Monday, September 25, 2006

A Scottish Wikipedia? Groan.

It indeed is never so bad as might be worse. Click on the title of this post for .... this:

Wikipædia is a project tae big a free encyclopædia in mony leids. This Scots edeetion wis shapit on 23rd Juin 2005. We hae 1,633 airticles the nou.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Film Interest? "Mrs. Brown"

I wonder if there's any interest in making a class event of Mrs. Brown: Dame Judy Dench as Queen Victoria & Billy Connolly as her Scots servant John Brown. There is no direct connection to course texts (we will be looking at Trainspotting in any event), but it is an absolutely delightful film; it has substantive critical elements on the mixed bilateral antagonism and respect between Scots & English; and gives an acclaimed sense of the Scottishness which we are striving after here.
But that's just my opinion! Add yours, anonymously if you prefer, to the comments below.

Imagery from Liz Lochhead's Chorus opening

Here is some of the visual imagery invoked by the chorus opening of Mary Queen of Scots got her head Chopped Off -- a jacket cover of Scots novelist George Macdonald's Lilith with a depiction of an anthropomorphic Corbie; paired with Henry Raeburn's "The Skating Minister." [Click on the picture for a larger image.]

Tudors: the Graph

I drew a graph on the blackboard of the Tudor dynasty as it relates to our Lochhead text, & the several "Marys" in particular. I'm going to figure a way to blog a Visio version of that graph: stay tuned ....

Darwin: Evolutionary Misogyny

I have put Darwin's Descent of Man, 6th Edition, on Course Reserve in order that you can compare his nineteenth century misogyny to John Knox's of the sixteenth century. Darwin's declaration that

man has ultimately become superior to woman. It is, indeed, fortunate that the law of the equal transmission of characters to both sexes prevails with mammals; otherwise, it is probable that man would have become as superior in mental endowment to woman, as the peacock is in ornamental plumage to the peahen,
is the necessary result of his belief in the two evolutionary mechanisms that he invented -- natural selection & sexual selection. His theories, then, as he constructed & defended them, are thus flawed.

To my mind, the absence of any serious engagement among scholars and special interest groups with Darwin's excessive belittlement of women has a whiff of political expediency. That is, feminists who have read Descent of Man may be reluctant to give Darwin the same critical attention as other similar -- even far less strong -- misogynists receive, due to the use Darwin can be as a stick against other enemies. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

For us, however, our motto is rather, Fas est et ab hoste doceri (Ovid.)

"First Blast of the Trumpet ...."

Of John Knox, Liz Lochhead made him an important character in our current course text, Mary Queen Of Scots got her Head Chopped Off. Dr. P. Hume Brown (1849-1918), a founding Scottish Studies scholar, claimed of the Scots that Knox, by his writings, "....revealed the heart and mind of the nation to itself." Hence for these, and other reasons scholarly, we do well to study the one -- in effect, the only -- work of his which retains currency: The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.

We will spend five minutes Tuesday's class finishing off our direct analysis of Knox: primarily to be clear about the political substance of the polemic, and to look at one or two uniquely Scottish elements within it.

To summarise the lecture last week, I argue that The First Blast is a rhetorical, and grammatic, triumph, but a dialectic failure and & effectual disaster. Knox wrote within the scholastic tradition of his priestly training; losing nothing of it in his turn to protestantism. The one shining facet of Scholastic writing (pace Paul Feyerabend) is its openness: the training demanded its practitioners state the most authoritative objections laid publicly against the argument it, and declare, moreover, any that should happen to occur to the writer himself. Knox does this straightaway in his third paragraph -- and indeed elsewhere, and, I believe in a way that defeats him. This at least we must accounted to him for righteousness.

The Scholastic tradition of writing was essentially the trivium: the first three of the seven Liberal Arts (the quadrivium were arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy -- a delightful ascent, conceptually, it must be said.) The ascent in the trivium was from the structure of words and meaning (grammar), the arrangement of words (rhetoric), and the arrangement of the ideas (dialectic.)

In The First Blast, an example of Knox's grammatical command is his neologism "monstiferous" to effectively express his sense of the extremity of monstrosity his ostensible subject (the regimet of women) represents. His rhetorical command is everywhere evident. No more so, of course, than in my primary contention that The First Blast .... is not actually directed against its titular subject: rather, the regiment of women is a blind from behind which he can conduct his offensive against his real enemy: Roman Catholicism.

Of rhetoric, Swift declared that "proper words in proper places is the essence of true style" -- in my words, chosing and placing words for maxiumum possible effect. Knox's ability to hide his real, seditious, purpose behind the rhetoric of mysogyny is rehetorically impressive. Likewise his plain language, and his opening blast of immediate and sustained attacking corneal force which answers in form precisely the declared image in the title.

