Wednesday, August 31, 2005

English is...

Too much I want to blog at the moment and not enough time. So I'll go with this, from Essentialist Explanations, which is a site that
comprises a list of 736 "essentialist explanations" of the form "Language X is essentially language Y under conditions Z". I have edited some entries for uniformity, clarity, or good English. The entries are grouped for convenience rather than correctness. In particular, fictional languages belonging to actual language families are grouped with their natural language relatives.

My favorite description of English I've seen so far is by Peter Bleackley: "Inglish iz issenshali a langwidje dhat, wen rittun fonetkli, iz ilejibul tu netiv spikerz."

via ANSAXNET via Langaugehat.


Monday, August 29, 2005

So much for keeping the door open

The office I moved into this summer is located on the third floor of the stacks in a four-story annex. You enter the annex at the second floor of the main library and it's not staffed. There's just a few offices like mine. Most people find the annex a bit creapy. I did at first but got over it years ago as all the memory books are kept in this wing. All this is to say that I understand the desire to seek out help if you find yourself in this section of the library. I Academic libraries can be daunting, and especially so the creapy sections of such libraries.

Any way, I've started keeping my door open a few weeks ago, but that's going to stop now. School started up today and I've already had two people asking me to find their book for them. If I'm getting this kind of traffic on the first day of school, I imagine it will only get worse as the semester progresses.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Fall Teaching

I've got my fall course together, more or less. There's a few additional handouts I need to put together, and I need to get material on reserve, but the heavy work, including the course Web site, is done.

As I said earlier, it's an Introduction to Literary Studies course and I use The English Studies Book to provide a much more intensive introduction to the practices and methods of literary study than most people do. While the course looks, and is, theory heavy, I've found that students enjoy it. The English Studies Book provides a good introduction not just to theory but to "common topics" and the book has a strong emphasis on praxis. I often hear that undergraduates, especially non-majors in a lower-division core course, can't handle the theory, but my experiences prove otherwise. Most aren't going to write papers as sophisticated as seniors and graduate students, but I don't expect them to. We do begin with the close reading strategies of Practical/New Criticism and Formalism/Functionalism and we then use those strategies to explore literature as something which engages and shapes culture, both the culture which created it and our culture today.

I realized I needed to drop a text and I dropped Beowulf even though it's the text I know best and have taught the most. Actually, that may be the reason I dropped it. I probably should have dropped Early in Orcadia, which I've only read once and never taught, but the bookstore had to go to some effort to order it, and, quite honestly, I want to see what the students think of it. I think it's a wonderful exploration of primary orality and I plan to use it in literature based orality and literacy classes, so I want to start figuring out how to teach it.

In all, we'll read poetry by Byron, Millay, and Yeats; "Farmer Giles of Ham" and "Leaf by Niggle" by Tolkien; Early in Orcadia by Mitchison; Hogfather and "Troll Bridge" by Pratchett; and A Midsummer Night's Dream. We'll also read a diverse poems and short story, play, and novel excerpts The English Studies Book, such as Wyatt's "They flee from me," Meng's "I spik Ingglish," Fanthorpe's "Knowing about Sonnets," some Seminole chants, Pratchett and Gaiman's Good Omens, Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, and "Noah's Flood" from the Chester Mystery Cycle to name a few.

Friday, August 19, 2005

I'm "an overly literal twit"

So says the person who equated Gaiman/Avary/Zemeckis making Beowulf into a movie to spitting on one's grandmother. I responded to that comparison in much the same way I do in the entry below, and the response was this:
John, you are an overly literal twit. You will have a long and honored career as a teacher of English Literature!

(God, save us from over-educated fools! Thank you.)

One would expect better from an academic discussion on the appropriateness or lack thereof of adapting, rewriting, and/or translating a poem which was part of oral tradition, a tradition, I might add, that by definition engages in adaptation, re-"writing," and translation. And baring any intellectually informed response seeking to further the discussion, one would at least expect a ruder insult. I'm disappointed on both counts.

