Tuesday, December 17, 2002

My sister is busy making out her university applications this week, and is rather unbearable as a result. Apparently I was much the same three years ago, though I don't remember it that way. She is looking at taking Early Childhood Education, Gender Equality and Social Justice, and social work-type programs. She is (hooray!) applying to Nip (for Gender Equality and Social Justice) which I find a bit funny, as I hadn't realized that it was something she'd be interested in, and also because, well, GE&SJ was better known as Women's Studies until this year. The more I think about it, though, the more it makes sense--although I'd still rather blind myself than take Women's Studies. (It's just not my bag).

University selection is such a funny thing. I applied to Queen's and York as well as Nip, and was accepted to all three for English...things certainly would have turned out differently had I not chosen Nipissing. I wound up at York earlier this year for a Canadian University Press conference and was amazed by the school: it seems unlikely I could've survived even one year there. It was so big. Most people go to high schools bigger than Nipissing is.

I think, for the most part, I am happy to be where I am, although I do find myself wondering about the possibilities, sometimes...

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

The CBC's Canada Reads is trying to choose a book that all Canadians should read. Their choice for last year was Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion, which is something of a precursor to his more famous The English Patient although I think I like it more of the two. I just find it interesting because I know that until I started actually listening to the CBC on the radio, I would have scoffed at the idea of CBC being all that influential--because really, who listens to public radio? And yet, and yet...once Ondaatje's novel was chosen as the novel that Canada should read, it went right on to the bestseller's list.

I'm still trying to figure out which books and authors I think a Canadian lit course should look at. It isn't so much that I have quibbles with what we are studying, but there are still a lot of thing I wish that we would study: Robertson Davies, Ann Marie MacDonald, Farley Mowat, Gabrielle Roy, to name only a very few.

My pick for the novel all Canadians should read? Either The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood or Fifth Business by Robertson Davies.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

History exam went well, I think. I hope. I'm not sure. Actually, I'm reasonably certain that I did fine.

But the good news is that I got an 88 on the essay on Who Killed Canadian History? Which is worth 30% of my final mark. Boo yeah. And since it's above an 85, I think I might ask the prof to submit it to Hindsight, which is a new undergraduate history journal that's been founded at my school. *knocks on wood*

I hope things turn out as well in my other classes.

Friday, December 06, 2002

bleh. studying for exams in first year courses really sucks. Why do I do this to myself? Oh, right, because I figured that if I wanted to teach history at a secondary school level, I needed to know something about Canadian history.

I'm taking my BA in English Studies, but I'm also in a program stream called "Orientation to Teaching" that is unique to my school. In essence, it's supposed to help figure out if I want to teach, and also provides me with courses that (theoretically) will help me as a teacher. I'm in the secondary stream because I want to teach high school. Now, in order to qualify for the Faculty of Education in Ontario in what's called an I/S program (Intermediate/Senior; grades 7-12), you need to have two teachable subjects. You can do your degree in anything from Sociology to Astrophysics to Basket Weaving, but you still have to come up with 30 credits (5 full courses) in your first teachable subject and 18 (3 full courses) in your second. If you want to teach in Junior/Intermediate (grades 4-10) you only need to have 30 credits in one teachable subject, and if you want to teach Primary/Junior (kindergarten to grade 6) you don't need anything aside from your regular BA.

You have the option of doing either the 3 year general and 4 year honours BA. I've chosen the 4 year, for a variety of reasons relating to a) it keeps me from haivng to grow up for an extra year; b) it leaves open the door to grad school; and c) I'll make more money (substantially more money) if I end up becoming a teacher.

Anyhow, I guess the point of all this is that English is my first teachable subject and History is going to be my second. I took Europe Sine 1500 in first year and Early Modern Europe last year, and I figure that since a big part of high school history is Canadian history, I ought to have a better basis in it if I'm going to teach. Which is why I'm in a first year course.

I have to take four more English courses in order to satisfy the requirements of my degree next year, which leaves me with one free course...if I take another history, it'll give me an official minor, which I like the idea of. I'd like to do another Canadian history, too, I think...

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Scary, scary concept: In checking the site stats (you can check them at the bottom of the page, if you'd like), I noticed that someone had come here from 'turnitin.com'.

As I'm sure most of you know, turnitin.com is designed for teachers to discourage plagiarism in their students. As far as I understand, it works almost like a search engine: the prof types in key sentences from the student's work, and it searches its database for works that contain those key phrases. This, of course, implies that someone, somewhere has hit this page when searching for plaigarism.

I suppose the logical inference is that my 18th century prof has checked out my paper on Swift's Houyhnhnms and right reason, since the thesis statement is blogged a few entries below this one. And that's not plaigarism. I have the right to post my own work, right? Don't I?

