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.