September 9, 2014
This may seem odd, but when I see an image of Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) fame, I think of Japan. There are many KFC outlets in Japan, and each one has an incredible statue of Colonel Sanders by the entrance way. Although he did live, he doesn’t to me appear to be a real living person. Only an image. A ghost image to be honest. Also when I used to eat meat, I liked the Japanese version of KFC. For whatever reasons, which are a mystery to me, the Japanese taste seems different in these chain of fast-food stores. Everyone I know in Japan loves KFC. Now, I don’t love the food but I’m fascinated with the numerous statues of Colonel Sanders.
Colonel Sanders was born on September 9, 1890 in a small house in Henryville, Indiana. The population was 1,905 according to the 2010 census. Weather wise, Henryville has a humid subtropical climate, which means it has hot, humid summers and generally mild winters. In 1902, after his father died, he moved with his family to Greenwood, Indiana. He didn’t get along with his new step-father, and drifted away from his home life to move in with his uncle in New Albany, Indiana. His uncle worked for the city’s streetcar company, and got his nephew a job as a conductor. He then falsified his date of birth and joined the United States Army in 1906, where he was sent to Cuba. He was honorably discharged after only three months and then moved to Sheffield, Alabama, where another uncle lived. There he got a job as a blacksmith’s helper, and then eventually became a fireman at the age of 16.
He got married, had three children, and while being a fireman during the day, at night he studied law by correspondence and eventually became a lawyer. His legal career ended when he got into a fistfight with his client in a courtroom. He then moved to Jeffersonville, Indiana to work for the Prudential Life Insurance Company, where he sold life insurance. He then got fired for insubordination, and got a salesman job with the Mutual Benefit Life of New Jersey. Around this time, he started up a ferry boat company that was a success. He operated a boat that went from Jeffersonville to Louisville and back. He sold his business for $22,000 and used the money to launch a company that made acetylene lamps. Sadly this was not the right type of lamp, because Delco introduced an electric lamp that soon became the format that was sold at the time. He moved to Winchester, Kentucky to work as a salesman for the Michelin Tire Company, but lost that jobs when Michelin closed their New Jersey manufacturing plant. He then met the general manager of Standard Oil of Kentucky, who asked him to run a service station in Nicholasville. But like his luck, that too didn’t pan out, due to the Great Depression, and therefore the gas station had to shut down. However, if you failed once, try again. The Shell Oil Company gave a service station to Sanders rent free in return for a percentage of sales. It was here that he began to serve chicken dishes and at the same time he was awarded with the title of Kentucky Colonel, by the Governor of the state of Kentucky.
Colonel Sanders claimed that he had a original secret recipe for his chicken, and the only thing he had to admit to the public was that he used salt and pepper as well as 11 herbs and spices. The big difference between KFC in the U.S. & Japan is that in the States they use vegetable oil for frying the chicken. In Japan, the oil used is mainly the more expensive cottonseed and corn oil. Therefore the taste difference between the two cultures. So the colonel eventually sold KFC to John Y. Brown, Jr. And Jack C. Massey for $2 million. When many years later Brown and Massey sold the chain for $239 million.
Colonel Sanders died in 1980, but in truth did he even existed? After he was awarded the identity of being a Kentucky colonel, he immediately dressed himself as one. He grew a goatee and wore a black string tie with a white suit. He never wore anything else in public, and he in fact bleached his mustache and goatee to match his white hair and white suit. He had a heavy wool white suit for the winter, and wore a white light cotton suit in the summer time. Colonel Sanders wore this uniform for twenty years. So even after his physical death, he still lives on as the logo for KFC. But again in Japan, one is accustomed to see his features, his white suit, string tie, in front of 1,181 outlets as of December 2013. As of this writing, Kentucky Fried Chicken is well known as being the meal at Christmas time in Japan. Roughly one billion chickens are killed each other, and therefore I usually just have a salad on Christmas Day.
in LTCM: Milton!
