Clockwork Orange" Links

Anthony Burgess wrote a reflection on A Clockwork Orange in 1986 which you may enjoy reading: it is titled "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."

Now there is, as you all almost certainly have found out, a rash of Nadsat-English dictionaries on-line, such as this one. I didn't link to one earlier because Burgess meant for the novella to be read without one, & I remember how much I enjoyed in pre-internet days working things out for myself and sharing with friends. However, as Mr. King would say, tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis, so use the title link if you havn't found a translation page already....

Friday, February 23, 2007

On the Mid-Term

I love this Bizarro cartoon on the ever-more degraded state of language use!

A word about the mid-term essay project now well underway. The TAs are currently marking the first version of the essay and will return it to you by March 8th.

As you know, the objective of compulsory Writing Intensive Courses like ours is to provide an excellent opportunity for improved student writing ability. To that end, this first version of your essay is worth only five percent of the twenty percent that the Mid-Term represents in the ultimate course grade. Accordingly, your TAs have a mandate of marking to strict criteria for your greatest benefit.

Expect, then, this five percent grade to be an effective and accurate guidepost for you to improve your writing -- and, one hopes, your grade -- on the final version worth the remaining fifteen percent of the assignment grade.

So, for example, first versions which ignore the criteria set in the Mid-Term Topics -- say, failing to ground the essay in textual quotation, and using mere personal reflection instead following the instruction to argue -- can receive a first-version grade of less than 50%.

Study the first version carefully when it is returned to you, as it is a practical means of, for one, becoming a much better writer, and, for another, getting a significantly higher grade on your heavily-weighted final version.

Here's to good writing!

Why are These Models Scowling?

I am not sure exactly how this blog post is as relevant to our background understanding as it seems to be, but it is more than worth reading and doing the quiz.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


There is a helpful webpage on bildungsroman -- 'novel of development' -- at the reliable online resource The Victorian Web at this link. In fact, I gave today's specific arrangement to assist your effective follow-up study of this important concept for the lecture approach to A Clockwork Orange.

The Victorian Web is a reliable internet resource in contrast to the Wikipedia website which is an un-reliable -- and, here, unacceptable -- internet resource for academic purposes.

A literary rephrasing of the term 'bildungsroman' (if my word 'development' is already not a re-phrasing of the German 'formation') could be "novel of apprenticeship": apprenticeship, i.e., to Life.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Even more real ultra-violence

The wider relevence of Burgess' text is further indicated in this article from the Sunday Telegraph:

The violence seen in the video obtained by this newspaper has echoes of the extreme violence portrayed in Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film, A Clockwork Orange. In the film, a gang of youths travels the country to commit violent acts, including rapes and murders, for fun. Jan Harlan, the late director's brother-in-law, who helped to make the Oscar-nominated film, said that such violence was "beginning to make A Clockwork Orange seem like Bambi".
He said: "Violence is on a totally different level than it used to be. We do not realise how violent the whole world has become in the last few decades. The danger is that in the next 30 or 40 years there will be a huge crowd of uneducated young men with nothing to do except become more violent and anti-social."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"A [real] bit of the old ultra-violence"

The pre-recognitive quality of fiction that I referred to in lecture -- the ability of literary genius to present in fiction attitudes or forms of behavior ahead of their full-blown appearance in culture -- is exemplified by the current news story under the headline "Teen 'sport killings' of homeless on the rise." The documentary from which a short section was shown in today's lecture shows the state of affairs in England in 1970, matching precisely to the narrative-future state of England in Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange

Monday, February 19, 2007

Our Guest Speaker in Big Media appearances

Nancy Warren is featured in today's New York Times 'Books' section with an article and impressive photograph.

USAToday 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 have been our class' brush with literary celebrity....and with signed copies to prove it.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

"Stalky & Co." in "The Peak"

A thoroughly delightful article by our own Andrew Tuplin, referencing Kipling's Stalky & Co. in last week's campus student newspaper under the beloved-80s-song title I said, do you speak-a my language?

I'd gratefully blog the writer's picture, but I found none on-line so far.

English Scholarship for Sciences Students

For students in the Sciences who are taking Introductory English as a 'Required Course,' the (to them) unfamiliar form in which English conducts its studies can present a challenge.

