felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)

I just wanted to note that I'm back from BC. It was a very quiet trip -- I spent most of my days there hanging out with [livejournal.com profile] node357, which was nice. He composed some new music while I was there, and showed me Psychonauts, which really does deserve its reputation ^_^

I also saw a couple of friends I hadn't seen in about fifteen years -- all thanks to the miracle of Facebook. I never did get to Vancouver this time, though, so that'll have to wait for Yule.

The best pleasure though -- aside from seeing [livejournal.com profile] node357 -- was that of seeing the place itself. Montreal is toxic and grey and cemented compared to that greenery and clean air that is BC. I like Montreal because most of my friends are here, but except for the Old Port, and some of the older stone houses and parks, I have to admit I consider this a very ugly and polluted city. Too much concrete, and too few growing things.

Airports continue to get more and more surreal -- they've always bothered me because the waiting areas between flights are really non-places that drift detached from anything in a bland emptiness where things get sold. In other words, they're Postmodernism incarnate.

The Pearson airport in Toronto has a particularly weird waiting area. There's a stall there that sells jewellery trees for little girls, in the shapes of princesses whose heads and arms have been replaced by necklace-and-ring-holding tentacles. My first thought was Jenova from FFVII, or something out of Lovecraft.

Not much else to report -- I did not defeat any ninja armies this time around. I wanted a good start on the major edit of my novel, but only got about one-quarter in. It's almost a third finished now.


"If there are one or more people on your friends list who make your world a better place just because they exist, and who you would not have met (in real life or not) without the Internet, then post this same sentence in your journal."

(I'm lucky in that this applies to probably most if not all of the people I've friended.)
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I finished Gentlemen of the Road yesterday. It was a brilliant novel. At first the pacing seemed odd -- too breathless -- until I discovered that (true to its 19th-century style) it was originally published in weekly instalments in a newspaper. Probably, also, it's that Chabon is used to writing 500-page novels, not 200-page ones.

It really does have all the hallmarks of a Victorian adventure story. It's meticulous in its portrayal of dress and historical details, but fully modern in its morals (modern in this case being 21st century, not 19th). There's a vaguely anachronistic mood hanging over it that's hard to pin down to any one thing, but just seems to be the characters' conception of the universe.

Also, I note that all the drawings are just slightly inaccurate. Knowing Chabon, this is probably intentional. He did write those missing-the-point footnotes to Kavalier and Clay, that miss the point exactly how actual footnotes would have.

Now I've on to much heavier fare -- Pink Blood, an examination by a Canadian journalist of a hundred homophobic/transphobic homicides in Canada over a ten-year period, and more than 300 violent acts over the same period.

Before I move on to the utter uselessness of the Canadian justice system when dealing with hate crimes, I'd like to point out that even Janoff -- for all his brilliance -- still uses that poorly-translated tagline of Michel Foucault's, the supposed, "The sodomite was a temporary aberration; the homosexual was a species."

Actually, Foucault said, "The sodomite was a relapsed heretic [relaps]" -- that is, someone who reverts to their original state, rather than adopts a temporary new one. So Queer Theory's been marching under a motto that's more apocrypha than canon.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
It's beginning to look like the game's going to be a no-go again. We just won't have enough players, so I thought I'd give everyone a head's up for Sunday. And next Sunday will probably be impossible :/

I'd still like to get together with people, though.

Editing is going slowly, because work has been insane. I had more hours of work this week than I've ever had at that job, and it looks the same for next week. We're testing around the clock -- last year at this time, it was so dead I was laid of for several months.

Our semi-new saleswoman works around the clock getting contracts. Our teachers are working 9 to 5, our filing cabinets are bursting with recent student tests, and everyone is frazzled. Summer has never been this busy before, from what I hear. I can only imagine what things are going to be like in September.

Otherwise, I read a short introduction/biography to Foucault today. Interesting. He's one of my least-favourite philosophers, but it helped me to find some redeeming qualities in him -- as a person, if not a philosopher.

I also discovered a few more reasons to dislike his ideas.

He was much more politically active than I thought, though, even as his ideas attacked real politicial commitment. I was also amused that he and Roland Barthes were on-again, off-again lovers -- there's a metaphor in that for the relationships of postmodernism and poststructuralism, I'm certain.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. This should be tatooed on the navel of everyone Postmodern and Marxist professor, where they are most likely to see it. If I ever start up the anti-postmodern English Literature Liberation Front, this is being incorporated into the manifesto.