The discussion itself just gets weirder as it progresses. The movie -- a movie which hasn't even begun filming -- is crap not because anyone who is calling it crap knows anything about the movie other than which actors are playing which parts, but because Beowulf is a sacred text that can't be made into a movie. Of course, most are denying holding this position. Instead, they explain how the movie has created unnecessary back-story (of course, we don't know this because the movie hasn't been made and we haven't seen the script), how it has bastardized the poem to the point of committing violence to the text (again, while this is forcefully asserted, it is pure conjecture with no factual support), how the "dumb masses" -- yes, those words were used -- will latch on to these films, this "anti-Beowulf," and how we Beowulf scholars will become critically voiceless just as all "discerning" Lord of the Rings readers have become critically voiceless in this post-Peter Jackson era.

*blinks* Huh?

As one who has been formally studying The Lord of the Rings as an academic since 1995 and as one who has taught The Lord of the Rings and other Tolkien works on and off since 1997, I'm pretty sure the movies haven't made me, or any Tolkienist, voiceless, critically or otherwise. In fact, based on the number of books about Tolkien which have come out since 2001, let alone other things such as the launch of The Tolkien Studies journal, National Geographic's documentary and Web site (plus all the other documentaries in which Tolkien scholars are interviewed, least of not which are the LotR DVDs themselves), all the public lectures Tolkien scholars gave over the last five years (my dissertation director, Tom Shippey was regularly traveling to give lectures on Tolkien for quite some time), the in-progress Tolkien encyclopedia being edited by Michael Drout, the increase in Tolkien courses being taught in colleges and universities, all the media interviews Tolkien scholars gave -- hell, I was interviewed by the staff of an Oregon university student newspaper after the first movie came out because they found my 2001 Tolkien syllabus online. And I'm regularly pumped for information about and my opinions of Tolkien, the books, and the movies when people learn that I've been teaching and studying Tolkien for years and that Tom Shippey, author of The Road to Middle-earth and J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, consultant to the Jackson movies, and one of the talking heads on the DVDs, is my dissertation director. The Lord of the Rings movies have vastly increased both the platform from which Tolkienists may speak and the audience interested in hearing what we have to say. They have in no way made us critically voiceless.

It's madness, all this outrage over movies being made of literary texts. Maybe it's the full moon?

Or maybe I'm making too much of the whole thing. I am, after all, an overly literal twit.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Neil Gaiman, Roger Avary, and Robert Zemeckis are spitting on our grandmothers

ANSAXNET-L got wind of the Neil Gaiman/Roger Avery scripted and Robert Zemeckis directed Beowulf movie (see the following entries in Neil Gaiman's Blog for details: Jan. 21, 2005, Aug. 15, 2005, and Aug. 18, 2005). A number of people, as is usual, have begun bitching and moaning in the way that only those engaging in overly dramatic affected outrage can bitch and moan. "Is nothing scared [sic]?" one asked. Soon they will swing through the contradictory arguments that Hollywood has no right to try to make Beowulf a movie, that if Hollywood dares to make Beowulf a movie Anglo-Saxonists should be consulted, that it's impossible for Hollywood to make Beowulf into a movie, and that the poem would make a great movie as long as nothing of the poem is changed. Many of these arguments will be made by the same individuals.

I've never gotten why this is a problem. I didn't get it when the Christopher Lambert Beowulf came out, I didn't get it when The 13th Warrior came out (talk about indignant. Pointing out that The 13th Warrior was not supposed to be Beowulf but was instead based on Eaters of the Dead, a novel loosely adapted based on Beowulf, didn't phase them at all from bitching about how Beowulf was being ruined and how unfair it is that Hollywood is more interested in making movies for the unwashed masses rather than Anglo-Saxonists ). I didn't get it when they went off on Beowulf & Grendel, and I don't get it now. (I should note that all of this bitching and moaning is a small minority of the Anglo-Saxonist and Anglo-Saxon hobbiest population.)

So I asked, point blank, what the problem is. I pointed out that (1) no literary text can be tossed up on the screen as is, that everything we know about medium theory tells us that adaptation/rewriting/remediation is necessary, hence the reason why movies based upon other texts are called "adaptations." I pointed out that insisting that Beowulf be treated as a fixed, static text, as a text beyond adaptation, is not only print-centric (oral and scribal cultures, which pretty much sums up the Anglo-Saxon world, had no such notion) but a form of textual idolatry completely alien to both the Anglo-Saxons and the tradition which produced Beowulf. And I pointed out that regardless of quality, no matter how many movies made of or based on Beowulf, Beowulf nor Beowulf will be harmed. So, I asked, what's the big deal?

