Thursday, December 3, 2009

Final Examination

Final Examination
Open-course-book Final Examination: Wednesday December 16th 19:00- 22:00, room HCC2245.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An Ironic Presentation of High Fidelity's Representation of Feminism

In Nick Hornby's High Fidelity (as in Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary) Feminism is presented as a hostile, anti-male attack system which seeks to force men to change their behavior according female norms and standards.

Here is an ironic reversal of that view: "The gender wars are over: and men won."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On the Social Inferiority of Males

Ahead of today's lecture on Nick Hornby's representation of failed masculinity and female superiority, read, via the indispensible Arts & Letters Daily, "The Puzzle of Boys." Discuss with your assigned Group, and prepare a five minute analytical reflection.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rob, Barry, Dick: Sexual Selection in action

What does science have to say about why ugly men survive if, as Darwin declares, women chose which men get to reproduce?

A new study explains why we aren't all born with Brad Pitt’s perfectly chiseled features or Angelina Jolie’s pouty lips.... [M]en with greater genetic diversity in areas of the genome relating to disease defense were also rated as more attractive by women. So because these males with greater mutation rates are more likely to mate, they will pass that higher rate on to their offspring, allowing sexual selection to propagate variation through the population, a finding that likely applies to all
This propagation means that peacocks’ tail feathers will
vary in length and that some of us definitely won’t be America’s next top model.

And some of us will be Rob, Barry & Dick....

"Championship Vinyl" in Vancouver

Ideally, we would do a class field trip to the Vancouver branch of "Championship Vinyl," which goes by the name Zulu Records. I myself have almost certainly met Dick there ....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

On Jane Austen's Popularity

Via Arts & letters Daily, please enjoy this tremendous article in the "Books" section of the New York Times which helpfully riffs on the intensity of enduring popularity of Jane Austen (which would include Helen Fielding's re-vision of Pride & Prejudice in Bridget Jones's Diary) and of the period's fiction more broadly. The author of the article mavels at the hunger for the minutiae of great novels which a new annotated edition of Pride & Prejudice slakes. Yet for all that, the chick-lit appeal remains strong -- perhaps primary.
The reader who does not know a farthing from a guinea, it’s safe to say, will nonetheless grasp the great drama of attraction and repulsion that plays out between Darcy and Elizabeth. The cut and thrust of their conversation is timeless. Generations of young women who do not know the first thing about an entailed estate or a quadrille will recognize in Austen’s heroine a kindred spirit, a contemporary, a valued ally in the eternal war between the sexes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

'Freemales' and Bridget Jones

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.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Bridget Jones"-style cooking experience

You remember the scenes in Bridget Jones's Diary where she tries to cook elaborate 'Britsh Home Cooking' dishes from a Delia Smith-type cookbook? ("SUNDAY 19 MARCH").

Here is a real life case, from England's Daily Telegraph.

Judith Woods thought it would be fun to revive the culinary delights of Eliza Smith - the 18th-century's Nigella Lawson - but, oh dear, how wrong can you be.

"Bridget Jones in Paris" - A Blogger

'Petite anglaise' blogger wins sacking case
By Henry Samuel in Paris
An Englishwoman sacked for bringing her employers in Paris into disrepute by writing an internet diary under the pseudonym petite anglaise was awarded £30,000 for wrongful dismissal yesterday. a test case for bloggers in France and beyond, a tribunal concluded that Catherine Sanderson, whose blog is said by some to be the equivalent of "Bridget Jones in Paris", had been dismissed "without real and serious causes". >>more

Bridget Jones & Post-Feminism

Well, here I go! I just found this 'letter to the editor' by Helen Fielding herself in which she explicitly identifies Bridget Jones with post-feminism.
Bridget is not just on a desperate quest to settle down. Like all self-respecting modern women she is struggling to balance her post-feminist independence and economic power with the human, not just female, need to love and be loved.
Whether one approves of Fielding's position is a matter of personal judgement.

[Original Post.]
I came across this article on Bridget Jones' Diary (only the film version, alas) and the post-feminist question:
Bridget Jones. Icon of post-feminist regression and celebration of marriage uber alles? Au contraire.
Neither role model nor nemesis, Bridget Jones is the epitome of the liberated woman - she can match macho in drink, smoke and swearing; she will stand up to anyone; and she takes both reputable career and sexual freedom for granted.

Diary of a 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.

"Bridget Jones" & "Pride & Prejudice"

Chick-lit author Sarah Sands has this article in today's telegraph online about a new film version upcoming of Pride and Prejudice. She has this to say:

If it is true that there are only four stories, then Pride and Prejudice must be one of them. Poor but proud woman spurns and loves rich, humourless man. Women consistently vote for Pride and Prejudice as their favourite novel, ever. Mr Darcy remains the most romantic figure created, ever.
And also this:

Dignity is perhaps the most important thing in a romantic hero, which is why Hugh Grant was always going to lose out to Firth. The greatest fantasy figures - Mr Rochester, Maxim de Winter, Heathcliff - are all grumpy.
And again this:

They are also, I am afraid to say, men of means. Women can run off with the poor and light-hearted (and usually artistic) - as Dorothea Brooke did when she chose Will Ladislaw, but it was not really very satisfactory, was it? I am still suspicious when women describe their menfolk as "supportive". It usually means economically unsupportive, and they tumble down the romantic league table.