Milton, books 1-4 of Paradise Lost
#Stanley Fish, from Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost, 2nd ed. (1967; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), 22-37
#Christopher Ricks, from Milton’s Grand Style (Oxford: Clarendon, 1963), 118-138
#Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, from “Milton’s Bogey: Patriarchal Poetry and Women Readers,” The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979), 187-207
September 8, 2014
“There is no me. I do not exist… There used to be a me, but I had it surgically removed.” It isn’t I can’t stand myself, but I’m on the surface extremely dull. There is no spice in my DNA to make me special. What I can do is re-invent myself to a better version of me. Or just start from scratch and make a totally new “me.” I tried to do my best to blend in with the crowd that I came to be accustomed to, but clearly they never took me seriously. All of them feel that I’m a performer, but for the heck out of them, they can’t remember one film or theater piece I have done. They know that I exist, but in what degree is totally beyond them.
As a card-carrying pataphysician, I have consistently been mistaken for Peter Sellers. The interesting fact is that we don’t look like each other at all. But still, I’m consistently reminded of him, due to what people think he or I looks like. A day doesn’t go by, where someone doesn’t comment on the resemblance of the dead late comic actor. If he was alive, I wonder if people would still make the comparisons between me and him. “The dead… are more real than the living because they are complete.” I suspect if I was dead, then I would get my own identity back. Again, even with that, my lack of uniqueness would be very difficult for someone to pin me down. Even my face is not mine, but a remembrance of someone else’s face or appearance.
To live in one’s shadow, is a traveler wandering in a neighborhood where he’s not invited, but accepted with closed arms. I have often appeared in front of an audience, but they expecting something else, or even someone else. It takes approximately ten minutes into my performance where the audience realizes that they are at the wrong show. After awhile, I believe “that the applause of silence is the only kind that counts.” Everyday I try to re-think myself in a new position where I find that I need to think what ‘my character’ would do in a certain or specific incident or plan. It is rarely that I consider “what I would do” but mostly ‘what would he or she does. ” And that is pretty much how I see the world. A fellow pataphysician has commented that “the theater, bringing impersonal masks to life, is only for those who are virile enough to create new life: either as a conflict of passions subtler than those we already know, or as a complete new character."
I was reading Siegried Sassoon’s poetry and I came upon a statement by him that touched me: “The fact is that five years ago I was, as near as possible, a different person to what I am tonight. I, as I am now, didn’t exist at all. Will the same thing happen in the next five years? I hope so.” The only occupation that I’m suitable for is acting. Sadly I can’t remember a written line if my very life been dependent on it. What I do is improvised anytime I find myself in a conversation with someone. I never know where or when the conversation ends, but I pretend that I do know, and I think the other person will just gently follow my lead - in a sense it is like dancing the waltz, where one leads the other.
I wrote a play, that had one performance, so I guess one can call it a total failure. Nevertheless, the lead character stayed with me, and I adopted his language as my own. For instance I never say the wind or it's windy, instead I would say “that which blows.” Slowly but surely I built up a character that became comfortable to wear. But I was always aware that the things I said or do was based on another character - sometimes a fictional character. In the future (if there is a future) the play “will not be performed in full until the author (the royal we) has acquired enough experience to savor all it beauties.” I tend to see the world as a theater piece, and sadly, I’m the only one in the audience.
Remember the color-coded Homeland Security Threat Level system?
Remember how it made you feel?
My latest project is called Enkutatash እንቁጣጣሽ. It’s a participatory music performance transforming security threats into spiritual renewal. It debuts on Thursday September 11th, the Ethiopian New Year (Ethiopia uses its own calendar system) in Washington D.C.
Enkutatash እንቁጣጣሽ treats the changing threat-level data as a musical score to be sung by a D.C. choir and audience participants, using the five-note (pentatonic) Ethiopian musical scale. Accompanying the choir are several pieces developed from East African harvest/new year songs for masinqo (one-string lute) and voice, performed by Gezachew Habtemariam and Kalkidan Woldermariam.
After the performance there will be music by all-lady DJ crew Anthology of Booty and complimentary vegetarian Ethiopian food in tribute to the holiday, from which the piece takes its name and inspiration. Everything is FREE and open to the public. Festival info page | Facebook event invite (pls help spread the word if you’re on Facebook!).
