Monday, 27 March 2017

Course Outline

"Among the Thugs: Masculinity and its Discontents
From End of Empire to Third Way."

A number of short but highly influential post-World War II novels share a common inspiration: the mutual and open aggression between the British social establishment and young men of the lower-middle and working classes. The succession of labels given by generations of order and authority to deride this type—stroppers, louts, mods and rockers, hooligans, yobs, punks, lads and, recently, chavs and hoodies—are eloquent testimony in language to the enduring antagonism. In the historical context, the novels will be read against the rapid decline of Britain after her pyrrhic victories in the two World Wars: the martial masculinity bred to build and sustain Empire at once devalued and feared in the post-Colonial Welfare state. In the literary context, we will examine the development from the “angry young man” novel to today’s “new laddism”: the latter genre containing the attempts by Martin Amis and Nick Hornby to write a “Third Way” form of British masculinity capable of being accommodated within the feminism and socialism of New Labour's social legacy.

Note: cinema and popular music also took inspiration from these issues and samples from “Trainspotting” and “Quadrophenia” to "The Football Factory" will illustrate our study.

Kipling, Rudyard: Stalky & Co.
Greene, Graham: Brighton Rock
Stillitoe, Alan: Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Burgess, Anthony: Clockwork Orange
Amis, Martin: Success
Hornby, Nick: High Fidelity

Lydon, Johnny: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs
Hornby, Nick: Fever Pitch

15% Class participation
10% Class presentation
20% Group polemical project
20% Mid-term paper (approx. 2000 words)
35% Final paper (approx. 3000 words)

Monday, 28 April 2008

Cartoon Emasculation

Via NewYorker (a pun exits here on that journal's title to which Americans are oblivious: clue on the cover of our Oxford UP edition of Stalky & Co.)

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Chris Hitchens has been reading "Stalky & Co."

Read this recent article by Christopher Hitchens on Hillary Clinton & see if you conclude as I do that he has been reading, or clearly remembering, his Stalky & Co.
I respect (and read) Hitchens as a writer and controversialist, but I can't help concluding that he is fairly ordinary by English standards: indeed, in Britain he rather small beer. His fame comes from America, where that style of writing, & his media persona (a poor man's left-version of Kingsley Amis' public self) is unfamiliar--education being very different.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Term Essay Thesis Draft

Reminding all that the coming week is effectively our Reading Break: a godsend for us ahead of our closing two weeks focused on Stalky & Co. I am dying to hear your ideas on my perception that certain prefigurations of punk have their ghostly presence in the text.

Office Hours are cancelled (as I will be in France) for the week, but I will have the thesis outlines with me of those who havn't yet been able to come by and discuss them. I can be contacted by e-mail with any questions about them.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Student Financial Aid & Awards

Follow the hotlink in this post's title for a list of the financial aid and awards available to undergraduates: the deadline is April 15th.

A list of SFU bursaries (a hidden help) is on-line here.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Stoicism in the British Character

The following is from (Sullivan being an expat) and insists on stoicism as essentially an English - not an American - national characteristic.

THE BRITS AND STOICISM: Here's one cultural difference between Brits and Americans. Brits regard the best response to outrage to carry on as if nothing has happened. Yes, they will fight back. But first, they will just carry on as normal. Right now, a million kettles are boiling. "Is that the best you can do?" will be a typical response. Stoicism is not an American virtue. Apart from a sense of humor, it is the ultimate British one. Neveratoss captures this perfectly today:
Went to the pub at lunchtime to see the latest new on events in London. Three young guys were sitting directly in front of the TV as details of a major terrorist attack on London were emerging – all three avidly reading the Sun's account of the Steven Gerard/Liverpool fiasco.

That's a reference to a soccer story. Do not mistake this attitude for indifference. It's a very English form of determination.

WHY CRICKET MATTERS TODAY: An emailer reminds me of another Englishman's commentary on seeking pleasure and diversion even in wartime, perhaps especially in wartime: "I think it important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective. The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun... The insects have chosen a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumably they have their reward. Men are different. They propound
mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffolds, discuss the latest new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache: it is our nature."C.S.
Lewis, of course, in a 1939 sermon at St Mary the Virgin in Oxford. Yes, England beat Australia today - by
nine wickets.

"'The public are sick and tired of yobs"

Even) more from British tabloid The Daily Mail:
'The public are sick and tired of yobs,' judge says as he jails teens who beat man to death
13th March 2008
A judge today described three teenagers involved in beating to death a "helpless" man as typical of the "young, drunken, violent yob who hunt in packs and of whom the public are sick and tired".....Judge Stewart said: "Gavin made his way home in great pain to lie dying alone in his flat during the following three days because of a ruptured spleen. The pain he endured must have been horrific."....The three told friends about the attack and showed them the footage, which was also sent to other people's mobile phones but was never published on the internet.
The thug on the right is from my home town of Bradford, Yorks...

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Mid-Term Essay: Conditional Grade

Two (important) points regarding the Mid-Term Essay that you received back in class this week.