However, English literature and the Sciences are both academic fields of study and share a rational approach and a scholarly analysis with an empirical component that differs between the two faculties primarily by degree.

To exemplify this, it is possible to translate a Topic on an English Mid-Term assignment into a Problem in the mathematical form of an Equation.

Here is Topic #5 from our current Mid-Term, first in its English Literature form and then, second, expressed in the form of an Equation.
5. Imagine that you have been commissioned to write a satire of Elizabeth Gaskell in the way that Stella Gibbons satirised certain other types of authors in Cold Comfort Farm. What aspects of Cranford's cultural view do you think should be satirised and why? You are free to sketch the character outline of a Flora Poste equivalent who would feature in your Gaskell satire.

Left Side of the Equation. (Empirical.)

Text: Cold Comfort Farm
Literary aspect: Satire: (the emendation of folly)
Target: Various Modern authors
Method: A central character embodying the virtues implicitly affirmed.
Specific value: "Flora Poste"

Right Side of the Equation. (Hypothetical.)

Text : Cranford
Literary aspect: Satire: (the emendation of folly.)
Target: Elizabeth Gaskell
Method: A central character embodying the virtues implicitly affirmed.
Specific value: "X"


Friday, February 16, 2007

Mid-term: study direction

A number of you are applying yourselves to Mid-term topic #4, and are asking about the aspect of 'the future' in the question. The best help that I can give here, and indeed with all the topics, is to read the topic in the light of lecture material. For #4 here, for instance, this, then, means in light of the direct and repeated engagement in Cold Comfort Farm with two concepts of modernity. Best wishes for productive & rewarding writing!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Use of Blogs in Academia

An excellent & concise blog entry from EdTechPost detailing "some uses of blogs in education" here. I recommend it highly as an excellent introduction to the ways in which blogging will, to a virtual certainty, become integrated into university practice to the same degree as e-mail, on-line registration, and digitised databases are now.
Click the diagramme below for a full-size version of the author's
matrix of some of the possible uses of blogs in education.

Blog from MS Office

OK, this is officially awesome. Blogger now has a free add-on downloadable at this link that integrates into Microsoft Office Word.

Nancy Warren Thanks

Our collective thanks go to Nancy Warren for sending us a boxful of her latest Harlequin, Speed Dating. She is in Daytona right now to launch the Harlequin-NASCAR collaboration.

[This is my cellphone camera shot from her talk here last week. Click on the image for a larger version. Also remember that many blog-post titles are also hotlinks - this one, to Ms. Warren's website.]

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Lad Lit: boys and reading

Here is a blog by a retired Elementary-School Librarian with a post on Young Adult Novels and the Teen Boy -- set, by the first half of its title (Making It As a Modern Male), in terms of masculinity as performative and in terms of the effect of a type of literature set according to sex: one of the premises of "lad-lit" studies.
Many social commentators have lamented the "lost" generation of American boys, growing up in a time in which girls have garnered a lot of attention in the public mind. Although teenage boys are considered a hard sell for fiction writers, guys probably stand in greater need of the vicarious experience offered in novels than do girls, since boys often find their life experience in riskier behaviors and since they are thought to be less comfortable with sharing personal events and feelings with each other.
Article via

PS: The blog also has this post on girls' reading -- here, the 'princess' reading craze (e.g. Ella Enchanted.) Note how the heroine's character is written in the "Flora Poste" mould....

Another Plucky Princess.... Here's another royal romp to add to my earlier list of "Princess Stories That Won't Shrink Ze Brain." It's Kate Coombs' 2006 title The Runaway Princess. This one really is a romp, as fifteen-year-old princess no-wannabe Meg refuses to be the bait her slightly greedy father King Stromgard dangles before a gaggle of princes who fill the Kingdom of Greve to win her hand The princes straggle forth to slay a dragon, return his hoard, banish a witch, and capture a bandit, while the unwilling Meg is sequestered in a tower complete with embroidery kits. Meg, of course, readily escapes the tower, befriends the witch (with her own army of bewitched frog princes), adopts the dragon (he's just a baby), and captures the aid of the Bandit Queen (and the romantic interest of her brother "Prince" Bain.) Meg is no Ella, but she's a fun gal to spend a few hours with.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cold Comfort Farm

So, we're looking at Stella Gibbon's masterpiece in terms of its satirical aspect. My lectures are based on an itemised list of the attributes of Gibbon's satire: we ended on "Self-Referential" today, and will finish that item on Thursday. The interesting point about the self-referentiality, to me, is what it implies. Gibbons uses the character Flora Poste as the axis around which her satiric energy is polarised. But Gibbons then inverts the field of energy and presents Poste herself as an object of satire.