Meme, cut for high school and other abominations. )
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Gradually getting caught up in all my courses. Editing about 10 pages a day -- an excrutiatingly slow rate. I'm also writing a short story on the side, just to burn off some of the creative energy.

Fulke Greville (1554-1628) was a living warning to parents that if you name your child "Fulke," they shall turn to poetry.

Someone was questioning the dominant postmodern viewpoint in class, and for once it wasn't me. His name is Chris.

I've heard people talking about this guy -- mocking comments behind his back -- but he's one of the most intelligent students in the program (well-thought-out and well-read). He was unwilling, today, to automatically rule out the existence of a true self or of free will -- a cardinal sin these days.

Everyone started looking at each other, as if someone had broken wind. Even the professor looked uncomfortable. She accidentally described him as "stuck" in his beliefs, before quickly changing it to "focused on."
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I'm so sick of postmodernism -- I know anybody reading this journal is probably sick of my being sick of PoMo.

Today I read a particularly vile piece of trash called "'Singing Our Way Out of Darkness': Findley's Anti-Censorship Argument in Headhunter." It's a Postmodern treatment of it, and I've never seen the Postmodern hypocrisy laid more bare.

Starting with Stanley Fish's book there's No such thing As Free Speech, and It's a Good thing, too, Mark Cohen makes a typically PoMo assault on "liberal values" (Linda Hutcheon, bearer of the sacred flame of Postmodernism since Michel Foucault died, takes "liberal values" as one of her favourite targets as well).

From the conclusion:

An overly rigid adherence to an absolute anti-censorship position is what causes liberals, often to their own consternation and clearly to the detriment of their societies, to support the right to free expression of the most heinous of hate-mongers and pornographers. As with most difficult moral issues in our society, the blind application of principle must give way to judgement. Judgement based on tests [Whose tests? Cohen's?], such as the one measuring the risk of harm [How do you measure the harm caused by a book? Maybe if it's thrown...], should be exercised in order to draw lines in a wise manner across a spectrum of menace.
Well, Cohen, you've convinced me. I'm going to start going out and burning books right now. Starting with all your work. And Fish's. And Foucault's...

Honestly, does censorship ever work? Canada's gay and lesbian bookstores are being eaten up by the cancer that is Canada Custom's obscenity rules -- rules supported by academics who suggested certain kinds of books were harmful. Has the banning of hate literature actually stopped hatred? Did the fatwa on Salman Rushdie bring an end to his career? How many people had never heard of Rushdie before the Ayatollah dropped the world's biggest bit of advertising into his lap?

And why is it that so many of my favourite books always make those 100-most-challenged books lists?

On another subject, I was still hoping for a bit of feedback on this paragraph, here. It's a protected entry, so you have to be logged on to see it...
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Well, now we're wading into the "appropriation of voice debate" in Canadian Lit this evening. This is going to be very interesting.

The question is, "Should writers have the moral and legal right to write about members of a minority they don't belong to?"

cut for length, musings )
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So, I'm wading through more PoMo stuff in preparation for my presentation. This one article from Canadian Poetry is about how Susanna Moodie's giddy desriptions of the beauties of nature are a way of establishing a dominative power relationship between her and the landscape.

I've also learned from the author of the article, Susan Johnston, that wealth and security are a prerequisite for appreciating the beauties of nature. Finding things in nature beautiful is apparently a province of the rich, and therefore bourgeois. In case we doubt the obviousness of this point, she makes sure to quote Immanuel Kant.

Not for the first time reading a postmodernist, I wonder if this woman still lives in her parents' basement, and yells "You're not the boss of me" whenever they ask her if she could please take out the trash.

I also wonder why I didn't go in for something more spiritually enriching and intellectually satisfying than English Lit, like digging septic tanks.

On a very different note, Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
This week's disasters have begun to peter out. My presentation was a success last night, which is good because it counts for a whopping percentage of the mark. Everyone looked bored, but then everyone always looks bored at these things. I tried to make it less boring by talking more about Atwood and Jung than the Samurai Susanna, but I gave the second major presentation of the night, so everyone was just falling asleep.