  • If you have any specific aspect for discussion about the grade that your essay earned, relate the essay and the marking comments to the objective criteria in the "Essay Letter Grade Criteria" in the Pertinent & Impertinent list here on the blog. Should you then bring the essay to an Office Hour for discussion, frame your remarks and questions directly to these objective criteria. This provides an independent standard and a common framework for understanding the expectations and requirements for a scholarly essay at the University level.
  • The primary purpose of essay assignments is to afford students opportunity to improve the quality of their academic writing and analysis. To this effect, as I stated in lecture, I customarily write copy-edits on Mid-Term essays: with a personal purpose of rewarding students for their good contributions to class by showing the way to an effective Final Essay, and thus an agreeable final course grade. However, it has been my unvaried experience hitherto that in excess of seventy-five percent of students make precisely the same mistakes on the Final essay as were corrected--lavishly and in vivid red ink--on their Mid-Term essay; leading me to conclude that my corrections are not being read. (One explanans offered me is that students interpret essay corrections as comment on their ability rather than--as is the case--as judgement on the artifact that they have submitted.) This term, then, I have determined to restrain myself from writing copy-edits, and have instead written a detailed overview at the foot of the essay. The design is that the student will do two things:
  • Read and study the concluding analysis, and then apply the directions found
    there to pages of the essay.
  • Bring the essay in person to the Lecturer, for manual assistance.
  • To, shall we say, 'encourage' the second event, I have recorded the grade on the Mid-Term essay as "Conditional": the grade will be certified only when the essay is brought in for discussion. In order to help the quality--and thereby the grade-- of your Final Essay, the earlier this is done the better. Scheduled Appointments are available for the remainder of the term

Film Viewing

There will be a class film showing of the remainder of the classic film noir version of Brighton Rock, screenplay by Graham Greene himself & written by Terence Rattigan whom we know from his charming Browning Version earlier in the Term. This will take place in the classroom, but beginning at five-thirty; that is, the hour before the scheduled class time.

In class time we will see clips from the film version of The Who's Quadrophenia. The album was inspired in part by Brighton Rock, and the film has several scenes in Brighton evocative of Greene's novel.

Assignment Due Date

A reminder of the assignment due in class this coming Monday....

Monday, 10 March 2008

The Pedagocial Fallacy

À Propos the pedagocial fallacy mocked by Alex in A Clockwork Orange, this article featured on today's Arts & Letters Daily:
The arts won’t make you virtuous or make you smart, but they are Robert Fulford’s faith, firmly installed in his mind where other people put religion... more»

Friday, 7 March 2008

On Sillitoe: Class Discussion

Good class work on analysis & insights into Sillitoe's stories, now online.

Term Essay

A reminder to keep an eye on the syallbus for the format of the Term Essay, and the upcoming date of the draught thesis paragraph.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Possible Influence on "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

"Bloomin' Ada!" A possible influence on Sillitoe's Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (or, more precisely, on his working up of the story from his original idle penning of the titular line) is Alf Tupper, the Tough of the Track. My father and I grew up in turn reading Alf, as did almost all working class boys in post-War Britain, quite plausibly including a young Alan Sillitoe. Follow the hotlink to a useful website & see what you think.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Students' Nadsat Essays

Anthony Burgess' nadsat is clearly a workable argot, as the following short essays by your small groups demostrates. Peet o' scotchmen by the winner?