For a glimpse of what to expect, on Friday we did a 15-minute preview performance at the Dither Extravaganza event in Brooklyn. Ben ‘Baby Copperhead’ captured a few minutes of the room audio from that:
The free outdoor event takea place this Thursday, September 11th, at the Gateway Pavilion at St. Elizabeth’s East, in D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood. St. Elizabeth’s is the former national mental institution that currently houses, among others, the Department of Homeland Security.
Doors open at 6, with Enkutatash beginning at 6:30. Event is rain or shine (we will be under the Gateway structure, protected from the elements). There will be shuttle bus from the Congress Heights metro to the event location, & maps for those who prefer to take the 10-minute walk through the grounds of St.Elizabeth’s.
When curator Stephanie Sherman approached me about doing a site-specific composition in the capital for her Near Futures / 5×5 Festival selection, I knew I wanted to engage with D.C.’s role as a center of government as well as its reality as home to the largest Ethiopian community outside of Africa. Mixing homeland security threat levels with African songs about returning to one’s homeland to celebrate the new season… Making various systems audible and overlapping, bringing ourselves into the picture with voice.
When I told them I was looking for a masinqo player, my friends in Debo Band and The Ex both directed me to the hugely talented Gezachew. And Josef Palermo suggested the Sept 11/Ethiopian New Years connection which grew into the title & date of the piece. Five colors, five notes, many ways of understanding and cherishing the day.
September 7, 2014
“I have often wished I had time to cultivate modesty… But I am too busy thinking about myself.” I don’t have a lot of knowledge about the world that’s out there, but I do know myself, and in the end of the day, that is all I could offer you. Now, whatever that is good or not, is totally up to you. I can only offer what I know, which is not much. I feel like I 'm 250 years old, and man does my eyes feel heavy. All I know is that I’m a man of excellent taste, and “good taste is the worst vice ever invented. ” To stand out in the world is like asking someone to cut your throat. It’s not a nice world out there. In fact, it’s a jungle. And I wish I can inform you that I’m Tarzan, but I’m more like George of the Jungle.
I feel time is marching on, and I’m afraid that I will remain in the dustbin of history, which means totally ignored, and my writing is lost somewhere in the Central Los Angeles Library. I wake up with the greatest dread, knowing that I’m facing at least 12 or 13 hours of failure. “You know the horrible life of the alarm clock – it’s a monster that has always appalled me because of the number of things its eyes project, and the way that good fellow stares at me when I enter a room.” I feel time mocks me, and I know when my birthday just passed, people were thinking “there he goes…”
Not long ago I purchased a six albums (on vinyl) box set of Buddy Holly’s music. America has produced many talented people, but none is more important than Buddy Holly. He was a figure that was totally a modernist, specifically with his take on music making as well as appearance. The heavy dark rim glasses, with the beautiful suits and sweaters that he wore, it had a profound affect on me, because I had trouble seeing without my glasses. His imperfections became a symbol of perfectionism. He turned the negative into the positive, why that boy was a magician as well as a superb musician. His death, to this day, is exactly what I can’t take in. I cannot possibly understand why he went in that dinky airplane in a storm to get somewhere early, so he can do his laundry before the next show. Dandyism is a life-style, but it can also lead one to an early death. Yet, there can't possibly be a God, to let go such a brilliant talent. He tested against the elements, and lost. I obviously don't have his genius, but I do have the talent to lose, in a major and significant way.
“Hot water is my native element. I was in it as a baby, and I have never seemed to get out of it ever since.” I’m not worthy of living in a world that makes such great demands on my ability to create chaos that is my poetry. “Poetry is the deification of reality, ” and I feel like I’m standing against a wind machine, that is blowing me towards another direction, that I care not to go. “ART does not exist - So it is useless to talk about it - but! people go on being artists - because it's like that and no way else - Well - so what? ”
I never got over the death of Buddy Holly and especially Jacques Vaché. Two poets who I feel didn’t finish their work. At this point and time, I have outlived both, for many years. Holly was quoted in saying that “Death is very often referred to as a good career move.” Perhaps he’s right, but I feel I was left by the side of the road, and I don’t have a compass to tell me what direction I should go to. The art is to wander. “I’m not trying to stump anybody… it’s the beauty of the language that I’m interested in.” - Buddy Holly.