Despite this, part of me is scared that somehow, I'm going to get in trouble for blogging about my academic life at Nipissing, or that I will, somehow, have inadvertently plaigarised something. Because that would really suck.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Having almost forgotten to post a Poem of the Month, I will now rectify that. this is actually a song, and not a poem. The band has a soft spot in my heart because they're from the same small town in Scotland that my dad grew up in. I seem to keep coming back to it this time of year, too, just as I begin to get swamped with schoolwork.

I've never seen you look like this without a reason
Another promise fallen through
Another season passes by you
I never took the smile away from anybody's face
And that's a desperate way to look
For someone who is still a child

In a big country dreams stay with you
Like a lover's voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive

I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered
But you can't stay here with every single hope you had shattered
I'm not expecting to grow flowers in a desert
But I can live and breathe
And see the sun in wintertime

In a big country dreams stay with you
Like a lover's voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive
Stay alive

So take that look out of here it doesn't fit you
Because it's happened doesn't mean you've been discarded
Pull up your head off the floor—come up screaming
Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted

I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered
But you can't stay here with every single hope you had shattered
I'm not expecting to grow flowers in a desert
But I can live and breathe
And see the sun in wintertime
In a big country dreams stay with you
Like a lover's voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive
--Big Country
The essay for my 20th Century Lit class is now finished. I have exmained and dissected the use of tarot imagery in the Waste Land to good effect, I think , and this is one of the essays I've felt best about this year. To me, it feels solid. Of course, in the often arbitrary world of English Studies, this likely means I will end up with a 63 on it, but I remain hopeful that the Professor will welcome my ideas, and hopefully not see them as wrong or pedestrian. I really want to do well, and I know this is a good essay. I just don't know if it's what she's looking for.

But it's done, and that means I have only my Canadian history exam on Saturday left to worry about, which is a good feeling indeed.

Steph and I had our marks returned to us for the Brebeuf: Hero or Madman? presentation we did, and we scored an 83 on the presentation and a 90 on the process report we did for it, which means that things are well within the realm of Canadian literature.

I've been amusing myself during boring classes as of late by trying to reimagine the syllabus for Canadian lit. It's not so much that I have any real problems with the syllabus as it stands--everything on it is worthy in its own way, I suppose--but there is a lot more to Canadian literature than simply what we've studied, and there are definitely a lot of books and plays and poems that I would like to study within the class.

Perhaps I'll post further thoughts on what I think should be taught in a Canadian Lit courses later. Any suggestions? Who is the quintessential Canadian author?

Monday, December 02, 2002

I seem to be having a problem with ridiculously alliterative sentences in essays and midterms these days. Sample from 18th century midterm: "...scathing scatalogical satire of Shadwell's shortcomings..."

How do I come up with this stuff?

I'm about to start writing my Canadian midterm (we're in the computer lab, which always leads to panic) but I have a cue card with a thesis statement, so I think I'm in good hands.

Monday, November 25, 2002

My ridiculously alliterative thesis statement for my 18th Century essay:
In “[A] Satyr On Reason and Mankind,” the Earl of Rochester persuasively argues that mankind is not so very different from the animals we disdain. His description of ‘right reason’ makes an excellent backdrop for Jonathan Swift’s portrayal of the Houyhnhns in the fourth book of Gulliver’s Travels. In bestowing horses with a finer sense of reason (certainly one Rochester might approve of), Swift exacts a wicked satire on his fellow humans. In Book IV of Gulliver’s Travels, the actions of Lemuel Gulliver’s crew embody the behaviours that amaze and shock Swift’s ultra-rational Houyhnhns. Remarkably, Swift’s equitable equines do stay true to Rochester’s concept of right reason, just as the humans Gulliver has left behind exemplify the characteristics Rochester so rightly ridicules.

Any comments or feedback? Have I lost it?

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

I read Djuna Barnes' Nightwood this weekend and did not think that I had enjoyed it all that much. AFter writing a brief quiz on it today, we had a pretty good discussion about some of the more problematic aspects of the book, and I realized that I'd actually thought a lot more about the book than I'd realized, and that I'd formed some pretty legimitate opinions about the book. It reminded me a lot of David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, I think. As a result, I am going to attempt to cobble together some sort of essay for 20th Century about the correlation between the two. Certainly there are a lot of similarities, but it reamins to be seen whether or not I can make a case for intertext between the two.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Ah. I love the smell of academia in the morning. Except for the morning part. It's been a long time coming, but I've finally hit my crunch time. Starting next Monday, I have a presentation, essay, midterm or exam every other day until December 7th. Yuck. It's going to be harsh: Brebeuf presentation on Monday, 18th Century essay on Wednesday, Soc midterm on Friday, 18th century and Canadian lit midterms on Monday, 20th century essay on Wednesday, and Canadian history exam on Saturday. So this will essentially make or break me for this academic year. (Not quite, but certainly close enough). I am not nearly stressed out enough as of yet, although I'm sure that is coming.