Apparently, making Beowulf into a movie is equivalent to having someone spit on your grandmother. I kid you not. The response I got, in its entirety, is as follows:
OK, John. How would you react if someone spit on your grandmother?

As an oral poem, as a poem that emerges from and takes part in oral tradition regardless of the actual circumstances surrounding the extant text's origin, Beowulf is by definition a poem to be rewritten by means of (re)performance. To (re)perform Beowulf is to keep it and its tradition alive. Adapting the narrative for the screen does no more violence to the poem and its tradition than did the person or persons who first committed it to writing. If there's any spitting on the text, any violence to the poem and its tradition, I would suggest that it would be found in the insistence that the poem live its continued existence locked in closure by the shackles of print culture. Such a claim is, however, a bit overly dramatic for my tastes.

ANSAXNET is the only listserv which I haven't put on nomail as I try to finish up my dissertation. I certainly hope I don't end up being driven to put it on nomail too.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Ong Aphorisms

Found on an index card labeled "Ong's Laws":
The longer you wait to throw something away, the sooner you will have immediate and urgent need for it.

and from one labeled "aphorisms, etc.":
When you add to what you know, does this mean that what you don't know has diminished?
Of course not. Now what you don't know includes how your new knowledge relates to other knowledge of yours as well as to what you still don't know.
What you don't know is bottomless and is getting deeper.

| Walter Ong | Walter J Ong

More on Fonts and Unicode

Penn State's Computing with Accents, Symbols, and Foreign Scripts:

Alan Wood's Unicode Resources:'s "Fonts, characters, and glyphs":

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Dissertation notes: Kelber on Carruthers and Coleman's revision of Yates

From Kelber, Werner H. "The Case of the Gospels: Memory's Desire and the Limits of Historical Criticism." Oral Tradition 17.1 (2002): 55-86.

Summarizing Mary Carruthers and Janet Coleman's revision of Francis Yates, Kelber writes:

"Carruthers' Book of Memory (1990) may be described as a study of the nature and activities of medieval thought, including practices of composing and reading texts, appropriating pictures, envisioning words and events, "eating" and "digesting" words, and modes of meditation and prayer. She has unfolded a culture extending from late antiquity into the Renaissance in which thought was deeply rooted in the human sensorium of touching, smelling, hearing, and varying forms of visualization. her work suggests, by implication more than be definitional explicitness, that some of our central Western metaphors did not mean what they have come to mean to us today. Among those concepts we had thought we knew, but which require rethinking in ancient and medieval terms, are text and textuality, author and tradition, reading and writing, and logic and cognition, to name a few. Most importantly, Carruthers arrives at the conclusion that the culture of late antiquity and the Middle Ages—notwithstanding its steadily increasing manufacture of manuscripts—was predominately a memorial culture rather than a purely documentary, textual one. Coleman's Ancient and Medieval Memories (1992) distinguishes itself by a superior knowledge of ancient philosophy and medieval theology, and by uncommonly subtle representations of philosophical argumentation. her hugely impressive inventory of ancient and medieval theories of memory, which encompasses almost 2000 years of Western intellectual history, principally makes the argument that the measure of remembering was not historical verification as such, but rhetorical persuasiveness. One was inclined to remember primarily what was deemed worthy of remembering, and what merited remembering depended on the bearing it had for present time and circumstances. Only with the advent of the Enlightenment, she claims, were concerted efforts made to reconstruct the past as past" (56).

*Carruthers, Mary. The Book of Memory: A Study in Medieval Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990.
*---. The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400-1200. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.
*Coleman, Janet. Ancient and Medieval Memories: Studies in the Reconstruction of the Past. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992.
*Yates. The Art of Memory. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1966.
*---. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. London; Boston: Routledge, 1972.
*---. The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age.. London; Boston: Routledge, 1979.
*---. Lull and Bruno. London; Boston: Routledge, 1982.