This is breathtakingly deft, and only literary genius could do this without the artistic whole becoming a mushy muddle, without losing any sense of ground or stability to support the satire, or without turning into the sneering, denunciatory, censorious fulminator so effectively characterised in Amos Starkadder.

But returning to what is implied by this self-reference; for the satire to work -- for it to have been worth bothering about -- the type of confident, modern, self-assured, accomplished and superior woman must have been notable in the literature in and before the year Cold Comfort Farm was published: 1932. I offered C. Bronte's Jane Eyre, several of Marie Corelli's leading characters, Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennett, several Agatha Christie heroines (notably Prudence Cowley); and among male novelists, Gissing's Rhoda Nunn (one of several) and (probably Gibbons' direct model) the great P.G. Wodehouse's Bobbie Wickham.

Update: how could I forget the perfect exemplar that I gave in lecture? Pamela Lyndon Travers' Mary Poppins.
PS: Here is a contemporary satire of the type: the "Scary Mary" viral.

Course Theme Song

From classfellow "A.":

Do we have a theme song for English 105? As you were talking about Bridget Jones's Diary in class today it occurred to me that what we're talking about is pretty much summed up with in the immortal lines of Shania Twain's "Any Man Of Mine."
This is what a woman wants...
Any man of mine better be proud of me
Even when I'm ugly he still better love me
And I can be late for a date that's fine
But he better be on time...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Lecturer Office Hours

I want to remind you that my scheduled Office Hours are Tuesday and Thursday, 10:30-12:30 in room 3220 (same floor as lectures, on the SW side -- i.e. at the opposite end from the mezzanine and on the same side as Tuesday's lecture hall.)

Drop in to discuss any issues at all related to course material. If the scheduled hours are otherwise booked for you, contact me by e-mail for a time by appointment.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Paglia warns internet: "Only Art Lasts"

Camille Paglia intends her latest book as a pertinent warning against putting technology before art, or, put another way, against giving the transient form more importance than the permament substance.
Paglia has been and continues to be a strong booster of the internet's benefits for scholarship & effective polity, so her caution has weight.

UPDATE: Here is her article version.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Danger: Boys being Stalky again

Now, this is interesting. Via the Dr. Helen blog, discussion of an article in Britain's online Daily Telegraph titled "Danger: Boys Having Fun" about a bestselling boys book (boys today reading at all is an arresting fact in itself) called The Dangerous Book for Boys that encourages boys to, in effect, be Stalky.
The cover of the book is a reinvocation of the "Boys Own" papers that Kipling's Stalky & Co. directly inspired, and this list from the book's authors of what every boy should have on hand makes the stalkiness unmistakable (especially if you read between the lines of the explanations, as I did & noted in just a couple of the places):
    • Compass - your trusty guide
    • Swiss Army knife - removes splinters
    • Handkerchief - doubles as a sling [& sling-shot, SO.]
    • Magnifying glass - look at small things, start a campfire
    • A marble - big one, for luck [& slingshot, SO.]
    • Needle and thread - to sew up wounds, mend torn shirt
    • Pencil and paper - note down criminals' car numbers
    • Torch - read secret plans by night
    • Fish-hook and thread - add stick and worm and you won't starve
    • Box of matches - dip the tips in wax (it waterproofs them)
The book is now being released in North America.

Flora Poste's Sensibility in Fine Art

Moulding Elfine to her own, urban, ideals, Flora Poste advises her to turn to "....the style of Jane Austen, or a painting by Marie Laurencin," as exemplars of the sensibility she seeks to impress upon her protégée. Information on the early twentieth-century French painter Marie Laurencin is at this link, and images of some of her paintings can be found here.

Mid-Term Questions

Choose one from this list of available topics for step 1. in the Mid-term Essay Schedule post.