And yet more, this to be relevant when we get to BJD:
Working Title is proud of its contemporary Elizabeth Bennet in Keira Knightley. No bodices and bonnets here. You would not be surprised to see Lizzy rolling a cigarette on the kitchen table. By contrast, Matthew Macfadyen is resolutely period, with a deep voice and breeches.
To which I say, "Cad, Curate or Colin Firth"

Friday, October 30, 2009

Copy-Editing Symbols

Follow this link, as well as this other link, for a legend of the standard copy-editing symbols used in the marking of your essays

Some of the more frequently-used are the following.
  • SYN: faulty syntax
  • GR: faulty grammar
  • AWK: awkward wording or awkward expression of idea.
  • SP: faulty spelling
  • PRON: missing or faulty pronoun.
  • AGR: faulty agreement (grammar.)
  • T: incorrect tense (grammar.)
  • M: incorrect mood (grammar.)
  • //: lack of correct parallelism
  • ¶ : faulty paragraph structure
  • CAP: capitalise
  • MM: mixed metaphor
  • NO CAP: don't capitalise
  • WDY: excessive, roundabout or unhelpful wording that obscures the argument.
  • ARG: argument required.
  • DEV: faulty development of the argument
  • D: faulty diction (e.g. use of jargon or informal idiom.)
  • PASS: passive (usually adjectival rather than adverbial) form
  • WC: faulty word choice
  • WW: wrong word
  • RELEV: irrelevant remark.
  • PETITIO: a petitio principii ('begging the question')—assuming as a conclusion that which needs to be established as a premis. Often in essay argument, a statement delivered as a proof which itself is as yet unproven.
  • UNCL: unclear expression of an idea
  • REP: repetitive wording or repetition of a previously-presented idea.
  • REL: faulty relation of idea or no clear relation to surrounding idea.
  • TRUISM: statement of the obvious: unnecessary.
  • P: faulty punctuation.
  • ITAL: italicise this text.
  • DEL: unnecessary text requiring deletion
  • PLEON: pleonasm
  • REPORT: book report--i.e. absence of argument. 
  • CIT: missing citation
  • DANGL: dangling modifier.
  • STR: faulty or absent argument structure.
  • R-O: run-on sentence.
  • FRAG: sentence fragment
  • THESIS: misplaced thesis-level sentence
  • X: false statement.
  • SS: faulty sentence structure

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Present-Day Droogs

Only the latest of the derogatory terms by which the English middle- & upper- classes refer to young, unmarried working-class males is "Hoodies". Here are a couple of articles from the centre-right (& Blair-ite) tabloid The Sun on a hoodie and a politico. Catch the sense of fear and see the Clockwork-Orangey-ness of the competing government responses to Hoodies. (Bonus points for finding more than two terms of abuse....)
It's perennial for the Lads.

THE gloating yob who pretended to shoot Tory leader David Cameron has today been arrested and charged with possession of cannabis.
Hoodie thug Ryan Florence, 17, yesterday boasted of his life of drugs, guns and crime.
TONY Blair says future generations of yobs like Ryan Florence could be stopped by targeting kids as young as six.
The PM believes cops and social services have a duty to intervene as soon as youngsters start to go off the rails.
Now, the slur "hoodie" obviously refers to the head-cover. But the irony -- if that is the right term -- is that Lads only started wearing hoodies 'up' in public when the Labour government blanketed major cities with surveillance cameras 24/7 as a modernised 'New Labour' response to droog-ism.

"A girl's guide to writing chick-lit"

This weekend's edition of Arts & Letters Daily features a review of a new book by Sarah Mlynowski and Farrin Jacobs: See Jane Write: A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit. More than a review, it is an interview, a descriptive breakdown of the elements of chick-lit, and salient quotations from important chick-lit writers.

What exactly is chick-lit?
Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t all about shoes. Or clothes. Or purses. Yes, some chick-lit characters enjoy their fashion collections, but if an interest in designers’ names is what made you look for advice here, maybe you should grab Vogue instead. Chick-lit is also not all about getting a guy. Love may be a happy diversion, or a painful pothole, but the chick-lit story is about the main character’s path to self-discovery. Although there’s usually a satisfying and uplitfing conclusion, the ending is more about hope for the future than snagging Mr Right.
Click the title of this post for the full review, & explore how well, in your estimation, it relates to Cranford.

Punk Rock & "A Clockwork orange"

A section of The Sex Pistols' autobiographical documentary The Filth & the Fury was shown in class today to present the cultural context to Burgess' pre-recognitive novel A Clockwork Orange. The Sex Pistols were authentically working-class, and are thus in the identical cultural position in England that Burgess set Alex and his droogs.