The Canadian history essay was finally finished and handed in this morning, much to my relief, and I found some really cool quotes to preface it with:
Canada will be a strong country when Canadians of all provinces feel at home in all parts of the country, and when they feel that all Canada belongs to them.
-Pierre Elliott Trudeau

We have achieved the most amazing things, a few million people opening up half a continent. But we have not yet found a Canadian soul except in time of war.
-Lester B. Pearson

What is being said here? Too often, everything and nothing.
-Bryan Palmer

Friday, November 15, 2002

Yesterday, while perusing the selection of vintage books at the local Value Village (a second hand shop), I came across something truly wonderful: a copy of the Ontario Reader (fourth reader) from the "year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred eighty-five". The Ontario Reader was in many ways an all-purpose document; it would be shared between many readers over many years. It pretty much covers the spectrum of British writers, with the odd addition, here and there, of Americans like Longfellow and Canadians like D'Arcy McGee (one of the fathers of Confederation). It also includes a section on Expression, or How to Read Properly Out Loud. It's really neat.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

I've been re-reading some of my first year history essays in hopes of finding areas of actual improvement. I found a great sentence in one of them:
"Likewise, Troeltsch is saddled with a predilection to unnecessary wordiness, unfortunately obscuring his potentially valuable observations."

A predilection to unnecessary wordiness? I'm sorry, what was that? I couldn't hear you over the sounds of the pot screaming, "Black! Black!" at the kettle.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Time for another school-related rant: I am doing my BA(H) in English Studies, but I am also in a program called OTT (Orientation to Teaching). OTT is unique to my university; in essence, if I take three specific courses and maintain a 70% average on my undergraduate degree, I am guaranteed to be accepted into the Faculty of Education at Nipissing for the year following my graduation. I've taken two of the three courses already (the non credit practicum course and Developmental Psychology for Educators) and am currently enrolled in Sociology of Education.


More than I've ever hated anything before. More than I hated the grade eleven co-op class I took when I was in grade thirteen. More than I hated Psych last year, and it was at 8:30 a.m. twice a week, so I had a pretty healthy amount of hate for it. Sociology makes me want to poke out my eyeballs. Not because it makes me suicidal, or depressed, but because poking out my eyeballs would be something different, a change of pace, something to prove that I am still, in fact, alive. I don't think that it is even sociology in general that I hate, but sociology of Education in specific: the class often seems to be little more than a forum for my professor to spew anti-government rhetoric aimed at ensuring that the next generation of educators has the proper amount of disrespect for the provincial government that structures education. More than that, much of this is very specifically targeted towards Mike Harris' Conservative government, which has been in power in Ontario since 1995.* Now, I am not a fan of the Tories persay--my mom's a nurse, and they butchered health care; I'm also a product of the education system, which has certainly felt the pinch of the "Common Sense Revolution"--but I'm smart enough to know that a university class is not the place to air one's views about the current political system. The class is called Sociology of Education, not Problems I Have With the Tories and How They've FUBARed Education In Ontario. In essence, I've paid $800+ to be bombarded by anti-Tory, pro-union rhetoric for a year.

Friday, November 08, 2002

But it doesn't end there. It's also an extremely pro-feminist class, with occasional Marxist leanings. So much of what we discuss is so completely irrelevant to what it's actually like to teach in a classroom. At least in Psych there was a feeling of actually getting somewhere, of learning things that would be someday be useful. I have nothing like that in this class. Here's a sample from one of our lectures:

Critical Theory and Critical Pedogogy:

Uses a dialectical approach and attempts to bridge the gap between theory and educational practice.

The perspective allows us to see both the domination and liberation aspects of school so that teachers can recognize that students are at a disadvantage in the classroom because their values and beliefs are not congruent with the schools.
Because there's absolutely no chance that students might go to a school where their values and beliefs are accepted and taught? But wait, there's more:

Feminists drawing on Postmodern Theory call into question the privileged position of male theorists who are predominantly male, to examine how their assumptions and thoughts affect their writing practices.
Quotes taken from The Sociology of Education homepage

Granted, I may be somewhat unsympathetic because my prof has no concept of things like spelling, grammar or apostraphization, and likes to print overheads in size 24 font that make me feel stupid when I read them because the text is so freaking BIG, but I guarantee that there will be at least one day this year that I am going to walk out of the class midlecture. Grr!