Book-recommending has unsurprisingly become a tradition at the BG Literary retreat (see 2013, 2012). Below are the titles we talked about this year, and as a bonus, miscellaneous productivity & other tools. In no particular order.
Revolution by Deborah Wiles
The Warmth of Other Suns: the Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
California Bones by Greg van Eekhout
Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Last Dragonslayer series Jasper Fforde
The Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis
The League of Seven by Alan Gratz
We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory
Salvage by Alexandra Duncan
Dirty Wings by Sarah McCarry
Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle
Tequila Mockingbird by Tim Federle
Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
Doll Bones by Holly Black
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy
All the Way to Fairyland by Evelyn Sharp
The Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French
At The Bottom of the Garden: a dark history of fairies, hobgoblins, nymphs, and other troublesome things by Diane Purkiss
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
Pointe by Brandy Colbert
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
A Stranger in Olondria and “Selkie Stories Are For Losers” by Sofia Samatar
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Pretty Deadly Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios
The Sixth Gun by Brian Hurtt and Cullen Bunn
Rat Queens by Kurtis J Wiebe
Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja
Ms. Marvel v. 1 by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Stumptown by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth
Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro
The Superior Foes of Spider-Man by Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber
Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers Workshop by Kate Wilhelm
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer
The Fiction Editor, the Novelist and the Novel by Thomas McCormack
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
Poking a Dead Frog by Mike Sacks
Productivity & Other Tools
Mind mapping with coggle.it
SpiderOak as a DropBox alternative
For outlining: Screenwriting Beat Sheets
And finally, not a tool, but forever my favorite article about procrastination, Robert Benchley’s marvelous “How To Get Things Done,” which begins: “A great many people have come up to me and asked me how I manage to get so much work done and still keep looking so dissipated.” Read the whole thing, then get to work.
September 6, 2014
The one film role that I wish I did, but didn’t, for the obvious reason, is to play Count Orlok in the film “Nosferatu.” I identify with the character because he’s living death or known as “The Bird of Death.” I live in a large home that was slowly decaying due to the lack of money and resources on my part. For instance, if I’m sleeping on my back, and at a certain angle, I can see the stars right above me in my bedroom. Luckily there’s a drought in California, or I would be in terrible trouble. I tend to have sleepless nights, so I often wander from one room to another. Sometimes with a purpose, but mostly not. I own a DVD copy of “Nosferatu” and I tend to play it around 3:00 in the morning. Being half-asleep, and permanently disturbed, I find a certain amount of peace watching this film.
To make savings on electricity and power, I rarely use any lighting in the house, except for the TV, and even that, I only allow so many hours to watch the set. I don’t have cable, so what I watch on the set is mostly my DVD collection. Rice, vegetable stock for soup, and beans are pretty much my diet these days. Thank God that there is a local library in my neighborhood, so I can in a sense read books for free. To remove myself from all the abstractions in the world sets me free to use my imagination. I often try to imitate the actor Max Schreck who played Count Orlok, for the purpose of attempting to ground myself in a world that is shifting away from me. It has been noted that he lived in “a remote and incorporeal world” and that he spent time walking in the forest.
I don’t have any paintings or images on the wall. Nor do I have mirrors. I have a tendency to forget what I look like, and I sort of like being in a situation where I can never describe myself to anyone. My only desire is to look like Count Oriok, and therefore why do I need a mirror?
Before dawn hits the sky, I like to wander around my spacious backyard, which is so full of trees and bushes. I like to lie on the dirt and look upwards towards the fading stars, and the reflection of nearby neon lighting of Glendale, and imagining myself coming from this dirt, yet being part of the sky. As I get older, I try to imagine what death feels like. I don’t see it being a painful experience, but neither is it an abstract plane. I sometimes feel that I have died, and I’m just floating around the residence with not a purpose or plan.
In minor chaos and disarray at this end! I am having a very good month: my only complaint about it is that all the good things are happening in a very compressed time period, whereas I know there will be long dull stretches at other points that would have benefited from this kind of stimulus!
(New Tana French was so good that I just wanted to read it all over again when I finished. Also enjoying Vikram Chandra's new book - excerpt here
- but fuller light reading log will have to await some more leisurely moment. Had a great meeting Thursday with an editor I'm keen to write for, found a very good dress yesterday to wear for my one annual professional black-tie event, new semester still has the glow on it, etc. etc.)