I conceive of Punk as a British working-class social movement of the early-ninteen-seventies to early-ninteen-eighties which grew out of urban conditions obtaining in the years preceeding Margaret Thatcher's ascendency to the Prime Ministry. It is a class movement: 'class' in its proper historical sense of an upper, middle and lower class perpetuating the mediæval system of lord, vassal and serf, and, therefore, has merely a correlative relationship to economic standing (i.e. individual wealth does not determine -- and only incidentally has causative power over-- one's class position.) The class structure invented by Karl Marx is in contrast a bipartite system of a "bourgeoisie" owning the means of production and a "proletariat" producing; a system which Marx devised under influence of, first, Charles Darwin's fundamental belief in struggle as the elemental principle of Life, and, second, the commercialist assumptions of his Whiggish circle that life is economic at root.

Punk, then, is a nineteen-seventies' response by the lower class to the attitude that the ruling class holds toward them in the absence of Empire. Hitherto, being, pace Orwell, primarily a concern beneficial to the middle class, the British Empire had channelled, directed (indeed, developed) the physical and martial energies of the lower class as a means to build and sustain itself. With the loss of Empire after Britain had finally defeated in two World Wars the global Fascism of Germany and Japan, the lower class had no external outlet for their martial vigour, while the culture -- in terms of books, film, history, sport, comics, history, institutions, and language --that inculcated, developed and promoted it still remained operative.

Accordingly, in the absence of Empire and war as sanctioned outlets for the robust combatitiveness of lower-class single males (sport, of course, remains), the middle-class has experienced heightening of the sense of fear with which it historically regards the urbanised lower class. This produces intensification of the belittlement which, again historically, is the primary middle-class response to their fears; this expressed in pejorative labeling of young lower class males: thugs, hooligans, stroppers, lads, yobs, teds, punks, and (latterly) hoodies.

Hence, Punk: which, it must be kept clear, is class attitude not musical genre. Of course, there is characteristic style to punk music and lyrics, and characteristic style to the clothing. But for proof of the Attitude Thesis regards music, consider Pink Floyd. The hand-scrawled "I Hate" on Johnny Rotten's "Pink Floyd" T-shirt at his Sex Pistols audition cements the art-rock band as the punk bete noir. Yet it is not Pink Floyd's music or lyrics which mark them as anti-punk. The final movement of "Sheep" from Animals sounds like The Clash and the lyrics to the penultimate movement prefigure the Sex Pistols. It is rather that Pink Floyd are bourgeois to the core: Roger Waters' lyrics drip with the bathos, resentment, affectation, and "pity poor me" feelings that make loathesome the middle to both the class above and the class below.

The study, then, of Punk, in its English manifestation, follows a literary line that began with the 'angry young men' novelists of the fifties, through A Clockwork Orange in the sixties, through to Lad Lit and now at Punk .... and perhaps touching on non-fiction hybrids like Bill Buford's Among the Thugs, Lydon's Rotten: No Irish , No Blacks No Dogs, and the works of Robert Twigger.

H1N1 Registry for Students

SFU has created an on-line registry in order to have students register their absence in the case of flu.

Students will inform their instructors in the usual way if they are absent due to flu and register on-line through the authenticated web survey.

Burgess & Orwell

To re-emphasise the nature of the relationship drawn in today's lecture between Orwell's dystopia and Burgess' cacotopia, the latter designed A Clockwork Orange, in part, as a complement to -- a companion for -- 1984.
Update: 'counterpart' was the wrong word here (OED): better, 'companion' 22/01/07

Burgess is a novelist (among other things, as befits a polymath) not a politician, and therefore more than able to proceed, to create, in a non-adversarial, way.

1984 gives an imaginative representation of a dictatorship from the Right: modelled after the Soviet Union under the monster Stalin, it showed a rule from a single powerful voice -- to wit, Big Brother (albeit the text leaves a suggestion that the dictator may be in fact a façade for a ruling oligarchy.

Based on his experiences in late-1950s Britain under Socialism, and in harmony with his advocacy of individual free-will, Burgess designed a fictional representation of tyranny from the Left -- prefiguring very closely, as it turned out, the actual state of affairs in Eastern Europe. The will of the Collective, the meanness of life under the forcible egalitarianism of State control, and the irrelevancy of individual free-will in regard to the dogma of the 'greatest good for the greatest number' -- this is Burgess' contribution to a literary opposition to a fuller range of possible tyrannies, either of the Right or the Left.

Someone asked my how Burgess' vision relates to Ayn Rand. I would say that Burgess would be very uncongenial to Rand, for his vestigal Catholicism and his dislike (in harmony with Orwell) of the 'Will to Power' dogma that Rand so single-mindedly found alluring.

  • u-topia lit. 'no-place'
  • dys-topia lit. 'broken-place'
  • caco-topia lit. 'evil-place.'

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Cold Comfort Farm" and an Uncertainty....

I mentioned in lecture that I have a slight uncertainty about some — albeit minor and inconclusive textual elements of Cold Comfort Farm that amount to a faint scent of Fascism. The following is offered as a example of the kind of minute clue-hunting which characterises the sensibility of the literary academic. It is also, I own, quite plausibly — & thus culpably — open to the Muggeridgean charge of 'taking a spade to a soufflé.'

