30 April 2003

Some good stuff, some oddities:

This is for Anne, she of the sadomasochistic homicidal tendencies...... Got To Stop

And this is for those Star Wars freaks with just a little too much time, ahem, on their hands. By this standard, I am indeed repressed, mercifully.

This is for CSM and any fans of Buffy and -- yes-- A Midsummer Night's Dream.... A Midsummer's Nightmare. This thing may be more apocalyptic than anything on the show.

Some more typical parodies of Shakespeare are here.

A quick link for Shakespeareans who are still kids at heart... Pictures, Pictures, Pictures.

AND-- if anyone actually dares to see how you (ahem) measure for measure up, please (please please please please please please please) KEEP IT TO YOURSELF. Who thinks this stuff up?!?!?

Yes, Dr. J is suffering from insomnia, and still hasn't been to bed yet. Grumble, grumble, grumble. Hence this blogging day from hell. ;-)
Nonsense, nonsense, and more nonsense
Ah, yes, anyone actually bothering to read this blog will notice my preoccupation for the nonsensical. This is partially because nonsense is a key aspect of my dissertation, and I'm stuck with thinking about it ad nauseum. It is also because I have a fondness for it. We all need a little silliness, a little deliberate and ideally jocular absurdity. It reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. It reminds us not to make casual -- and often flip-- assumptions. It reminds us to turn the world upside down for a bit so we can be reminded that mystification and bewilderment can be joys as well as burdens. It reminds us that the intellect only takes us so far. It reminds us that a child's imagination is often greater than a philosopher's wisdom. And, yes, it reminds us that we should let ourselves, every now and again, to be the fool, if only to teach us humility, humour, and even deference. 'Who's the fool now?' needn't be a tsk tsk tsk-ing phrase.


Martin said to his man
Fie man, fie!
O Martin said to his man
Who's the fool now?
Martin said to his man
Fill thou the cup and I the can
Thos hast well drunken, man,
Who's the fool now?

I see a sheep shearing corn.
Fie man, fie!
I see a sheep shearing corn.
Who's the fool now?
I see a sheep shearing corn,
And a cuckold blow his horn.
Thou hast well drunken, man,
Who's the fool now?

I see a man in the moon.
Fie man, fie!
I see a man in the moon.
Who's the fool now?
I see a man in the moon
Clouting of Saint Peter's shoon.
Thou hast well drunken, man,
Who's the fool now?

I see a hare chase a hound.
Fie man, fie!
I see a hare chase a hound.
Who's the fool now?
I see a hare chase a hound
Twenty mile above the ground.
Thou hast well drunken, man,
Who's the fool now?
I see a goose ring a hog.
Fie man, fie!

I see a goose ring a hog.
Who's the fool now?
I see a goose ring a hog,
And a snail that did bite a dog.
Thou hast well drunken, man,
Who's the fool now?
I see a mouse catch the cat.
Fie man, fie!

I see a mouse catch the cat.
Who's the fool now?
I see a mouse catch the cat
And the cheese to eat the rat.
Thou hast well drunken, man,
Who's the fool now?

--- from an anonymous poet, circa 1609

The Pessimist

Nothing to do but work,
Nothing to eat but food,
Nothing to wear but clothes,
To keep one from going nude.

Nothing to breathe but air,
Quick as a flash 'tis gone;
Nowhere to fall but off,
Nowhere to stand but on.

Nothing to comb but hair,
Nowhere to sleep but in bed,
Nothing to weep but tears,
Nothing to bury but dead.

Nothing to sing but songs
Ah, well, alas, alack!
Nowhere to go but out,
Nowhere to come but back.

Nothing to see but sights,
Nothing to quench but thirst,
Nothing to have but what we've got.
Thus thro' life we are cursed.

Nothing to strike but a gait;
Everything moves that goes.
Nothing at all but common sense
Can ever withstand these woes.

