Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Last Class of Term

Assuming that the University doesn't close on Thursday, we'll have a great closing class. Shepherds' Pie, cheese, wine and laudnum .... or brandy at least, a last loving look at the glory that is Mary Shelley, and a fond reflection on early English Romanticism. We're all Canadians -- we'll be there!

As Percy Bysshe Shelly would put it, "O Snow! O Cold!" ....

Monday, November 27, 2006

Unhallowed Arts On View in Vancouver

Mary Shelley saw in a terrible nightmare "...a pale student of the unhallowed arts: " a scientist, that is, doing unholy things to the dead.

Here in Vancouver, money is made and ideology advanced by a heralded display of these unhallowed arts: a profane and exhibitionist sacrilege of flayed dead innocents -- which would have disgusted the Middle Ages -- under the commercialist title "BodyWorld 3."

Shelley's nightmare has come true.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Student Guide to William Wordsworth's "The Prelude"

William Wordsworth's magnum opus "The Prelude"

Book 1
(lines 428-441)“Wisdom and Spirit of the universe!...”Nature’s experience creates in Wordsworth a pure clean slate, not tainted by the “vulgar works of man” (line 435)Shows how the power of Nature will take him beyond those who came before.
Book 1
The Vulgar works of man -the works discussed in the book but also the works/workings of the Enlightenment – These vulgar works taint the mind by denying the emotional reaction, the “wisdom and spirit of the universe” (line 428).These vulgar works are inferior because they don’t allow the glory of Nature shine. They cage and dissect Nature instead of appreciating it as a whole

Book 2
1. 11 443-65esp. 450-65 (p.403-4)
2. -book is about preserving childhood memories perceptions
-passage is central because it explains why that process is important
->not just for an artistic purpose, but the deeper purpose that underlies art (ie. understanding)
-returns to greater powers that are manifested in childhood memories
->God, nature
3. -anticipates change of adulthood & prepares reader not to see it as negative
-reminder to keep first books in mind throughout

Book 2 & overall
L. This reiterated things I already believe about the relevance of literature to society.
A. Human thought processes are the same as natural cycles
eg: flowers start off as seed, slowly grows and develops and the dies. Our thought processis similar when we take time to think about our life or a memory.
L. I don’t know if I believe that poetic genius is an inherent trait or a product of environment, but it’s hard to disagree with Wordsworth’s reasoning & the example he embodies.
J. The text described nature the way I percieved and understood it to be

Book 3
Lines 97 -> “Oft did I leave...”to line 120 -> “...with highest truth” -he leaves the city to go to nature where he truly awakened to nature, he finds his true self and turns his mind into itself, etc.-central concepts of tranquility, truth, nature awakening, observation/reflection, etc. - Relates to Book two, around lines 479/480 when he knows there is a change but doesn’t know what it is yet until here.-at the end of this passage, he realizes that this is the step leading into a “community” and life, of the “highest truth.”-also he began the search for “universal things,” (the macrochosm), contraries and complimentaries in God and nature.

Book 3
-In the peripatetic journey, it is essential to avoid remaining idle, in order to further understanding of the world.-Like the poet, educational institutions and other urban constraints must be left to explore nature and ultimately consider/understand a higher truth (“the highest truth (l.120))-this enables the mind to be exercised to its potential.

Book 4
in context:
-Wordsworth’s wider sense of beauty in nature, as opposed to Blacks micro/macrocosm.
line 181-2= “a freshness also found at this time, In human life, the life I mean of those...”
-a precursor to the final statements of Book 13 – the mind of man giving/perceiving the beauty of nature

Book 4
(title: summer vacation->different context from modern associations->thinking back to Spring throughout Book 4->lines 121-127) of “The Prelude”
(starting line 181)
-passage begins with “freshness”, “human life”, “touched me with surprise” -> passage begins with personal reactions and moves towards universal reaction:
-generality: “pale-faced Babes”, “children of the neighborhood”, “Girls” -> no specifics, no names or associations
-line 67: “the transformation”-> reflects lines 194-6 when can see the newborn baby from the Spring transforming into a toddler stage during the Summer

Book 5
= most significant passage (p. 447) 11.532-557 -glory of youth p.447 11.532-550 slowly diminishes but can be reclaimed through books that engaged us -doubt – 11.568 What happens when old books (favourites) no longer engage our imagination? then we read great poetry or engage with nature Book -is about fear of death – and doubt -poet sleeping on shore – dream of Arab – stone – geometric truth nature threatens to reclaim all <>Book 5 = most significant passage: p.447 11.532-557 About the power of books – moments of imagination recorded in time. “As the glory of youth fades, the power of books can re-engage us with this youthful exuberance. Our favourite books can bring us back to these moments. Moments of beauty (or truth, imagination) are recorded in books and we can experience/engage them when we read. Books are therefore immortal and timeless, similar to nature’s power, in their ability to affect our minds and imagination.

