Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hello all, this is my first blog addition to the society's page, so I thought I would simply overview some of my own pleasures as a student of English literature, particularly related to the culture of blogging and the ever-daunting future of the publishing industry! In the Winter semester of 2009, TESS' academic event was a career-based seminar asking students, "So, you want to be a Journalist?", an inquiry to which the guest speaker, star journalist Aaran Jacklin, responded to students, "Reconsider." The harshness of Jacklin's immediate response to the seminar's theme prompted the packed room's attention, and, just as a rhetorically gifted journalist would, Aaron had us completely thinking and re-thinking the whole notion.

Admittedly, I'd been thinking about journalism in months prior to the event as a career opportunity available for a Lit. student's relatively swift and painless immersion. I suppose that this half-completed thought needed Aaron's reconsideration comment as a bit of a rude awakening. He didn't want precisely to dissuade individuals from journalistic production, choosing rather to emphasize the fast-paced evolution of the industry away from its print-media foreground, and, unfortunately from there, its lucrativeness.

But then, that is precisely what makes it an exciting opportunity for English Lit. students here at Guelph to get involved in the blog-nebula that has befallen our generation. Additionally, while we're here, why not contribute content to a page we all can access for the purpose of a bit of mental excercise?

Stuart Woods, editor of Canadian literary magazine the Quill and Quire, has recently been contributing blogs and print editorials for his mag that proclaim the importance of the internet, acknowledging government budget cuts for more grass-roots lit mags, and comparing his knowledge with that of his peers. As one of his more recent editorials paraphrases a contemportary, one John Freeman: "A journal... cannot simply publish writing anymore; it has to become living if it is to stay alive." This reminds the reader of the importance of a continuing literary shift toward the much more efficacious and cost-friendly internet. The language of Freeman's quote almost hints at Ian Fleming's James Bond for its urgency. (Anyone? World is Not Enough? Referent to the demented and power-hungry terrorist Renard, played by Robert Carlyle, who leads a suicidal and masochistic crusade of infamy, all motivated by the slow-moving stray bullet wedged right in the middle of his brain?) Anyhoo, Renard's whole saying in that movie was, "there's no point in living if you can't feel alive." As pertinent as that quote might not be, I still think that it applies to journalism.. sort of.

Despite repeated reminders of hiccups in this industry, one of many coming straight from the horse's mouth in the form of our journalism seminar last March, hope always seems to linger in some manifestation. If the culture of blogging can be built upon or improved by students and other moderators, I strongly believe that it bodes well for our literary and communicative future.

This isn't meant to be a static post, despite the fact that it is quite long. A significant response need only be a sentence long, but does anyone else agree with my feeling here? Will journalism as a field of work be rescued? Can it be bettered? Does the limitlessness of the internet pose a significant problem as it implements the role of "certified critic" upon every blogger? Is anyone even listening to me???


Sunday, September 13, 2009

YOUR in charge of YOU'RE language

At some point in almost all of my university filled days, my phone will vibrate to alert me of an incoming text and the bottom of my computer screen will flash in the usual MSN message orange. So today I flip open my phone, and it reads, “I spoke to Kevin. Their on there way!” I then check my MSN, which says “Your not gonna believe what happened last night...” Ok, so I’m excited that my friend is coming, and am now curious to hear about the previous night’s shenanigans, but as I read these messages, I can’t help but grind my teeth and question how it’s possible for us to either a) be this lazy or b) be this... silly... for lack of a better word... as not to know the difference between some of the most basic and commonly used words in the English language.

What seriously boggles my mind is the extent to which these words are misused and the variety of people who misuse them... There is really no excuse that anyone with at least a grade 8 education should not be able to differentiate between the contraction of “YOU” and “ARE” to create “YOU’RE” and the possessive form of “YOU” which is “YOUR”. Same thing applies to perhaps the more tricky disparities between “THEY’RE” “THERE” and “THEIR”. If most people actually know the right usage but are simply lazy to type/write it out, well, that right there is a clear indicator of our increasing laziness and ignorance, which is not any better than not knowing the difference in the first place.

All I’m saying is I don’t fully get it, and it never ceases to get under my skin when I see these mistakes being made by friends, managers, doctors, and even public institutions. It’s been said that we are very much in the process of destroying the English language, and to me, this is one of those silent snipers, capable of doing much more damage than originally perceived.

-V. Brejkaln

Renting Textbooks = Sweet ... iPod Textbooks = ?

Where do you buy your textbooks? Do you prefer to use them on reserve in the library? Do you even read your textbooks? And finally, will you buy textbooks on your iPhone this year?

Apple has introduced a new app called CourseSmart where you can purchase and use your textbooks on your iPhone or iPod touch. The benefits are that it’s portable and the content is searchable, but I personally have no interest in reading an entire textbook on a screen that small. I’m not sure on how the price compares to regular textbook purchases.

A better idea, in my opinion, is that of one of the largest textbook publishers in America, Cengage Learning, who is going to start renting textbooks to students at 40-70% of the sale price. Upon paying, you’ll be given access to the first chapter digitally and then sent the book for a rental term. When the term is up, you can send the book back or pay to keep it.