--- Benjamin Franklin King

They're not complicated poems by any stretch of the imagination. The metrics are specific, regimented, repetitive-- but their forms are more strictly musical, and remind of the sort of knee-bumping ditties most of us heard as children, when most of loved poetry, when our idea of poetry wasn't The Waste Land or The Prelude but "Hickory Dickory Dock" and "Old Mother Hubbard." But somewhere along the line, people lose the internal air for the music, especially when the structures become more complicated and the language more sophisticated. Lord knows, many of my kids over the years probably wish I'd let them read stuff aloud in class more as a means to keep each other awake, but the sad fact is that so few hear the music, and it's rather like listening to a young clarinetist squawking and squeaking through Beethoven. The ear rankles, the mind suffers, the poetry is violated. There HAS to be a way to improve the mind's ear. And if there is one-- without going directly to the tenets of music, which does prove that people can remember lyrics so long as they know the way things are supposed to sound-- it might be to compel people to return to the level of the nonsensical, to the nuts and bolts of verbal metrics. Yes, I'm thinking we may have to send people back to literary kindergarten. I don't mean this condescendingly. But one of the great truisms of life, it seems to me, is that we lose sight of the basics, the fundamentals, as we presume we've recognized and understood them; but basics, fundamentals, need to be refreshed, and our understanding of them revisited, enlarged, sometimes merely remembered. In our beginning is our end. In our end is our beginning. Damn bloody right.
"I wear the cheese, the cheese does not wear me." --- The Cheese Man.
Yes, that episode is on Space tonight at 8.... Don't ask me why I quote it here. I just like the sound of it.

"VLADIMIR: What is terrible is to have thought.
ESTRAGON: But did that ever happen to us?"
--- from Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot

[Entrance Exams]


1. Draw a historical parallel (after the manner of Plutarch) between Hannibal and Annie Laurie.
2. What internal evidence does The Odyssey afford, that Homer sold his Trojan war-ballads at three yards an obolus?
3. In what way were the shades on the banks of the Styx applied with spirits?
4. Give a brief account of the Roman Emperors who visited the United States, and state what they did there.
5. Show from the words, 'Hoc erat in votis' (Sat. vi., Lib. ii), that Horaces favourite wine was hock, and that he meant to say 'he always voted for hock.'
6. Draw a parallel between the Children in the Wood and Achilles in the Styx.
7. Name the prima donnas who have appeared in the operas of Virgil and Horace since the 'Virgilii Opera' and 'Horatii Opera' were composed.

Euclid, Arithmetic, and Algebra

1. 'The extremities of a line are points.' Prove this by the rule of railways.
2. Show the fallacy of defining an angle, as 'a worm at one end and a fool at the other.'
3. If one side of a triangle be produced, what is there to prevent the other two sides also being brought forward?
4. If the gnomon of a sundial be divided into two equal, and also into two unequal parts, what would be its value?
5. If seven horses eat twenty-five acres of grass in three days, what would be their condition on the fourth day? Prove by practice.
6. Reduce two academical years to their lowest terms.
--- Cuthbert Bede

28 April 2003

an old favourite, with my second favourite "title" ever.....

[the way to hump a cow is not]

the way to hump a cow is not
to get yourself a stool
but draw a line around the spot
and call it beautifool

to multiply because and why
dividing thens and nows
and adding and(i understand)
is hows to hump a cows

the way to hump a cow is not
to elevate your tool
but drop a penny in the slot
and bellow like a bool

to lay a wreath from ancient greath
on insulated brows
(while tossing boms at uncle toms)
is hows to hump a cows

the way to hump a cow is not
to push and then to pull
but practicing the art of swot
to preach the golden rull

to vote for me(all decent mem
and wonens will allows
which if they don't to hell with them)
is hows to hump a cows

-- e.e.cummings, 1940
I would have loved to have seen this. Who says writers take themselves too seriously?? I particularly like the idea of Scott Turow as the redhead of the group. ;-) For other material on the Remainders, check out Dave Barry's blog among the permanent links at left. Hilarious.

27 April 2003

Here's a neat little link to an interview with W.B.Yeats done by the BBC. Thanks to CYL for the link.
One of my favourite poems, EVER. I wonder if I still have my old lecture notes on it somewhere. Haunting.

The Idea of Order At Key West

She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.

The sea was not a mask. No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if what she sang was what she heard,
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard.

For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang.

If it was only the dark voice of the sea
That rose, or even colored by many waves;
If it was only the outer voice of sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
However clear, it would have been deep air,
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
Repeated in a summer without end
And sound alone. But it was more than that,
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.
It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour its solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there was never a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As the night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker's rage to order words of sea
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

--- Wallace Stevens

The Waste Land Parody --- I've been looking for this for what seems forever, but here is the poem that so beautifully the 2000 US Election so beautifully to task.

The Love Song of Rutherford B. Hayes

1. The Burial of the Chad

November is the cruelest month, breeding
Butterflies out of dead votes, mixing
Manual and automatic tabulation, stirring
Dry chad with spring rain.