Book 6:
Cambridge and the Alps: Chapter six clusters together Cambridge and the Alps, illustrating that the detached book-learning experience at Cambridge should not be taken alone, but married to sensual and social experience, (eg. the Alps). Clustered, variegated experience, acts, in Book 6, as a dialectical opposition with the more independent treatment of “Books” in Book 5. Lines 116 -134 – “Sequestered from my outward taste in books...what simplicity and sense.”

Book 7
1. Line 489-516 2. Describing how and why he is inspired to write such influential works. Development of works through experience and although he was inspired by beauty and nature, it is only in his maturity where he is able to recognize and understand the beauty. seen in: line 121 & 122 “Oh wondrous power of words” 3. Previously be explains his “independent spirit of pure youth” and in book seven this leads to his development of experience, but always, youth must come first

Book 8
-Lines 375-428; (p.498-97) -image of man against nature leas him to recognize an unconscious love and reverence of human nature -also recognizes that we find evil as fast as we find good, so how can innocence be maintained? -it was when he first looked at man through the beauty of nature, the spirit of things as truth, that he was able to reconcile the existing qualities of good/evil and find love for human kind -this realization takes the form of a peripatetic journey

Book 9
RESIDENCE IN FRANCE -Lines 192-217; pg 513-514 -Although an Englishman and stranger to France (and her ‘speech’), he was accepted by them (French military officers). -felt “shunned and not tolerated” elsewhere -> England -Although the revolutionists were uneducated, he is entranced by their passion and human connection – their simplicity, and their ability to understand the national rights of the civilians. -Listening to these Officers as poets (their stories of heroes and their deeds) creates for him, a sublime. -Criticizes class system and monarchy in England; implies that “they ought to rule” (->Revolutionists) -Wandering in a different country; accumulating the essence of Paris and the Revolution. Reasoning/Relating his life: as an Englishman/ & England (->imperialism, monarchy, class system)

Book 9
So much more can be learned through experiencing the world and its people, then sitting in a classroom and reading about it. -Wordsworth puts more worth on human nationalism rather than only French nationalism. *The importance of human connection (mind and passion)

Book 10
The passage can be read as both what W.W. loves about the Revolution ad what he hates about it. -He loves the people uniting, rising up to overcome their oppressors and their inhumane living conditions -He hates that the result of this uprising is to replace the old system with a new system, that is the exact same. This aspect of the Revolution causes W.W. to abandon his faith in the Revolution. Book 11 begins his search fro a replacement ideology.

Rather than man having to be present for nature to have beauty, we feel beauty does exist, however, for man to see it, he must use his mind (imagination) to interpret it into something beautiful for man.) Although child-like innocence is necessary for imagination to grow, Wordsworth illustrates how experience is also a necessary part of the walk

Chapter 10
(P’d to Chapter 9 of Prelude) 1. Lines 307-345 p. 540-1 -his walk through France during time of the Revolution -He sees a united people fighting for the cause of the Revolution -> sacrificed life to bring an ultimate joy and freedom 2. Line 18-35 (p. 509) Because this is England and England appears to be Wordsworth’s ideal. At the end of the passage is Wordsworth leaving for France. He is writing about a former time as if he is in the moment looking back? (By the time this chapter is written, he had already renounced his views) 3. It is Wordsworth in the moment, walking, observing life in France. He determines that life has gone awry. There is too much experience not enough innocence; nature has been disrupted. That is why at this point he supports the French Revolution.

Book 11
Shannon and Jane.
Having come to the realization that the realities of war contained little trace of the romantic notions that initially attracted Wordsworth to revolutionary France, Wordsworth admits, “I am lost.”
Here everything stops, and by looking inside himself, toward his strength in childhood, Wordsworth begins to move, this time in the direction of compassion and unity – yet weighed down by the experience of having witnessed, and been a part of, terrible things.