Every student knows the three rhetorical appeals: logos, ethos, pathos. It is not always clear, however, that these appeals are not matched to any substance: the substance is in the dialectic, not the rhetoric. Ethos, for instance, does not entail the moral dimension, as a category of metaphysics. Rather, it is a method of appeal to the ethical image of the hearer and draws on the ethical reputation of the writer. So, we can now better understand Knox's superlative rhetorical command, taking logos illustratively. Logos, then, is not a logical arrangement of the argument (that is addressed under the mode of dialectic) but rather a use of words which gives an effective appearance of logic. In the paragraph beginning with note [46], Knox writes:
The apostle takes power from all women to speak in the assembly. Ergo, he permits no woman to rule above man.
The use of the word ergo in a properly-arranged sentence gives the appearance of a logical statement, but in fact the sentence is illogical: a perfect non-sequitur, or perhaps more properly, a "fallacy of composition" error.

As for dialectic, as mentioned, and discussed partially in lecture, The First Blast ... is a disaster. Selective quotation from his scriptural source is persistent flaw, but a venial: and, it must be said, nearly a universal. Culpable, though, is his elided treatment of Ephesians chapter five, and his risible mis-reading of the Creation story in the second chapter of Genesis. And he cites St. Augustine in his support -- the same Augustine that argued in the gentlest cadence in perhaps the most important non-Biblical work in the entire Western Humanities, Civitas Dei of the theological (if not the practical) equality of the sexes. But enough of the ubiquitous particulate errors: the argument entire simply vanishes as if a mist when one denies (and in the affirmaion it was -- & is -- Calvinism contra mundum) the Calvinist Suprlasarianism which Knox does here nothing more than reiterate. Even if one were to allow Knox's exegesis ex hypothesi, it is still only true of fallen humanity: ".... in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." For Calvin, humanity was depraved before the Fall: so much the worse for Calvinism.

And to come now to the Scholastic credit of Knox, to his argument's own destruction, in the passage before note [59], Know writes:
If any thinks that all these former sentences be spoken only of the subjection of the married woman to her husband ....
Ex ore tuo! The pauline passages which make up his substantial New Testament argument (setting aside his treatment of the passages about women in relation to cultural orality in Roman public assemblies, the casuitical form of which declares its foundational insubstantiality) speak to the conditions for marriage in its Christian conception -- i.e. dissolutive only in Death -- and thus have no direct applicability to the relation of women & men extra-maritally.

These are just a small few of the available means of debunking the dialectic in its surface attention to female regnancy. His central motto in that seems to be the one given just in advance of note [108]: "....that particular examples establish no common law." This, of course, and the accumulation of Biblical exceptions rebuking his assertion of universal male rule, leads him of necessity to casuistry; and thereby, as stated, effectively asserts his failure to have "a sure foundation."

The design of the piece as an anti-Roman Catholic polemic -- a sortie in a religious and political campaign -- will be addressed directly in Tuesday's lecture.

Friday, September 22, 2006

"Being a Man" -- an English Department Colloquium

Department Colloquium "Being a Man (in the Lousy Modern World)"
Monday, September 25th, 7:00 pm, Room 7000, SFU Harbour Centre

This event features a talk from British Lad-Lit author Robert Twigger, with a response panel to follow. Twigger – who has won the Newdigate Poetry Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award for Literature – occupies a literary terrain where a masculine performative identity is developed for post-colonial men through a variety of Empire-class male adventures. He has gained a consequential readership among non-middle-class males, and his books have proven to be appealing movie material. Big Snake, the author’s hunt for the world’s biggest python, is now a National Geographic film, and Miramax is currently preparing Angry White Pyjamas – a literate reflection on the twelve months that Twigger, a self-described “scrawny Oxford poet,” spent among the Extreme Right in Tokyo in brutal training for a black belt in Yoshinkan aikido – for world-wide movie release.
Twigger set on Canada as the Empire setting for his newest lad-lit book: Voyageur, just released, takes the form of a recreation of Mackenzie’s trek in a birch-bark canoe from Lake Athabasca to Bella Coola. Fittingly, then, the author has chosen the SFU English Department to give his literary ideas their first open academic airing, here, at our Colloquium. Peter Dickinson and Steve Collis have agreed to participate on the response panel, joining Rebecca Wigod, Books editor for the Vancouver Sun.
You are all very welcome to attend and, if you wish, contribute your response to Robert Twigger’s talk, as there will certainly be opportunity for moderated response from the floor.