Heading off in a couple hours to New Paltz for the SOS Triathlon. My brother and his family are crewing for me - niece GG just had her first day of kindergarten on Thursday, as well as her fifth birthday on Tuesday, so I am excited to hear all about it on the car on the way there! I'm taking NJ Transit out to where they are - they have just moved into a new house in Rutherford, this will be my first visit (of many I hope!).
Haven't finished everything for Monday's initial seminar meeting, but the syllabus is finalized and I don't teach till late afternoon, so that should be OK - ditto Tuesday's class on Milton. One letter of recommendation that I will try and squeeze out this morning if I can get tidied up and packed in sufficiently good time. One more tenure letter due the 15th, but it was slightly amazing that I got two of the other ones done over the holiday weekend.
Triathlon: sport of stuff!
Syllabus design also breeds an accumulation of things:
And then there's the OTHER syllabus!
September 5, 2014
It is hard work to do nothing. I’m always filling my day with things to do, to avoid the nothing. Once I wake up in the morning, there are the few minutes of dread where nothing is happening. I’m trying to set my mind on what the day will be like. I check my calendar, and like a lot of people, I’m obsessed with making lists. If I have less than five things to do that day, I feel depressed. Then slowly the feeling of guilt that you should be producing something, even if it’s not important. I open up my computer and look at the blank screen. Nothing is happening. I then look out my front window, facing Waverly Drive, and I see no one. Usually there are people walking their dogs at this time in the morning, but alas, I see only a fat furry cat walking down the sidewalk by he or her self. A dog when is either on a leash or free from it, always walks without a purpose or direction. A cat walks going to a specific direction in mind, and is rarely side-tracked by anything, unless someone approaches it. There is one moment which becomes tense, when I see the cat walk behind a parked car, and I wonder if I will see it again exiting that car. The moment I see the cat again, I feel a sense of relief. He or she then enters into an opening of the bush, and disappears.
For me, there is no feeling of the cat being cute, or beautiful. I simply like to see it walking down the sidewalk with a sense of purpose or plan. This actually inspires me to get back to my writing. There is a piece of music that causes me a great deal of anxiety and it’s John Cage’s “4’33.” It has a strict format where the piano player sits behind his keyboard and doesn’t play anything for the duration of four minutes and thirty-three seconds. People think this is a work of silence, but in fact it is totally the opposite of silence. When you are in a concert hall or theater “hearing” this piece, you are immediately aware of the sounds around you - perhaps a nervous cough, a clearing of the throat, a fart, or the fear of making a farting noise, air conditioner, heating vent, shuffling of feet, and so forth.
When I write I need consistent sound around me. Either music or outside ambient sounds, for instance traffic noise, as well as a child screaming down the block from me. Each sound is like someone hitting me with an live electric wire, which gets my brain to jump. I work in a lonely place, which is pretty much my head. This is no longer a bad thing at all. To actually feel the space between yours truly and the world is an area that I can measure and fill up images with, but I also can subtract imagery as well. The thing is you just have to control the noise around you, and something like “4’33” is actually chaos. Because you can’t really control the noise level or silence in one’s life. So setting everything aside, you sit there for “4’33” in quietness that is impossible, and also the anxiety or blissfulness knowing that things will happen again at 4 minutes and thirty-four seconds. It has a beginning and an end.
It’s very work-orientated. We usually have 8 hours a day to work. Within those 8 hours, we have two fifteen minutes breaks, and usually an half-n-hour lunch. Or it could be an hour lunch. Nevertheless this sets a schedule for the entire day that one can’t really question or get out of, unless you call in sick. Or like me, unemployed. When you don’t have a job, you’re facing a series of moments that cannot be filled. So one is left with the anxiety of confronting ‘nothing.' Drinking is a very simple way of dealing with the sense of time wasting away. Because at least you are taking something that sort of comments on time passing, and you reflect on the failure or happiness of those moments.