As detailed earlier, there is only little readily-available biographical treatment of Stella Gibbons, and therefore until I investigate thoroughly and with scholarly rigour, the matter has to be left as a mere open question, and the satiric aspect of the text has to be affirmed as the currently-conclusive explanation covering the issues here raised.

The textual concerns begin at the opening of chapter II (p.19 in our Penguin Classics edition) with the narrator's unpleasant-sounding and unnecessary remark that Mrs. Smiling was returning to "....the slums of Mayfair" for something "....which she had noticed in a Jew-Shop." Next is the discovery, at the close of chapter IX, p. 108, of the parodied intellectual "....that his name was not Mybug but Meyerburg and that he lived in Charlotte Street...." Now,
  • "Meyerburg" is an emblematic Jewish name,
  • the shortening of the name (the sole such in the text) suggests diminution of person,
  • "My" makes him property
  • "bug" matches the Nazi (mis-)characterisation of the Jews as vermin
  • Charlotte Street is a Bloomsbury address, which fits with the text's satire of the entire effected ethos of the Bloomsberries, but it is also a London Jewish neighbourhood (e.g. Virginia Woolf's husband Leonard was Bloomsbury-Jewish.)
Lastly, at the end of chapter XIX, p.200, we read that "....Flora took advantage of her lassitude to impose her fresh will upon her cousin's flaccid one" and on p.202 Flora watches "....a distraught patient grow calm beneath the will of the [psycho-]analyst." (Emphasis mine.) (Note the psycho-analyst's nomenclature....)

The fetishistic attraction of the concept of Will for Fascists ― deriving from the German writer Friedrich Nietzsche's (paradoxically impotent) attempts to valourise what he called Will to Power" ― is set in motto by odious Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl in her film glorification of Fascism The Triumph of the Will.

Flora orients her actions around 'will-to-power': power for its own sake. The representation of Flora's attitude to will and power by Gibbons is chilling.
  • p.75: "And yet she shrank from boldly entering the kitchen where the family sat...and introducing herself. Such a move would lower her dignity and, hence, her future power. It was all very difficult"
  • p. 129; "Difficult times lay ahead. But this is what Flora liked. She detested rows and scenes, but enjoyed quietly pitting her cool will against opposition. It amused her; and when she was defeated, she withdrew in good order and lost interest in the campaign. She had little or no sporting spirit. Bloody battles to the death bored her, nor did she like other people to win.
Now this is all a textual interpretation, and could be absolutely off-base. The publication of Cold Comfort Farm in 1932 does coincide with the creation of the British Union of Fascists by the truly loathsome Oswald Mosley, and among its supporters were several London writers, intellectuals, and journalists. One early & consistent feature of the Fascist programme is anti-Communism, and it happens that the text of Cold Comfort Farm shows a sympathetic awareness of Communism. What is described as:
....a copy of the 'Internationally Progressive Farmers' Guide and Helpmeet', which Flora had ordered from London, where it was printed by some Russian friends of hers living in West Kensington' (p.195)
is unmistakably a typical Flora Poste attempt to modernise, here in a Communist direction, life at Cold Comfort Farm: the specific textual referent is on p. 172:
....Aunt Ada could dimly be discerned beating at everybody with the 'Milk Producers' Weekly Bulletin and Cowkeepers' Guide', and shrilly screaming....
Again, this is a pattern, but entirely inconclusive without biographical support, and should simply be allowed to stand as an illustration of a certain cast of scholarly mind, under the prick of sensible vigilance that the evil of fascism unceasingly demands.

Update: reference to the existence (not to the validity) of charges of fascism against English 1930s literati can be found in academic literary journals. See, e.g. Death of a Porcupine: D. H. Lawrence and his Successors. Author(s): John Fordham A1 A1 Middlesex University. Journal: Literature & History. ISSN: 0306-1973. Volume 9 Issue 1, Spring 2000, pp 56-66 (Available in online .pdf form through
Update 2: An excellent way to understand how the abortive Fascict movement in England was .... aborted? is to read this article in the Atlantic Monthly by the uneavenly creditable Christopher Hitchens on a recent biography of the sublime P.G. Wodehouse. The portion available for free viewing treats of Wodehouse's supreme instance of the typical English derogation of Mosley. But best is to obtain your own copy of The Code of the Woosters.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mid-Term Essay Topics

Chose your topic for the mid-term esssay from the following three.You will need, for your choice, to formulate a strong thesis statement, using, ideally, the conceptions and techniques preseneted in lecture.
  1. Emily of New Moon is a relatively rare example of a female künstlerroman--novel of an artist's development. Detail how L.M. Montgomery represents the development using a specific narrative form: i.e. the epic quest. You may refer to the autobiographical aspect of the text in your essay.
  2. We learned in lecture how Kingsley Amis choses very specific words to diminish the masculine aspect of the fight between Bertrand Welsh and Jim Dixon in Lucky Jim. By close reading, show how Amis uses exact words to depict Jim at any two moments of successful masculine performance and in any two scenes of failed masculinity.
  3. The portrait of Flora Poste in Cold Comfort Farm is evidently a model of the New Woman: independent, assertive, socially liberated and in charge. That is, so long as the reader is oblivious to, or choses to ignore, Stella Gibbons sophisticated satire. In your essay, make Gibbon's exquisite satire plain to such a reader.