Florida surprised us, coming in from Kennebunkport
We stopped when Colin Powell passed out
And drank Pabst Blue Ribbon and harassed black voters.
Texas, Texas uber alles.

And when we were children, staying at the governor's,
My brother's, he took me out for a drive,
And I was frightened. He said, Jeb,
Jeb, Hold on tight. And downed another tequila.

Madame Harris, local secretary,
-But you can call her Cruella-
Had a bad hair day, nonetheless
Is known to be the sneakiest woman in West Palm Beach
With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
Is your card: the dented pregnant chad,
(Those are votes in Illinois. Look!)
Here the chad with three corners.
The chad with two votes. And this card,
Which is blank, call it one for Dubya,
Which I am forbidden to say. I do not find
The Hanged Chad. Fear death by revote.

2. A Game of Cards

How shall I count thee? Let me count the ways?

Automatic count ...

Automatic count again ...


Manual recount of one percent of precincts


O O O that swingi-hinging door chad.

It's irrefutable

So indisputable!


In the room Ralph Nader comes and goes
Talking of the WTO.


Countywide manual recount ...
Countywide manual recount using a new standard ...

And the bulbs shine bright on govn'or dubya
and on his aggies
they keep their chad in plastic baggies
to keep them fresh.

Statewide manual recount ...



3. What the Votamatic Said

Here are no votes but only chad
Chad and no votes and the snaky cord
The cord winding below between the ballots
Which are mountains of chad without votes
If there were votes we should stop and count
Amongst the chad one cannot stop or count

And the lockbox gives no shelter, the speeches no relief
And the empty chad no sign of votes. Only
There is shadow under this Votamatic.
(Come in under the shadow of this Votamatic)
And I will show you something different from either
Morning light shining through Bush votes
or evening light shining through Gore votes.
I will show you fear in a handful of chad.

Then spake the Votamatic:


Dubya: A compassionate conservative.


Dubya: A reformer with results


Dubya: A uniter, not a divider.

These ballot fragments I have stored against my ruin.

subliminable subliminable subliminable.

-- Nathanial Daw
An interesting site here, The Waste Land as hypertext, with some surprisingly good notes. Initial pop-up windows, however, are annoying; typical tripod bullshit. Check it out here.

Here is a good piece on the composition of TWL from the late Richard Ellman.

And here's a great site for convenience sake, even if its name is a little distressing. ;-)

And The Love Song of J. Random Hacker. More amusing than one would think.
Ah, the art of HTML.... I'm still fiddling with things, but it's kind of fun exploring the codes and playing with the layout of this blog. The current page is much more colourful, and hopefully more appealing than the dreadful blinding white and tacky red that was in use before. Playing with this stuff reminds me of learning a new language, and it's surpisingly invigorating, even if my working through of things is painfully slow and inordinately clumsy. Will make more substantial commentary later.

23 April 2003

These might be familiar, but they are funny. Check out some, ahem, cocked-up philosophy here and here . Thanks to RK for reminding me about these. Some personal additions:

Why did the chicken cross the road?....

T.S. Eliot:
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us-- if at all -- not as lost
Violent fowl, but only
As the hollow hens,
The stuffed hens.

Wallace Stevens:
The chicken refreshes life so that we share,
For a moment, the first idea... It satisfies
Belief in an immaculate crossing

And sends us, winged by an unconscious will,
To an immaculate end.

James Joyce:
...and the chicken would cross the road and it would say yes and it would sense the air and it would say yes and it would taste the world inside its breast and yes its eyes would find the other's eyes and it would say yes and the road behind it would surrender and yes the tongue it might have had and yes the chicken would know yes it would know and feel and yes and it would sense and cluck and yes the chicken the heaving heart of the chicken the heart that held and hoped heard yes it would say yes it will say yes I will say Yes

Harold Bloom:
Because in the Chicken, we see one of the most striking accomplishments in the creation of individual character, eclipsed only by Hamlet and Falstaff. The Chicken is larger than us, its persistence immeasurable, its wisdom crystallized in the single word, 'Cluck.' Only a character of Falstaff's titanic wit would dare question the Chicken, his rapier intelligence larger even than the road the Chicken must cross.

the Upanisads:

Samuel Beckett:
To every chicken his little cross. [He sighs.] Till it dies. [Afterthought.] And is forgotten.

