Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Instructor's "Thanks!"

I say a grateful "thanks" to all of you for an exceptional course: I didn't have a bad moment this term and have countless wonderful memories. Most importantly, I understand the fiction much better than I did as a consequence of our congenial dialectic, week-in-week-out.
You each deserve credit for vigourously engaging -- in turns no-holds-barred or with delicate sensibility -- any topic on the representation of and relationship between the sexes that happened to arise (none were off limits) and yet without any of the dogmatism,didacticism, or domineering that (one hears) can happen ... out there!
It was your credit that the spirit of delightful schoalrship is alive and well -- in AD 2005 and here at Simon Fraser University.
I'll return to this post after I've submitted the grades so send your comments here then, when grades are no longer an issue!

Monday, July 25, 2005

"Lovely Guys, Loveless Girls"

From the Evening Standard's "This is London," this review of recent chick-lit by Charlotte Moore:
I've just read seven chick-lit novels in a week. It's like eating nothing but prepared meals. They're attractively packaged but you don't want to check the list of ingredients too closely. Their existence creates a hunger which they proceed, more or less successfully, to satisfy.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Final Paper

Your Final Paper, three thousand words of literary-academic excellence long, is due in my Department mailbox at midnight Monday August 1st. Yes, I know this is overly-generous and I appreciate your plaudits; I know also that you view the three-per-cent-per-day penalty for papers received any later than that as being excessively lenient. But there you are.
The choice of specific topic is yours; however your argument must refer to at least two course texts, one each from the chick-lit and lad-lit sides. Note that you may focus your essay on only one of the genres; you will in that event have to allude meaningfully to the complementary genre. Secondary sources are recommended, conforming in execution to the English Department Style Guide.
The course lectures have used Darwin's theory of sexual selection heuristically: that is, as a device designed to improve understanding. (I would never direct scholars to wikipedia, and I would always direct them to the OED, but if one were to go the Wiki route,
it would say of hueristic that it is "...a way of directing your attention fruitfully.") Your paper does not have to refer to sexual selection, or to my trichotomy of "cad, curate, or Colin Firth" - however some alternative organising schema for the genres is required of your essay.
I am available at all times by e-mail, in my regular Office Hours, or by mutual appointment to exchange ideas, edit a thesis paragraph, or engage in dialectic.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

"Literary Bonbons"

Read this new article that dismisses lad lit off the cuff and damns chicklit with faint praise. (Via Arts & Letters Daily.)
It also makes explicit the struggle that many critics are having coming to terms with chick-lit as a genre: a struggle, in my estimation, that has ideological cause and which comes from an (again, in my estimation, unnecessary) essentialist attitude toward the books and their themes.
So what's the moral of the story? There's good chick lit and bad chick lit, just as there's good literary fiction and bad literary fiction - and maybe these labels are useless, anyway. I can hardly count the number of times I've read reviews that say, basically, "This book is chick lit, but never mind, read it anyway, it's great!" I wrote something like that myself, last summer, when I raved about Sarah Dunn's first novel, "The Big Love," which has just come out in paperback and which I would recommend in a heartbeat. The plot is nothing unusual - girl loses boy, girl has fling with cute boss, girl gets boy back and has to decide what to do with him - but the narrator's voice is so engaging that it lifts the book right out of the run-of-the-mill and into the perfect-reads category.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Literature the Opiate of the ....

I received the following stimulating email, which I am still mulling over. Your comments will be very welcome:
... it would be nice to talk a bit more about literature as opiate (OED: a. "Something that soothes or dulls the senses or causes drowsiness
or inaction" -- AND, I would stress the inaction....lulls a person into that they don't question things) ... I think some lit can be classified as opiate, but not all...however it might be hard to classify some works, since everyone's interpretation of a text will be different. It is probably more clear withthe lad lit books that end with the man being tamed and chosen for marriage after long occasions of intense rivalry with other men. It sends the message that it's ok to give in to the traditional roles of let women tame you, etc.. Similarly with the nice little romance novels where the woman chooses her man and becomes a wife and mother. Perhaps some women read those types of books if they are unhappily validate their lives, their choices, and to soothe any doubts the may have...Other literature COMPLETELY challenges these views or makes a complete riot of them, including Villette due to the tragic ending (I like to read the ending the way Bronte intended it...that is, that M. Paul drowns), and due to many other reasons besides. I think traditional notions of gender, sexuality, and social tradition come undone in the books we've read so far. It happens in almost every paragraph of Cranford!