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Dissertation notes: Kelber on the Halbwachs/Assmann Tradition of Social Memory

From Kelber, Werner H. "The Case of the Gospels." Oral Tradition 17.1 (2002): 55-86.

Summarizing social memory, in particular Jan and Aleida Assmann's contribution, Kelber writes:

"Since the 1980s an interdisciplinary group of scholars under the leadership of Jan Assmann (1992) and Aleida Assmann (1999) has produced a steadily growing body of work that carries on the legacy of the pioneering work on memory by Maurice Halbwachs (1925, 1941, 1992, 1997). Memory is here entirely allied with the group and with group identity—a concept that will prove pertinent to the case of the gospels. Once again, the process of remembering does not work purely for the benefit of what is deemed worthy of recollecting; that is to say, it is not primarily fed by needs for preservation of the past in a state of authenticity. Rather, memory selects and modifies subjects and figures of the past in order to make them serviceable to the image of the community wishes to cultivate of itself. Socialization and memory mutually condition each other, seeking in the last analysis preservation not of the remembered past but of group identity. The emphasis is decidedly on the sociological dimension of memory. [page break]

This concept of cultural memory, which entails the construction of the symbolic and historical stability of group identity, in some ways resembles our current notion of tradition. But the Assmanns and their colleagues shy away from the metaphor of tradition, arguing that it overemphasizes the elements of continuity and evolutionary progression. A vital point that appears to be frequently slighted by the notion of tradition is memory's regressive gesture towards the past. The memory work of the group consists in constructing a new image from elements it retrieves from the past. At the same time, this gesturing toward the past is deliberately oriented toward the present. In using the past selectively, memory retains not the past as such but in a sense creates a new past that speaks to the needs of the present. In sum, memory is conceived less as a storage or archive, and more as a dynamic operation that reappropriates the past in the interest of communal identities. The isolated user who calls up ready-made memories is replaced by the social interaction of community within which memories are produced. Again, this concept may be relevant for the gospel compositions if, as will be argued, each gospel constructs a new representation of the sacred past in order to meet the demands of a changing present" (56-57).

*Assmann, Aleida. Erinnerungräume. Formen und Wandlungen des kulturellen Gedächtnisses. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1999.
*Assmann, Jan. Das kulturelle Gedächtnis. Schrift, Erinnerung und politishce Identität in frühen Hochkulturen. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1992.
*Halbwachs, Maurice. Les cadres sociaux de la mémorie. Paris: F. Alcan, 1925.
*---. La Topographie légendaire des évangiles en Terre Sainte. 2nd ed. Paris, 1941.
*---. On Collective Memory. Ed. and trans. Lewis A. Coser. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1992.
*---. La Mémoire Collective. Ed. Gerard Namer and Marie Jaisson. Paris: A. Chichel, 1997.

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Open Access Webliography

Adrian K. Ho and Charles W. Bailey, Jr. have made available online a pre-print of their article"Open Access Webliography" (Reference Services Review 33.3 (2005): 346-364).

From the abstract:

The paper aims to present a wide range of useful freely available internet resources (e.g. directories, e-journals, FAQs, mailing lists, and weblogs) that allow the reader to investigate the major aspects of the important open access (OA) movement. Design/methodology/approach - The internet resources included in this webliography were identified during the course of one of the authors writing the Open Access Bibliography: Liberating Scholarly Literature with E-prints and Open Access Journals. The authors evaluated, selected, categorized, and annotated these resources to construct this webliography, which complements the bibliography. Findings - The most useful resources have been annotated and organized into webliography sections. For example, the "Starting Points", "Debates", and "General Information" sections list resources that orient the reader to OA and the issues involved. The different "Directories (and Guides)" sections alert the reader to useful finding aids on relevant subjects. Originality/value - This webliography provides easy access to the most relevant internet resources for understanding and practicing OA. It affirms the significance of OA in scholarly communication, and it identifies the key parties involved in and/or contributing to the OA movement.

The webliography is available at

Cross-posted to

[via Archivalia]

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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Dissertation notes: Harbus on memory and interpretation

From Harbus, Antonina. The Life of the Mind in Old English Poetry. Costerus New Series 143. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002.