  1. On “The Pedagogic Fallacy”:
    All the mooges and damas think that like school and biblios are real horrorshows, but me mozggies ain’t no better for it. Even the state institute for the reclamation of criminal types reckoned that it would make me a good non-violent malchick. That, it turned out, my brothers, was pure chepooka. Droogs who become bookmen can still do a right bit of ultraviolence, even if they know it’s not the right. You would have to be like bezoomy to reckon that being an oomny chelloveck mean the difference between being dobby or the baddywaddiest. Anyone with glazzies in their gullivar can viddy that education allows more than a bit of horrorshow ultraviolence. By Old Bog, if you slooshy any lewdies who gavoreet any different they ain’t worth hen-korm. Yarbles to school and all that cal.
  2. Alex is a failed Stalky model. He alienates the gruppa relationship by over-prodding, which undermines the equality of the shaika, and he fails to respect the larger system and its institutions.
    Throughout the novel, Alex like refuses to allow the other vecks of the bandas to perform. He is apt to shvat the glory and the spotlight and stops everyone else from verifying themselves. He continually re-asserts his dominance over the shaika. Over raz, they have less and less freedom, which prevents them from performing very horrorshow.
    When Alex tolchocks Dim and Georgie, it instantly displays how his tendency towards over-performance deteriorates the close-knit fabric of the bandas. Where he could have like permitted the other droogs to have a say in things, or to perform, specifically, he just drats them as an attempt to re-assert his oddy knocky authority. Alex’s failure to viddy the ultraviolence performance rights of the other droogs effectively dissolves the very horrorshow cohesion of the very malchickiwicks that Alex claims to privodeet over.
    Finally, whenever Alex like deals with the rozz, or the greater system they represent, he shows oozhassny disregard for their conducts, practices and ideals. He nadmenny disrespects his pee and em, the Governor, and the education system. According to the traditional Stalky model Alex should still maintain an unspoken level of respect towards the greater system he is a part of; however, his actions undermine, on many different levels, all possible aspects of the society which he finds himself plennied.
    In conclusion, Alex fails as a Stalky figure in all places in the novel. From nachinatovat to end of the raskazz, there is no change in his jeezny, or his ideals. He refuses to allow vecks to enjoy in his performative pleasures, he like rebels against everything possible, whether it’s his pee and em, or the millicents, and actively alienates his connections to the very gruppa that defines him. This, in sum, is undeniably how Alex fails. By the end of the novel, he has ultimately become the antithetical Stalky.
  3. O my brothers, I recently viddied the bezoomy American sinny of my razkazz, A Clockwork Orange, which is based on the version of my novel that omitted my 21st chapter. And let me tell you, O my brothers, it was real cal. Not horrorshow even a malenky bit. With this omission, my readers will not pony our droog as a progaonist and makes the work as a novel more sodding trivial. Our droog, dear Alex, can no longer be viddied as a dynamic lewdie. Without the 21st chapter, Alex doesn’t have the ability to change. He can’t like change his jeezny which is a quality that’s a real horrorshow dorogoy to the razkazz. The 21st chapter allows the reading lewdies to viddy Alex as a more human character. It skazats that our Humble Narrator to change his jeezny. On page 93, I govoreeted “goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.” I govoreeted this vesch again on page 125 just to make sure my reading bratties got my point real horrorshow. Without my final chapter, the reader can’t viddy this. The final chapter also shows the development of Pete. If the malchicks are meant to represent malchicks in real jeezny, without showing Alex and Pete’s change the Americanised razkazz suggests he cannot change, and if malchicks are morally bezoomy in youth, they won’t change, making them a clockwork orange as I referenced on page 175 and 178.
    In conclusion, Kubrick can kiss my sherries! My grazny yarbles!
  4. Burgess Creeching at the Bratchney Sod who Litsoed the End Out O' the Sinny
    (In Defense of the 21st Chapter)
    I appupolly loggy for my bezzomy grammar but I must be saying, O my brothers, that we're a clarking at the gloopy American-Ded that razrezzed the 21st-like chapter out o' this copy of the book at the biblio. It's all a bit horrorshow to let the writer-mooge hold onto what the bloody well wrote down, cause he knew well enough to plesk it from his gulliver way he did. Pony, we got a cozhassnay vhsnhr in style don't you know, savvy?
    When the ending get nozh'ed and the novel's a babel. Skanzat to say the sodding shoot who thinks someone can't imagine a world where people change cuz Burgess wanted to think they could. He stuck it in all quiet like that; 21 is when boys be men and savvy their mozg instead of skriking their yarbles. If you go take a lomtick out of this last bit of oozhassay writing then boys are shown as real nadmenny prestopnik with no hope for growth.

  5. What’s it going to be then, eh? It seems to me, o my brothers, that you’ve been govoreeting about this malenky malchick Stalky and his prestoopnick droogs. He may have a real horrorshow jeezny. Right right right. But did he ever hold a pooshka or nosh, or give the old in out in out to some sweet devotchka. And unlike your droogie Stalky, no starry Millicent could change the rassoodock of your humble Narrator. I’m not poogly of any malenky grahzny vesh. You think I failed because I was loveted, but you can kiss my sharries! It only happened because my gloopy traitorous droogs left me for the rozz. Now I’m a real horrorshow chelloveck with a zheena and my son, so who’s the somny one now?
    Amen. And all that cal.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Office-Plant Blogging

It's always spring in hothouse my wonderful office.

AQ6094: office hours are always as scheduled.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

On Mid-term Question 1

In Office Hours today, I answered a student request for more information about Question 1 on the Mid-Term which it seems only fair to broadcast.

The question does not require you to give specific aspects of the Stalky model: or, at least, one is sufficient (although many more would work.) The requirement is twofold: one, that there is understanding of performative masculinity-- manhood can be lost by failed performance--in twentieth-century Britain; two, that a specific model of masculinity existed before 1945, encoded in British literature (that model being what I term the Stalky model; but, again, it is more important for the question that the fact of a model's existence be recognised than the specific model be anatomised.

To give an example, using one of the Stalky characteristics, in A Clockwork Orange, the close-knit group of contrasting male companions exists, but it has gone awry: it has altered in some way (which you would detail by textual quotation) and thus fails to produce masculinity. This can be seen symbolised in the text--and specifically represented on the cover of the recent Penguin edition of the work--by milk. The glass of moloko on the cover, which should symbolise purity and growth, is, for the droogs, poisoned: poisoned by hallucinogentic drugs.