W. B. Yeats:
How can we ever know the crosser from the cross?

David Mamet:
You know why the mutherfucking chicken crossed the goddam road? You fucking know why? I'll tell you the fuck why, you ignorant mutherfucking chicken-licking shit. The fucking clucker couldn't hack the fucking sit, it had spent too much fucking time in a mutherfucking sissy-boy faggot-faced office, pushing papers, outta the FUCKING game! And the pussy-brained fucker thought it could fucking push its fucking feather-ass across the damned road to try to fucking prove itself. And you know what fucking happened? SPLAT. Fucker.

Ezra Pound:
HAIO KING had just a bird's blood on his conscience. [insert Chinese ideogram here]

Terry Eagleton:
The chicken crossing the road was not a great gesture, which the intellectual community took to hand; it is a great gesture because the intellectual institution constitutes it as such. We summon the story of the chicken crossing the road to blast the people out of the intellectual arena. We made the chicken crossing the road a crucial story, and we can also remove the chicken from the canon.

Peter Falk (as Columbo):
Because there was just one more thing.

Oliver Stone:
Because Lyndon Johnson told it to, as part of the conspiracy to keep the United States in Vietnam.

Benny Hill:
Because it was a lovely bird with *drool* lovely firm breasts..... [insert rapid chase scene here]

Keanu Reeves:
Huh? Whoooa.

Kenny Rogers:
You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away, know when to run
You never count your hatchlings
When you're sittin at the table
There'll be time enough for counting
When the layin's done.

the average undergraduate male:
There's a chick crossing the road?

Some links to images of William Blake at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the William Blake Page and the Blake exhibit at the Tate Gallery. Some beautiful stuff if you've never seen it.

I keep meaning to add more substantial material of my own here, but find myself to swamped in marking. Well, that's partially true. Besides being more enmeshed in matters than I ought to be, I'm also feeling incredibly lethargic. Maybe when all the marking's done my energy will return. Then again, I've been saying that for years....

In the immortal words of Mr. Dylan, "Blah blah blah blah blah."

19 April 2003

Some funny stuff here.
Proof positive that Darwin was wrong.

"Teach us to care and not to care / Teach us to sit still." (T.S Eliot, from Ash Wednesday )
... words I should have contemplated more, in many contexts.....

Keeping Things Whole

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

-- Mark Strand, 1964

Good advice on what to do with a poet.
from Edna St Vincent Millay:

Song for Young Lovers In The City

Though less for love than for the deep
Though transient death that follows it
These childish mouths grow soft in sleep
Here in a rented bed have met,

They have not met in love's despite...
Such tiny loves will leap and flare
Lurid as coke-fires in the night,
Against a backdrop of despair.

To treeless grove, to grey retreat
Descend in flocks from corniced eaves
The pigeons now on sooty feet,
To cover them with linden leaves.

To Those Without Pity

Cruel of heart, lay down my song.
Your reading eyes have done me wrong.
Not for you was the pen bitten,
And the mind wrung, and the song written.

The Road to the Past

It is this that you get for being so far-sighted. Not so many years
For the myopic, as for me,
The delightful shape, implored and heart of heart, proceeding
Into the past unheeding,
(No wave of the hand, no backwards look to see
If I still stand there) clear and precise along that road appears.

The trees that edge that road run parallel
For eyes like mine past many towns, past hell seem plainly;
All that has happened shades the street;
Children all day, even the awkward, the ungainly
Of mind, work out on paper problems more abstruse;
Demonstrably these eyes will close
Before those hedges meet.

Ah, Millay-- what a wonderful poet. I will never understand why more people don't read her.

18 April 2003

Indeed, I am awash in books.... I've always had a lot of books, but it hadn't yet reached the stage where I could no longer move around in my room. I've now reached it. *sigh* One should never have to go through the process of cleaning out one's office. Yes, I finally did it, and carted the morass of books home, and they've now colonized my room. The trick now will be find places to put them, which will likely take the wisdom of Solomon or at least the patience of Job. Much of the current invasion force was recently inherited from a retiring professor who was kind enough to allow people to make away with any and all of the books in his office. Needless to say, I absconded with more than my share.... The especially lovely thing is that many of the books are first editions, many of which are out of print classics. Now if only I had more room.....

14 April 2003

from Mark Strand

The Coming of Light

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gathers, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow's dust flares into breath.
from C. Day Lewis

Almost Human

The man you know, assured and kind,
Wearing fame like an old tweed suit---
You would not think he has an incurable
Sickness upon his mind.

Finely that tongue, for the listening people,
Articulates love, enlivens clay;
While under his valued skin there crawls
An outlaw and a cripple.

Uneviable the renown he bears
When all's awry within? But a soul
Divinely sick may be immunized
From the scourge of common cares.