In slightly less sardonic, slightly more optimistic news, I'm getting lots done on my Canadian History paper. I must admit to being slightly surprised to discover that historians are such snide people. I thought that was reserved for humanities students.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Modernist Limerick #1

Modern literature is simply the best
it puts our minds to the test
Pound the Wilde Stein, Re-Joyce in Eliot
I have measured out my life with coffeespoons
gas gas quick boys
I'm Jack in the country and
Earnest in town
...oh Algy

Ah, the joys of 18th century literature.

I continue to be at a loss for modern cultural texts influenced by Eliot and the Wasteland. I asked my prof today if she could think of any, and she also came up blank, which was frustrating, because she developed the topics...Anyhow, some/any help would be appreciated, if anyone out there has ideas...please and thank you.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

I am exhausted by school. I am exhausted by the prospect of being in school for the next year and a half, bare minimum, to finish my BA. I am exhausted by the concept of grd school and by the concept of teachers' college and its neverending stream of group work. I am exhausted by essays. I am exhausted by lectures. I am exhausted by group work, which has no place in a university class when it's used every single day. I am exhausted by seminars. I am exhausted by overheads. I am exhausted by student government. I am exhuasted by my own inability to take proper notes. I am exhausted by Granatstein's theories of political history. I am exhausted by Mikhail Bakhtin. I am exhausted by Atwood, by Leacock, by Moodie. I am exhausted by Pepys, by Swift, by Wilmot. I hate school right now and want nothing more than to run away to Denial, Mexico to live out the rest of my days in the sun reading nothing more intellectual than Archie comic books.

Of course, I will not do this. I will Soldier On; it's what people in my family do. I will finish my undergrad out with an average slightly above 80%, and maybe win another award. I will then teach high school to students and inspire them to the heights of apathy I have reached.

I know there is a light at the end of this tunnel; it's just a matter of finding it. Apathy fades quickly, and hopefully soon I'll be back on the road to being intrigued by Learning, Ideas and Knowledge. I hope. I'm in trouble if things don't start to change...

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

I forgot to mention yesterday that we got our Portrait quizzes back in twentieth. I hadn't thought that I would do well on it because I missed a few of the questions (or thought that I did); in particular the one regarding the mythological origins of Stephen's name. Unfortunately, my certainty in knowing that Dedalus was Greek in origin did not really extend to knowing any particular on the myth, and I had a feeling that "Villain on old school Hercules cartoon that used to be on at six in the morning" was not what Professor Phillips had in mind. I ended up writing about the origins of the name Stephen: He was the first Christian (Catholic) martyr, and he was stoned to death--something I found ironic considering that he is now the patron saint of stonecutters. Phillips gave me a few bonus marks for knowing this, which brought my mark up quite a bit. Once again, my extensive [snort] knowledge of useless information pays off.

The rest of this week is probably going to be somewhat crazy, between play rehearsals, Star Wars Halloween and turning twenty-one, so I want to post the poem of the month for November today. It's by (yet another) Canadian author, Archibald Lampman, who went to Trinity College in Toronto and is considered to be one of the most important Canadian authors of the 19th century. Along with a few other guys (Charles G.D. Roberts among them), he helps make up the "Confederation poets"; some of whom were good, and some of whom wrote drivel about Canada's confederation. [Historical Note: Canada ceased to be a colony of Britain and became a country on July 1st 1867; however, only 4 of the 10 provinces and 3 territories that Canada consists of today were part of the country at this point: Ontario, Québec, Noca Scotia and New Brunswick. The other nine were added over the course of the next 130+ years, the most recent being Nunavut, which was created in 1999.]

In November
The leafless forests slowly yield
To the thick-driving snow. A little while
And night shall darken down. In shouting file
The woodmen's carts go by me homeward-wheeled,
Past the thin fading stubbles, half concealed,
Now golden-gray, sowed softly through with snow,
Where the last ploughman follows still his row,
Turning black furrows through the whitening field.
Far off the village lamps begin to gleam,
Fast drives the snow, and no man comes this way;
The hills grow wintry white, and bleak winds moan
About the naked uplands. I alone
Am neither sad, nor shelterless, nor gray,
Wrapped round with thought, content to watch and dream.