1. In the “Regulus” chapter of Stalky & Co., Mr. King is teaching a Latin ode to the Fifth Form. Analyse how his character interacts with individual boys in terms of what this reveals about Kipling’s view of performative masculine culture.

2. Detail some of the main values that Cranford and Cranford represent in fiction, and make an argument either for or against the claim that these values are designed to express a female view of culture superior to traditional male culture.

3. Do you agree or disagree with the claim that Peter Jenkyns’ attitude toward violence would exclude him from membership in Stalky’s “company” of performative males? Use quotations from both Gaskell’s & Kipling’s texts in support of your argument.

4. The NOTE at the reverse of the title-page of Cold Comfort Farm reads "The action of the story takes place in the near future." This in mind, what do you think is the significance of the following paragraph for the literary technique in Stella Gibbon's masterpiece?
Claud twisted the television dial and amused himself by studying Flora's fair, pensive face. Her eyes were lowered and her mouth compressed over the serious business of arranging Elfine's future. He fancied she was tracing a pattern with the tip of her shoe. She did not look at him, because public telephones were not fitted with television dials. (p.128)
5. Imagine that you have been commissioned to write a satire of Elizabeth Gaskell in the way that Stella Gibbons satirised certain other types of authors in Cold Comfort Farm. What aspects of Cranford's cultural view do you think should be satirised and why? You are free to sketch the character outline of a Flora Poste equivalent who would feature in your Gaskell satire.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Nicholas Sparks

Nancy Warren was praising Nicholas Sparks as a man who writes romance novels with an overwhelming female readership, several of which are successful -- and I quote -- "chick-flicks:" The Notebook being the most prominent.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

L'Écriture Féminine

A student from an upper division course of mine 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."

A Stella Gibbons Website

There is a very good web resource (albeit low-tech) for information about Cold Comfort Farm at The site is run by her nephew nephew Reggie Oliver, whose biography of his aunt, Out of the Woodshed, is nearly history's sole source for interesting & relevant information about Gibbons.

His article on Cold Comfort Farm, here, is extremely helpful.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Article Links

Please leave comments or send me an email with any articles you find on-line relating to our course themes -- anything from scholarship to journalism to kitch is equally welcome -- & I'll put them up on the blog.

Here are a couple that I have found, relating to lecture.

An essential article for our course in today's online Guardian, here. I wanted to excerpt the pith, but it seems to be all pith. Certainly it addresses concisely and vigorously some of the genre issues with which we have been engaging.
It follows on this earlier piece sub-titled "Research shows men mainly read works by other men."

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Here, as mentioned, is the picture of "the Coll" -- the United Services College, at Westward Ho! in Devonshire, "Twelve bleak houses by the shore ...." -- where Kipling's Stalky & Co. is set.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Guest Speaker

Great news: Chick-Lit writer Nancy Warren will be a guest lecturer at a soon-to-be-determined date. It won't be the back-end of February, however, because she is off to Daytona to promote the partnership between NASCAR .... & the Harlequin publishing empire exclamation-mark question-mark. (She is writing the first book in a series which will be launched at the Daytona 500. Can you guess the book's planned title?)
Update: Nancy Warren will be speaking at next Tuesday's lecture (February 6th.) Here is a succinct 'blurb:

Nancy has an honors degree in English literature and has had previous careers in Journalism and Public Relations.
She lives in the Pacific Northwest (i.e. here) with her husband, two children and an ever expanding assortment of pets.

Nancy's great loves, apart from her family, are Jane Austen novels, old movies, Swiss chocolate, and men who believe in feminism, but still hold doors open for women.