According to an article in the New York Times, textbook prices have increased by about 6% a year for the past 20 years – that’s about twice the inflation rate. This rental business sounds like a great idea for everyone, then! The only major problems, it seems, are the universities themselves. This particular rental program would have been offered at more colleges and universities if faculty members had been willing to commit to using the same textbooks for two years or more. At most schools they won’t, and so students are stuck with old fashioned, overpriced options.

How can we make this happen at Guelph??

NY Times article:

YouTube Video about iPhone App:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Welcoming a New Hollow: on Elaine Showalter's "Towards a Feminist Poetics"

I have dealt with examples of both feminist critique and gynocritics in past English courses and personal readings, but what I had never considered were the limitations present in works of feminist critique. The woman as a reader was not something I had considered. I have closely read works like Milton’s epic Paradise Lost, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (by himself) and Melville’s Benito Cereno – all novels pertaining to levels of feminist critique, but until now I have failed to recognize the pitfall-like fissures in what I now recognize as certain male-constructed histories. Paradise Lost is Milton’s take on Genesis, the creation story, in which Eve is the central female figure, the mother of all mothers, sisters, daughters, etc., and she is depicted as a passive, narcissistic creature, who is easily persuaded by Satan to bite the infamous apple and – under his influence – forces Adam to do the same. Gustavus Vassa’s ‘Narrative’ features brief images of women, always represented as passive animals or as slaves among slaves. Melville’s depiction of the enslaved women aboard the San Dominick is much alike Vassa’s, but aboard this ship, the slaves enslave their captain, and the women are still given little or no respect.

Men have not been exposed to the same level nor amount of historical oppression and angst as the female, and authors use the examples of women in these stories to promote social, historical, and political change. We see that male authorship as a sole voice in the literary canon presents historical and ideological boundaries, and we can recognize a language that is more noisy than informative. What gynocritics provides the scholarly ivory tower of literature with is a frequency that can be interpreted more freely. It essentially rips a hole in the bodily head of literature, out from which can emerge a new voice, one that analyzes and interprets from a perspective of the socially oppressed. The Other gains a voice, and the reader can accept the language as authoritative without worrying about an essence of tyranny.

The more gynocritics that ascend into the known realm of the literary, the more easily and readily we align ourselves with their poverties of innocence, their stories of patriarchal enslavement and destitution; and the more authority-like these figures become. Authority is a powerful device to be wielded, and sometimes authors will abuse it to sneak things past their readers, toying with and exploiting their passivity. Yes, the gynocritics will leave hollows in their wake, but once disturbed, the soil of authority is at least less dense, and passive readers that tumble into these empty spaces need only embrace the practices of critical thinking and close reading to gain the strength required to dig themselves out. With the rising of (any) new voices in the verbal community of literature, readers should only see more necessity in close reading, for it is their only tool and comfort in the world of obscurity that is literature.
By Tom Beedham

Thursday, March 5, 2009

E-Books on Your iPod!

Read a 900 page Victorian novel on my Blackberry? No thank you.

We’ve known for some time that the way we consume media is rapidly changing due to changing technologies, and books are no exception. I can’t foresee myself wanting to read novels on the computer or hand held devices, but book mega-companies are moving in that direction in order to stay relevant in this digital age.

On February 25, Indigo Books and Music launched Shortcovers – an application that enables users to buy and download e-books to the BlackBerry Storm, Apple iPhone and iPod Touch as well as via computer. At its launch, 50,000 books were available for sale at prices ranging from $4.99-$19.00 as well as individual chapters for sale for 99¢ each. There are also sample chapters available for free. Eventually, the application will be able to recommend titles to users based on their former reading choices and habits.

I don’t have a BlackBerry or iPhone, so I couldn’t try out the application – if you’ve tried it please comment and let us know your experience with Shortcovers!

I don’t think that the book will ever die, but a large part of why I think that is because the book is portable and you can read anywhere. E-books on hand-held devices allow readers to do this as well. Do you think that this new technology will take off? Would you curl in the coffee shop or in the park and read Dickens – on your iPod (Bleak House, the 900 page Victorian novel mentioned above, is available for digital purchase)? Would you pay $19 for a book you could buy in print for the same price or cheaper?

One aspect of Shortcovers that I am really excited about is that authors can submit their books to the site to be offered to users for free or 99¢ per chapter. This could revolutionize the publishing industry by enabling aspiring authors to “publish” their works without needing a publisher’s support. Evidently, anyone can write things online and reach a wide audience, but the idea of putting one’s book for sale to a presumably wide reading audience is a novel idea. I am excited to see if this helps aspiring authors break into the industry and give us more variety in our choices.

So, have you tried Shortcovers? What do you think about reading on the computer or hand-held device? Will e-books ever be more popular than good ol’ fashioned books?

I don’t have the answers, but I will keep you posted!



Hello everyone,

Thanks for stopping by The English Students’ Society’s blog!

As English students, there’s a lot going on in the world that is relevant to our studies, interests, and futures. We’re going to use this space to talk about: the book and media industry, phenomena or fads in the literary world, e-books, how technology and environmental concerns are affecting the industry, movie adaptations, reading technologies, arts funding and policies that affect the arts, careers in the field, frustrations, and much more!

Anyone can contribute to this blog. E-mail blog posts to to have them put on the site.

Comments are enabled, and while we encourage debate, please keep comments respectful and on topic. Comments will be moderated frequently but we are not responsible for others’ comments.

I look forward to seeing where this takes us!

Until next time,