--Archibald Lampman

We also got our essay assignments in twentieth, and one of the topics involves taking one of the modernist works we've studied this term and comparing it to a cultural text produced after 1960 that either references it directly or is influenced by it...I'm thinking either 'Prufrock' (compared to the Crash Test Dummies' "Afternoons and Coffeespoons") or 'The Wasteland' compared to something else (maybe my play I wrote last year, if I could swing that). In essence, this is the part where I hit other people up for suggestions on finding a cultural text influenced by the Wasteland, be it music, art, film, literature, comic books, whatever. I have a few ideas, but other perspectives are always appreciated.

Monday, October 28, 2002

My Canadian Lit prof has this wonderful, wonderful thing she does with our class where she signs out one of the computer labs, gives us a question and makes us write two page mini-essays in fifteen minutes on questions she gives us that class. [Note: sarcastic tone is definitely implied] We wrote another one of these today, and mine was supremely stupid. Of course, I figure that no one can expect to find genius in 400 words that I rambled off in fifteen minutes, and I'll get a 1.5/2 regardless of what I write, so I thought I'd include a small sample of the asinine stuff my brain comes up with when I have fifteen minutes.
The use of the flower and nature imagery in Malcolm’s Katie is another factor that lends to a feminine reading of the poem. Its very excess makes it more palatable to the standards of Crawford’s canonical period, in what is presumably a style favoured more by women. At the very least, it can be said to play into the stereotypes of the sort of thing women ought to be reading, with the sexual and erotic connotations of the poem veiled by its pastoral language.

Ultimately, where Malcolm’s Katie fails as a feminist poem is simply through Katie. The only glimpse that the reader has of her strength is her continued loyalty to Max regardless of all evidence to the contrary. Aside from that, Katie is merely as Crawford’s flowery words portray her to be: a delicate flower, slowly settled by age. As a
result, like Katie, the poem is feminine rather than feminist.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

My Canadian Literature class this year is supposed to be dealing with the construction of identities, specifically in terms in of a Canadian 'national identity.' (See the Laura Secord post down the way). According to the syllabus, we will be considering our national identity in terms of the global village, but also in how it was constructed by history, by art and by culture.

This is the theoretical version of what we're doing, and I remain somewhat uncertain as to how exactly this relates to what we've actually been doing. It creates a fortuitous complement to my Canadian history class, in which we are studying very much the same thing, though from a primarily historical perspective. My creative writing prof last year once quipped that, "All Canadian literature is simply sex and suicide." It isn't quite that simple, but there is certainly a grain of truth in it. What makes Canadian literature so intrinsically Canadian, not simply French or British or North American? Can there be said to be something that is common to the Canadian experience that influences the way we perceive ourselves? (Joe Canadian, anyone?) I want to know what makes Canadian literature different from other post-Colonial literatures.

Unfortunately, I'm probably not going to get there this year.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Does the Métis nation have a distinct identity? How does this relate to the Métis 'nation' that existed in Manitoba in the 1830s? With both the French/Native Métis and the English/Native Métis ("métis anglais"), is it possible or even logical to unify the two into one nation? Inquiring minds want to know.

While the two nations were in many ways very distinct (French as Catholics, English as Protestants; French as hunters, English as farmers; French as 'simple', English as 'socially superior') the politics of the Hudson's Bay Company and the influence of British North America served to force an alliance between the two groups...an alliance in which the seeds of Rebellion were planted, in which a man named Louis Riel would prosper...all very Star Wars, in a way.

We're reading Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artists As A Young Man" in my 20th century class; and today was our day to bitch at the prof about why we found the book to be challenging (read: why some of us hated it). A lot of people focussed specifically on the religious aspects of the novel, and how much they hated that, and felt it made the book so much more incomprehensible to have the Great Big Sermon in the middle. This is an understandable reaction, but also a very North American one. Our society is nothing if not secular; I personally was raised in a very a-religious household; but turn of the century Ireland is a very different story: It's all about the religion. Europe still is very much like that today, too. When I lived in France when I was fifteen, that was one of the first questions people asked of me: "Are you Catholic or Protestant?"

I guess this can be difficult to grasp if you don't actually experience it for yourself, though. Though I found the religious passages somewhat dry, they were also interesting, because they were Jesuits, and because, well, they were a lot easier to focus on than a lot of the rest of Joyce's prose.

Monday, October 21, 2002

I have decided to go with the Pepys essay topic and write about how technology is a plague that is slowing destroying humanity. I plan to talk about the Sims in it as well, even though I have never played that particular game. Caesar II has always been more my style. It seems to be going okay so far, even though it's more of an 800 word creative writing assignment than an academic paper. (Not that I'm complaining, mind you).

In a month or so I will be conducting a seminar on Jean de Brebeuf entitled: Brebeuf: Hero or Madman? I think I'd like to argue in favour of him being a hero, even though there certainly a good deal of evidence supporting the latter argument. (He wore a spike belt, for godsakes, and whipped himself. And he was a visionary). But we shall see; we shall see.