The Scots are Basques, It Turns Out

.... in part at least, and so is the rest of the British Isles, says Stephen Oppenheimer in The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story.
Well that should shake things up in Scottish Studies!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Culture Studies Framework for Scottish Studies

Today was our full introductory engagement with the Cultural Studies approach to literature, favoured at present, as we have seen, in the field of Scottish Studies. For instance, as mentioned in lecture last week, and in an earlier post, the recent event sponsored by Dr. Davis and the St. Andrews & Caledonian Society -- a talk by Dr. Murray Pittock, professor of Scottish and Romantic Literature, Manchester University -- discussed historic and contemporary views of what it means to be a Scot. His neologistic concept of fratriotism was, in essence, a representation of colonial Scots activity at the studied level of culture: i.e. a uniquely Scots culture of horizontal relationships amongst individuals.
  • Note that the article hot-linked above in the term Cultural Studies is a Wikipedia entry. This is perfectly consistent with my views on the oxmoronic project (i.e. creditable open-source encyclopedia): articles on Wikipedia are perfect for convincing people who are convinced by Wikipedia. (You will recognise this, of course, as a braw Brodie-ism.)

There were several reasons given in lecture, as part of the explanation of the Gardiner article, why Cultural Studies is a particularly attractive approach in this day & age for Scots Studies.

Among these are the French character of the theorists central to Cultural Studies: Virilio, Delueze, Derrida, Foucault. Scotland has, as indicated in some of our texts, a strong historical connection (especially heavy in the sixteenth century) to France: three of our Scots "Mary's" were queens or consorts in France, for a start. Additionally, the anti-colonial orientation of this theoritic mode conveniently enables contemporary Scots to blur the image of their forebears' energetic Imperialist endeavours.

Lastly, considering the matter at an academic level, the very nature of what is called (using Dr. Pittock's term, for instance) a project of Scottish Identity is inescapably cultural: a Scottish nationalism as much as a Scottish project peopled by those in principle hostile to, or, at least, suspicious of, nationalisms, require for social significance the existence of unique culture specifically separate from the English -- even the word "British" is used by them in actual or mental quotation marks. Hence, the Cultural Studies approach gives Scots Studies a formal body that harmonises with its substantial being.

An article arguing that the Cultural Studies approach is a necessity can be read at this link.

This now all being said, keep in mind that in this course we are taking a critical approach to Cultural Studies in relation to Scottish Literature after 1945. That is, our position is a scholarly neutral one, where Cultural Studies has the status of one of the objects in our field of study of Scotland & its fiction today.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Today's (British) Headlines & Gardiner

This news story, "Big Brother is shouting at you," via the indispensible Arts & Letters Daily, on the addition of a live voice, inescapably suggestive of Orwell's prophesy, to the CCTV cameras in public streets, claimed of Glasgow pioneerage in Gardiner's essay, significantly complicates Gardiner's central argument to my mind.
The issue also maps onto an intriguing bifurcation on response to crime in Britain between the Left & the Right (an idea that came to me when reading this essay, again from Arts & Letters Daily.)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

More Michael Gardiner

Our background culture studies theorist, Michael Gardiner, is aiming to develop a name for himself as a writer of fiction. Follow this hotlink to read online from his story on the Edinburgh Festival -- you'll recall the mention of the event in TPoMJB -- and see a list of his literary influences, amongst other things.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Template for Cultural Studies Analysis

In the spirit of the sceptical positionality of contemporary Cultural Studies, here is an analysis of the précis to Martin Gardiner's essay-length version of his From Trocchi to Ttrainspotting: Scottish Cultural Theory Since 1960. The essay abstract is presented first, followed by a (re-)presentation of its elements -- this amounts to a template for the formula from which essays from a Cultural Studies approach are constructed. The copywrite symbol [©] is used to denote set ideational structures and conceptual givens.

"Perspective" is often considered to be among the world-defining possessions of an individual. In fact, the unique vantage point is a cornerstone of liberal subjectivity and a defining feature of the rights of the individual, especially in the case of consumer culture. In the following, Michael Gardiner maps the idea of "The Enlightenment" onto contemporary optical innovations, pointing out the ways in which the democratic value of the individual viewpoint is mediated through the common lens of vision technologies. The result is a high-stakes struggle over the perception of "reality" and, ultimately, the meaning of knowledge.

[Theorist] ©maps the ©idea of [broad traditional concept] onto contemporary [catchy cultural artifact-type], ©pointing out ©the ways in which the [social judgment expressed in terms of the value of subjectivity] is ©mediated through the [specific catchy cultural artifact]. The result is a ©high-stakes struggle over [statement of philosophical relativism] and, ultimately, [traditional element of academic study.]