"This dynamic opportunity of text and memory provides a new interpretation of individual circumstances motivated by reminiscence and textual production. The demonstrated interest of Anglo-Saxon poets in the salvific role of memory coupled with active interpretation must also carry an implied ideal way of processing the text at hand which involves active mental work. Their interest in the temporal past, including legendary material, distant hagiographic stories and far-flung history, sheds some light on the relationship between text and history, in that it endows the written text with the role of a memorial outside the individual. Likewise, the apparent native interest in riddles (especially as they do not contain the answer in the title unlike their Latin counterparts), mental puzzles, acrostics, encrypted runic signatures, and charms encodes the local value placed on mental exercise and also the desirability of maintaining written records of these challenges. The notion of a capacious, flexible mind, however, has more than recreational significance; these texts explicitly urge spiritual or moral vigilance and mental fortitude as personal responsibility. They present an outlook in which psychological vigour and acumen are valued, in which a valid textual contribution to mental stimulation or control is granted" (189).


Dissertation notes: Harbus on memory and images

From Harbus, Antonina. The Life of the Mind in Old English Poetry. Costerus New Series 143. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002.

"Mind words occur frequently and are used with a sense of purpose in Beowulf because they are culturally significant in Anglo-Saxon England. The constant repetition of these terms suggests that human perception is presented as a series of mental impressions, rather than the unmitigated reception of reality. meaning is interpreted individually and is contingent upon circumstances. Naturally, this notion has some very interesting ramifications for our understanding of the Anglo-Saxon literary enterprise, particularly when it is considered in conjunction with the narrative structure and retrospective format of Beowulf. Contemporary reality slips into historical or legendary digression, the future becomes the past and logical connections are managed in an allusive rather than explicit manner. There is a series of narratives within the poem which comprises an admixture of stories and retrospective in a dynamic interrelationship with both other tales and the surface reality of narrative. This comes close to Roland Barthes definition of a text: 'A multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash'. The mind is the essential venue for this process of blending and clashing in Beowulf, and the reader's mind is as evident in this schema as are the minds of the protagonists. This process is described at work in the poem when one of the king's thanes improvises a new tale wrought from a collection of legends (867 ff)" (181).

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Dissertation notes: Beowulf and trauma

From Harbus, Antonina. The Life of the Mind in Old English Poetry. Costerus New Series 143. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002.

"Beowulf tells Hygelac that Hro&#eth;gar 'hwilum gyd awræc / so&#eth; and sorlic' (2108b-09a) 'at times recounted a tale, true and sorrowful,' as if the mournfulness were as essential as the truthfulness and both were inherently entertaining (a similar taste for misery exemplified by the elegiac poetry attests to the conventional combination of personal narrative with sorrow). The suggestion in Beowulf is that public experience of sorrow, through shared memory and textualizing the past, is a social bond."


Dissertation thoughts: Byock, Fentress and Wickham, and Social Memory

Jessie Byock's essay "Social Memory and the Sagas: The Case of Egils saga" (Scandinavian Studies 76.3 (2004): 299-316) understanding of social memory rests almost entirely on James Fentress and Chris Wickham's book Social Memory, which, I must admit, was one of my first introductions to the topic. It's good, and it's nice seeing it used by another medievalist. The essay helped crystallize a few of my own ideas.

First, is a Fentress and Wickham quote. While Byock is interested in the Icelanders as immigrants to Iceland and the creation of Icelandic culture, I'm interested in the Anglo-Saxons as immigrants to England and the eventual unification of at least a few dozen independent kingdoms and tribes into one unified people known as the Englisc (the Tribal Hidage, it's original origin believed to date sometime between the mid-seventh and late ninth centuries, lists 34 different kingdoms and tribal regions):

"Social memory is a source of knowledge. This means that it does more than provide a set of categories through which, in an unselfconscious way, a group experiences its surroundings; it also provides the group with material for conscious reflection. This means that we must situate groups in relation to their own traditions by asking how they interpret their own ghosts, and how they use them as a source of knowledge" (Fentress and Wickham 26).