Droog-ism: "Happy Slapping"

The wider relevence of this course study and material is indicated in this article from the Sunday Telegraph. Note, by the bye, that the article says the film by Kubrick rather than the novella by Burgess:

The violence seen in the video obtained by this newspaper has echoes of the extreme violence portrayed in Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film, A Clockwork Orange. In the film, a gang of youths travels the country to commit violent acts, including rapes and murders, for fun. Jan Harlan, the late director's brother-in-law, who helped to make the Oscar-nominated film, said that such violence was "beginning to make A Clockwork Orange seem like Bambi".
He said: "Violence is on a totally different level than it used to be. We do not realise how violent the whole world has become in the last few decades. The danger is that in the next 30 or 40 years there will be a huge crowd of uneducated young men with nothing to do except become more violent and anti-social."

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Thugs in British Media

I've been blogging British tabloid media stories on yobs: one today in the DailyMail suggests to me that things are intensifying. There is an increasing and an intensifying focus on violent young males, and these stories, and the reader comments that follow them, indicate that some political -- or even cultural -- change is imminent.
"The do-gooders - many encouraged by today's politicians - are doing nothing to frighten off the sort of thugs who left Christopher with his heart beating, but not really alive.
"Even ten years ago it was different. We still believed that out in the streets you wouldn't get mugged by gangs of youngsters who you didn't know from Adam.
"Now, the teenagers who strut about with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other are afraid of no one. I see them every day outside the pubs wherever I go."
Helen Newlove, the widow of Garry Newlove, who was beaten to death outside his home in Warrington, has called for a return to capital punishment in this country.
"I agree with her, and so do thousands of other ordinary people who are sick and frightened of what is happening."
Marion is not a political animal. But she has a reason to be angry.
She says: "I sat there, day after day, at the Old Bailey trial. It was all about the rights of Ashman, Wakeling and Patterson.
"The excuses given by the three teenagers and their legal team for why they had attacked Christopher, leaving him almost dead, were astonishing.
"One said he had eczema; another had been brought up by his grandmother. Yet the court took them seriously.
"Meanwhile, their friends in the public gallery were waving at them in the dock, and one of the gang's relatives was told to leave by the judge for swearing continually
"Wakeling, Patterson and Ashman even laughed and joked in court, just as they did after they left Chris all but dying in the street.
The question for us, of course, is how the coming change will follow the pattern fictionally mapped in Burgess' (not Kubrick's) A Clockwork Orange.

Monday, 18 February 2008

"Life in Mars"

Make sure you jot down notes of your responses to the Life on Mars episode today: specifically its representation of masculine culture in 1973 Britain, the roots of football hooliganism, and the relationship to the documentary section we watched, and any of the other course materials.

There is a sequel now running to L.o.M., named, after another David Bowie song, Ashes to Ashes.

(The hotlink on the titles here is to a useful interactive BBC page for L.o.M.)

Kudos Film & Television is a Jane Featherstone and Stephen Garrett production company who have a golden touch in Britain. The link gives their impressive list of successes.

Saturday, 16 February 2008


Lots of links on the England parts of the internets to Stanley Unwin's work: he being one of Burgess' inspirations for the language in Clockwork Orange. Unwin seems plain odd to North Americans, but his invented inverted speech hits something deep in the brain stem of the body England. Monty Python were obvious devotees; and John Lennon virtually wrote his Spaniard in the Works in Uniwinese.

Here is Mr. Unwin in a television advertisement for a word processor.
Gratuitous literary progenitor mention: James Joyce.
Nb: What I imagine attracted Burgess to Unwin was the fact that his language games are not nonsense. Take "eyebold," for instance, from the advert: in relation to "eyeballed" it is a reasonable jocose intensifier, and, in context, "eyebald" and "eyebowled" (a cricketing pun) are effective possibilities. It is for certain no less inventive or reasonable than much in Joyce (albeit less sustained.)

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Guest Lecture on "A Clockwork Orange"

We will open our February 25th class with a special guest lecture by the venerable Mr. Stanley Green, Doctoral Candidate in our Department and afficianado of classical music, on Anthony Burgess' use of music in A Clockwork Orange. I have experienced this multi-media lecture before and am certain you will be find it memorable.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

On Justice versus Humanitarianism

From classfellow S.R., the following scholarly analysis and article recommendation for a fuller understanding of A Clockwork Orange. (Referenced article in hotlink & the title of this post.)

Throughout class discussion last night I was reminded of an essay I read years ago by C.S. Lewis. I found it in one of my books this afternoon, and thought you might be interested in reading it, if you have not already done so. It's titled "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment", and it was printedin 20th Century: an Australian Quarterly Review in 1949. I know Burgess wasa fan of Lewis, but I'm not sure how intimate their friendship was. My edition of Mere Christianity has a quotation from Burgess on the backcover, but I doubt Lewis ever read it. As I read the essay 'for the third time' I couldn't help but think that maybe this could have been a major source for some of the content in A Clockwork Orange. I don't know of any other author whose essays could inspire such a tightly argued case; and I think
Burgess had the skill to turn such a scholarly argument into brilliant fiction

Monday, 11 February 2008

Mid-Term Essay Topics

  1. On the performative model of masculinity--that manhood is conditional on performance--encoded as a model in British literature by Rudyard Kipling in Stalky & Co., arrange Clockwork Orange, Success and High Fidelity into a devolving sequence using direct quotations from the three post-Kipling British novels.
  2. Terrence and Gregory are Martin Amis' modernisation of the 'body-soul dialogue' literary trope. Provide a forensic analysis of Amis' text which shows the accurate anatomy of this reading.
  3. Explain how High Fidelity represents a male dystopia that inverts the Stalky model of confident and fulfilled masculinity.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Stalky & Co.