A woman weeps, a friend's betrayed,
Civilization plays with fire---
His grief or guilt is easily purged
In a rush of words to the head.

The newly dead, and their waxwork faces
With the look of things that could never have lived,
He'll use to prime his cold, strange heart
And prompt the immortal phrases.

Before you condemn this eminent freak
As an outrage upon mankind,
Reflect: something there is in him
That must for ever seek

To share the condition it glorifies,
To shed the skin that keeps it apart,
To bury its grace in a human bed---
And it walks on knives, on knives.

from Emily Dickinson:

Have you got a brook in your little heart,
Where bashful flowers blow,
And blushing birds go down to drink,
And shadows tremble so?

And nobody knows, so still it flows,
That any brook is there;
And yet your little draught of life
Is daily drunken there.

Then look for the little brook in March,
When the rivers overflow,
And the snows come hurrying from the hills,
And the bridges often go.

And later, August it may be,
When the meadows parching lie,
Beware, lest this little brook of life
Some burning noon go dry!
Below is the text of an email I sent out to some students over the years. I offer it here as food for thought-- esp. since even in going through it to add the necessarily typeface changes, I realize yet again that the idea of identifying a canon is not so much about institutionalizing texts, but about remember the wealth and breadth of the tradition, and how much one necessarily forgets, omits, and/or lacks. Goodness knows I could probably add a litany of other writers now, but I'll leave the message as is. Pardon any topical references which might now be irrelevant.

The Well-Tempered English Student

Some time ago, I met up with a former student in the process of applying for graduate school in English. Among other things, she wound up asking me what seemed to me "core readings" for a literature student-- i.e., what texts/authors are essential to having a well-rounded literary background. In some ways, it's an easy question, with certain writers jumping immediately to mind; in some ways, it's very difficult, as one desperately tries to disinguish between the important and the essential. After some thought, I've pieced together what I'd very loosely call a "greatest hits" collection, a list of materials that will inevitably prove useful to anyone considering studying beyond the undergraduate level in English. I've included the list below for any of you ever considering doing an MA or a PhD in English. Some of the material below is subjective, admittedly, and many graduate students have gotten by without reading from a number of the ones mentioned below, but there is much to be said for having a good grasp of the primary literary canon. Keep in mind that in grad school, it matters little if you've "never encountered **** text in a class before"; after all, even before you started university, I'm sure most of you were expected to know something of Shakespeare whether or not you'd read him, or any specific play. That's not to say you'll need to know "everything" below, but chances are you should have a familiarity with some of the material below.

Anyway, here's my list, for your use or disuse, as any of you see fit, if at all......

Ancient Texts: The ancient texts are more important than most people tend to realize. Even if they're planning on studying American, Canadian, or Post-Colonial, a good grasp of the ancients is important. Sophocles' The Theban Trilogy (Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone), Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey, Aristotle's Poetics, and Plato's The Republic are all essential. Also important, but less immediately so: Euripides, The Bacchae; one or two plays by Aristophanes; some of the love poems of Sappho; an ode or two from Pindar; Plato's The Symposium and Phaedo. And later: Plutarch, Longinus. From the Greeks, one moves toward the Romans: Cautullus, Terence, Juvenal, Horace, and Livy. Especially important: Virgil's The Aeneid; Ovid's The Metamorphoses (so often translated); Marcus Aurelius' Meditations; and at least part of Saint Augustine's The Confessions. The main ones here, though, are Sophocles, Homer, Aristotle, Plato, Virgil, and Ovid-- with anyone interested in feminist or queer theory wise to add Sappho. Also: The Epic of Gilgamesh.

Sacred Texts: Religious texts have always had a profound effect on literature, and, indeed, the process of exegesis has religious roots more than literary (qua literary) roots. Augustine, mentioned above, crosses over into this category, but here I'd emphasize all the texts people tend to be uncomfortable with, for one reason or another: The Bible (for English students, primarily the King James Version); The Koran; The Bhagavad-Gita; The Torah and The Talmud. Also, some readings, randomly, will do to grasp some of the extent considerations of nationality and sociality. Many of the Eastern religions do not impress themselves on literary tradition until the 19th and 20th centuries, but it's hard to relate to people like T.S. Eliot without a grasp of the Gita or Confucious.

