Thursday, January 29, 2004

Apologies for the blank entry and my general absence for the past week. The blank entry was caused by a conflict between my counter program and blogger, which unfortuantely I was able to resolve and had to switch companies. Fortuantely the new company seems pretty nifty. Check 'em out at webstats.com.

The absence was mostly caused by my extremely busy last week. I have some news on the grad school front, but I'm still a few days from being able to post about it.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Read just like me

My Second Term Book List at amazon.ca, just in case you'd like to get a closer look at (or buy) anything that I'm talking about in these pages.

Friday, January 23, 2004

we get titles with these things now?

Subtitle: Poem of the Week

Walt Whitman was probably the second poet that I ever encoutnered. (The first being Dennis Lee.) When I was younger (we're talking about 3), my family went on a vacation to Bon Echo Provincial Park which is just beautiful. If you click on that link there's a beautiful picture of the park, where you can see some of the rocks in the park, which if you could see them up close, actually have petroglyphs (prehistoric artwork) drawn on them, which fascinated me as a child (as well as the fact that the lake was over 100 feet deep, which was so deep that even my dad couldn't touch the bottom). There is a nice monument to Whitman there, as the former owner of the park was a devotee of his work (and an early Canadian feminist), so I've chosen To You as this week's poem:

Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of
dreams,
I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your
feet and hands,
Even now your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners,
troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dissipate away from you,
Your true soul and body appear before me,
They stand forth out of affairs, out of commerce, shops,
work, farms, clothes, the house, buying, selling, eating,
drinking, suffering, dying.

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you
be my poem,
I whisper with my lips close to your ear,
I have loved many women and men, but I love none better
than you.

(There's more to the poem, just click on the link above to read the rest).

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

So today's Feminist Theory discussion centered on the concept of 'essentialism'. Talk about interesting (in an 'ow-my-head-huuuuurts' kind of way) and it actually sparked a pretty good deal of controversy within the class. In my own ignorance, I find it hard to believe that anybody can believe in essentialism, but maybe I should explain what it actually is first. It is the idea that things (ie, people) have something essential to them that transcends history, time, culture, society, etc. and is fundamentally unchangeable. In feminist theory, this applies specifically to the concepts of gender. Is it possible to define something as essentially male or essentially female? (Naturally, biological factors--including the ability to bear children--are outside this realm).

I would argue that gender (which is not the same thing as sex--sex is biologically determined) is not essential; that it is determined by our old friends society and culture, but apparently many of the classmates would disagree with that, and argue that there is something essential to being a 'woman'.

+Essentialism (from Emory) - this one is pretty close to the handout we got in class today, so it is especially good.
+from Queertheory.com - a collection of online essentialist resources

It is interesting to think about what traits we identify with gender: aggression, maternal instincts (and I finally grasp the concept of gendered language!), the enjoyment of certain genres of movies/books/art/music/etc., cleanliness, domestic abilities...and of course it is nearly impossible to separate yourself from the concepts of essentialism in any meaningful way.

In the summers I work as an interpreter at a historic site, and I get to dress in period (17th century) costume. I dress as a seventeenth century man (largely because there were never women at my historic site) and now that I think about it, there are different behaviours that I adopt when dressing like a man:
+sitting with legs open
+more authorative walk
+standing straighter
+attempting to imagine myself as illiterate

I don't really see any of these behaviours as essentially masculine, though--especially since some of the other tasks I perform at Ste-Marie would have been/still are "feminine" work (cooking, sewing, knitting) that would have been performed by the men, because, well, there weren't any women around.
Yay, new comment system is installed! Hurray for technology. Rache and Mila, I expect lots of feedback!

Monday, January 19, 2004

Sometimes political correctness is just stupid.

No, I take that back. It is not stupid to be politically correct. People are stupid.

To wit, in my Memories of Paris class this morning, we were looking at a Jean Cocteau piece that described Picasso as being like a Borgia pope. When asked to unpack the significance of that comparison, one of my classmates said, "Well, the Pope has power invested in him by God, or other higher power..." I pretty much tuned out at that point, because really, if you're talking about CATHOLICISM, it's okay to say GOD, because that's what Catholics believe. It's not an 'other higher power'. It's just God.

I know this is a little on the ranty side but sometimes my classmates drive me crazy.

Friday, January 16, 2004

I went to a really good free lecture up at the school yesterday by a journalist by the name of Gqynne Dyer, a Canadian ex-pat living in England and working independently. It was pretty cool to see, as in the past the admin has had some difficulty in finding speakers that people actually want to see and stuff, but the theatre was actuallyf ull of both faculty and students.

He has a couple of well written articles on the website, which I highly recommend checking out if you have a chance, and he has a couple of books as well. The newest one is called "Ignorant Armies," and, well, I'm all about gratuitous Matthew Arnold references. He made some interesting predictions about the state of world politics over the course of the next four years, and talked a lot about the rise of the neo-conservative movement in the US.