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Readings: reminder

At the end of the all-important opening two course weeks, just a review of the method behind the reading schedule on the syllabus. It is designed to give an efficacious plan for your readings of the course material. Specifically, then, there is a two week block dedicated to each of the six primary course texts. These are supported by background readings, collected in the Virtual CourseWare Package. These background readings together form a cohesive approach to the material: here again, the reading schedule will, as stated on the syllabus, ensure that you are well ahead of lecture.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Individual Presentation Schedule

Remember to look at the specific criteria for this assignment, as published in the course syllabus.
September 19th: K.J. October 31st: W.L.

September 21st: K.M. November 2nd: J.P.
September 26th: T.S. November 7th: D.N.
September 28th: A.R. & N.B. November 9th: L.Mac.
October 3rd: D.H. November 14th: D.S. & S.F.
October 5th: B.W. November 16th: M.S. & K.M.
October 10th: J.F. November 21st: S.S. & R.B.
October 12th: D.H. & M.Ma. November 23rd: M.Mo.
October 17th: C.T. & S.Mc. November 28th: L.M.
October 19th: M.J. & J.R. November 30th:
October 24th: K.L. & M.W.
October 26th: D.S.

Topics Selected:
Edinburgh. Bagpipes. Highland Dancing. Scots influence on the Canadian Military. Scottish Geography. Caber toss. History of golf. Celtic mythology.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Course Syllabus

This syllabus provides the reading schedule for English 342.. If students are up-to-date with readings, they will be ahead of lecture. Note, however, that this schedule is not a Procrustean bed for lecture: week by week, lecture will follow the developing class interests and course dynamic; covering, na'theless, all material -- superbly, might I add -- by the conclusion of week thirteen.
The on-line articles are from the Virtual CoursePackage: a collection of supporting material that places the primary texts in a theoretical, historical, and cultural context. There is a permanent link under "Pertinent & Impertinent" on the blog sidebar.
There are two short background texts on Course Reserve: Gilles Deleuze, Empiricism & Subjectivity and Paul Virilio, Information Bomb. These books are not available on-line in fulltext version, so students are advised to sign them out and read them in advance of the week positioned on the schedule.

Week One: September 5th - September 7th
Primary text: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
On-line Article(s): John Knox.
Week Two: September 12th - September 14th
Primary text: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
On-line Article(s): Michael Gardiner.
Week Three: September 19th - September 21th
Primary text: Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off.
On-line Article(s): David Hume. The Sceptic & Of Superstition & Enthusiasm.
Week Four: September 26th - September 28th
Primary text: Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off.
On-line Article(s): Friedrich Nietzsche ("ressentiment").
Week Five: October 3rd - October 5th
Primary text: Laidlaw.
On-line Article(s): Donald Macleod.
Week Six: October 10th - October 12th
Primary text: Laidlaw
Background text: Gilles Deleuze (on course reserve.)
Week Seven: October 17th - October 19th
Primary text: The Trick is to Keep Breathing.
On-line Article(s): Claire Colebrook.
Week Eight: October 24th - October 26th
Primary text: The Trick is to Keep Breathing.
On-line Article(s): Carole Jones.
Week Nine: October 31st - November 2nd
Primary text: Trainspotting.
On-line Article(s): George Orwell.
Week Ten: November 14th - November 16th
Primary text: Trainspotting.
Background text: Paul Virilio (on course reserve.)
Week Eleven: November 14th - November 16th
Primary text: Morvern Callar.
Week Twelve: November 21st - November 23rd
Primary text: Morvern Callar.
Group Field School workshop.
Week Thirteen: November 28th - November 30th
Perlicue, feenish.

Assignment Deadlines.
Nb: There is a three percent per day late penalty for assignments, documented medical or bereavement leave excepted. For medical exemptions, simply provide a letter from a physician on letterhead which declares his or her medical judgement that an illness prevented work on the essay over the assigned three week period.
All assignments are to be placed in the Instructor's mailbox outside the English Department Office.

