radfrac_archive: (bat signifier)
Actually, this was not an assignment, just a passing suggestion, but it seemed like an interesting idea.

In Literary Theory, we've just read a provocative Leo Bersani essay from 1987: "Is the Rectum a Grave"?

Which, best essay title ever. The suggestion was that we take his opening statement to our friends and see what kind of debate it engenders.

There is a big secret about sex: most people don't like it.


longer version of the quote, if you like a little context with your debates )

Good times.

radfrac_archive: (Harold Ross of the New Yorker)
You don't have a laptop I could borrow for a few days, do you?

I need to have it long enough to get comfortable running a PowerPoint presentation on it.

Or I need to get talked out of the PowerPoint aspect. Whichever.

Right now I am not at all keen to be trying a new format for the first time whilst being graded, but I see the use of it as a graphic aid. I'm giving a presentation on Parveen Adams' essay about gender division versus gender differentiation models. You can see how pictures would help.

Since the talk is on Valentine's Day I'm thinking of giving out valentines with key psychoanalytic positions on them. Or I suppose we could just circulate the phallus.

Speaking of: There will be no Weird Hearts party this season. The aforementioned presentation trumps it, I'm afraid. It is Ace of my Heart just now. Dagger in. Etc.

But if you ask nicely I'll mail you a phallus.

radfrac_archive: (bat signifier)
I've actually managed to finish the readings before Day Of this week. I would feel excellent about this if I had also understood them.

Actually, I didn't have much trouble with "Structure, Sign and Play", but "The Law of Genre" refuses to yield.

I explained it like this to Gay Men Read Books Exclamation Mark prof:

Here's me and Derrida (or, as S. calls him, Didi -- I don't know who Gogo would be. In this case maybe me.)

Didi: The genre has a marker which marks it as part of the genre.
Me: Yes, I see.
Didi: The genre is always too large and too small for the texts that belong to it.
Me: Right with you.
Didi: Thus the marker unmarks the text.
Me: Whurf?

I notice my reaction to a text is combative. I run at it, head down, as it were, and my first reaction is: You're wrong and you make no sense.

Then: You're a genius!

Then: Your basic postulates are sound but your examples are flawed.

Consistently. It must be In Me rather than in the text.

radfrac_archive: (bat signifier)
UVic library, post-class. I have to work out this dinner business. The possession of a quantity of nourishing mush is key -- [livejournal.com profile] inlandsea's soup, taken at about 2:30, was essential, but still I spent the last half-hour of the class in a fog of hunger and cognitive overstimulation.

I think I may have been put on the earth to read literary theory. I can't think why there would need to be one of these, me, but here I am.

That said, this week was if anything more challenging. Last week was more iconic, with Saussure and Foucault, but this week -- Attridge and White -- became more particular and so in some ways more difficult to navigate.

It's fascinating how much my assumption of what the theorist wants to accomplish, what they like and don't like, alters my reading.

The professor showed us today how to read a theory essay like a narrative. As a free-wheeling kind of analysis, it very much helps to humanize the text (which otherwise seems so daunting) and to give a powerful structural sense of the elements at play. Characters, she says, plot, point of view -- literary theory always has all of these, because it's literary theorists writing it.

Very good fun. And my idea for the rearrangement of the tables was approved. (I shall next week tackle my plan for the Drains...)



Jan. 3rd, 2008 06:28 pm
radfrac_archive: (Ben Butley)
First week's readings:

Saussure. "General Principles." Course in General Linguistics. pp 65-98
Foucault. "The Order of Discourse." Untying the Text: A Post-Structuralist Reader. pp 48-78

Macdonell. Theories of Discourse: An Introduction.
Pecheux. language, Semantics and Ideology: Stating the obvious.

I scored this latter couplet from the third floor only moments ahead of another student. I half-heartedly offered to give her one of the two, but she said any excuse not to have to do the extra work was okay with her. Still, I feel a twinge.

The course is carefully thought out. By which I mean I approve of the structure. The professor's given consideration to the pacing of a semester and the relative likelihood of readings' getting done. She's ensured our reading by requiring short responses each week in the form of a set of questions. There's a website participation component (that might be a bit tricky from home, though I guess I could do it from work, or go up to the university library) and a seminar presentation and a research paper and an exam. She said that she'll direct the discussion for the first five weeks, and then turn it more over to us, whereupon our seminar presentations will begin.