Just as Byock argues that the Íslendingasögur represent the ghosts of the Icelanders, as their material for conscious reflection about who they are, I've been arguing that Beowulf, Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle among other texts worked to create a shared past. As the social, political, and religious institutions unified, the diverse Germanic peoples needed a shared history to help legitimize their social institutions and to help resist internal and external pressures which threatened the social order. By asserting this I don't intend to gloss over the disunifiying factors, just that the overall trend throughout the Anglo-Saxon period and beyond was towards unification politically and religiously.

Of the fluidity of social memory, Byock writes:

"The identity and conceptual integrity of Icelandic society rested on the memory vouchsafed in the sagas. Recounts of the past did not have to be factual to be acceptable since creative story-telling is part and parcel of the process of ongoing social memory. Pools of remembrance were always open to invention, interpretation, and exaggeration. But if the narrative past could be creatively embroidered and changed, there were also self-defining limits to inventiveness" (300).


"In the context of peace yet feud, social memory came to play an especially large role. It combined new, often imported cultural ideas and values thereby allowing the new to mix with real or perceived history. A cognitive process, social memory is not static but adaptive" (301.

Bede's Ecclesiastical History is written not just to tell the story of how the Anglo-Saxons adopted Christianity, but to establish the Anglo-Saxons and the Anglo-Saxon Church as one people and one Church. The accounts Bede provides, the story of Hengest and Horsa (which are far more detailed in Bede than in Gildas), the account of the conversion of King Edwin, various early martyrs, etc.), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, even the germanization of the Old Testament (see Howe, Migration and Mythmaking in Anglo-Saxon England), work to combine, as Byock writes, "new, often imported cultural ideas and values thereby allowing the new to mix with real or perceived history."

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

I came across this gem of a reference book today while reading Terry Pratchett's Katharine Briggs Memorial Lecture, "Imaginary Worlds, Real Stories" (Folklore 111 (2000): 159-168).

Update: I should have mentioned that Pratchett identifies Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Robert Graves' The White Goddess, and Dermot Mac Manus's The Middle Kingdom as influential childhood reading. He writes

There was no pattern to this. I just chose the books that looked interesting. I tended towards folklore rather than mythology, because gods seemed rather dull and stupid and in any case mythology just seemed to be the folklore of the winners.

What was going on, I now realise, was the stealthy laying down of the coal measures I was subsequently to mine as a professional author. I can't remember where I first heard of the Dunmow Flitch, or the King of the Bean, or the Horseman's Word, or the Hunting of the Wren ... in a sense, I've never not known them."


Sunday, August 07, 2005

More social software: Vimeo and Delivr

New, or new to me, social software tools: Vimeo for sharing video clips and Delivr for turning Flickr photos into digital postcards. From their respective Web sites:


"Vimeo is the easiest way to share your video clips. You can create an account for free in a few seconds and upload any video format you'd like (.3gp, .wmv, .mov, etc). We also have tagging, comments, and a bunch of new features in development!"


"Digital postcards for the people by the people...just select an image from the most recent displayed on the home page, search all 600,000+ images*, or lookup your own pix to create a unique custom postcards."

Vimeo via Reflections of Yojarie and Delivr via Depraved Librarian.

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Education Podcast Network

From the Educational Podcast Network site:
The Education Podcast Network is an effort to bring together into one place, the wide range of podcast programming that may be helpful to teachers looking for content to teach with and about, and to explore issues of teaching and learning in the 21st century.

Most of the producers of these programs are educators, who have found an avenue through which they can share their knowledge, insights, and passions for teaching and learning and for the stories that they relish and teach. The directory will grow as more people come forward with their stories and ideas, and we hope that you will start to share your ideas with the larger education community by producing your own program.

[via technoboingo]


Academic branding, or at least self-promotion

In a Chronicle first-person column, Michael J. Bugeja suggests that academics need to start using the internet to brand themselves and their work. Although he states that he's "not a fan of academic branding," he offers the following observation
Take a look at your department's or school's promotion and tenure guidelines. Chances are, as in my school, promotion to associate professor requires that the candidate be "a significant contributor to the field or profession, with the potential for national distinction." According to our rules, promotion to professor requires that candidates "be recognized by his/her professional peers within the university, as well as nationally and/or internationally, for the quality of the contribution to his/her discipline."
The question is, how do you document "the potential for national distinction" or the "quality" of your contributions to the discipline nationally and internationally? Web sites showcasing scholarship can help do that.