I am relieved to report that Stalky & Co. is now in at the BookStore. Please pick up your copy as soon as possible, as the shelf space will be required for next term stock in the next week or two.

"Feral" Yobbism

More, here from the on-line Daily Mail on the lastest story of England's present-day battle with the thugs. This story repeats an increasing mention of the common element a majority of ASBOs share of having single mothers in broken homes.
'Feral' yob who killed trucker with a concrete missile jailed for just three years.
Last updated at 23:17pm on 8th February 2008
His face a picture of defiance as he gestures obscenely while smoking a cannabis joint, this is the feral yob who killed a lorry driver by dropping a 44lb breeze block off a bridge.
Dean Ingram, 15, was named by order of a judge yesterday as he was locked up for three years and four months after admitting manslaughter.
The product of a broken home, Ingram was left unsupervised to roam the streets into the early hours, revelling in being loutish and out of control.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Soundtrack for our Course?

If a yob could do new-beats/hiphop/garage music, listenable for rock fans, that gave a cohesive literary-level narrative to New Labour laddism, his name would be Mike Skinner, his nom-de-rap would be The Streets, he would have been born and raised in Brum and would live now in Brixton (Brixton!), Kristna L. would have turned me on to it at our first lecture, he would have called this concept-album epitome a grand don't come for free, and I would have ordered it for our Media Collection, and it would be available for you to sign-out & listen to.

And it is so.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

"The two faces of [Martin] Amis"

Via the indispensable Arts & Letters Daily, an excellent article on and interview with Martin Amis, including a clip of him reading from his latest book, "The Second Plane," a collection of essays on the post-9/11 world.

The interview makes clear, by the bye, the academic importance of my placing Amis in reference to radical Islam during seminar last week.

In his new book, The Second Plane, Amis writes that 11 September 2001 was "a day of de-Enlightenment," the beginning of a global "moral crash", one that is still thudding and smashing all around us. But his battalions of critics believe this is an unwitting description of the author himself, a portrait of the artist as an ageing man. As the twin towers burned and fell, they believe Amis became radically de-Enlightened, and embarked on a "moral crash" where he mooted the collective punishment of all Muslims.
The article includes extended treatment of Canadian writer, Mark Steyn

Working class boys: failing

A report from the BBC online, entitled "White working class boys failing." This fits with the course focus on post-Empire masculinity. (Note that BBC is no longer a conservative voice: it is definitely to the left of the Labour Party, for instance.)
Government figures show only 15% of white working class boys in England got five good GCSEs including maths and English last year.
Among white boys from more affluent homes - 45% achieved that level of qualification.
Poorer pupils from Indian and Chinese backgrounds fared much better - with 36% and 52% making that grade respectively.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

"Take it Like a Man"

From classfellow M.T.:

There is an interesting song called Take It Like a Man' by Dragonette. It mocks a man who can't handle her as a strong woman - should she buy him flowers and chocolates for his troubles? Now, I'm pretty sure this is heavily ironic because the album is heavily playful and satirical. But at times not..soo... Anyway, the lyrics were interesting -

Monday, 28 January 2008

Masculine Quest Narrative

The male quest narrative -- 'monomyth' in the jargon of Joseph Campbell-- has a blog, here.

Aspects of Hornby's High Fidelity suggest that the text can be interpreted as an inverted quest:
"the story of the rugged individual who realizes his true nature through heroic struggle" and thus "finds a sense of identity and place in the world" (Leonard and McClure 17). Campbell's work influenced George Lukas' science fiction epic Star Wars: "According to Campbell, the hero's quest occurs in three phases: the separation, the initiation, and the return. As the hero separates himself from his home, he often encounters a helper that guards and guides him through trials that initiate him into the true nature of reality. When he achieves mastery, he may return home to enrich his former community" (Leonard and McClure 17, 18).

Friday, 25 January 2008

E-Mail Netiquette

Not that there has been any problem in our course, but I have written these rules of e-mail etiquette for a lower division course which it cannot hurt to make standard practice.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

British Stoicism

The following is from (Sullivan being an expat) and insists on stoicism as essentially an English - not an American - national characteristic.

THE BRITS AND STOICISM: Here's one cultural difference between Brits and Americans. Brits regard the best response to outrage to carry on as if nothing has happened. Yes, they will fight back. But first, they will just carry on as normal. Right now, a million kettles are boiling. "Is that the best you can do?" will be a typical response. Stoicism is not an American virtue. Apart from a sense of humor, it is the ultimate British one. Neveratoss captures this perfectly today:
Went to the pub at lunchtime to see the latest new on events in London. Three young guys were sitting directly in front of the TV as details of a major terrorist attack on London were emerging – all three avidly reading the Sun's account of the Steven Gerard/Liverpool fiasco.