Being able to go to stuff like this is one of my favourite parts about being in university.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

My SSHRC application is in. Now all I have to do is start filling out actual application forms for the schools I'm applying to, and round up all my transcripts. I'm really not sure where I want to go. The three schools I'm applying to all have aspects of their programs that I really like...I have a feeling a big part of my decision will rest on who wants to pony up in terms of RA and TA positions and such. Of course, if I don't get an Ontario Graduate Scholarship or a SSHRC grant, I'll probably find myself in back at Nipissing for Teacher's College regardless....

+University of Guelph - Guelph is about sixty miles west of Toronto, so it's the closest to home for me, and it's a pretty good school. Their department has the focus on Canadian Lit and Postcolonial Studies that I want, they have some pretty famous names in the faculty (Thomas King, Donna Palmateer Pennee), and if i can get a TAship, it pays over $4200/term...which is nothing to sneeze at.
+University of Ottawa - More of a "big name" school, to be sure, but not as strong in the areas I want to cover (though they do have some good theory stuff) and I find their department very unresponsive to requests for help. If I get a TA position here I will be teaching undergrad grammar and technical writing classes, and that scares me. I do like the school, and it does have a PhD program as well as the MA, which could be useful.
+Carleton University - This school doesn't have the best department, but it is looking to improve its reputation in the field, which could be an excellent opportunity for me. It's also in Ottawa (or just outside it). They also have the CanLit connection and the PoCo, as well, and since they have no PhD program, all of the department's time and effort is focused on the MA students. An added advantage of both Ottawa and Carleton is that I'm allowed to take up to 1.0 credits from whichever school I'm not attending, and that I would have access to the libraries at both schools.

So that's kind of the thought for now...and I'm no closer to making a decision.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Having finally decided in favour of feminist theory (narrow victory over trauma theory), I am now enjoying the wonders of Mary Elizabeth Braddock's Lady Audley's Secret. (Note: That link will take you to a partially complete online posting of the text for Lady Audley's Secret). I've never taken a course in nineteenth century lit, so my exposure to this time period has been largely limited to Rossetti's "Goblin Market" in first year and then Dickens and Great Expectations (among other stuff, like Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach," aka my favourite poem) in the second year British Literature survey.

Lady Audley's Secret is what is called a sensation novel, which is (in many ways) a precursor to both detective fiction and romance novels. McMaster University has a pretty neat site called Victorian Sensationalism Online which has some pretty good online resources and more information on the genre, if you're interested. If I ever have a chance to read for pleasure again (plea-sure?) I want to pick up a copy of Wilkie Collins's The Woman In White, which in light of Timothy Findley's Headhunter and the character of Emma Berry, could have some pretty interesting implications.

I'm really starting to see why the Victorian literature is so appealing...there is something absolutely fantastic about the idea of a newly literate public. To say nothing of Matthew Arnold, the emergence of English literature as a subject worthy of study in universities, and the whole idea of using literature as a way to build national consciousness and identity. My MA work is kind of going to be an off shoot of that, only dealing with Canada and Canadian literature.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Poem of the Week:*
Orphan Hand
by Maria Dunn

Home Boys (or Bernardo's Boys) were sent from UK streets to work as farm hands around Peterborough and across Canada. Most had dismal lives, little short of slave labour.


My name it might as well be John
For all you care from where I've come,
They sent me here to your homestead
To earn my daily bread.

From London Streets they boarded me
The gutter children put to sea,
At eight years old you took me in
But you never called me kin.

Is there no one in this dreary land
With a kind word for an orphan hand
I work like hell and pay my share
Where's the Christian look in your hardened stare
That Blackened ship that carried me
I wish had tossed me to the sea
My trouble would have reaped at least
A long embrace and a moment's peace

Your hardship in this cold, cold land
Left you a tired bitter man.
Your own you still allow small joy
But you're blind to a fatherless boy.

My filthy hands and matted hair,
My feet in rags in winter's air.
Worked like a dog, kept like a pig
Where's the life I am to live?

This land of opportunity
Is no place for a lad like me,
Cast from the old world on the new,
My worth to ever prove.

I'd have better been a tinker's son
Than a homeboy from the London slums,
Sent to this barren farm alone
And worked to skin and bones.

*This is actually a song, written by Maria Dunn, though I am familiar with a version by Aengus Finnan, who is an alumni of NipU's BEd program. I chose this song as a poem of the month because my maternal great-grandfather was one of the Barnardo children, who arrived in Canada in 1880.
New Year's Resolution #2: Update AcademiaNuts on a weekly basis and turn it into a sensical, useful resource tool for myself and any others who are interested in such thins.

So in this inaugral post (with semi-spiffy new layout), I would like to offer you a fun way to procrastinate: Canucklehead Quizzes from The Canadian Encyclopedia. It's good fun, and it has over sixty quizzes in a variety of categories that cover all kinds of Canadian terrain.

Also, Paul Graham has an interesting article on nerds here. Don't really agree with him, but a good read none the less.