Literary Recognition:

2004 RITA for Best Traditional Romance Finalist

2004 RITA for Best Short Contemporary Romance Finalist

Being a Man ... is bad for your health

À propos (just) Kipling's "Tommy", an article at the BBC reports that, according to University of Michigan's Randolph Nesse, "Being male is now the single largest demographic factor for early death."
Simply being a man is bad for your health, doctors have suggested.
A study in the United States shows men take more risks than women and are more likely to die from almost everything from heart disease to murder.
While men are more likely to die than women at practically every stage of their lives, the authors found the risks are highest in early twenties and in old age. More >>>

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Stalky Model of British Masculinity

Here are the twelve elements of British masculinity that comprise the Kipling's 1890s representation of male-ness in Stalky & Co. -- derived by Kipling's genius from historical British culture and forming the inescape centre of gravity for the universe of British boys' book, film and comic for the century that followed.
    1. A Kind and Sapient “Head” as immediate authority.
    2. Male sub-cultures have quasi-automonous existence within a over-arching patriotic system: e.g. Britain. [N.b. Patriotism is implicit but heavily tabooed: vid. "The Flag of Their Country" chapter in Stalky & Co.]
    3. A Chaplain-figure as council and side-access to the Head and the external political system.
    4. Judicious violence encoded equally all levels of the system.
    5. Encouragement of rebelliousness as a means to forestall revolution.
    6. Stalkiness: cunning trumps size.
    7. Stoicism, with Christian admixture, the background code.
    8. Meritocracy through action: successful performance of Masculinity (vid. “If”) determines the individual male's place in leadership hierarchy. [(a.) based on situational performances: i.e. not one permanent alpha-male; (b.) original entrance to Man-hood is by major performance: a Rite of Passage.]
    9. Women are on the margins -- the culture is monosexual – but they represent the external object of desire (the quest trope) once “man”-ness is achieved through culturally-sanctioned performance.
    10. A small group of complementary individual types: vid. The Beatles.
    11. Exclusive shared access to an esoteric code of speech – i.e. slang -- & cultural artifact – e.g. Boy's fiction in Stalky & Co., or the popmusic miscellania in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity.
    12. Boyhood is not training for life; rather, Life is boyhood writ large.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Lad-lit: Canadian and non-fiction.

A new book that is clearly lad-lit and clearly Canadian was reviewed very favourably in the centre fold of the "Books" section of the Toronto Globe and Mail. It was also well-reviewed in Quill & Quire, and elsewhere. The book is With the Boys: Field Notes on Being a Guy by Jake MacDonald, and is non-fiction of the reads-like-fiction type.
The Toronto Globe and Mail has the book's first chapter available online, and the following passage is worth our attention - especially as it echoes some of the ideas suggested in lecture.
Women appear in some of the stories too. Even when they're not on the scene, their absence is a kind of presence. Women keep an eye on men and exert a moderating influence on their behavior. That's one of the reasons that men like to occasionally get away from them. The singer Garth Brooks once remarked that he was teaching his little daughters a simple concept: "Men are pigs." All men know this about themselves, and they think it's funny. But at the same time, they have their own gender-specific code of ethics. Some kinds of piggy behavior are allowed, and some aren't. There are hundreds of rules affecting male behavior. That's too many to list here, and in any case every guy knows them. But women might find the male codebook strange and interesting. Women, for example, commonly assume that men like to talk about their spouses or sweethearts with their buddies. This is what psychologists call "projection." Women do it, so they think men do it too. A woman will happily dump the entire kitbag of her romantic woes on the table for the amusement of some other woman she's met four minutes ago. But no matter how late the evening or how debauched the conversation, you'll seldom hear a man say more than a few neutral words in passing about his mate. In the male codebook, talking about your love life is considered to be craven and unmanly. So women can at least relax about that.

Words and World

An inside secret about Language is the extreme degree to which it is metaphorical: that is, perhaps most of our lexicon is simply an application of images from the external world. Consider the word "understand." It means, literally, "to stand under" and that is the original sense of "understanding" something.

Steven Pinker is one of the world's great minds: until 2003, he taught in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, now Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, authour of The Language Instinct, The Blank Slate, and How the Mind Works. These books are renown for being both intellectual and extremely funny: Pinker, a Canadian unacknowledged here in his own country, is a superior writer to most published novelists.

Pinker has a new book about language due later this year: The Stuff of Thought. He has this interview in the Toronto Star.

Says Pinker: "Look at almost any passage and you'll find that a paragraph has five or six metaphors in it. It's not that the speaker is trying to be poetic, it's just that that's the way language works.

"Rather than occasionally reaching for a metaphor to communicate, to a very large extent communication is the use of metaphor," he says.