After me there was a presentation on some of the work of Catherine MacKinnon. One of her usual bait-and-switch, non-sequitor arguments used to demonize pornography by association ("In the 19th century, there was a lot of abuse of women in psychiatric institutions by male doctors. Here's the proof it was going on. Now, isn't porn evil?").

We didn't have time for class discussion after three presentations, so I didn't have a chance to rip into her. For those of you who don't know, MacKinnon's crusade for censorship has played a major part in the persecution of queer bookstores by Canada Customs. If it weren't for hers and Andrea Dworkin's briefs to the Supreme Court, Little Sister's and other bookstores wouldn't have to face the tyranny of Canada's most backward public institution.

Anyway, I have my ticket now to Advent Children -- today's English Tests were right near the theatre, so I ran out and grabbed it. I've never been as excited about seeing a movie in theatres as I am this time, especially since so few theatres around the world will be playing it.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Okay, so these last few days have been a nightmare.

The no-good, very-bad two days )
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I present to the thermonuclear warhead of annoying, the postmodern mime (from Linda Hutcheon's book):
"The very walls of the traditional museum and the very definition of art come under fire in the performances of Albert Vidal, for instance. His "The Urban Man" is a kind of anthropological performance ritual in which Vidal spends five hours a day in a major public place in a city (Miami's Metro Zoo or the Place d'Youville in Quebec City) offering to passers-by an "exhibit" of postmodern man about his daily business."
What is "postmodern man's" daily business? Deconstructing his groceries? Turning office memos into historiographic metafiction? Informing his boyfriend/girlfriend that love is a bourgeois concept and a construction of language, and that the "I" in "I love you" is a signifier that cannot be tied to a signified beyond language?

Oh well, there are reasons to be happy. I finally polished off more than 8 pages yesterday on my writing, though I've hardly done any today. Plus there's Advent Children to look forward to. And there was a gorgeous gay guy sitting next to me this evening in the internet place, so that made me happy :)

As for work, wish me luck. I'm going to be leading the placement test tomorrow, from 9 am to 4:30 pm. I even have a one-member "team" to help me with the interviews.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Little to say, except that my new novel is proceeding well, though I'm unsure of my most recent passage. I wrote 4 pages and a bit yesterday.

At work -- that is, at the place where I don't work -- I've been given more responsibility and more hours. On Monday, I'm going to be conducting the whole exam, not just the one-on-one interviews. I've only done this once, and under supervision. This time, it means meeting with the rep, making sure everything is order, leading the aural comprehension part, giving the dictation, etc.

But I'm still not officially working there, in spite of the best efforts of my former co-workers to convince the highers-up that they need me doing my old job.

For school, I'm still reading Linda Hutcheon. She writes in plain English, she dilutes most of the real stupidities of postmodernism, she admits the contradictions and paradoxes. But she still has no idea what my critical tribe is really like (frequently insulting us), and there's still an emptiness at the heart of it all I can't agree with.

At least she's less painful than the others I've been reading, though. With people like Barthes, Bloom, Lecker, and others, the stupidity is palpable.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I have not gotten far into Linda Hutcheon. I keep getting infuriated by this author. She's turned by philosophy into her bogeyman, constantly making claims about humanism which are not in the slightest true. I wonder where this stuff comes from.

Reading her vague-yet-vicious discussions of "liberal humanism" is like reading a long, scholarly essay on Spain's relations with its fellow Asian countries, particularly its near neighbours Laos and Japan. Not for the first time this year, I've wondered how someone so smart can be so stupid.

And if this is the best postmodernism can do, it's really depressing that it's taken over my field.

The constant talk in these books about "changing the system," "revolutionizing," "overthrowing," makes me wonder why they never mention what they want "the system" to change into, what the goals are of "revolution," what they want to be left over once it's all "overthrown." The purpose is never mentioned. I suppose purpose is "bourgeois" now, along with meaning, beauty, imagination, identity, readable books, happiness, love, and everything else that makes life worth living.

(I realize "bourgeois" is a standard French word, but has anyone ever seriously used that word in English without being "bourgeois" themselves?)

And is there any sight more depressing and funny at the same time than tenured professors, all echoing nearly-identical views, talking about revolution and bringing down the system. In English Lit, postmodernism is the system, and hearing about this is like hearing Maoist and Stalinist generals call their armies "the people's liberation armies."