I’m trying to do away with my vices, so I just focus on being on the entrance to nothing. I want to face that void, and be contented with the blankness that will come upon me. That, hasn’t happened yet. I remember seeing a performance by Yves Klein called “Monotone-Silence Symphony” in New York, and what the piece consists of is an orchestra of 70 musicians and singers performing a D major chord for 20 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of silence. The members of the orchestra are instructed not to move and just sit on their seats. It’s a tougher piece than “4’33” because we know that the silence will last exactly 20 minutes. So one is getting around 16 minutes of more silence. But we do get the contrast between sound and silence in this work. I have met someone who went to one of the performances and felt that the work failed, because the silence part was not done properly.
Daniel Moquay, who is in charge of the Yves Klein archive and estate was quoted regarding a performance of the piece that took place in a Parisian church: ““The door of the church was open, and a pigeon came in and sat where everyone could see him,” he said. “During the 20-minute silence, he did not move at all. It was kind of incredible. And then when the silence was over, he left. ”
Diana Athill on the books that made her
(all four of these are important for me too):
The first two are obvious: War and Peace and Middlemarch. All novels create places and people; those two create whole worlds. To both I return repeatedly. In Tolstoy’s case it was some time before I bothered with War, because the love stories were more important to the teenager I was then, and even in my twenties I rather sheepishly edged back into Peace about halfway through. Not until much later did I see how wonderful the War part of the book is. Now the only parts I skip are the few passages in which Tolstoy pontificates. The more one knows about his life the clearer it is that in many ways he was maddening, and there are tiny chinks in the book through which this can be glimpsed; but the miracle is that in War and Peace his genius prevailed over his human failings.
I had the opposite experience reading War and Peace
as a teenager: I had imagined of course that the drawing-room/love chapters would be what would enthrall me, but really I was completely captivated by the war sequences and considerably less interested in the home front (really this makes sense given how mentally involved I was with historical fiction along the lines of Mary Renault, Robert Graves, Gore Vidal etc.). It is probably a failing of readerly sentiment, but I still don't see how any novel-reader could possibly prefer Anna Karenina
to War and Peace
- in fact one reason I love Clarissa
so much is that really it is much more like War and Peace
avant la lettre than like any novel of adultery! I should try and write something sometime about Austen and Tolstoy, it is a counter-intuitive but compelling pairing....
I first taught this graduate seminar about ten years ago - I wasn't that long out of graduate school, and though it's not exactly classic eighteenth-century studies, it made more sense at that time, since there were no eighteenth-century graduate students and I was more hoping to woo a few nineteenth-centuryists over the romantic divide, to teach something like this that complemented the lecture course I also offered on the eighteenth-century novel more traditionally conceived. In that iteration (the list of novels was a little different too), I gave a big critical bibliography and had each student write a report one week on a work of criticism or history that would summarize & make accessible that essay or book's arguments for classmates.
It was a late curriculum decision to add this course for the fall semester (leaves and departures left us undersupplied with graduate seminar in 18th- and 19th-century literature). This is an easy and fun one for me to bring out for the occasion, and we again have a strong incoming cohort of nineteenth-centuryists who may find these readings interesting and useful. But I really wanted to do a fuller job with the criticism.
It's not true for all graduate seminars, and I would consider my particular strength as a teacher and scholar being more my ability to make even the oddest and most obscure of 18th-century books come alive than any particular affinity for big-picture critical thinking, but it is very useful if a seminar like this can provide an introduction to the sub-discipline, touching on a few big critical controversies that extend even outside the subfield (here, say, the Sedgwick-Miller axis and also the Moretti) and that would put the student in a better position to write a dissertation chapter or an article on a constellation of comparable primary texts.
Now the class is telling two different stories in counterpoint, something I enjoy!