It could be that 95 per cent of our speech is metaphorical, if you go back far enough in language."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Iffy-ness of Manhood

Kipling's poem "If" underscores the performative masculinity thesis: the argument that manhood is perpetually uncertain and under threat, requiring repeated confirmation, through the performance of actions codified by one's civilisation. In Kipling's poem -- which, as we saw in the film clip, still has culturally-resonant sensibility -- a son is a man IF he performs distinct actions according a known code; and a son is not a man IF he fails in those actions.

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by
waiting, Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Lectures this week

Tuesday's lecture we will finish our look at Cranford, and get a summary statement about the nature of the chick-lit genre. (See the earlier post here on the Mlynowski and Jacobs text.)

Thursday we will begin studying Stalky & Co. and the complementary lad-lit genre.

Actually, this reminds me to emphasise a point made in opening lecture about the purview of our course of study: to wit, two literary genres. Obviously, chick-lit & lad-lit say something worthwhile about the culture which creates, markets and reads the books in the respective genres. And the books hopefully stimulate interest in, as another genre writer put it, Life, the Universe, & Everything. However, our discipline -- university English -- is properly limited in on literary texts as its empirical and theoretical domain, and with the Print culture more widely. And the object of the course of study -- like any academic practice -- is understanding. Any moral judgement beyind this on the texts or surrounding print culture is, of definition, a purely personal matter: the place for moral judgement, praise or denunication is called Church.

A reminder here that if you are interested in the state of the current theoretical and literary-cultural engagement with chick-lit, please pick up our recommended course text, Ferriss & Young's Chick-Lit: The New woman's Fiction. Positions from this helpful text will be elaborated, now a basic foundation is laid, as the term progresses.

Update: there is a sequence of academic practice -- call it "Ogden's Ladder" -- which goes like this:

  1. Data collection.
  2. Information sorting.
  3. Contextualisation.
  4. Comparison.
  5. Analysis.
  6. Description.
  7. Evaluation.
  8. Understanding.

I came up with Ogden's Ladder some years ago in response to an encounter, which seemed to have wider relevancy, with a scholar who was intensely frustrating an interlocutor by, as I realised on reflection, actually beginning the academic practice with judgement, and then doing every other related aspect (including, as it happens, even data collection) from pure prejudice: in its strictest etymological sense, "pre-judice."

I'll phrase this list into specifically literary terms as our term progresses.

Borat & the British Class System

The following quotation, from this article , in today's Times of London interviewing Sacha Baran Cohen on the success of his "Borat" persona, is very revealing; not only of the continued existence of, but also some of the different defining characteristics between, the three social classes in Britain, as we have touched upon them in lecture. (The supporting comment on America is pertinent, on the MacNeil thesis that southern American landowners are -- as their Elizabethan accent reveals -- vestigal British aristocracy who emigrated to the American colonies.)

One of the most intriguing questions about Baron Cohen’s characters is: why do so many people fall for the act? Partly he relies on good manners and politeness: “Ali G and Borat worked very well in England with the upper class because they were so polite. They would keep this person in their room. Members of the working class might have thrown him out; members of the middle class might not have revealed themselves as much.
“We found that the Deep South of America was very good for Borat because people were so polite and so welcoming of strangers. They were so proud of their American heritage that they would talk to this person about America and American values for an hour and a half.”

Friday, January 19, 2007

Teen Chick-Lit

A class-fellow came across this chick-lit link while proctrastinating earlier this week. Chapters Books knows that they are onto a good thing with teen chick lit - an exemplary title is Angus, Thongs & Full Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson - as the eagerly made theatrical version of Ann Brashares' Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants testifies. I discovered recently that my younger daughter had simply devoured them -- and she is not much of a reader.
My prediction is that this will be an emergent genre ....

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Class Cancelled: Thursday January 18th

Covering the wicket here besides the email notice, I have had to cancel tomorrow's lecture to attend my mother's funeral. Tutorials will still be held.
Thanks for your understanding -- See you next Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Asssigned chapters for Stalky & Co.

Just a reminder that only specific chapters of Kipling's Stalky & Co. are assigned -- though of course you can read the entire book for fun & profit. It's quality over quantity in the required readings, but of course the recommended texts are opportunity for scope!