A small sample of the Secret Diary of Samuel Pepys, Aged 13 3/4
2nd. The television is, indeed, a vast medium. Its usefulness is at times doubtful, as much of the programming has the appearance of having no set purpose: there are many occurrences that are difficult to comprehend; and many people whose primary occupation is with their own lives. Several hours of careful observation have impressed on me that the programmes dealing with the happenings across the globe are perhaps the most usefull; and yet even these seem to be much swayed with political bents; recording only the plagues of unrest and turmoil that seem frequent here

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Essay Topic #1:
You are John Dryden transplanted into our century. Write 15-20 heroic couplets deploring contemporary cultural productions, plus a short essay contrasting the prevailing cultural media of the eighteenth and twenty-first centuries.

Guess what's due next Wednesday. Guess what I haven't started yet. I was originally going to write a parody of Samuel Pepys' diary in blog format about the plague of information that is the internet (actually, I'm still considering this) but I don't know if I can pull this off. It's only 800 words, though, which is odd for a third year paper, and the sort of thing I ought to be able to sneeze out in a couple of hours.

It's odd to think that I could apply to graduate this year, and be finished all together with all my post-secondary stuff. I have no idea what I could do with that--what good would a regular BA in English Studies be?--and so I think I'll stick it out here for a few more years.
I meant to mention yesterday that today, 4 out of 10 Americans support the annexation of Canada. Out of the 6/10 who didn't, apparently the most commonly cited reason for that stemed from the fear that Canada would lower the US's national temperature. Does this scare anyone?

Friday, October 18, 2002

Laura Secord and the Canadian need for heroes: Does the truth matter?

For those of you who are not familiar with the story of Laura Secord, she is famous for having 'saved Canada' from the US during the War of 1812 (which, by the way, we won--and we also burnt the white House. I'm just saying). She purportedly travelled a great many miles after overhearing an American plot to attack a Canadian fort in order to inform the Canadian (really British) military of what was coming. Theoretically--or at least, as history tells it--the Canadians (err, British North Americans, Canadiens and Native allies) were able to hold off the Americans as a result.

Or were they? Mrs. Secord's story has not exactly stood the test of time. In the early twentieth century, scholars debunked her story, claiming that she had not reached the Canadians until after the fort was attacked, thereby making her claims of 'saving' Canada somewhat ridiculous. This theory, in turn, has been rejected by modern scholars, who now postulate that Laura in fact arrived two days prior to the attack, although it is uncertain exactly how much credence the Canadian militia gave her story.

So Canadians have a spurious heroine in Laura Secord, it seems...although I think that she is still important to our sense of national identity. Canadians have so few heroes; or at least very few in the same vein as other countries do. It is important for us to hold onto what we have. In a sense, Laura Secord is much like hte monarchy: not absolute essential to our country, but harmless and something that people actually believe in and care about. Apathy is all too prevalent in this country. And besides, she makes some mighty fine chocolate.

In other news, Jeffery Eugenides has a new book.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Quote of the month:
"If it's not a right angle, it's a wrong angle, and the Wasteland has no angle at all."

so sayeth the lovely and talented Steph, during our leadup lecture to Eliot's The Wasteland in 20th Century today.

We did actually have a pretty cool lecture on Prufrock today, though, and a good discussion about why those of us who were introduced to Eliot with poetry that was not The Wasteland (for me it was The Hollow Men when I did Conrad's Heart of Darkness in grade twelve) tend to be pro-Eliot; whereas those who were first introduced to his work via The Wasteland hate him intensely. I have notes on this, but I left them downstairs, so maybe I'll post them later.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Interesting note: In the United Kingdom, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham is often listed as being one of the 100 Most Important Battles In History. The battle took place between the British (led by Wolfe) and the French (led by Montcalm) outside of Quebec City in 1759 and ultimately resulted in the capitulation of New France and its assimilation into British North America. It is still considered to be important enough to be studied by British schoolchildren today; yet most Canadian schoolchildren are blissfully unaware of one of the most important events in Canadian history: the consolidation of the land mass above the 49th parallel into one country. It was an event with repercussions that have carried over well into the present day (see: Quebec Separatist movement) and has shaped the country as we know it.

In discussing Mikhail Bahktin's theories on English literary criticism in my 18th Century Lit class yesterday, I was again reminded that Bahktin, to me, sounds like it should be an acne treatment for one's back/bacne.