1. Mid term paper, two thousand words: due midnight October 23rd. Assignment sheet with choice of topics will be blogged on October 5th. Criteria include literary analysis, engagement with course themes and writing mechanics. [Note that these dates afford you flexibility. If your mid-term schedule is crowded, you are free to submit your paper at the deadline, which is approximately three weeks after the assignment sheet is distributed. If you prefer to get a critical response to your paper earlier in the course, you can submit yours as soon as you like after the assignment is blogged.]
2. Group field school project: beginning in course week four, you will organise groups of five students to take your study of the course themes, extrapolated from the primary works of fiction, into the local setting. Each group will select a local Scottish society, historical personage, or associative landmark, and work up a form of presentation that details how this feature of Greater Vancouver, characterised as a post-colonial landscape, devolves from the characteristics of identity theorised in our background reading, such as Deleuze, Virilio, Colebrook, &c.
The project is due in the last class of the term, November 30th, with seminar time set aside throughout the term to work with the Instructor to develop your project. Suggested fields of study will be presented when the groups are formed in week four. By week seven your group will submit an outline of your project design on your own terms: signed approval by the Instructor will be the grading criteria for the assignment.
3. Individual class research presentation: sign-up schedule handed around in seminar. An oral presentation of ten minutes maximum on a specific topic related to the Scottish background: historical, cultural, literary, political or geographical. Suitable topics include authors, great works, intellectual figures, periods (e.g. Scottish Enlightenment), religious traditions, cultural traditions (e.g. whisky, Highland Games, bagpipes), Scottish film or performing arts, critical-theoretical positions relevant to Scottish identities, post-Empire Scotland, women’s influences in ancient or modern Scotland, Scottish nationalism, Glasgow or Edinburgh, Highlands or Lowlands, geography & Scots identity.
The criteria include research comprehensiveness, relevancy and contribution to the class' understanding; with an emphasis on the cohesiveness, clarity, comprehensibility, organisation, timing and other acknowledged elements of effective oral delivery. Hand in a copy of your rough notes at the conclusion of the representation. You will receive a sheet with Instructor's analysis, comments, and your assignment grade, a week after your presentation.
4. Final Paper, thirty-two hundred words: due December 4th at midnight. Topic to be discused and approved in writing with the course instructor. There is also an available option for a Creative scholarly paper, provided that strict failure standards are detailed and approved by the Instructor in writing, in advance.

Course Approach
The course is designed to provide an experiential engagement with the themes and materials declared in the course outline. In addition to information and and analysis in lecture, a variety of opportunities for students to experience different informative facets of the outlined subject area will be presented.

Course requirement weighting:
10% Participation
15% Individual research presentation
20% Group Field School Project
20% Mid-term essay (2000 words)
35% Final essay (3200 words)
Nb: “Participation" requires both contributions in seminar discussion and attendance and punctuality at lecture and seminar.

Instructor Contact:
[UPDATED] Office Hours: AQ 6094 -- Tuesday 10:30-11:30; Wednesday, 12:00-14:55; Thursday 10:30-11:30; Friday 12:00-12:55. Bring your coffee and discuss course matters freely. E-mail to Please only use your SFU account for email contact. In urgencies, I may be reached on my cellular telephone at 604-250-9432.

Course Theoretical Background

As I detailed in the opening lecture, a new book by Michael Gardiner, an assistant professor in the faculty of letters at Chiba University, Japan, has just been published, which is brings main themes from our course together, with an up-to-date focus. I have ordered two copies of From Trocchi to Trainspotting: Scottish Critical Theory Since 1960 from the Library to be placed on course Reserve.

I will be using the book as the background to lecture, so it is a support text rather than a critical necessity for your reading. However, the idea behind Gardiner's bok can be found condensed in an earlier article of his,
"Endless Enlightenment: Eye-Operated Technology and the Political Economy of Vision,"
which I have now linked in the On-Line Articles; Course Package post.

Scottish Studies Lecture

Dr. Leith Davis, Department of English and the SFU Centre for Scottish Studies, has organised two lectures sponsored by the St. Andrews and Caledonian Society.
Murray Pittock will be speaking on 'Scottish Identity: Historic and Contemporary' on Monday, Sept. 11 downtown at the Fletcher Challenge Theatre at 7 pm. It's free to the public, but people should call 604-291-5100 to reserve seats. A reception will follow. Dr. Pittock will also give a talk on Wednesday, 13 September in AQ 6229 at 12 noon: 'Fratriotism: Empire and its Limits in the Scottish and Irish Imagination, c. 1746-1837'.
Note that the hotlink above to the Centre for Scottish Studies lists Dr. Davis' publications in the field. You may find some of them useful and relevent as historical background to your choice of assignment topics.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Education Model of Miss Brodie, & Us

I want to expand slightly on Miss Brodie's expressed model of education, and how it relates to my own teaching methods. An example of the doubleness of Muriel Spark's portrait of her titular character, Miss Brodie's description of her teaching philosophy is clearly presented in favourable contrast to the pedagogy around her at Marcia Blaine's.