I love Facebook these days for crowdsourcing questions of this sort - I got some great recommendations from friends and colleagues. Here is the retooled list of readings (special thanks to Anahid Nersessian, who suggested a couple things I never would have thought of, and to Marcie Frank for sharing her in-press essay on Inchbald):
WOMEN, POLITICS AND THE NOVEL, 1790-1818
9/8 Introductory class
9/15 Elizabeth Inchbald, A Simple Story (1791)
#Terry Castle, “Masquerade and Utopia II: Inchbald’s ‘A Simple Story,’”from Masquerade and Civilization: The Carnivalesque in Eighteenth-Century English Culture and Fiction (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1986), 290-330
#Marcie Frank, “Melodrama and the Politics of Literary Form in Elizabeth Inchbald,” forthcoming in Eighteenth-Century Fiction
9/22 Charlotte Smith, Desmond (1792)
#Gary Kelly, “Women Novelists and the French Revolution Debate: Novelising the Revolution/Revolutionizing the Novel,” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 6:4 (July 1994): 369-88
#Claudia L. Johnson, “The Age of Chivalry and the Crisis of Gender,” from Equivocal Beings: Politics, Gender, and Sentimentality in the 1790s: Wollstonecraft, Radcliffe, Burney, Austen (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 1-19
9/29 William Godwin, Caleb Williams (1794)
#Jon Mee, “Critical Conversation in the 1790s: Godwin, Hays, and Wollstonecraft,” from Conversable Worlds: Literature, Contention, and Community, 1762-1830 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 137-167
#John Bender, "Impersonal Violence: The Penetrating Gaze and the Field of Narration in Caleb Williams," in Critical Reconstructions: The Relationship of Fiction and Life, ed. Roger B. Henkle and Robert M. Polhemus (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 111-126
#Andrew Franta, “Godwin’s Handshake,” PMLA 122:3 (2007): 696-710
10/6 Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary (1788) and The Wrongs of Woman: or, Maria (1798)
#Claudia L. Johnson, “Embodying the Sentiments: Mary and The Wrongs of Woman,” in Equivocal Beings, 47-69
#Miranda J. Burgess, “Wollstonecraft and the revolution of economic history,” from British Fiction and the Production of Social Order, 1740-1830 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 113-49
10/13 Mary Hays, Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1796) and William Godwin, Memoirs of the Author of the Vindication (1798)
#Tilottama Rajan, “Autonarration and Genotext in Mary Hays’ Memoirs of Emma Courtney,” Studies in Romanticism 32:2 (Summer 1993): 149-76
#Clara Tuite, “Tainted Love and Romantic Literary Celebrity,” ELH 74.1 (2007): 59-88
#James Chandler, “Sentimental Journeys, Vehicular States,“ from An Archaeology of Sympathy: The Sentimental Mode in Literature and Cinema (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 176-202
10/20 Elizabeth Hamilton, Memoirs of Modern Philosophers (1800)
#Richard Polwhele, The Unsex’d Females (1798)
# M. O. Grenby, “Novels reproved and reprieved,” from The Anti-Jacobin Novel: British Conservatism and the French Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 13-27
#Claire Grogan, Politics and Genre in the Works of Elizabeth Hamilton, 1756-1816 (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012), 51-89
#David Simpson, from Romanticism, Nationalism, and the Revolt Against Theory (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 104-125
10/27 Amelia Opie, Adeline Mowbray (1805)
#Franco Moretti, “Style, Inc. Reflections on Seven Thousand Titles (British Novels, 1740-1850),” Critical Inquiry 36:1 (2009): 134-158
#Katie Trumpener, “Paratext and Genre System: A Response to Franco Moretti,” Critical Inquiry 36:1 (2009): 159-171
#Kenneth Johnston, “Whose History? My Place or Yours? Republican Assumptions and Romantic Traditions,” in Romanticism, History, Historicism: Essays on an Orthodoxy, ed. Damian Walford Davies (New York: Routledge, 2009), 79-102
11/3 Election holiday: no class
11/10 Maria Edgeworth, Belinda (1801)
#Clifford Siskin, “What We Remember: The Case of Austen,” from The Work of Writing: Literature and Social Change in Britain, 1700-1830 (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 193-209
#Clara Tuite, “Sensibility, free indirect style and the Romantic technology of discretion,” in Romantic Austen: Sexual Politics and the Literary Canon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 56-97
11/17 Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility (1811)
#Claudia L. Johnson, “A ‘Sweet Face as White as Death’: Jane Austen and the Politics of Female Sensibility,” Novel 22:2 (1989): 159-174
#Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Jane Austen and the Masturbating Girl,” Critical Inquiry 17 (1991): 818-837
#D. A. Miller, “Secret Love,” from Jane Austen, or The Secret of Style (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 1-29
Paper proposal and annotated bibliography due Friday 11/21 to my mailbox in 602