As listed in the syllabus , the assigned chapters are:
  • 'Stalky'
  • 'In Ambush'
  • The Moral Reformers
  • Regulus
  • Slaves of the Lamp, Pt. II.

Jane Austen Dives Between the Chick Lit Covers

From the online Telegraph a year back:

Jane Austen is to be relaunched as a romantic novelist in the style of Danielle Steel and Dame Barbara Cartland. Her six novels are to be given glossy, pastel covers designed to appeal to women put off by the idea of reading a 19th century writer. Click for more >>>>

Monday, January 15, 2007

"Men 'cannot write romance.'

A controversy from this past autumn followed this report:

Men just cannot write romantic fiction, according to a new television programme that examines the success of one of the most denigrated of literary genres. Daisy Goodwin, the presenter of BBC 4's Reader, I Married Him, a three-part series on the novel to be shown in the autumn, said yesterday that, after interviewing writers and readers, she had concluded that "you can't have a really seriously-written romantic book written by a man".

This then provoked this now-famous debate in the Daily Telegraph between two writers of the opposite sex....and opposite point of view.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Stop Procrastinating: Right NOW!

A very helpful article in, of all places, the Toronto Globe & Mail, on the student's vice of procrastination:

....15 to 20 per cent of us are procrastinators. The condition is even more prevalent among the student population, where a third of most students' days are eaten up by procrastinating, something he pointed out yesterday while students seated around him gabbed, surfed the Internet and slept in a lounge on campus.
"Usually when I have an assignment I put it off until later," confessed Robert Maxwell, an 18-year-old biology student as he was distracted from his textbook on plants.
"It's a bad habit."
Three major factors contribute to precisely that habit, according to Prof. Steel. Self-confidence is key. Those who believe they can, essentially, will and those who don't, won't. The value of the task is important in whether it gets done. Is it something to enjoy or dread? And finally, delay. When does the task need to be completed? It's hard to get motivated about something that can be put off until some distant deadline looms.
Click here for more >>

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mid-term Essay: Schedule

Here is the arrangement and the schedule of dates for the Mid-Term Essay, fifteen hundred words and revisions. The assignment is worth twenty percent of the Course grade, of which five percent is for the draught and fifteen percent for the revision.

Five-week writing circuit:

  1. Course week five, Thursday February 8th: Choice of topics posted on the blog
  2. Course week seven, Thursday February 22nd: first version of the essay due in lecture.
  3. Course week nine, Thursday March 8th: essay returned with comments & grade.
  4. Course week ten , Thursday March 15th: final revision due in lecture.

There is, then, a good three course weeks to analyse the completed paper and the writing process and discuss with the TA, if required.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Blog Post promise

I remember saying I'd blog something, but I failed to write a note down. Anyone happen to remember what it was .....?
Update: I remember. It was this statistical article on the demographics of Romance Fiction readers. It has such data as "Romance fiction comprises 53.3% of all popular paperback fiction sold in North America." Click here for the three sections:

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Getting an "A" in the Course

Well, there are effective strategies to help achieve this.
  1. Stay in touch with Lecturer and the TA by visiting Office Hours regularily: with the former, to talk over the primary course texts as you read them, with the latter, the writing assignments in lecture
  2. Stay on top of the reading schedule, which will ensure that you have already read the book being lectured upon.
  3. Draft your writing assignments -- even roughly -- as soon as possible after each is assigned, and then bring that rough draught to an Office Hour for discussion.
  4. Draft a rough run through of the thesis paragraph for the Mid-Term essay as soon as the topics are released, and then bring that draught to the TA's or Lecturer's Office Hour for discusion.
  5. The Final Exam -- worth thirty-five percent of the course grade -- is based one hundred percent on material presented in lecture and familiarity with the primary texts. Attend the lectures and read the material and the Final Exam will be very straightforward: you will finish the exam with an hour to spare for revision. Fail to attend lecture, or fail to read the material thoroughly enough or with time for reflection .... & it will be a very tough three hours -- the more so since, alas, lectures are not taped nor are notes posted online.

Getting an "A" on an English Paper

An excellent article here with practical advice from Jack Lynch at Rutgers University on success, lovely success; "A" glorious "A."