That's a reference to a soccer story. Do not mistake this attitude for indifference. It's a very English form of determination.

WHY CRICKET MATTERS TODAY: An emailer reminds me of another Englishman's commentary on seeking pleasure and diversion even in wartime, perhaps especially in wartime: "I think it important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective. The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun... The insects have chosen a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumably they have their reward. Men are different. They propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffolds, discuss the latest new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache: it is our nature."C.S. Lewis, of course, in a 1939 sermon at St Mary the Virgin in Oxford. Yes, England beat Australia today - by nine wickets.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Where thugs come from Pt.1

You may have seen one of these on campus. Observe the poster boy, literally, for what our culture regards as absolute failure: a young working-class male between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five. One part of the influences turning boys into thugs....

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Group Assignment: Criteria

The Group project is designed to be straightforward, enjoyable, and beneficial. Each group will create and maintain a Web Log discussing any of the works on the course reading list in light of a Darwinian view of performative masculinity, using a combination of scholarly and popular representations of Thugs -- or males in general - as either dangerous, inept and unwanted in absence of Empire. Thus concentration on English masculinity is strongly advised, but not made dictament.

Your Final Cause will be the advocacy within the blogosphere of the cultural relevance of literay scholarship.

A short tutorial on setting up a blog will be given upon request.

The grading criteria are the scope, originality, inventiveness and literary insight of the accumulated blog entries. Technical proficiency will not be graded, but of course you are free to use any mechanical technique you wish. I will publish all the Groups' blog addesses on the Course blog and you are encouraged to solicit advice & criticism from the whole class throughout the course of the semester. Open collaboration is one great strength of blogging: some scholars, for instance, post parts of articles or even books in the blogosphere for criticism and correction before publication.

Of course, I am available for expert consultation: in person during Office Hours, and online most times.

Because this is a Group project, you will find that synergy will soon animate and enlived the assignment. I offer the suggestion that each Group assign responsibilities to members based on individual proficiencies and preferences. For instance, in principle, only one member need do the mechanics of posting the collaborative entries. There will be one group grade for all members.

I will take a snapshot of your blog on the day of the last seminar of the term and use that for grading: however I will look in regularly throughout the term as a means to, shall we say, encourage you not to leave the whole enterprise until the last minute. The experience of blogging regularly for a couple of months will, I believe, be its own benefit to you down the years.

Friday, 18 January 2008

"Stalkiness" in post-Marxist Economic Terms

A provocative analysis of one of the forms of capital that, the claim is, Marx did not fathom, in terms of the type of organisation of which the "Co." in Stalky in Co. is an perfect example. Indeed, the first commentator usins an example which you will immediately recognise as exemplified by Rob & Co. in High Fidelity. The clip, here, is less than five minutes long.

Nb. gathers experts and pundits from all over the social & political terrain, albeit with a predominance from the left side, to comment on a topic congenial to their expertise or punditry, as the case may be.

Individual Class Presentation

The Individual Class Presentation assignment, for which you signed up this past Monday, asks you to lead seminar discussion for a strictly timed fifteen minutes on any aspect of any of our course texts that should capture your interest.

The Course Instructor's preference is for the discussion to feature a text scheduled within a week, either side, of the presentation; however, I do not make this dictament.

I recommend that you make the assignment low-definition (vid. Marshall McLuhan): that is, from your text, isolate a single aspect of interest and of illuminative relevancy to Course theme and idea, present your thesis on the aspect succinctly, and then lead the class to fuller understanding.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Thugs in the News

Update: Just in time for our course, the Press in Britain are ramping up campaigns to deal with .... well, with the subjects of our course, in response to the assault mentioned first below.

More support for the course thesis (thug behavior a consequence of the post-1945 end of Empire) here from Dame Kelly Holmes, calling for thugs to be sent to Army camps:

OLYMPIC champ Dame Kelly Holmes has called for every 16-year-old to be put through Army-style training camps.
The double gold medallist blamed the breakdown of family life for Britain’s yob culture – and said kids need to be taught discipline and a regimented way of life.
Runner Kelly, 37 – in India with Gordon Brown to promote the 2012 London Olympics – was a PE instructor in the Army.
She said: “I’m talking about a month of intense training in life skills that teach you some qualities of respect, training, discipline and basic skills like how to turn up on time, finish a job, and even iron your shirt.
“It’s going to help society because it is about your core values.”
The "breakdown in family life" is a strong explanans gaining increasing currency. Note in this regard that in the articles below dealing with the thugs who killed Garry Newlove were all children of single mothers.

Note that, as presented in lecture, the violence is non racial: like football hooliganism, white-on-white.

A vivid current example of real thuggishness thing is here, ("Get this evil off our streets") here and here, in the right-wing English tabloids The Sun and The Daily Mail. Note that the mother of their victim (the family in the picture here), as the explanatory model presented in lecture would predict, wants the thugs sent into the British Army.

A gruesome, minute-by-minute, account here.