Pre-Renaissance English: This tends to be the biggest hole in people's reading. Beowulf is essential, and there's a lovely recent translation by Seamus Heaney that renders the translation on facing pages with the original text (though some versions are not "English" by any means). A sampling of Medieval lyrics is important, and can be found in just about any decent anthology. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl, both written (assumedly) by an unknown priest, are classics, and absolutely necessary, as is Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, despite my own moreorless inexplicable dissaffinity for Chaucer. And, though it's written on the cusp of the Renaissance, Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur. Also, William Langland's The Vision of Piers Plowman is important, and was one of the most popular texts of its time, surviving, at last count, in as many as 47 original copies (considering how rare such printed texts were at the time).

Pre- and Early Renaissance Non-English: Dante, Dante, Dante. The Divine Comedy and The New Life are profoundly influential, and you won't get too far in studying literature until 1960 without them; hell, even Seven takes its cue from Dante. Chretien de Troyes' Yvain is important, too, but more so for those studying before 1700. Other important writers: Boccaccio, The Decameron; Vico, Principles of a New Science; Machiavelli, The Prince; the poems of St. John of the Cross; Montaigne, Essays; Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel. Other than Dante, though, the major figure here is Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote ought to be required reading.

Renaissance English: Yes, Shakespeare is the big name here, and the best I can suggest is to read Shakie in his entirety. I'm aware, though, that most people will not be able to do this, so I'd emphasize the following: the Sonnets, The Tempest, Macbeth, King Lear, Hamlet, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, and the Bolingbroke tetralogy. After that: As You Like It, Measure for Measure; Pericles; The Winter's Tale; The Merchant of Venice; Richard III; King John; A Midsummer Night's Dream; Twelfth Night. But it's also in this period that English as a language truly comes alive: Spenser's The Faerie Queene, Sidney's Astrophel and Stella and The Arcadia, and, arguably just outside the scope of the Renaissance, John Milton's Paradise Lost are all products of this period; and despite Milton's very awkward temporal placement, he seems to connect very nicely with Renaissance tradition, though certainly disobediently. Other key writers: John Donne (of course!); Henry Howard; Thomas Wyatt; Ben Jonson (Volpone, especially); Christopher Marlowe; John Webster (The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil, primarily), and on and on. If, for example, you apply to a larger university, they will most likely insist that you take a course in Renaissance non-dramatic (i.e., anything more than Shakie's plays), so it's definitely a good idea to be well-read in the Renaissance.

Restoration and 18th Century: The big names here, at least in terms of English as a language, are John Dryden and Alexander Pope. Both are accomplished poets, both important in the development of literary tastes, and both important translators, both men should be read broadly. Dryden's play All for Love and many of his satires and short lyrics (including Absalom and Achitophel and Mac Flecknoe) are essential; the same is true of Pope's In Memoriam. Other key writers: Andrew Marvell, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, Daniel Defoe. This is also the period of the development of the English novel: Richardson' s Clarissa and Pamela emerge here, as do Sterne's Tristram Shandy, and Fielding's Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews. There's also a burgeoning of female writers in this period, including Amelia Lanier and Aphra Behn, the latter the first female writer in England to make her living from writing. And let us not forget the great Scotsman, Robert Burns.

Romantics and 19th Century British: Yes, the Romantics, all the guys you've heard of: Blake, Keats, Shelley (Mary and Percy), Wordsworth, Coleridge. Not long ago, Wordsy and Coleridge were the primary figures here, but time hasn't been very kind to them, though Wordsy's The Prelude, Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and many of the shorter works from their collaboration Lyrical Ballads remain essential. Recent years have taken to elevating Blake above the others, though he was once dismissed as a madman. There are almost as many articles in any given year written on (or involving) Blake as there are on Shakespeare, and a good copy of his collected works will prove invaluable. Here I refer not just to the scholastic favourites (Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell), but also the more complicated poetic prophesies (Milton, Jerusalem, Europe, and Vala, or the Four Zoas). That's just the poets: this period is extremely productive for the novel, too, primarily with the big man himself, Dickens. You really ought to read at least two or three of Dickens' novels, and ideally one of the major works: Little Dorrit, Bleak House, David Copperfield, Hard Times, The Pickwick Papers. But the novel is exploding, with a lot of major writers emerging, especially women: the Bronte sisters (Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights should be required); George Eliot (Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Daniel Deronda); Jane Austen. Other writers of note, crossing genres, include the Brownings (Robert and Elizabeth Barrett), Oscar Wilde, Matthew Arnold, Thomas Hardy, Lewis Carroll, and the English laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Pre-20th Century American: Really, you want to own and know the collected works of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, probably the two most important American writers, even still. Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn remains a necessity. And though he continues to write into the 20th century, really, every wannabe English student needs to be versed in the fiction of Henry James-- preferably more than just the short tales. Here you want to get a copy of Portrait of a Lady, The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove, or The Golden Bowl. Also, a good collection of Edgar Allan Poe would be a good idea, as well as copies of: Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter; Emerson's various essays; Thoreau's Walden; Longfellow's Hiawatha. And, of course, the absolute necessity: Herman Melville's Moby Dick remains one of the classics of the genre, and anyone who goes through life without reading it will have denied him- or her- self.