Epic Quest

A useful webpage for understamding the aspect of the epic quest -- the 'hero's journey -- is this illustrative use of The Matrix and Star Wars. More pedestrian but straightforward is at this link.

Chick-Lit Prominence in BookStores

To show how prominently Chick-Lit is market displayed, I took these pictures in the Lougheed Mall Coles Books. Click on the individual pictures for a larger image.

Here is the Lougheed Mall Coles Books' courteous and professional store manager, Ms. Lori Drazdoff, beside a sub-display of various fiction titles marketed to women.

Following are pictures are of several sections of the "Fiction & Literature" shelves that run along the main walls. The books marketed as chick-lit are clear: their covers are in bold pastels frequently with variations on retro-sixties movie-style line-drawings. My assumption is that the marketers are invoking the iconography of Breakfast at Tiffany's.

In addition to the covers, books marketed as chick-lit have titles that strongly declare their genre. Here, Mary Kay Andrews' Hissy Fit typifies the genre's reformative appropriation of idioms hitherto applied in the feminine pejorative.

British Class System

I noted in lecture that North Americans are prone to some misunderstandings when reading British fiction due to a lack of awareness of the almost universal effects of the class system there. This, you will discover, is an essential -- arguably, by far the most significant -- aspect of the cultural background to British literature of the 19th & 20th Centuries.

Let me elaborate here. First, a former student's working class father (clearly a highly admirable man) earned Cambridge in the nineteen fifties, by which time the class boundaries were feeling the blows of many engines: the two World Wars for instance. And second, at a larger remove, remember that Britain has a system of class not caste: in other words, there had always been some opportunity for mobility - in both directions. Profligate aristocrats had for centuries dropped their posterity well into the middle class. Successful business acumen brought some middle (and even some originally lower) class men into the aristocracy via a knighthood. Consider Sir William Lucas in Pride and Prejudice. And elevation by marriage was also an avenue: the stage was an effective platform in more than one sense; and "let a man be ordained to the clergy and he can marry as high as he likes" is a line from Born in Exile by George Gissing.

But beside all this, mobility is only one aspect of the class system: the levels are enduringly divided by the behavior and attitudes that the members of each level share. Mr. Lucas could rise to status of gentlemen, but he could not prevent Mr. Bingley's sisters from sneering at him behind his back. Indeed, only Elizabeth Bennett's omnipotent womanhood could make Mr. Darcy repent (with obsequy) of his disdain for her Cheapside relations, the Gardners.

My point about North America is that culture is uniform to a degree not experienced in England. Members of the Canadian Senate watch NHL games in undershirts while drinking beer - as does a longshoreman in Surrey whose choice of beer is quite likely to be Stella Artois. During the last American Presidential election, John Kerry -- a north-eastern aristocrat -- rode a mountain bike, wore a trendy yellow Lance Armstrong bracelet and had rap on his iPod. Bank balances allow for important -- even critical -- differences in health and opportunity among North Americans. And ethnic diversity provides reasons to celebrate significant difference. But for all that, a remarkable similarity of taste and value makes "class" a problematic term to apply. The "Red State/Blue State" divide, for instance, is a geographic and regional divide, not a class divide. And the rural/urban divide in Canada does not map faciley to income.

Less so under New-Labour Britain (which is just what is argued as a master hypothesis by this course,) but still very much alive, is exactly a class distinction where North America has a conformity. It was the fact that Diana: Princess of Wales, behaved like Anna Nicole Smith that caused Her Unstable Highness to be ostracised by the British aristocracy. And, contrariwise, the fox-hunting passion of aristocrats -- nouveau and old alike -- produces derision against "toffs" from the man on Wigan pier.

Speaking of George Orwell, here is one of his many characteristically pithy insights into the British class differences in terms of attitude rather than mobility.

And again, take the working-class attitude towards ‘education’. How different it is from ours, and how immensely sounder! Working people often have a vague reverence for learning in others, but where ‘education’ touches their own lives they see through it and reject it by a healthy instinct. The time was when I used to lament over quite imaginary pictures of lads of fourteen dragged protesting from their lessons and set to work at dismal jobs. It seemed to me dreadful that the doom of a ‘job’ should descend upon anyone at fourteen. Of course I know now that there is not one working-class boy in a thousand who does not pine for the day when he will leave school. He wants to be doing real work, not wasting his time on ridiculous rubbish like history and geography. To the working class, the notion of staying at school till you are nearly grown-up seems merely contemptible and unmanly. The idea of a great big boy of eighteen, who ought to be bringing a pound a week home to his parents, going to school in a ridiculous uniform and even being caned for not doing his lessons! Just fancy a working-class boy of eighteen allowing himself to be caned! He is a man when the other is still a baby. Ernest Pontifex, in Samuel Butler’s Way of All Flesh, after he had had a few glimpses of real life, looked back on his public school and university education and found it a ‘sickly, debilitating debauch’. There is much in middle-class life that looks sickly and debilitating when you see it from a working-class angle.
Note how this corrects the mistaken North American misunderstanding that the proletariat pines in frustrated envy for the values of the middle and upper middle classes. As an exemplary aside, I often observe students and professoriat alike stating that some group or another of fellow citizen are "deprived" of a university education: making, that is, university attendance a quality of universal worth. Too flagrantly pretentious and distastefully preening, I believe, to insist that one's own accidental preference or aptitude must be the sine qua non of social worth.