  • [Elsewhere, an Australian, not thug, perhaps hooligan, likely prat is viewable in full attitude mode, against a female interviewer (she also does bbcworld, I am certain.) Sent along by classfellow M.S.]
  • Also, an example -- and one I am still shaking my head over -- of the culture of accommodation (effectively, condescension) that the present Labour regime in Britain is working to implement toward thugs, through policy.
  • [Warning: graphic image] Here is another thug, and his elderly woman victim.

Monday, 14 January 2008

"The Browning Version" -- Today's Version

The type of school depicted in The Browning Version, the film we will see today, is very much alive in our time; certainly in England. (This being part of the justification for the—much weaker—1994 remake.)

For evidence, look through the website for Rugby School....

Kipling's "....Flag-Waver" in our Own Day

[Update: classfellow A.N.'s convincing comment causes me to edit this post to make clear that I more accurately say that MacDonald Fraser is a Kipling-esque character than using "Stalky"as the term. Stalky is indeed not a "jelly-bellied flag-waver."]

A just-deceased version of [snip] a "flag-waver" as Kipling calls such—is George MacDonald Fraser, author of the Flashman series. (Incidentally, Flashman is a literary character taken, in homage, from the book to which Kipling made his own homage in Stalky & Co.: Thomas Hughes' 1857 Tom Brown's Schooldaysitself homage to the real-life Thomas Arnold's Rugby School.)

His wartime biography, which I have, is titled (in a phrase from Kipling's great "Gunga Din") Quartered Safe Out Here, and is very much an echo of the "Slaves of the Lamp II", the final Stalky chapter.

A flavour of MacDonald Fraser's lineal Edwardian attitudes can be found, unalloyed, in this article of his, online, "How Britain has Destroyed Itself."

Friday, 11 January 2008

Lad culture in Tudor and Stuart England

Follow this link to a review of a superb book, Meanings of Manhood in Early Modern England by University of Sussex historian Alexandra Shepard. Her thesis is very pertinent to our course. Dr. Sheperd has uncovered laddism as far back as the late 1400s: that is, large numbers of dissaffected young males conducting themselves in ways that drew strong condemnation and forceful suppression from the particular elite in power. The article concludes this way:
... her findings offer an alternative view to the "sex blindness" of the traditional theory that all men were viewed as intellectually and morally superior to women, thereby creating a system that benefited all men at the expense of all women. "We need a multi-relational framework when assessing gender relations," says Dr Shepard, "it involves a great deal more than the simple opposition of women and men."

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Course Syllabus

Course Texts and Schedule of Readings:

Following this schedule will keep you ahead of lecture. The ideal reading schedule is, as always, to have each text read in full before the first lecture upon it.

High Fidelity: Nick Hornby
— Course Weeks 1-2
Success: Martin Amis
— Course Weeks 3-4
Clockwork Orange: Anthony Burgess
— Course Weeks 5-6
Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner: Alan Sillitoe
— Course Weeks 7-8
Brighton Rock: Graham Greene
— Course Weeks 9-10
Stalky & Co.: Rudyard Kipling
Course Weeks 11-12
Course Week 13

The two recommended texts for the course will be discussed throughout the term and should be read before and after the Mid-Term assignment.

See support material available on Library Reserve.

Nb: There is a four percent per day late penalty for all assignments, documented medical or bereavement leave excepted. For medical exemptions, provide a letter on a Physican's letterhead which declares his or her medical judgement that illness or injury prevented work on the essay. The letter must cover the entire period over which the assignment was scheduled and may be verified by telephone. For bereavement leave, simply provide, ex post facto, a copy of the order of service or other published notice of remembrance.

January 14th: Individual Presentation: due date for sign up.
January 28th: Group Polemical Project: proposal due in class.
February 11th: Mid-Term Essay topics posted.
February 25th: Mid-Term Essay due.
March 3rd: Group Polemical Project: peer review.
March 17th: Final Essay draught thesis paragraph due in class.
April 7th: Group Polemical Project due in class.
April 9th: Final Essay due.

1. Mid term paper, two thousand words: Criteria will include literary analysis, engagement with course themes and writing mechanics.
2. Group polemical project: in collaboration with the Course Instructor, create a polemical blog relating the performative masculinity to course texts and current events. Seminar time will be set aside throughout the term to work with the Instructor on this project
3. Individual class presentation: Lead seminar discussion for fifteen minutes on an aspect of the course text for that week dear to your interests. The format is open: present an over-arching idea or resonance, or a specific passage, pattern, or the like.
4. Final Paper, three thousand words: your preferred topic incorporating two course primary texts and reference to support material: secondary texts, Library Reserved material, or independent research. A creative option outside of these parameters is available for this assignment: follow the hotlink for the format of the proposal this option must take.

Course Approach

The course is looking for a literary understanding of a collection of British fiction written after 1945. These books share a common theme: in the words of the course outline, "the mutual and open aggression between the British social establishment and young men of the lower-middle and working classes."

We begin with Rudyard Kipling's Stalky & Co. which expresses a model of masculinity that had engrossing influence before 1945, and then read the subsequently-written works of fiction and consider how the texts engage and disengage the Stalky model. We will be going backward in time, and seeing the increase in the strength of the the model and the confidence of fictionalised men in their masculine characteristics.

