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 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.