style="font-size: small;">The class system (aristocratic, bourgeois, and lower classes) is, as mentioned, the vestige of the feudal system of noble, yeoman, serf. And thus it is a system based on wealth: finance correlates with class, but does not determine it. Indeed, to talk of wealth as class marker is to commit the solecism of elevating the value of one class -- the bourgeois -- to supremacy. North Americans do use "upper," "middle" and "lower" as synonyms for "Rich, average, and poor," but that is because North America simply is a bourgois continent. Moreover, making "weath" equal to "money" is more of the triumph of the bourgeoise; since turning worth into capital was the strategy of the Whigs .... and the means by which they effected their conquest.

Here is George Gissing to this end -- and bear in mind as you read this passage from the "Summer" section of The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft that Gissing is widely touted as being the pre-eminent novelist of the Reformers:

For a nation of this temper, the movement towards democracy is fraught with peculiar dangers. Profoundly aristocratic in his sympathies, the Englishman has always seen in the patrician class not merely a social, but a moral, superiority; the man of blue blood was to him a living representative of those potencies and virtues which made his ideal of the worthy life. Very significant is the cordial alliance from old time between nobles and people; free, proud homage on one side answering to gallant championship on the other; both classes working together in the cause of liberty. However great the sacrifices of the common folk for the maintenance of aristocratic power and splendour, they were gladly made; this was the Englishman's religion, his inborn pietas; in the depths of the dullest soul moved a perception of the ethic meaning attached to lordship. Your Lord was the privileged being endowed by descent with generous instincts, and possessed of means to show them forth in act. A poor noble was a contradiction in terms; if such a person existed, he could only be spoken of with wondering sadness, as though he were the victim of some freak of nature. The Lord was Honourable, Right Honourable; his acts, his words virtually constituted the code of honour whereby the nation lived.
In a new world beyond the ocean there grew up a new race, a scion of England, which shaped its life without regard to the principle of hereditary lordship; and in course of time this triumphant republic began to shake the ideals of the mother land. Its civilization, spite of superficial resemblances, is not English; let him who will think it superior; all one cares to say is that it has already shown in a broad picture the natural tendencies of English blood when emancipated from the old cult. Easy to understand that some there are who see nothing but evil in the influence of that vast commonwealth. If it has done us good, assuredly the fact is not yet demonstrable. In old England, democracy is a thing so alien to our traditions and rooted sentiment that the line of its progress seems hitherto a mere track of ruin. In the very word is something from which we shrink; it seems to signify nothing less than a national apostasy, a denial of the faith in which we won our glory. The democratic Englishman is, by the laws of his own nature, in parlous case; he has lost the ideal by which he guided his rude, prodigal, domineering instincts; in place of the Right Honourable, born to noble things, he has set up the mere plebs, born, more likely than not, for all manner of baseness. And, amid all his show of loud self-confidence, the man is haunted with misgiving.

The destruction of the class system in England is, then, the destruction of the aristiocracy and the lower class by the bourgeois: the former they tore down to their level from resentment & envy; the latter they pulled up by sheer condescention.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More for the Group Popular Culture Project

We seem to have met a cultural resonance with our course theme, as there is an intensification at present of engagement in arts and letters with the relations between men and women, with a strong focus on manhood.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Class Opinions on the Differences between the Sexes

I had good opinions from many of you on the issues that are coming up between the sexes.
Here is a keen one from classfellow Nicole M. on Petruchio's efforts to tame Kate: stems from anxiety: He knows the power is going away and writes it as though he's giving it away, instead of it being taken from him.
I look forward to more opinions from all of you as the Term progresses: you have the bar set here!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Illustrative Examples of the Course Concepts

Here's two obvious popular culture flotsam relevant to the course themes.

For Week Two

Very good to meet all of you: looks like a great semester ahead!
For next week, remember:
  1. Bring in your Seminar Writing Presentation written this week, accompanied by a one page justification of the quality of the writing. Use point-form: one bullet-point for each quality that you identify. (Example: "I use a thesis statement with a general and a particular half.") We will use this for a peer-to-peer evaluation.
    • Hand your writing presentation and your justification page at the end of class to receive a 5/5 grade.
  2. Be prepared to review during class with your Group Project partner your comments on your choice of the two advertisements and write up a brief analysis to share with the class. This is the rehearsal of your Group Popular Culture Project.

Course Syllabus: 2009 version

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.