The word "education" comes from the root e from ex, out, and duco, I lead. It means a leading out. To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil's soul. To Miss Mackay it is a putting in of what is not there, and that is not what I call education, I call it intrusion, from the Latin root prefix in meaning in and the stem trudo, I thrust. Miss Mackay's method is to thrust a lot of information into the pupil's head; mine is a leading out of knowledge, and that is true education, as is proved by the root meaning.
This is certainly high comedic. It is also Socrates' & Plato's education theory. It is also, as the word "root" may have already suggested to you, an horticultural understanding of the process of teaching.

Put into my terms, the student is a seed, or a sapling, as you prefer it, and will develop to knowledge by forces and by programming already inside him or her: via DNA, in current scientistic jargon. The function, then, of the teacher - the Professor -- is that of the horticulturist: to create the conditions and provide the natural materials (water and fertilisation) conducive to the pupil's -- the plant's -- growth.

Opposing this is the Enlightenment model: in our present case, we should specify the Scottish Enlightenment, and in particular one of its major figures, David Hume. In this, the pupil's mind is a blank slate -- tabula rasa -- or a void into which stuff is built. The classroom image of this is that the Professor gives a blueprint at the start of term -- "this is a Wall made of one hundred and thirty bricks" -- and then the first week of class says, "this is brick one, this is brick two .... this is brick ten. Now we have the foundation row." Second week, it's "this is brick eleven, this is brick twelve .... this is brick twenty. Now we have the second row." Et cetera to week thirteen.

Going back to the Enlightenment origins of this pedagody (which, as I mentioned, has complete domination in the current-day Public Education system in North America,) the assumptions of it are a degraded vestige of what the Enlightenment retained of the deductive system of the Classical and Mediæval ages: the deductive, syllogistic, arangement of Major Premis, Minor Premis, Conclusion, where the major premis is a statement of Universal Truth, given by authority. For example:
  • Major Premis: All men are pigs
  • Minor Premis: Stephen is a man.
  • Conclusion: Stephen is a pig.
You may note that this logical system pervades even our model of the scholarly essay. The major premis is your statement of thesis -- a universal truth from the work or works under study, such as "Muriel Spark presents Miss Jean Brodie as a Calvinist God" -- in your opening paragraph; the minor premises are individual supporting examples from the text comprising the body of your essay; the conclusion is the spelling out of how the examples supported the Major Premis.

This, however, is only one possible form of essay. In Japan, for instance, they don't use -- indeed, they don't readily comprehend -- the deductive form of essay writing, but instead work intuitively from a civilisation-fundamental conception known as ki-sho-ten-ketsu.
Japanese rhetoric exhibits the textual characteristics that Hinds suggests. When
it comes to expository writing, this sequence of ki-sho-ten-ketsu is most frequently used (Ostler 1987, Hinds 1990, Kubota 1992). The sequence displays reader-responsibility and takes the quasi-inductive pattern. As the Japanese rhetorical pattern does not match that of English, English native speakers who encounter Japanese rhetoric feel that composition in Japanese is disorganized, unfocused or ineffective (Hinds 1990). But Japanese essays are not disorganized: they are just not organized for the native English speaker audience. Japanese readers rely on their knowledge of culture for interpretation, a knowledge English speakers don't have. Because the implied intention of composition normally comes at the end of the essay and because the essay does not take either the inductive or deductive style, it is difficult for native English readers to predict where the essay is heading before the final paragraph. As a result, when Japanese ESL students write an English essay using their native rhetorical pattern, their teachers are likely to find the essay hard to understand.
Ki is an unobtrustive introduction of a new topic or idea. Sho is a calm and organic development of that topic or idea. Ten is a turning, according to some principle of culture, history, or writer's individual character. Finally in the series is the ketsu, the tying-together, as with a bundle of twigs, where the ketsu is not explict in the essay, and in consequence is a koan, or an individual interpretation -- but one made with the broader apparatus of the Japanese civilisation.

So, for us, as for Miss Jean Brodie, the alternatives for education are between a system based on organic conception of the student's active and, in fact, necessary, participation in his or her intellectual growth, or a mechanistic, formal-mathematical model of instruction in which the student is passive, and, indeed, a mere unit of education, identical to -- and easily replacable by -- any other unit. This is, as you will have recognised, the idea animating Muriel Spark's description of the Marcia Blaine upper form teachers at the opening of chapter four:
The teachers here seemed to have no thoughts of anyone's personalities apart from the specialty in life, whether it was mathematics, Latin, or science. The treated the new first-formers as if they were not real, but only to be dealt with, like symbols of algebra.
By "not real," Spark means the students are conceived of as not human beings: Spark writes of these teachers that their pupil's days ".... were now so brisk with the getting of knowledge from unsoulful experts."