Rather than arguing for outright academic branding, Bugeja offers both reasons for creating book and research related Web sites and some practical advice on what such sites might include. While such efforts might work to brand either you or your research, he notes, such sites are "really an online promotion and tenure file that serves colleagues and attracts potential external reviewers."

Bugeja's own site, which supports his book Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age is an excellent example of just what he's suggesting academics need to start doing. I'd also suggest that John Miles Foley's The Pathways Project as an example of a work-in-progress site. In the early stages, the Pathways Project mainly consists of the blog Oral Tradition and the Internet.

Read the column at


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Friday, August 05, 2005

Rufo on the trope of media technoloy displacement and obsolescence

At Ghost in the Wire, Kenneth Rufo has a interesting analysis on the trope of media technology displacement and obsolescence. In part, he writes:
The other examples don't even come this close. With the Half-Blood Prince still flying off shelves, it's hard to say that either hypertext or video games have ended the culture of book reading. Newspapers are everywhere, with blogs largely parasitic off of their reporting efforts. And fear not, podcasts will not replace radio broadcasts any time soon.

So why is this claim so often incorrect? Well, a couple of reasons.

1. The displacement narrative confuses the current function of a medium with the medium itself. In effect, it reduces the potential of a medium to its operational economy. Typing puts word to paper more efficiently than does handwriting, and so handwriting will soon be pictured next to the dodo in the annals of history, or so the theory goes.
2. It ignores the importance of temporality in assessing mediation. Radio has the advantage of "live" broadcasts - commonly referred to now as "real time" - while podcasts do not. Podcasts can fulfill some of the functions of radio, to be sure, but they cannot catpure its rhythms. Those rhythms matter, as they determine the potential and the reception of particular media.

Read the whole post at

Cross-posted to Notes from the Walter J. Ong Archive.

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Removing Yourself From Google

Yesterday, I forgot to include a link to O'Reilly Hack #100: Removing Your Materials from Google>. With all the recent flury over blogging, googling, and the academic job market, I thought this might be a useful resource.

[via Depraved Librarian]


From Neil Gaiman's blog

"And my favourite typo of the day is from a news report on Crispin Glover and Beowulf at Moviehole, in which we learn that "Beowulf" from Robert Zemeckis, Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman, is an age-old yarn of a knight who slays a dragon and becomes kind.

"(Actually, if we're going to get into dragonfighting, it's about a king who fights a dragon and becomes dead...) I spoke to Steve Starkey, the producer, today, and he told me the rest of the lead casting, and I am incredibly happy and cannot say a word until everythng's announced and am mostly just disappointed that I'll be touring through the majority of the filming period and, except for a couple of weeks between the US and the UK, won't be around to watch."

While Gaiman may right in his assumption that Moviehole meant to write "king" rather than "kind," I can't help but wonder if the Moviehole writer was remembering the final lines of the poem (3180-82):

cwædon þæt he wære wyruldcyninga
mannum mildust ond monðwærust,
leodum liðost ond lofgeornost.

said that he was of worldly kings
the mildest of men and the most gentle,
kindest to his people and most eager for fame.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Fall Teaching

I learned last week that I will be teaching an Introduction to Literature course, which fulfills the 200-level literature core requirement (our students must take both a 200 and 300 level literature course).

After a week of thought, I settled on the following texts:

-Beowulf (Liuzza's translation)
-Early in Orcadia by Naomi Michison
-Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
-Dover collections of poetry Lord Byron, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and William Butler Yeats
-A Midsummer Night's Dream
-"Farmer Giles of Ham" and maybe "Leaf by Niggle" by J.R.R. Tolkien

We'll also use Rob Pope's The English Studies Book which I used with much success last time I taught this course. The book's sophisticated enough to be of use to new graduate students while also being practical and accessible enough for a lower-division course made up of non-majors.

The course is going to be loosely based on the idea of stories, myths, and legends, why we tell stories, and the social role of story-telling and narrative, drawing from John Niles' Homo Narrans: The Poetics and Anthropology of Oral Literature, though, of course, we'll be considering much more than oral narrative or even orally derived works.