September : L.M. Montgomery, Emily of New Moon
Course Wk. 2: L.M. Montgomery, Emily of New Moon
Course Wk. 3: Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim
Course Wk. 4: Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim
Course Wk. 5: Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm
Course Wk. 6: Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm
Course Wk. 7: Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
Course Wk. 8: Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
Course Wk. 9: Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones's Diary
Course Wk. 10: Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones's Diary
Course Wk. 11: Nick Hornby, High Fidelity
Course Wk. 12: Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

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

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

Nb: There is a five 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 precise word "prevented" must be used in the letter.) The letter must cover the entire period over which the assignment was scheduled and may be verified by telephone.

September 9th, Seminar Writing Presentation #1, in-class.
September 16th: Group Project dates selected.
September 30th, Mid-Term Essay topics posted.
October 7th: Mid-Term Essay peer editing of thesis ¶ or draft outline.
October 14th: Seminar Writing Presentation #2, in-class
October 21st: Mid-Term Essay draft version due in class.
November 4th: Seminar Writing Presentation #3, in-class.
November 4th: Mid-Term Essay draft version returned with comments & conditional grade.
November 18th, Mid-Term Essay peer-editing of preliminary revision.
November 25th, Mid-Term Essay revision due in class.
December 2nd: Mid-Term Essay revision returned with summary comments & final grade
December 16th, Final Examination.

Three Seminar Writing Presentations
Three short in-class writing presentations, three hundred words each, designed to let you display and then analyse your ability to express your critical readings skill in written form. These assignments require you to justify to the class your writing method; receive constructive response from peers and Instructor; and prepare you practically for the Mid-term Essay and Final Essay respectively.

Group Popular Culture Project
A creative project for groups of two that allows you to engage with the present-day cultural context of our course novels. Each group can schedule their presentation on their most suitable available date. Presented in-class, the project will show an example from popular culture--advertising, film, television, etc.--that enlightens and contextualises the course thesis on the differing representations of masculinity and femininity in 20th & 21st century Western society from which our course authors have derived their unique literary engagements.

Mid-Term Essay
A relaxed eleven-week writing path which provides ample time, resources and in-class opportunity to perfect the writing and revision process, in line with the "Writing Intensive" designation for this course.

Final Examination
Open-book Final Examination: Wednesday December 16th 19:00- 22:00, room HCC2245.

Instructor Contact: Office Hours: AQ 6094 -- Tuesday one o'clock to three o'clock, Wednesday in person after class. E-mail to Telephone 778-782-5820

Course Approach:
The course will read the books on their own terms, from the axiom that they 'instruct by delighting.' The books share a common characteristic of post-war British novels that focus on maleness or femaleness. Specifically, female protagonists triumph—in terms that are realistic and are her own—where male protagonists experience crises of masculine identity which resolve themselves only after they learn to accomodate diminishment or failure.The arc, that is, of the female-centred novel is upward, but downward for the male-centred novels. 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.]

Mid-Term Essay: Structure

Here is the Writing-Intensive 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.
Eleven-week writing path.
  1. September 30th: selection of topics posted on the blog
  2. October 7th: peer-editing of essay outline and thesis paragraph.
  3. October 21st: draft version due in class.
  4. November 4th: draft returned with comments & conditional grade.
  5. November 18th: peer-editing of draft revision.
  6. November 25th: revision due in class.
  7. December 2nd: revision returned with comments & final grade.
  • The draft is an opportunity to get your ideas and structure freely down on paper. The marking will identify the types of error which require revision: after studying these you are encouraged to bring the draft to Office Hours for additional and thorough-going help.
Grading structure:
  • Intensive copy-editing and analysis, in red ink, will be done on the first two-thirds of the essay. The remaining third is left unmarked, to provide you, once having read and studied my work, with a practical document on which to apply the same degree and type of copy-editing corrections yourself. Upon completion of that exercise, you are welcome to bring that to me in an Office Hour for discussion.
  • There is a circled grade beside my concluding comments at the end of your paper.
  • This is your conditional grade.
  • Upon revision of the draught, the mark can go down to the amount of one full letter grade and can go up as much as one full letter grade: conditional upon the quality of your revision.
    • If little revision is done, the conditional grade will stand
    • If no or poor revision is done the mark will go down.
    • If comprehensive revision is done, the mark will go up. 
  • The mark after the revision will be the final grade for the assignment.
  • The revision will be graded according to the improvements made from the draft.
  • A complete re-write is possible, if the student feels that they wish to improve upon the range available from the conditional grade received. The complete re-write will be judged as a final revision and the grade on that re-write will be the final grade for the assignment.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Popular Culture Examples

Here are two examples from popular culture which exemplify the type of representation of the sexes that our course novels engage with.
  1. Watch both of these television advertisements.
  2. Consider how they both represent masculinity.
  3. Make a choice of one or the other.
  4. Analyse your selection in detail—frame-by-frame if necessary.
  5. Prepare a five-minute presentation that makes a strong thesis claim and support that claim with a description of a precise visual or oral component of the advertisement.
Example One, (British): "Shut up, Steve." (overdubbed American voices.)
Example Two, (American): "Where does he train to take a beating like that?"