It is hoped that students will engage the material critically, test the hypothesis fairly and present a detailed, reasoned and rigorously researched essay expressing their individual analysis and response to the course of study.

Course requirement weighting:
15% Course participation
10% Seminar presentation
20% Group e-Text project
20% Mid-term paper (approx. 2000 words)
35% Final Paper (approx. 3000 words or equivalent.)

Nb: “Participation requires both participation in seminar and attendance and punctuality at lecture and seminar."

Instructor Contact:
AQ 6094, 778-782-5820. Expanded Office Hours: Monday two thirty to five thirty, Tuesday ten o'clock to noon, Wednesday two thirty to three o'clock, Thursday ten o'clock to noon. Bring your coffee and discuss course matters freely. E-mail to Use your SFU account for e-mail contact. Other e-Mail accounts are blocked by white-list.

Camille Pagila on Hillary Clinton & Weak Men

Conveniently in support of our lecture discussion Monday on Camille Paglia and the performative masculinity thesis, the formidable Ms. Paglia herself is back in action: a new article in explains Hillary Clinton in terms of her "disdain for masculinity" -- types of failed men appear, all through a typically Paglian literay lens. She is herself of the Clinton's political party, and is a solidly left-wing journal.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Dangerous Bodies to Dangerous Words?

A student in a previous teerm commented that, in regard to Margaret Atwood's assertion that "men's bodies are the most dangerous things on Earth," she had read of Atwood asking the women in a group what they feared most from men and receiving the majority replay "physical violence," and of asking the men what they feared most from women and receiving the reply "humiliation."

Apropos of that, here is Camille Paglia:
"Masculine identity is embattled and fragile. In the absence of opportunity for heroic phsyical action, as in the modern office world, women's goodwill is crutial for preserving the male ego ... ["No Law in the Arena: A Pagan Theory of Sexuality" Vamps & Tramps (Vintage: New York 1994) 19-94.]

The Browning Version

Here's an excellent synopsis of our upcoming film, from The Criterion Collection
Michael Redgrave gives the performance of his career in Anthony Asquith’s adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s unforgettable play. Redgrave portrays Andrew Crocker-Harris, an embittered, middle-aged schoolmaster who begins to feel his life has been a failure. Diminished by poor health, a crumbling marriage, and the derision of his pupils, the once brilliant scholar is compelled to reexamine his life when a young student offers an unexpected gesture of kindness. A heartbreaking story of remorse and atonement, The Browning Version is a classic of British realism and the winner of Best Actor and Best Screenplay honors at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival.

The Stalky Model

Rudyard Kipling's Stalky & Co., I argue, is the Urtext (see OED) of twentieth-century British masculinity. The work encodes a set of fundamental qualities -- which I call the Stalky model -- which, due to its cultural reach and power, subsequent British novelists of troubled masculinity inescapably work both with and against.

These qualities of the Stalky model summarise as follows:
  1. a close-knit group of contrasting male companions.
  2. unspoken (taboo'd) respect for the larger system.
  3. resistance, criticism & forms of rebellion written into the system as an outlet against revolution.
  4. "stalkiness" - individual cunning and pluck - beats brawn and size.
  5. a kind and sapient Head.
  6. Stoic-Christian blend that is fully orthodox to neither.
  7. under the Stoic-Christian ethic, judicious violence is built into the system.
  8. centrality of performance as a defining value: its ultimate form is a rite of passage.
  9. an angular authority-confidante -- typically an ecclesiastic - as a personified conscience.
  10. exclusive and shared esoteric code of speech – i.e. slang -- & cultural artifact – e.g. pop music desiderata in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity.

Course Readings: Update

An ordering glitch means that Stalky & Co. will not be at the BookStore until course week three. Accordingly, we will begin with Nick Hornby's High Fidelity. This is an effective structure in any case: it is more accessible on the surface, and it allows us to see where things are for the lads, before going back to see how we got here.

We will look at one Stalky chapter in class this week, from the online version.

Getting an "A" on an English Paper

An excellent article here with practical advice from Jack Lynch at Rutgers University.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Preparatory Reading

For those of you who are getting started with the course reading, the first text -- Rudyard Kipling's Stalky & Co. -- is the foundation for our understanding of all the readings that follow. Read Stalky & Co. as a literary manifestation of the code of masculinity that was uniform in the British Empire to 1945.

Kipling is a very great author. The fact that he provokes intense emotional reactions from literati both for an against is a mark of his undeniable and peerless literary excellence. There is little worse than an author expressing views that you loathe with supreme literary genius -- and little better on the other side.

Be sure to engage the book on its own terms in the first reading, and try to gain sensibility for its aesthetic: Stalky & Co. had almost universal reach and its direct literary influence on English life & letters is practically impossible to overstate.

It is in many ways very contemporary: picaresque and crude, written in note-perfect sub-group vernacular, and a very rare inner-portrait of an under-culture by a legitimate member who happened also to possess the ability to express the reality in brilliant fiction.