Monday, February 5, 2007

Blog Comments: Example, on Lecture

I am glad that a number of you are using the "Comments" function to ask questions, make observations, and otherwise communicate. I'd rather it wasn't used just for the sake of it (it takes time to respond at a ratio of 255-1 ;--) but for legitimate use, it's great. Here's one from today:

[O]n the lecture today, [I] found that you when you talk about [W]ilson's book, you touch upon a lot of little things, how much of those little things do we need to know?(stuff like snobbery and little themes contained only within its own chapter, if not paragraph)
That's a fair observation, & not just a negative snipe. I have an answer, of course, but that doesn't make the comment illigitimate: it's important to state opinions freely & respectfully, as this one was.

From my perpective, I want to balance generalities & specifics in my lectures, because too much of one or the other tends to bore students. If you want to which is easier, for me I can talk about general issues all day (literally!) but like all true scholarship it is effort to work through the fine grain.

Now, with Ethel Wilson's Innocent Traveller, it is my understanding that it is absolutely essential to concentrate on the "little things"....because the book is nothing else but a collection of little things! It is like the picture of the face in the top right here: if the little things that make up the picture (the small images) were ignored, there would be nothing there! With Innocent Traveller, the book is nothing but an aggregation of fine, specific and precise details -- that is her art, just like a work of needlepoint is "just stitches" -- but take the stitcjes away & there is nothing there. (An appropriate metaphor, by the bye, because both Wilson's novel & a work of needlepoint are female-associated creative acts.)

I hope that this explains my lecture method, and I hope also that it encourages questions or concerns to be as precisiely & respectfully listed in the comments section as our term progresses.

Update: The "big theme" of Ethel Wilson's book is, of course, Time & Relativity: that's the major sweep of of her artistic design. It is also a representation of matriarchy -- a culture ruled by female values -- specifically in its portrayal of romance from women's perspective. These high-level facts to the novel were certainly laid out in lecture; but, again, with Wilson's artistic method, they appear in details, in minutiæ. And that is the way that we, as analytical readers, have to appraoch & engage the text. Fairly said?


Anonymous said...

as long as we're on the topic of lectures, was there any specific reason a dress was worn last week or was it a fashion statement?

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

Dear Anonymous:
Is that your best guess??!!

Adam Nowek said...

Hint to anonymous:

I'm relatively certain the main topic for the day was chick-lit. That, or I'd put too much Bailey's in my coffee and had a hallucination in which my English professor was wearing a dress. Stranger things have happened, I suppose.

Jared said...

i think it has something to do with the fact that we're studying a "chick-lit" novel...very funny! but where were the high-heels???


Akshay said...

The poncho was especially awesome.. and we discussed in tutorials and its probably got to do with the chick-lit. Aart from that it is a good way to get people to pay full attention in class

Anonymous said...

You claim that this text portrays "a culture ruled by female values -- specifically in its portrayal of romance from women's perspective." Where specifically do you believe this "portrayal of romance" occurs? What suggestion of romance do you read from this text? Secondly, you claim that this portrayal is from "women's" perspective. Which women? While this text is written by a woman (singular), she, like any author, writes from her own specific perspective, experiences and biases. To claim this text is representative of "women's perspective" is an incredible generalization. Shall we generalize George Bush's ideology as men's perspective on war? He is a man and clearly all men think the same, right? Bush's "portrayal of [war]" is surely classifiable in the realm of male values, much like "needlepoint" can be so readily designated as "female-associated creative acts." Your generalizations of gender-specific interests are bordering on archaic and indicate a clear lack of identification with your students. Ethel Wilson's representation of the female experience reveals insight into a specific white British/Eurocentric female perspective that dates from the 1940s. This is 2007 and almost 60 years have passed since this text was written. I ask that you please be more considerate and avoid making such sweeping generalizations. They are offensive to both myself and the other students with whom I have spoken.

Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

Dear "Anonymous":

The following claims found in your comment are not based on a reading of the course texts or on attendance at lecture.

1.] that "portrayal of romance" can't be found in in the Ethel Wilson text. Actually, it is it on the surface in several chapters,and lecture pointed out several additional romantic subtexts.
2.] that the fact of the early-20th C. European perspective to the text is your own original discovery. Instead, this was the explicit position of lecture: in fact Topic #3 on the posted Mid-Term actually says "....the majority of the short stories, and Innocent Traveller, are expressions of a specifically European conception of "Vancouver."
3.] that the fact that "needlepoint is a female-associated creative act" in the culture being represented in the novel should be supressed in present-day lectures. On the contrary, University is a place where facts are presented and explained, and opportunities are made available for discussion on their significance.

If this comment from "Anonymous" is made by a student registered in the course, then he or she is advised to revisit lecture notes, read the texts closely, read the Mid-Term Topics, and visit Office Hours with the TA and/or the Lecturer! In short, focus needs to be shifted first and foremost onto lecture material and course texts.