(I hope I'm not irritating everyone by these constant rants, but if I don't rant somewhere, I think I'm going to have to punch a wall. I feel like everything I loved about books and literature and history is being ripped to shreds by a bunch of self-serving professors hungry to get published, and I'm not even sure I want to go on another semester.)
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So we've moved on to another postmodernist, Linda Hutcheon. She's the postmodernists postmodernists recommend to their sceptics, because she's saner, has some access to reality, and can carry on a discussion for some time before slipping into jargon.

So she's sort of the Locutus of postmodernism, since we apparently like borg metaphors around here :)

I'm trying to give her a fair chance. But she's already maligned my own theoretical approach about 6 times, and shown she doesn't understand it in the least, and I'm less than 5% through her book. And while she's more conscious, and more aware of reality, she's clearly too attached to many of the cynical ideas at the core of postmodernism that I just can't agree with.

It seems I'm not the only one in class. There's a guy in our course who's in the same "liberal humanist/thematicist" tradition I am, and we echo a lot of each other's points. I've already made him a convert of John Ralston Saul :)

And [livejournal.com profile] foi_nefaste? He's a former McGiller. He left because of Lecher.

One of his teachers -- the other Canadian Lit person at McGill -- had a great analogy for explaining Modernism and Postmodernism: "Modernism wanted to burn down the House of Art and Culture. Postmodernism is playing with the charred bits that are left" :)

Other than that, I'm working around the clock these days for the place that can't afford to hire me permanently. I'm working on call. For a guy who's been laid off, I seem to be clocking in more hours than when I was there officially :/
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Today I moved on from the post-structuralists to the structuralists, especially Gérard Genette. I'm beginning to wonder what is it about France that produce all these rather extreme literary critics.

The structuralists seem somewhat more sane, though it may just be Genette. He has a tendency to try and squeeze square pegs into round holes. he has a tendency to believe, "The living bird is ... the labeled bones." But at least he believes that words can have meanings, and that the vision of the author matters.

Meanwhile, I'm still perplexed by the obsession of post-structuralists for meaningless writing. They seem certain that everyone will share their quasi-sexual obsession with dull and deliberately meaningless avant-garde experimental books. And I mean quasi-sexual. Julia Kristeva and Roland Barthes both describe the experience of reading "words liberated from meaning" as a jouissance -- from the French jouir, "to come, to reach orgasm."

Apparently meaninglessness, confusion, and emptiness got them hot. I vaguely wonder if Roland Barthes is still alive, and if he uses videotapes of George W. Bush's press conferences as a sexual aide.

Edit: I've checked on Wikipedia. Apparently Roland Barthes died in 1980, run over by a laundry truck.

As gauche as it is to find humour in another human being's death, I have to admit I'm amused by a very famous post-structuralist's sudden and irreversible encounter with reality.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Strictly speaking, the scriptible [sic] text, when seen in terms of structuration, is not an object as such (although some texts contain more scriptibles than others); it is 'ourselves writing' ... Like the genotext, it has to be created anew in each reader, the observer being part of the observed.

Where do I sign up for the English course with actual English in them...?

And while we're at it, a word for Julia Kristeva, Roland Barthes, and the other darlings of the world of the Ivory Towers: language does not need to be "liberated" from meaning. It is not "enslaved" to the author in a "relationship reminiscent of a bourgeois father at the head of the family."

Meaninglessness and incomprehensibility are not goals worth pursuing. Language does not need to be "freed" from representing things.

People like you encourage those gods-awful experimental novels where they go on for three pages without a complete sentence or a direction, and then the authors complain bitterly that people just don't understand their work.

Why am I even in these courses? I feel like I know less than when I started.

On a lighter note, [livejournal.com profile] melting_penguin and Steve had their baby shower today, and it was a marvellous event. Hours later, I am still very full. Since [livejournal.com profile] melting_penguin is due in 2-3 weeks, the next time I see them, they may very well be parents :)
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Readings into nearly-impenetrable-and-always-nonsensical postmodern linguistics continues. Bakhtin seems mildly more sane than most, though Julia Kristeva's re-interpretation of his work is just silly.

In their effort to do away with the possibility of originality in writing -- in their desperation to prove that creativity does not exist, and that writers just repeat one another's words -- these bizarre philosophers have created a paradox they never address: where do new words come from? If all language is just a paraphrase or a quotation of somebody else's works, if nothing is original, then new words should not exist. For every word in existance, there is a first person who used it.