Modern British and American (1900-1950): This period is aflurry in activity, rivalling it with the Renaissance as the most productive literary period. The names alone are huge: W.B. Yeats; William Faulkner; Ernest Hemingway; William Carlos Williams; Ezra Pound; Tennessee Williams; George Bernard Shaw; E. M. Forster; Virginia Woolf; Robert Frost; Joseph Conrad; Dylan Thomas; Langston Hughes; Eudora Welty; H.D.; Thornton Wilder; Edna St. Vincent Millay; Eugene O'Neill; Evelyn Waugh; Graham Greene; D. H. Lawrence; Edith Wharton; F. Scott Fitzgerald; e.e. cummings; Samuel Beckett; Wallace Stevens; Ford Madox Ford; George Orwell; H. G. Wells; Stevie Smith; and the list could go on and on. Reading among any of the above will no doubt prove helpful, especially Yeats, Faulkner, Pound, both Williamses, Conrad, Thomas, Stevens, Lawrence, and Beckett. But two figures tower above the others in their influence: T.S. Eliot and James Joyce. Eliot once seemed as if he'd never topple Yeats' stature, but he did, and he became the most influential thinker about literature, and the most influential poet, until the mid 1960s. The Waste Land, Four Quartets, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock": indispensible. Read broadly, too, in his criticism. As for Joyce, his influence on the novel as we now conceive it is inescapable, and I recommend trudging through Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses. Kewpie dolls for any who can make sense of Finnegans Wake. I don't know of anyone who's been able to do well in grad studies without at least a cursory grasp of the writers in this period, something I can only say equally of the Renaissance.

Post-1960: Comparatively, this period is less fecund, and there are fewer writers of towering stature. Among poets, Sylvia Plath, James Merrill, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, and Philip Larkin are pretty much essential, with most others being relatively peripheral. I recommend Mark Strand, too, but he's always been a bit too far outside of what has been archetypal for the period. Among novelists, I'm less certain, but here are a few stabs: Saul Bellow, E. L. Doctorow, Graham Greene (again), Ken Kesey, Jack Kerouac (mainly Dharma Bums and On The Road), Ursula K. LeGuin, Arthur Miller, John Fowles, William Golding, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon, Kingsley Amis. Among dramatists: Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, John Osborne (mainly Look Back in Anger), Edward Albee, Arthur Miller (again). On the novelists and dramatists I'm a bit off my mark, and I admit it: this period has never been one of my primary interests.

Canadian: CanLit courses will tend to place what I think exaggerated emphasis on the tomes, LONG works like Wacousta and Roughing it in the Bush. But unless you're planning on going into Canadian studies (in which case, I'm not much use, save RE poetry), you really only need to know the writers whose influence has been more than local. Robertson Davies' Deptford trilogy is crucial; a novel or two from Atwood and Ondaatje; Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers (still marked by many as the first Canadian 'postmodern' novel, though I disagree); the epic poems of E. J. Pratt; some of the stories of Alice Munro; one of Mordecai Richler's novels, most likely St. Urbain's Horseman; McLennan's Two Solitudes and Barometer Rising; Margaret Laurence; b.p. nichol; Morley Callaghan. I know I'm not doing this section justice, because I'm overlooking a number of very good writers, but in terms of an international context, very few Canadian writers have been influential. Yes, I know I'm exposing myself to intense criticism, and your CanLit profs will disagree with me vehemently. Of equal point for disagreement: you really should read among the two most influential Canadian thinkers, former colleagues Marshall McLuhan (The Gutenberg Galaxy, especially) and Northrop Frye, long seen as the great sun-god of Canadian literary criticism who necessarily had to be slaughtered for the good of Canadian academic society (can you tell I'm a defender of Frye?). For Frye: Fearful Symmetry, Anatomy of Criticism, The Great Code, and Words With Power really ought to be essential reading, but for quicker versions see The Educated Imagination and The Well-Tempered Critic.