Margaret Atwood's Journals of Susanna Moodie is a really neat read. Moodie (sister of fellow authors Catharine Parr Traill and Samuel Strickland) wrote "Roughing It In the Bush" about early colonial life in Canada. Both she and her sister are regarded as important early Canadian writers, particularly with regards to exploration. Moodie's writing is a little too prose-y for my tastes, and she can be moody and melodramatic at times (as befitting a member of the semi-aristocracy?), but the poems that Margaret Atwood produced in the 70s based on "Roughing It In the Bush" are rather fascinating to read, as Atwood adopts the voice of Moodie to realize the duality that exists within all Canadians (leave it to a Canadian to write fanfic about an early pioneer woman). I recommend Atwood'sDream 2: Brian the Still Hunter and the segment of Moodie's journal it was based on: Volume I; Chapter X: Brian, the Still Hunter.

Monday, October 07, 2002

In her notes on "The Journals of Susanna Moodie", Margaret Atwood says that if the US can be characterized as a nation suffering from megalomania, Canada's mental illness is paranoid schizophrenia. This should provide an interesting perspective on the Who Killed Canadian History? dilemma. Too many personalities (histories) makes for a country with no distinct personality...

Saturday, October 05, 2002

In many ways I think that one of the stupidest things I have ever done was tos tart this blog. Don't get me wrong--I like it plenty, and it's a great way to organize and expand upon some of my thoughts--but I mean, more than 750 000 people have Blogger accounts, so obviously there's a huge glut of weblogs. And really--this one serves no purpose other than my own self-glorification, so why should it be here? The manner of my writing implies that I do intend to be writing this for some kind of audience, and while none has shown itself yet, it would be safe to say I have aspirations in that direction.

Sunday, September 29, 2002

In Who Killed Canadian History? J.L. Granatstein discusses the death of Canadian political history. He certainly subscribes to E.H. Carr's "great man" theory of history: that Great Men make Great History, as discussed in Carr's What Is History?. But is Canadian history truly dead? Have the provincial education curriculums conspired to teach our children the history of a country fraught with social injustices--a history with no roots?

Such are the questions I'll be mulling over for the next few weeks. For my Canadian history class, I've decided to write my term paper by adding my voice to this messy debate. Now it's only a matter of figuring out where I actually sit...political history vs. social history.

Indigo is having a special feature called The World Needs More Canada in light of three Canadians being shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Check out some neat books by authors like Robertson Davies, Stephen Leacock, Ann Marie MacDonald and Tomson Highway. The world definitely needs more Canada.
I've decided to add a comment system to this blog, despite the fact that (to the best of my knowledge) no one actually reads it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

"...[W]e were never able to make out, either to my own satisfaction or to yours, whether I am Whig or Tory or Radical. In politics I acknowledge but two parties--those who hope and those who fear. In morals, but two parties--those who lie and those who speak truth..."
     --Anna Brownell James

Kind of an interesting thought, especially for one who considers herself to have a fair ambiguous political affiliation. Anna Brownell James was an Englishwoman who came to Canada in the 1830s and spent a good deal of time rambling about the country by herself (sans maids, chaperones, etc.)--very unusual for a woman of the time. I think that this quote, to an extent, can be largely applied to Canada as a whole, in terms of politics. The Whigs are the Eastern provinces, geography making their need for government financial support and services very real; the Tories are the Prairies, politically and financially conservative as they come; the Radicals are much of Québec, desiring independence from the rest of Canada, wanting to be their own republic. Of course, politics and political organizations now don't quite have the same meaning as they did once upon a time. The politics of Canada are still quite neat, though. I've often thought political science would be a neat thing to study, but my doctor (just a GP) warned me off it when I was fifteen, and somehow in the course of university I ran out of electives.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

France vs. New France: Egalitarian Or Not?

Definitely something worth pondering--certainly these are two very different worlds.

By the way, who killed Canadian history?

Sunday, September 22, 2002

I am sad to report that my current classes have not engendered much in the way of fodder for this blog, but it is only the third week of the term, so there is still time.

In reading excertps of the Jesuit relations relating to the Ste. Marie time period, many people in my Canadian Lit class commented on the use of the word 'savage' to describe the Huron people. I find this interesting, because obviously the word 'savage' has many negative connotations, but at the same time I can't help but feel that this is a meaning that has been placed on it by us as English readers and writers. In the original French, the word used is 'sauvage', which translates to something more along the lines of 'wild' or 'uncivilized' than 'savage'. Within the context, I would say that this is understandable--the Huron way of life would be completely incomprehensible to the French, and it would seem uncivilized. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the French thought they were savages.

I am, of course, splitting hairs.