We'll probably begin with Pratchett's Hogfather which is all about the power and function of story. It begins:

Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists disagree.

But people have always been dimly aware of the problem with the start of things. The wonder aloud how the snowplow driver gets to work, or how the makers of dictionaries look up the spellings of the words. Yet there is the constant desire to find some point in the twisting, knotting, raveling nets of space-time on which a metaphorical finger can be put to indicate that here, here, is the point where it all began...

Something began when the Guild of Assassins enrolled Mister Teatime, who saw things differently from other people, and one of the ways that he saw things differently from other people was in seeing other people as things (later, Lord Downey of the Guild said, "We took pity upon him because he'd lost both parents at an early age. I think that, on reflection, we should have wondered a bit about that").

But it was much earlier even that that when most people forget that the very oldest stories are, sooner or later, about blood. Later on they took the blood out to make the stories more acceptable to children, or at least to the people who had to read them to children rather than the children themselves (who, on the whole, are quite keen on blood provided it's being shed by the deserving*), and then wondered where the stories went.

And earlier still when something in the darkness of the deepest caves and gloomiest forests thought: what are they, these creatures? I will observe them...

*That is to say, those who deserve to shed blood. Or possibly not. You never quite know with some kids.

And we'll use The English Studies Book to do a lot of working with texts both in and out of class. One of my favorite Intro to Lit assignments is a collaboratively annotated and explicated text. I have the class break up into groups of 4 or 5 and have them create a student edition of a poem or other text.

Since we work extensively with the The English Studies Book, I expect not only explanatory notes but a series of critical readings drawing from both the "Theoretical Positions and Practical Approaches" (practical and new criticism; formalism and functionalism; psychoanalytic; Marxism, cultural material, and new historicism; feminism, gender, and sexuality; poststructuralism and postmodernism; postcolonialism and multiculturalism, and what Pope calls the "new eclecticism" which also incorporates ethics, ecology, and the like) and "Common Topics" (which include such issues as "Absence and presence, gaps and silences, centres and margins," "Bibles, holy books and myths," "Discourse and discourse analysis," "Drama and theatre, film and TV," "Poetry and word play," and "Text, context, and intertextuallity" to name a few).

Of course the theoretical positions and practical approaches draw from and rely upon many of the "common topics," but the common topics also include such issues as "character and characterization," "versification," "addresser, address, and addressee," "genre and kinds of texts," and "narrative in story and history: novel, news, and film" which transcend any particular methodology. Our Information Technology Services has set up PmWiki for us to use with classes and I'm planning on using the wiki for this project.

Social Memory and Discourse Communities: A Fragment of a Thought

From an email I sent to someone at some point this summer -- the context is forgotten, but I kept this little bit:

"No one has the same memories as I do even if we're remembering the same event. As for social memory, we all share it but as individuals we can interpret it differently just as we do with texts. Social memories are one way of defining groups -- you can think of social memory groups as a kind of discourse community or vise versa. It may just be an analogy, but at some level I think we can think of them as one and the same. I need to tease this idea out more."

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Social Bookmarking Tool Comparison has created a Social Bookmarking Tool Comparison resource in an effort to keep track of and compare social bookmarking tools. From their site:

Introduction Purpose
This article looks at the evolving crop of social bookmarking tools, their functionality and examples of use. The goal is to help nonprofits understand the value of using social bookmarking tools and to determine which social bookmarking tool would be serve their needs. This is directed at nonprofit uses of these tools.

The current version of this document is available at: Updating
The landscape of social bookmarking tools is like the wild west. New tools are appearing (and disappearing) rapidly and the features of specific tools is also changing. Thanks to the open nature (in terms of syndication and APIs if not source) of many of these tools, third party add-ons can provide significant additional functionality. All of this means that the material in the article can become quickly out-of-date. For that reason, this has been set up, in CivicSpace parlance, as a book. This means that is editable by anyone who has a user account.


via Depraved Librarian

An Anglo-Saxon door

According to the BBC, a door in Westminster Abbey has been dated to the 1050s, making it the only known door from the Anglo-Saxon period.

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