Book 11
Central lines (326-334) of the Prelude 2. We humans contain a reservoir of strength linked to feeling and not to Reason. For Wordsworth, this quality is mysterious, partly rooted in the experience of childhood, and involves a cyclical give and take. 3. Emerging from disillusionment (regarding the outcome of the battling in France) Wordsworth begins to place more value on nature and unity rather than the ideologies of war that involve the breaking up of territories and the division of people – all taking and no giving.

Book 12
-After the disillusionment of the French Revolution, Wordsworth finds inspiration and peace through applying peripeteia. -Example of education through meditation (of political events), and interaction with fellow man. --
Book 12
Lines 145-184 pg. 572-573 - Walking on the “public road” inspires Imagination and guides us into eternity and the unknown. The importance and relevance of peripeteia is education of mankind through personal interaction with others. Also, it gives hope, peace and steadiness to pleasure, and heals and calms negative emotions. --

Book 13

– Central passage

1. Lines 442-448
“Prophets of Nature, we to them will speak/ A lasting inspiration, sanctified/ By reason and by truth, what we have loved/ Others will love; and we may teach them how;/ Instruct them how the mind of man becomes/ A 1000x more beautiful than the earth/ On which he dwells,”

2. The Prophets of Nature are the poetic geniuses who teach others, by example, how to write poetry. This is possible because of Imagination; which is what enables the mind of man to be more beautiful than Nature. (It is the God/Creator type Imagination that is necessary.)

3. It is a conclusion statement about what good poetry is and how to get there. The preceding books lead up to this (your past leads up to your present state). It is the end of the walk through the prelude.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Science: "Plus Ultra"

This article from titled "How Science can Finally Make You Skinny" will give you, ahem, food for thought as we continue with Mary Shelley's prophesy of the consequence of the Baconian model of science.

The image here is the frontispiece to the Great Instauration of Francis, Lord Bacon ("Verulam") and emblamises his rejection of the classical tradition of accepting that the search for knowledge must be limited by our moral capacity to use the fruits of study wisely-- itself a wisdom which was summarised with the Latin tag ne plus ultra -- "not beyond the limit." Bacon's book shows the ship of knowledge sailing beyond the legendary Pillars of Hercules to the defiant call "Plus Ultra!"

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Bad Lecturer! Bad!

Apologies for not posting to update the due date for the Term Paper: now at or before midnight, December 6th -- the Wednesday -- in my Department mailbox.
The Group Project deadline is the last class of the term, Thursday November 30th.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Final Paper: Workshop on Thursday

In Seminar hour on Thursday we will have a workshop in preparation for the Term Essay. We will divide into groups of those who have and those who have not decided upon a thesis and exchange ideas and strategies. I will be providing suggestions, advice and provisional approval.

The paragraph below is the conclusion from one of our mid-term papers, and I include it here, with permission, because it shows very effectively how a concluding paragraph can broaden out from the specific thesis argued in the essay to a stimulating related point for further schoalrly research.

In this particular case, the application borders on the insolent.
Blake’s Auguries of Innocence and selections of Goethe’s writings both detail how the microcosm and the macrocosm are apparent separately but also combined in nature. As enumerated in this essay, the observation of nature connects us with not only ourselves and our perceptions, but with the divine as well. We must use our senses of sight and hearing to allow nature her luminance and voice if she is to reveal to us the true quality of the divine. This essay explicated the contextual meanings of the microcosm and the macrocosm, the divine, the particular and the general, and others to show how Blake’s and Goethe’s ideas of nature are fundamentally the same. Personally, however, the opening quadruplet of Auguries of Innocence raises even more questions: if a world is in one grain of sand, does that mean there are millions of different worlds in all the grains of sand? Similarly, if a heaven is in one flower, are there many heavens to be found in all flowers? These questions seem to cross the line into the unknown, the unanswerable. I choose to believe that once we have found our individual versions of the divine in nature ­our own personal world or heaven ­then any questions we have will become irrelevant.

New Database - Orlando: Women's Writing in the British Isles

The SFU Library is pleased to announce the acquisition of a new digital resource.
Orlando: Women's Writing in the British Isles

Orlando: Women's Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present is a highly dynamic and rich resource for researchers, students, and readers with an interest in literature, women's writing, or cultural history more generally. With about five and a half million words of text, it is full of factual, critical, and interpreted material. This first release of Orlando includes biographical and writing career entries on over a thousand writers, more than eight hundred and fifty of them British women. It also includes selected non-British or international women writers, and British and international men, whose writing was an important, sometimes a shaping, element in a particular writing climate. Orlando also includes more than thirty thousand dated items representing events and processes (in the accounts of these writers, but also in the areas of history, science, medicine, economics, the law, and other contexts).