11/24 Sir Walter Scott, Heart of Midlothian (1818)
#Beth Newman, “The Heart of Midlothian and the Masculinization of Fiction,” Criticism 36:4 (1994): 521-540
#Katie Trumpener, “National Character, Nationalist Plots: National Tale and Historical Novel in the Age of Waverley, 1806-1830,” ELH 60:3 (1993): 685-731
12/1 Final class meeting: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
#Ronald Paulson, “Gothic Fiction and the French Revolution,” ELH 48:3 (1981): 532-554
#Maureen McLane, “Literate species,” from Romanticism and the Human Sciences: Poetry, Population, and the Discourse of the Species (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 84-108
Carolyn Steedman, “Nelly’s Version,” from Master and Servant: Love and Labour in the English Industrial Age (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 193-216
12/8 No class
Final paper due Monday 12/15 to my mailbox in 602
September 4, 2014
Is there a greater face than the face of Antonin Artaud? For my entire life, I have always been in the presence of his face. My father, along with portraits of Brigitte Bardot and Jean Cocteau, would have an image of Artaud by his work table in Beverly Glen, and later in his studio both in the Glen and Topanga. I was a teenager when I saw Carl Theodor Dreyer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc,” and like others I was very much impressed with the face of Renée Jeanne Falconetti as Joan. Like Artaud, Falconetti suffered from mental illness all throughout her life, and eventually committed suicide in Brazil in 1946. When I was working at Beyond Baroque, Viggo Mortensen took me to see “The Passion of Joan of Arc, ” which at the time, he was totally obsessed with the film. He brought me along because he just liked to share his love for the film and who he considered the greatest actress. Falconetti! He also knew I was a huge Artaud fan, and the scenes in the film, to me, are dueling faces at work, which is quite remarkable, because Artaud looks so calm, almost evil in a tranquil sense.
When I found myself in Tokyo, I was fortunate to see Kabuki theater in the Ginza, and what I found totally fascinating was how the audience re-interacts with the actors and what was happening on the stage. There were moments when it seems that the audience becomes part of the theater play. When one walks into the theater, the lighting on the audience side is not darkened. So one cannot only see what is occurring on the stage in front of you, but one is also aware of what the audience is doing. For instance, I was surprised to hear people talk in normal tones during the performance. After awhile, once my ears and eyes become accustomed to the “new’ environment, I accepted that the whole theater or building was a performance. One also notices how flat the Kabuki play look on the stage. No one is highlighted, and it is like seeing a film of a John Ford landscape in Utah, where mountain peaks match the importance of the human figures traveling in that landscape.
When Artaud saw Balinese dancers perform at the Paris Colonial Expo, he must have been affected by the technique and aesthetic of accepting the audience as part of the performance. Also most important is the ritual aspect of the performance and how the dancers use all parts of their body to express themselves, including head and eyes movements. Kabuki is over-the-top as well, and one follows the narrative by its grand gestures than say the quiet moments.
Artaud wrote a play called “Jet of Blood” which starts off with a young man and a young girl repeating the lines, “I love you and everything is beautiful, ” “You love me and everything is beautiful.” They repeat the lines in different accents and styles to each other, then when the man comments that “the world is beautifully built and well ordered” - a sudden violent storm appears, including a hurricane which separates the man and girl, with two stars colliding, and assorted objects falling from the sky. Mayhem rules in the world of Artaud.
Artaud is an artist whose life is not separated from his art. An ill man all through his life, plus an addiction to hard narcotics made him vulnerable to the outside world. His mania got worse, when he obtained a walking stick of knotted wood, and was convinced that this cane once belong to St. Patrick as well as Lucifer and Jesus Christ. He spent the last years in a mental hospital, and even though he didn’t do many performances either on film or on the stage, his writings have become an influential literature for poets, actors, and those who are abused by the system of living in a world of not their making. I, myself, can not escape his influence, especially with respect how he sees space, distance, and the performance that somehow falls between the different categories. To provoke an audience is one way of changing the world. To feel, to create, and throw oneself in the storm that is society is truly wonderful. Unless that society is there to reject and harm you.