I like the professor. She's subtle and alarmingly attentive. I'm used to offering a professor a kind of magic-lantern narrative of facial expressions in response to their lectures. I think of it as a reassuring dumb show, a sort of mimetic reinforcement. She, however, actually reacts to and addresses these responses as though they were utterances.


She seems very accessible, in terms of taking any response and making it work in the context of the discussion. I felt as though my contributions were a bit stupid in the first half, but I rallied a little later on.

Summary: daunting and exhilarating. I'm excited, in the way you are just before a rollercoaster starts. Already short of breath in anticipation.

radfrac_archive: (robot love)
Listening to Michael Silverblatt interviewing Anne Carson about tragedy. Having discovered a seventeen-year online archive of audio files of Bookworm, his interview show.

Which could be something like 400 hours of recordings, assuming some time off for vacations. Or seventeen days of interviews.

It isn't as cheerful as his usual interviews, but they've attained a kind of equal focus and gravity, and the interview has as astounding weight, as though it were spoken in some heavier material than air, some more substantial wave than sound.

radfrac_archive: (Ben Butley)
Long time since I could sit down to post properly.

I am reading H.P. Lovecraft criticism for fictional reasons. I hadn't before encountered Fritz Leiber's wonderfully lucid explication of the science-fictional aspects of Lovecraft's horror. These have puzzled me, since, as a product of my era's mythology, I grew up thinking of the vastness of space as a mostly benign Star-Trekkian frontier.

That reminds me.
Digression for Star Trek dream. )
He... firmly attached the emotion of spectral dread to such concepts as outer space, the rim of the cosmos, alien beings, unsuspected dimensons, and the conceivable universes lying outside our own space-time continuum. [Leiber, p.51]

Can you think of other writers who did this particular thing, talked about the horror of space, rather than falling into what I will spontaneously dub the pseudo-western or pseudo-naval subgenres? Rather than the model of frontier / air/sea warfare / some combination of the two -- others who wrote about the weight of emptiness, so to speak?

So I'm writing, and talking about it doesn't seem to be ruining it. I'm writing with great joy and excitement, and I think this is the most whole story I have ever written. The story is connected, sort of, to Lovecraft, though not to the horror of space -- more to the corporeal horror of "The Thing on the Doorstep."

A digression still involving Lovecraft, but pulling in Neil Gaiman and other recent reading, to return eventually to a point about what I mean by 'most whole story'. )
This story has a wholeness of action that I haven't accomplished before. Still, the pivotal point seemed flat, like old ghost stories that can't frighten you because you know their tropes too well.

The excellent Z. came over the other night, and I screwed up my courage to ask for her opinion. I described my plot as it stood, and I said, "I just can't help feeling it should be more horrible. It's supposed to be uncanny, but the climax feels both correct and insufficient. It fits the genre and the action, but it's not awful enough. Does there need to be a tentacled creature appearing from the corpse or something? That seems like bringing in too many elements."

[N.B. I was somewhat drunk and not nearly this articulate.]

"Well, what if x?" she said.

"I thought of x," I said, "But it didn't seem quite... although... if x happened this way... Hey now."

She smiled. And that was all it took to solve my dilemma -- courage, and one extremely clever friend.

I think that's the first time I've ever asked for help thinking through a plot. Historically, I hoard the story to my chest, crooning over it, even watching it die for lack of nourishment, because I'm afraid it will wither if anyone sees it.

I'm hoping to finish it this weekend, at least to complete draft stage. And then...

radfrac_archive: (Ben Butley)
Last week I acquired a Penguin 20th of The Club of Queer Trades, and I’ve been re-reading. It's my favourite Chesterton after The Man Who Was Thursday. The Club of the title (and didn't I pick it up for the title?) is made up of men who invent new and singular professions.

We're an odd couple, Chesterton and me. Here follows Saturday morning's impromptu essay. It was that or play Solitaire. )

[Sorry, forgot to cut-tag this the first time through]


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