If you have an questions about this database please contact Kim Minkus, English Liaison Librarian at 604-291-4304 or

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Blake & Wordsworth: Smallness & Largeness

Discussing with a classfellow in an Office Hour this past week, I had my eyes opened to the counterbalacing foci of Blake & Wordsworth: the first on the small and the second on the large.

Blake is a master of intensely crafted short lyric, expemplifed for me by the Auguries of Innocence (the Songs & Innocence & Experience also, of course): "He who shall teach a child to doubt / The Rotting Grave shall ne'er get out;" and naturally the opening lyric which captivated so many of you, "To see a World in a Grain of Sand /And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour." This latter is, correctly described as a quatrain, but it is also, I believe, a poem in itself.

Wordsworth, no need to emphasise, is master of the long and expansive lyric: the inspired wandering, most especially, of The Prelude, which has its peripateticism on an incalculable compound of levels.

So there is certainly a contrast of poetic mode -- small and large -- understanding , however, that both could, and did, succeed and delight in writing of any length & size. But what connected for me last week was the (perhps merely pedagogical) point that the two men had a focus on nature at the corresponding level. Blake was inspired by the grain of sand; Wordsworth by the Alps, the Lake District; nay, the elements themselves. And this accords with their habits, where Blake was a contented domestic in habit and Wordsworth was a great walker. Praises be.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Romantic Weather

This glorious and awe-inspiring weather today is the kind of presence of Nature that inspired the original Romantic sensibility. I hope that you are enjoying it as much as I am.

The picture here is the AQ from the fourth floor west side staircase, taken today, and reminded me of Shelley's poem:

The fitful alternations of the rain,
When the chill wind, languid as with pain
Of its own heavy moisture, here and there
Drives through the gray and beamless atmosphere.


The word "peripateticism" refers, in the manner of my useage, to a philosophy of, or philosophising whilst, walking about. It derives from the name given to the custom of Aristotle and Socrates to walk about as they talked, reflected and taught. The OED establishes a nominal and the adjectival form "peripatetic" with this quotation:

1607 T. DEKKER & J. WEBSTER West-ward Hoe II. i. sig. B3v, I was so stiffe..I would ha sworne my Legs had beene wodden pegs: a Constable new chosen kept not such a peripateticall gate.
This term is not to be confused with the noun "peripeteia" which is a coinage of Aristotle's from his Poetics, meaning the point in classical tragedy at which a sudden reversal occurs.

The Context Weblog has a captivating article on this topic here.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Wordsworth & Coleridge in film

Our media collection at the W.A.C. Bennett Library has available for loan the DVD version of the 2000 film Pandaemonium. Its director, Julian Temple, has renown among students for his work filming the lives and destruction of the Sex Pistols.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ruskin and the Pathetic Fallacy

John Ruskin's (arch-Victorian & thus anti-Romanticist) 1856 polemic (from an invetrate polemicist) Of the Pathetic Fallacy shows him driving a wishful nail into the undead coffin of Romanticism in general & Samuel Coleridge in particular.
§ 8. The temperament which admits the pathetic fallacy, is, as I said above, that of a mind and body in some sort too weak to deal fully with what is before them or upon them; borne away, or over-clouded, or over-dazzled by emotion; and it is a more or less noble state, according to the force of the emotion which has induced it. For it is no credit to a man that he is not morbid or inaccurate in his perceptions, when he has no strength of feeling to warp them; and it is in general a sign of higher capacity and stand in the ranks of being, that the emotions should be strong enough to vanquish, partly, the intellect, and make it believe what they choose. But it is still a grander
condition when the intellect also rises, till it is strong enough to assert its rule against, or together with, the utmost efforts of the passions; and the whole man stands in an iron glow, white hot, perhaps, but still strong, and in no wise evaporating ; even if he melts, losing none of his weight.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Goya & Romantisicm

Classfellow S.Y. provides the following useful bibliographic essay in support of her presentation on Francisco de Goya's perenially well-regarded artistic vision & the Romantic movement.