Monday, January 8, 2007

Course Syllabus

Course Syllabus & Information

Gaskell, Elizabeth - Cranford

January 9th & 11th
January 16th & 18th
Kipling, Rudyard - Stalky & Co. [Selected chapters.]
January 23nd & 25th
January 30th & February 1st
Gibbons, Stella - Cold Comfort Farm
February 6th & 8th
February 13th & 15th
Burgess, Anthony - A Clockwork Orange
February 20th & 22st
February 27th & 29th
Fielding, Helen - Bridget Jones’s Diary
March 6th & 8th

March 13th & 15th
Hornby, Nick - High Fidelity
March 20th & 22nd

March 27th & 29th
Reading Review & Dry-Run of Final Examination
April 3rd & 5th

Final Exam
April 14th

Support material available on Library Reserve.

The two recommended texts underly lecture & should be read if superior insight & subject knowledge be valued by the student.

The asssigned chapters for Kipling, Stalky & Co., are 'Stalky', 'In Ambush', The Moral Reformers, Regulus, and Slaves of the Lamp, Pt. II.

Assignment Deadlines.
Nb: There is a four percent per day late penalty for 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 TA in person and before the assignment period.

1. Mid term paper, fifteen hundred words. Emphasis will be equally on literary analysis and writing mechanics. Topics blogged in February 8th; first essay version due in lecture February 22nd; graded & returned March 8th; final revision due in lecture March 15th; Revision Graded & returned in lecture. Assignment worth 20% of course grade: 5% of this is the grade on the first version and 15% the grade on the revision.
2. Group e-text writing project: TA handout.
3. Individual class presentation: TA handout.
4. Final exam: Saturday April 14th 08:30 – 11:30 am. See GoSFU “View my Exam Schedule” for Room Number.

Course Approach

The course is working toward an understanding of two literary genres originating in Britain: chick-lit and lad-lit. The genres exist as an empirical fact of print culture: writers write, publishers publish, marketers market and journalists ... well, let's say journalists look for money, under those headings. We will look at a historical arc of texts in each of the two genres and submit them to a literary-critical analysis.

Read the material well in advance at least once, attend lectures & seminars and participate in seminar discussion, and you’re more than halfway to success. The Final Exam is based entirely on lecture material and knowledge of course texts.

Course requirement weighting:
10% Course participation
15% Seminar presentation
20% Group e-Text project
20% Mid-term paper (approx. 1500 words)
35% Final examination

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

Instructor Contact:
Office Hours: 3220 -- Tuesday and Thursday: 10:30-12:30. Bring your coffee and discuss course matters freely. E-mail to Please only use your SFU account for e-mail contact. Other e-Mail accounts are blocked by white-list.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Course Outline

Chick-Lit & Lad-Lit: Good Girl, Bad Boy

Culture - meaning for our purposes print and film media, public education, government programmes, corporate advertising, and the fine arts - represents women and men, girls and boys in a certain way using certain ideas and assumptions. Literature is part of our culture, but with a unique and invaluable feature: the capability of great authors to intuitively capture aspects of a culture that influence the lives of its citizens without their awareness, and then write them into fiction. Reading novels, then, not only gives us artistic enjoyment, but reveals to us what is going on beneath the surface of things in the culture around us. Chick-lit and Lad-lit are two new and complementary genres of fiction that show the separate cultures of men and women, boys and girls, differing in ways that could hardly be starker. In this course we will follow very popular novels – all from England – of both genres alternately and show a trajectory of development for the representation of the two sexes from the turn of the last century to the beginning of ours.We will use afflata – media material, video clips and sections from popular film – to put the novels in their cultural context.

DISCLOSURE: the approach to the course is scholarly and questioning, and the mood is often light and jocular – befitting the primary literary material.

Gaskell, Elizabeth Cranford
Kipling, Rudyard Stalky & Co.
Gibbons, Stella Cold Comfort Farm
Burgess, Anthony A Clockwork Orange
Fielding, Helen Bridget Jones's Diary
Hornby, Nick High Fidelity

Ferriss, Suzanne Chick Lit: The New Woman's Fiction
Twigger, Robert Being a Man (In the Lousy Modern World)

10% Course participation
15% Three seminar writing presentations
20% Group e-Text writing project
20% Mid-term paper (approx. 1500 words plus revisions)
35% Final examination