The matter, of course, is that the mechanistic and passive conception of learning is safe and ultimately undemanding. However, the organic model where winds blow, the environment is bio-diverse, and the student must participate and even struggle (to invoke a Darwinism) in order to obtain growth, is demanding and has, by definition, the absence of certainly that is uncomfortable and in fact frightening if it is not embraced -- but learning is exciting, stimulating and far, far more efficacious when the challenge is taken up.

Tuesday's class upcoming

After having has strong look in lecture Thursday of important major thematic aspects of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, on Tuesday we will go over some specific close-reading points from in lecture, and then in seminar make sure that the various distinct elements presented are understood as a cohesive unity: the double picture of Brodie, 1932 fascism, Calvisnism, Scotland and identity, and Edinburgh-ism.

Film Version of "Prime of Miss Jean Brodie"

I looked at a copy of the film this weekend, and my memory had replaced Alec Guinness for Gordon Jackson -- sorry for the confusion. I remember Jackson from one of my favourite Avengers episodes, Castle De'ath, as well as a co-star with Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, but most famously of course the character of the butler Mr. Hudson in the BBC's Upstairs Downstairs.

We'll discuss the significant change in emphasis from the book to the film adaptation, using one important scence, in class this week.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Proclaimers "Throw the 'R' Away"

Here are the lyrics to The Proclaimers' song we heard in the opening lecture. Note that the song is an expression of nationalism: i.e. antipathy to another's nation, to wit England, rather than a simple affirmation of a national virtue of one's own. For example, the comment "perhaps for some money ..." is a shot at England's amusement at Scots' extreme thrift.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"Doubleness" in Scots Literature

To examples given in lecture of the critical commonplace notion of "Doubleness" in Scotland --
a debilitatingly fractured culture chracterised by an infamous doubleness, a conception that has ‘constrained Scottish criticism in its insistence on the idea of a tradition defined by internal oppositions', and of Scottishness as a ‘damaged identity'; in turn, contextualising this writing in terms of international cultural processes brings into relief the complexities of the Scottish situation,
-- which included Highlands & Lowlands, Catholic & Scots Calvinist, the paradoxical oppositions in the witches' chaunt in Shakespeare's Macbeth, Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jeckell & Mr. Hyde, and, primarily, Scotland as colonised & colonising, add as creatively significant Calvinism's Elect & Damned ....

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Scots: Pronunication & Lexicon

Scots -- either a dialect or a language, according as one's Scottish nationalist tendencies go, but, alas in either case, indisputably Anglic -- features in our course texts to varying degrees of obtrusiveness. Use this post as a central hub for lexicons, guides to pronunciation, and exemplary audio clips. A perma-link is on the blog sidebar.

  1. Scottish Dialect at the BBC
  2. More Scottish Slang at the BBC
  3. Pittin the Mither Tongue on the Wab
  4. Scots Language: at
  5. Scots Glossary
  6. Scottish Vernacular Dictionary

Remember also that I have put some of my back copies of The Broons and Oor Wullie annuals on Course Reserve to help your familiarisation.

On Scots Calvinism, con't

Note that the unifying concept to the Calvinist dogma is Predestination, and the type of culture which it created in Scotland is known popularly (and helpfully, though strictly speaking not accurately) as Puritanism.

Calvinism: TULIP & the Bible

That (Scots) Calvinism is the ghost in the post-1945 Scottish literary machine is a commonplace: indeed, it is explict in our course fiction. We, however, need not merely acknowledge but understand this, academically. The TULIP formula given today in lecture to that end, provoked two excellent question. The first is, how does one know whether one is among the Elect or the damned? This is the crux, in my view. Short answer is, on Earth, one does not know: can not know. A fair hearing can be found at this link at the Rutgers U. site. John Calvin's answer, here from his Institutes of the Christian Religion, is the concept of "calling": if you hear the call, you are among the Elect.

In the elect, we consider calling as an evidence of election, and justification as another token of its manifestation, till they arrive in glory, which constitutes its completion. As God seals His elect by vocation and justification, so by excluding the reprobate from the knowledge of His name and the sanctification of His Spirit, He affords an indication of the judgment that awaits them.

But since Calvin elsewhere declared (& rejoiced in) the fact that God causes some Damned to think on Earth that they are Elect in order that their torment in Hell will be greater, this is merely a fudge. That being said, I note in Calvin's defense that every human system has its flaw. Calvin wanted to assert God's sovereignty and to give believers certainty in their Salvation. These two things he did -- but at the cost of removing intellectual knowledge of Salvation. We must also be mindful of avoiding the vice of chronological chauvanism: in Calvin's day, to his public, the doctrines that we find abstruse changed the world and were embraced by millions.