Monday, September 16, 2002

Interesting thought on high school education: What impact has the gradual phasing out of programs like home economics (aka family studies) and shop (design and technology) had on the students leaving the school system? My mother and I had a rather large discussion about such things a few weeks ago, apropos of something the CBC was talking about. She maintains that home ec teaches valuable life skills that, while they are not necessarily so appealing on an academic level, are certainly essential in terms of the actual living of life. When she was my age, she could--and did--make her own clothes, make her own pastry, cook five course meals, mend socks, balancing budgets and other such "homemaker"-esque things. Now, my hand sewing and needlework skils are adequate, I like to think my cooking is above that, but sewing machines frighten me and my math skills began to atrophy as soon as I stopped using them. Certainly, however, I am an exception, as my cooking and sewing skills stem from personal interest in such things (and a lot of reading books set in time periods where girls were expected to do these things).

So to counter my mother's argument that such things were valuable life skills that my generation was lacking, I maintain that if such a school program were to be brought back, it would make sense to implement another program that would teach other valuable life skills, like changing flat tires on a car and changing fuses (both of which are things I wish I knew how to do).

Of course, as we move closer and closer to cutting all the extra 'fat' out of our curriculum, it is unlikely that either of these programs would even see the light of day...and students wouldnt' be much interested in them, besides. But, still, food for thought.

Friday, September 13, 2002

I'm not really sure where this should fit in here (if it does fit in at all) but since it is an academic issue I will be ocntending with this year it may as well be included. I have just returned from my sociology class, where I discovered that we are going to be marked on a bell curve.

The bell curve is, in essence, one of the stupidest ideas known to mankind. The idea of having a pre-arranged grading scheme where you have to 'slot people in' just boggles my mind. My school is a newer school--we're actually celebrating the tenth anniversary of our charter this year--and has been under fire from many sources (most notably MacLean's Magazine) to become a 'real' school. Because of its newness, it is a relatively easy school to get into: the cutoff for most arts and science programs is usually about 65% or lower, and Nipissing as a name does not quite carry the same prestige as, say, Queen's, University of Toronto or McGill. I maintain that the education I am receiving here is certainly comparable to what I might have received elsewhere (I was accepted by Queen's, York and the University of Manitoba as well) and that the name on my degree does not necessarily indicate the quality of my education. However, the administration of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has decided that lowering marks (bell curving being part of this) will increase the competitive edge of our school--that if fewer people are receiving high marks (80% and above), it obviously means that the school is a tough one, that people are 'earning' the marks that they get.

As you can probably tell, I disagree with this practice. It was instituted midway through the last scholastic year, and as far as I can tell, I didn't really suffer too much from it, as I still came out with an 83.33% average overall. But I still have a fundamental problem with a system that operates like this--none of my marks in that class will in any way represent my actual abilities: they will represent what someone in an office thought the abilities of our class should be: "yeah, Sociology for educators...well, it's a required class for Orientation to Teaching, so we shuld give it a higher bell curve...let's try for 77%"


Thursday, September 12, 2002

I have nothing of real academic note to include here today, in so much that I have Thursdays off (ah, the joys of being an arts student), but I did do some leafing ahead in my course books (photocopied collections of shorter works [plays, poetry, short stories] that we will be studying that are collated so we don't have to buy vast amounts of books) and I read Angela Carter's Black Venus, which was interesting. We read Baudelaire's "Sed non satiata" earlier in the week and it prompted me to change my ICQ name to 'Vixen Libertine' (though from what I can tell, our translation of the poem was pretty much shite). Angela Carter is a pretty neat writer. I can't say that I much like her, or the way she writes, so much, or even her feminist ideals for that matter, but she is an interesting writer nonetheless. The Company of Wolves was a text studied in my ENGL1105 class and also a not-so-good movie, but her deconstructionism is good, I think.

I spent $304.51 on books yesterday, for three out of my five classes, and not even all of the books for these classes were available. I still need The Importance of Being Earnest and Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, plus all the books for my 18th century class and for Sociology of Education. I know I have Handmaid somewhere at home, it's just a question of being able to find it. It's more or less my favourite book of all time, as weird as that might sound. I've studied it three times at school already (grades eleven, twelve, and thirteen) in varying degrees of depth, and I've read it about once a year since I was fifteen. But it's always good to take a new (and hopefully more academic look) at an old favourite.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

And so it begins, once again. School is back in session. As I enter my third year, I have--as always--high hopes and aspirations for the coming year. This will be the year where I finally stop writing all my assignments the night before they're due. This will be the year that I start writing good poetry again. This will be the year that I will eat properly. This will be the year where I actually realize what potential I have.

I figure it's good to have hopes like that, even if they all come to naught.
welcome to academia nuts!