For that matter, how can Kristeva make these arguments about no language being original, while inventing new words herself. And does she have to invent new words for things we already have words for? Isn't her jargon thick enough already?

Saussure seems to claim (at least in this book) that language is transcendent to the point where mere individuals cannot change or alter it, cannot create anything new. Then how does language change over time?

I suspect that most of these people are just failed writers, and 90% of their arguments are just sour grapes. Most critics have serious inferiority complexes when it comes to the writers they write about, and for some that turns into a desire to lash out. It's easiest to kill the author or declare them unoriginal than to admit that one lacks the creative spark oneself.

I'm not quite at the section on Roland Barthes yet, though I've taken a little of his stuff before. He's the one who declared the author dead -- apparently only the book exists, an its readers, and (naturally) its critics. All I'm saying is that if he wants to kill the author, he's in for a fight.

It depresses me that a child of ten could see the stupidity of all these arguments, if a child of ten could penetrate the insane layers of jargon. Perhaps that's the reason for the jargon. Why can't the best minds of English literature figure out what a child of ten could? Or am I answering my own question?

If the emperor had clothes, they've long since been deconstructed. Where are the critics who admit they're no longer there.

And more importantly, why am I in a subject which takes that vibrant heart of society -- the weavings of its words, its stories, its songs -- and sacrifices them on the bloody altar of Logic and Reason?
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
'Tis been a long week. I've got my last English placement interviews of the week this afternoon, and I'll be glad to get that over.

I've have to read a short volume on postmodern linguistics. The fact that Saussure is influential is depressing. Assuming the author I'm reading is not misrepresenting his views (and I should probably give Saussure the benefit of the doubt, since I've read little of his stuff directly), the only way to make sense of his beliefs would be if all human languages had come into existance 2.5 million years ago, in their modern-day forms, and hadn't changed since.

I have to finish this book for Tuesday. But I couldn't resist taking a book on Québécois folktales out of the library. I don't think I need to mention which book I've actually been reading, but I feel somehow that learning about werewolves is somehow more relevant to my life than Saussurian linguistic theory.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
We had our first Canadian Lit course, yesterday, and had a bit of a surprise. Laura, the wonderful CanLit professor I had last year, has finally lost her voice permanently, and is now using a Stephen Hawking-style machine to communicate with the class.

Oddly, this isn't a bad thing. The only flaw of Laura's class is that she could hardly speak before, and when she spoke, it was so difficult to hear here that we missed half of what she said. She couldn't formulate her ideas properly.

She's gone in for highly creative course design again. The essays for her class are smaller, but we make three presentations instead of the usual one. There's also an oral lit part of the class -- when she was losing her voice, she started setting aside part of her courses to read portions of certain Canadian novels that were meant to be read aloud. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of the class, and it helps to appreciate a lot lit in a different way.

Even the Postmodern material is a little less painful this time around. She found a book that'll explain Saussure and Barthes in plain English to the newcomers, and it seems she's picking and choosing from the postmodern critics what she likes, rather than using it as a religion.

I think I'm going to like this course.

I should probably start making lists like [livejournal.com profile] laurange does. It seems to work for her.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I've moved from the post-structuralists to the structuralists now, especially Gérard Genette (does nobody write about this stuff outside of France? What is it about France and these extreme, often silly language theories?).

The structuralists are far from perfect. They have a tendency to try and stuff square pegs into round holes. They have a tendency to believe that "The living bird is ... its labelled bones." But at least they admit that words can have meaning, and what the author was trying to say is important.

Naturally the author of the book I'm reading seems to despise him.

I still can't get over the bizarre, quasi-sexual obsession some of these critics have with total meaninglessness in a book, and how they expect us to share their obsession. And I mean quasi-sexual. Julia Kristeva and Roland Barthes both described the excitement of "text liberated from meaning" as a jouissance -- roughly, an orgasm.

Apparently, meaninglessness, confusion, and emptiness got them hot. I wonder vaguely if Roland Barthes is still alive, and -- if so -- if he uses videotapes of George W. Bush's press conferences as a sexual aide.

Edit: I checked. He died in 1980, run over by a laundry van. Why does that seem appropriate?


felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)

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