Group Popular Culture Project

This creative project allows us to experience the immediate social context in which the novels are written, and see the direct relevancy of the literary artistic genius. The keyword for the project is "enjoyment": the more fun you have with the ideas, the better (ceteris paribus) your result will be.
The project is worth twenty percent of the course grade and thus presumes that each group member will put twenty percent of the course effort into the project: i.e. each project will display 2 X 20% of course effort.
  • Groups of two will be set course week one
  • A trial 'run through' of the project will be done course week one.
  • Your group will sign up on week two for your preferred week to present their project in class.
  • In line with the information given in lecture over the first two course weeks, your group will look for some aspect of popular culture which shows one of the following:
    • enfeebling or disparagement of maleness.
    • female dominance or empowerment.
  • [Lecture will be considering the efficacy of Charles Darwin's model of maleness and femaleness—centred around the fundamentally performative and therefore necessary uncertain nature of masculine identity—to understand the artistic representations in the course texts.]
  • Some aspects of popular culture that you might consider are advertisements, television shows, university course transcripts, public speeches and policies, film, magazines, etc.
  • Put together a fifteen-to-twenty-minute creative presentation that informs the class about what your selection from popular culture is specifically saying (the analytic component), and what the significance is for cultural conceptions of masculinity or femininity (the thesis component.)
  • Choose a clear and consistent creative format for your presentation. Some possible alternatives are as follows:
    • visual and oral presentation
    • handouts
    • performance (i.e. re-enactment)
    • filmed documentary -- on DVD for instance.
    • artistic: e.g. a comic book or screenplay.
    • etc.
  • Choose the mode of your presentation: humourous, polemical, satirical, scholarly.
  • Give equal weight to the creative, informative, research and audience-engagement aspects of your project.
  • Hand in your presentation materials (e.g. overheads, notes, and similar), and an evaluation sheet and assignment grade will be handed back to your group the week following.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Course E-Mail Netiquette

Here are the points of e-mail protocol for our course :

  1. E-mail (indeed, all communication) between Lecturer and student, and TA and student, is a formal and professional exchange. Accordingly, proper salutation and closing is essential.
  2. 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.'
  3. Customary response time for student e-mail to the Course Lecturer or TAs is two to three office days. E-mail on weekends will ordinarily be read the Monday following.
  4. Use only your SFU account for e-mail to the course Lecturer. All other e-mail is blocked by whitelist.
In general, Course e-mail is for matters of Course administration solely. It is not an alternative to, nor substitute for, Office Hours or Tutorial. All questions about understanding of lecture material, course reading, assignment criteria, and deadlines are reserved for Tutorial and Office Hours.

Missed classes and deadlines are not 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 to the Instructor's mailbox outside the Department Office.

Course Website FAQ

Here are FAQ about the course website.
  • The 5 most recent posts are displayed on the main page.
  • A permanent link list, entitled "Pertinent & Impertinent" is always visible on the sidebar of the course website, containing direct links to crucial information.
  • Also on the sidebar, always visible, is the "Blog Archive" displaying direct links to all posts on the course website.
  • The "Blog Archive" has sections for years 2009 and 2007. Our course links are under the 2009 section. The 2007 archive is for a previous iteration of the course which may, or may not, be interesting for you.
  • An "Older Posts" hotlink is always visible at the bottom of the main page which displays the next 5 most recent posts.
  • Certain PowerPoint lecture slides are occasionally posted on the course website.

Course Outline

(Writing Intensive)
Instructor: S. Ogden FALL 2009

It is contentious to claim that there are novels for women and other novels for men, notwithstanding publishing and marketing of genre labels such as ‘chick-lit’ and ‘lad-lit’. What is not disputed, however, is fiction’s characterisation of maleness and femaleness. In this course we will read popular and important twentieth-century novels which explicitly configure a male or a female protagonist and which each became notorious for their implied valuation of either the masculine or the feminine. To help frame our understanding of the fiction, we will consider the texts in light of authoritative statements of sexual identity—from Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud for instance. We will also bring in examples from our own experiences of portrayals of men and women in mass culture. The design of the course uses this particular type of literature as a practical means to learn how to read, analyse and appreciate fiction broadly—part of which involves improving the enjoyable practice of writing.

Montgomery, L.M. Emily of New Moon N.C.L
Amis, Kingsley Lucky Jim Oxford UP
Gibbons, Stella Cold Comfort Farm Penguin
Burgess, Anthony A Clockwork Orange Oxford UP
Fielding, Helen Bridget Jones's Diary Penguin
Hornby, Nick High Fidelity Riverhead

10% Productive Participation
15% Three Seminar Writing Presentations
20% Semester Group Culture Project
20% Mid-Term Essay (approx. 1500 words with revision)
35% Final Exam

To receive credit for this course, students must complete all requirements.

Dividing Post: 2009 from 2007

Posts above this dividing post are for the current (2009) version of the course. Posts below this dividing post are archived posts from the 2007 iteration.