Post-Colonial Literature In English: This is certainly my own weakest area, in part because of a lack of interest, but also because of the pure breadth of the rubric-- it winds up encompassing anything outside of England or America, and the temporal limits are usually left very vague. Canadian literature is occasionally put in this category, but so are the literatures of Africa, the Caribbean, South America, Australia, and so forth. Further, some writers are put into this category very awkwardly, like Salman Rushdie, whose life has been spent writing around the world, but very often in England. Rushdie is a good read, though, and his Midnight's Children is one of the best books of the past 30 years. The poetry of Derek Walcott is especially beautiful, and his Nobel prize was certainly deserved. Some writers I would value more highly than my colleagues would (Ngugi wa'Thiongo's Petals of Blood, for example), and some would be labelled white voices loosely put into the PoCo rubric (Elizabeth Jolley, for example). Chinua Achebe is pretty important here, especially Arrow of God and Things Fall Apart; R. K. Narayan and V.S. Naipaul are internationally lauded; A.D. Hope and Fleur Adcock are well-respected poets; Peter Carey and David Malouf are highly-regarded; and, of course, Nadime Gordimer.

Major Writers in Languages Other Than English: This area is impossible to navigate entirely, and I know full well I'll leave out some extremely important authors. Some stand out immediately: Tolstoy; Dostoevysky; Pushkin; Rilke; Neruda; Gabria Garcia Marquez; Moliere; Ionesco; Sartre; Camus; Proust; Goethe; Soyinka; Szymborska; Ibsen; Solzhenitsyn; Kafka; and on and on. But in thinking about completing this section, I realize I'd never really finish, and only end up chasing my own tail.

Some Thoughts on Making This List: This list, despite its immediate length, is -- dare I say it-- skeletal. I've omitted a number of writers who are important, and some who are just good but not commonly recognized for their importance.

Admittedly, this list has a bent towards those continuing in their studies beyond the undergraduate level, but I hope too it might be useful for those of you luckily escaping the institutional structure of the university but have an interest in continued reading.

But the dominant rule remains this: Read on.
Well, who knew.... Surprisingly all has gone with the establishing and preliminary tweaking of this blog, such that not a single hair on my head as been ripped out by the root. This is, indeed, astonishing. I expected dabbling with HTML codes to be more difficult than it's been, even if I can't profess to know too much more than the very basic rudiments needed to set up links and modify text. But considering my luck with all things technological, I am amazed that I haven't found myself abandoning this idea entirely.

And yet, I do this at a time when I should be marking my students' essays, which I should be returning by Tuesday. When I first started teaching, I actually almost enjoyed marking. Lord knows, I went at it methodically, and a kind of rapidity. Now, sadly, I dread the task of marking. Part of it is probably simple disenchantment with the task itself; after all, the worst part of any job is, inevitably, the paperwork (and extant bureaucratic entanglements). But I think the larger part of it is my own sense that the papers will be careless and even thoughtless, and so I approach the task with the anticipation of mediocrity, and the prospect of explaining, over and over, things I've already explained time and time before. It's the ever-alienating sense of marking as a kind of pre-determined or pre-destined exercise in personal futility. There are exceptions, of course, especially when individual students actually do take their work seriously, but I find such situations less and less common as time goes by. It feels all too often like trudging through a heavy Canadian snowstorm, wondering why oh why am I bothering with this.... I know, I know: I'm sure this sounds like the all-too-typical teacher's rant, and probably, when it comes down to dust, it is. The awareness, however, of one's typicality doesn't alleviate the sensation; if anything, it extends it. Oh well, at least in a few days it will all be over, as soon as I finish these essays and then the exams. Until then, there is Bushmills...... Mmmmmm Irish whiskey.......
A link that rings a little too close for home..... with thanks to CSM for the link. The Yellow Dart

Well, this should be an interesting experiment, as a technologically-limited academic experiments with the ever-hyped blogging. The buzz around blogging has been huge, and now I assume I'll see for myself what the buzz is about. Most of what will appear on this site will be musings and rantings about literature, with some odd bits likely on music, film, television, and the like. I'm sure this blog will prove of little interest to anyone but my small circle of friends, colleagues and the odd former student keeping tabs on the mental state of Doctor J, a moniker earned from too much time devoted to academia and endless nights impersonating Falstaff in familiar haunts. So, if you're here and reading this, I extend in advance my apologies, and offer the curses you're likely offering me in reverse: you came here, what did you expect? ;-) Hopefully, eventually, there will be enough decent stuff to make the long cyber-journey worth the while.

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