The question arising from lecture today was over support from scripture for the five points of Calvinist dogma. We should turn here to the Calvinists themselves: I have found this suitable link with the TULIP formula and Bible verses in support of each. It is, of course, lamentably easy to cite selectively from any text to support a favoured position; and indeed Calvin drew respondants who laid against him the evidentiary charge of omitting passages that gave a more full and a balanced soteriological picture.

To close, here, again from the Institutes, is Calvin himself on these dogmas.

In conformity, therefore, to the clear doctrine of the Scripture, we assert, that by an eternal and immutable counsel, God has once for all
determined, both whom He would admit to salvation, and whom He would condemn to destruction.

Predestination we call the eternal decree of God by which He has determined in Himself what would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is fore-ordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestinated either to life or to death.

Virtual Course Package

The class consensus was for the use of supporting articles to be collected from online sources, supplemented by licensed photocopies. I'll use this post to contain links to those articles, & have a perma-link on the blog sidebar. Note that some of the articles will require you to authenticate to the SFU proxy server.

Michael Gardiner: Endless Enlightenment: Eye-Operated Technology and the Political Economy of Vision. (2004)

John Knox: The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. (1558)

David Hume: The Sceptic. (1752) Of Superstition & Enthusiasm. (1777)

Friedrich Nietzsche: On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemical Tract. (1887)

Donald McLeod: Scottish Calvinism: A Dark, Repressive Force? (2001)

Claire Colebrook: The Politics and Potential of Everyday Life. (2002)

Carole Jones: White Men on Their Backs – From Objection to Abjection:The Representation of the White Male as Victim in William McIlvanney's Docherty and Irvine Welsh's Marabou Stork Nightmares. (2006)

George Orwell: Notes on Nationalism. (1945)

Thursday Lecture

As announced in our opening class, Thursday's lecture will, in addition to the notorious John Knox treatise on women and regnancy, begin our engagement with Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Spark is as much a poet as a novelist, and the succintness of this novel is a function of its poetic substance: stunningly telescoped meanings; deep evocation from the briefest of passages; echoes and re-echoes of a cadence one half seen; the other half felt.
Your first reading won't take long at all. As with all first readings, read solely for pleasure, and reflect when compleated what the primary character, or characters, or central object, might have represented. Always keep in mind Dr. Johnson's famous warrant for reading without looking at, or, pertinent to us, taking, notes:
Notes are often necessary, but they are necessary evils. Let him, that is yet unacquainted with [the book at hand] .... read every [work] .... from the first .... to the last, with utter negligence of all his commentators. When his [i.e. the reader's] fancy is once on the wing, let it not stoop at correction or explanation. When his attention is strongly engaged, let it disdain alike to turn aside to the name of
Theobald and of Pope [i.e. any commentator, no matter how famous]. Let him read on through brightness and obscurity, through integrity and corruption; let him preserve his comprehension of the dialogue and his interest in the fable. And when the pleasures of novelty have ceased, let him attempt exactness, and read the commentators.
Particular passages are cleared by notes, but the general effect of the work is weakened. The mind is refrigerated by interruption; the thoughts are diverted from the principal subject; the reader is weary, he suspects not why; and at last throws away the book, which he has too diligently studied.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hoots, Mon

Welcome to Scottish Literature after 1945" - English 342 at Simon Fraser University, Autumn 2006: a course on Scots taught to Canadians by an Englishman. A pant, awricht....

Bagpipes, Braveheart and Beyond: Postwar Scottish Literature

“It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.” P. G. Wodehouse

In this course we will read five novels and one play that will serve as an introduction to postwar Scottish literature. We will explore some of the specific historical and cultural contexts of these texts, looking at the way in which writers engage with different versions of Scottish national identity. We will also examine the legacies in modern Scottish literature of Imperialism and the Scottish Enlightenment. Additional topics for discussion and research may include the following: gender in the Scottish context; humour and irony; popular culture, film and music; Gaelic and Celtic; the Gothic; the Kirk and the dirk; the great Scottish cities and the rural lowlands and highlands; and, of course, usquebaugh.
Spark, Muriel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
McIlvanney, William Laidlaw
Lochhead, Liz Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off
Galloway, Janice The Trick is to Keep Breathing
Welsh, Irvine Trainspotting
Warner, Alan Morvern Callar
20% Group Field School Project
10% Participation
15% Individual research presentation
20% Mid-term essay (2000 words)
35% Final essay (3200 words)