The following is the address to the Art History text that was my primary source for my presentation. It also has a chapter on Blake. Nineteenth century art : a critical history -- Stephen F. Eisenman; [with contributions by] Thomas
Crow ... [et al.] London : Thames and Hudosn, c1994.
I cited another text, Gardner's Art throught the Ages in my notes. The library doesn't have it, I wouldn't recommend it anyway if one's particularly interested in Goya, it's very much a survey text. I also used the following texts from the library (primarily for images): Disasters of war : Callot, Goya, Dix ; [exhibition catalogue] /[essays by Antony Griffiths, Juliet Wilson-Bareau, John Willett]. London: South Bank Centre,
Saturn : an essay on Goya / [translated by C.W. Chilton]. New York : Phaidon Publishers ; distributed by Garden City Books, [1957]

A Rich Strike of Resource Material

I've come across a copy of Revolutions in Romantic Literature An Anthology of Print Culture,1780-1832, edited by Paul Keen - for the Table of Contents, click here. It will be a very concentrated resource for your Term Papers -- I'll put my copy on Course Reserve straightaway.

Only Four Weeks Remaining

As we turn into our final four weeks, I am reminded of that sense of sadness from summer camp in boyhood that only a short time left until the delights are concluded. I am enjoying this class very much. I hope that your peripatetic engagement with The Prelude are adding to your Romantic pleasures -- on our schedule we still have good time to learn from it and good time to bring our time to a close with the currently-popular Mary Shelley.
Our timing for our reading of the text is suspiciously provident:
It was on a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils....

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Coleridge on Critics: Perituræ parcere chartæ

I mentioned in class the review at CBC online by reviewer Katrina Onstad on the recent motion picture about our regnant Monarch Her Majesty, titled The Queen. What struck me about the review was its favourable account of Her Majesty relative to what Onstad calls "....the great, gobbling media machine:"
It’s hard to remember that Diana’s death spawned one of the first exhibitions of grief pornography, replete with an Elton John-penned theme song and fame predators like Tom Cruise and Donatella Versace jetting in for the funeral. Blair tries, with exasperation and a filial protective instinct, to explain to the Queen why private grief is outdated
I mention this because it shows what I consider the timeless relevancy of Coleridge's dissection in Biographia Literaria of this staged descent into tabloid journalism ("....sundry petty periodicals of still quicker revolution, "or weekly or diurnal:")
In times of old, books were as religious oracles; as literature advanced, they next became venerable preceptors; they then descended to the rank of instructive friends; and, as their numbers increased, they sank still lower to that of entertaining companions; and at present they seem degraded into culprits to hold up their hands at the bar of every self-elected, yet not the less peremptory, judge, who chooses to write from humour or interest, from enmity or arrogance, and to abide the decision 'of him that reads in malice, or him that reads after dinner.'
[B.L. Ch. III).

Biographia Literaria: Central Romantic Philosophy

Here are the two succinct expositions of Coleridge central conception of the romanticism philosophy from the Biographia Literaria on which I have lectured expansively over the past two weeks. These discussions are intended to provide the framework for understanding the context for the poetic creations of Coleridge & Wordsworth. If this is a help to you, well & good; if it is instead confusion, simply let it go and devise a heuristic which is efficacious for you.

[Ch. XIII] The Imagination then I consider either as primary, or secondary. The primary Imagination I hold to be the living power and prime agent of all human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM. The secondary Imagination I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate: or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events it struggles to idealize and to unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead. FANCY, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with, but fixities and definites. The fancy is indeed no other than a mode of memory emancipated from the order of time and space; while it isblended with, and modified by that empirical phaenomenon of the will, which we express by the word Choice. But equally with the ordinary memory the Fancy must receive all its materials ready made from the law of association.

[Ch. V] Our various sensations, perceptions, and movements were classed as active or passive, or as media partaking of both. A still finer distinction was soonestablished between the voluntary and the spontaneous.Our inward experiences were thus arranged in three separate classes, the passive sense, or what the School-men call themerely receptive quality of the mind; the voluntary; and the spontaneous, which holds the middle place between both....

Aristotle .... admits five agents or occasioning causes: first, connection in time, whether simultaneous, preceding, or successive; second, vicinity or connection in space; third, interdependence or necessary connection, as cause and effect; fourth, likeness; and fifth, contrast. As an additional solution of the occasional seeming chasms in the continuity of reproduction he proves, that movements or ideas possessing one or the other of these five characters had passed through the mind as intermediate links, sufficiently clear to recall other parts of the same total impressions with which they had co-existed, though not vivid enough to excite that degree of attention which is requisite for distinct recollection, or as we may aptly express it, after consciousness.