Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Most Popular Poets of the Nineteenth Century

Lord Byron (1788-1824)

In 1812 Byron's 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage' sold its run of 500 copies in three days. Byron wrote 'I awoke one morning and found myself famous. Larger edition of 3000 copies were printed and quickly sold out. Byron's publisher  offer to pay him 1000 guineas for The Giaour and The Bride of Abydos. In 1814 The Corsair sold 10,000 copies on the first day of publication.

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.

Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835)

Perhaps best known today for writing

THE stately Homes of England,
How beautiful they stand!
Amidst their tall ancestral trees,
O'er all the pleasant land!

These lines were famously parodied by Noël Coward:

The Stately Homes of England,
How beautiful they stand,
To prove the upper classes
Have still the upper hand.

Yet she was also celebrated in her own time as the author of 'Casabianca', which was first published in the New Monthly Magazine in 1826. The poem begins

The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle's wreck
Shone round him o'er the dead.

The poem commemorated Giocante, the young son of commander Louis de Casabianca. Aboard the French ship Orient, during the Battle of the Nile (1798), the boy remained at his post and consequently died.


Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

On 12th November 1916 Beryl Wilson requested 30,000 copies of the poem 'If''. She wrote 'Working amongst the men as we have done, I realize what a tremendous influence for good the poem would have on them and how it would help them to endure the hardships of the trenches during the coming winter.'

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

Thomas Babbington Macaulay (1800-1859)

Over a 25 year period it has been estimated that an uncommercial poem called 'The Lays of Ancient Rome' sold 100,000 copies.

Thomas Moore (1779-1852)

His oriental romance, 'Lalla Rookh' (1817) fetched 3000 guineas in 1814. Lala-Rukh (Persian لالہ رخ‎), means "tulip cheeked"; it is an endearment frequently used in Persian poetry. Moore was a friend of Byron.

 In that delightful Province of the Sun,
The first of Persian lands he shines upon.
Where all the loveliest children of his beam,
Flowerets and fruits, blush over every stream,
And, fairest of all streams, the MURGA roves

Walter Scott (1771-1832)

The Scottish romantic poet, novelist, and essayist found poetic fame with the publication of 'The Lay of the Last Minstrel.' The very expensive first edition of 2,000 copies sold out in under two months. His poem 'Marmion' (1808) had sold 31,000 copies by 1825. 'The Lady of the Lake' commanded a price of £2100. By 1830 it had sold 44,000. Yet most of his money disappeared quickly with the loss of his publishing venture.

Harp of the North! that mouldering long hast hung
On the witch-elm that shades Saint Fillan's spring
And down the fitful breeze thy numbers flung,
Till envious ivy did around thee cling,
Muffling with verdant ringlet every string,—
O Minstrel Harp, still must thine accents sleep?
Mid rustling leaves and fountains murmuring,
Still must thy sweeter sounds their silence keep,
Nor bid a warrior smile, nor teach a maid to weep?

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92)

In 1850, 'In Memoriam' sold 60,000 copies in a few months; in 1859 the 'Idylls of the King' sold 10,000 copies in a week. By 1892 annual sales of his collected works were 20,000.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

27 tips on academic writing and publishing

The path to publication is arduous!

"Publication is a self-invasion of privacy." - - -  Marshall McLuhan

You can't publish unless you've written something ...

1. Ban thoughts of failure or rejection; by starting to write you are improving on the blank page of terror

2. Write a rough draft quickly; the quality of the writing should be worked on later

3. Familiarise yourself with an appropriate academic phrasebank

4. Learn to use a range of connectives in order to make your ideas flow

5. Avoid writing marathons - they seldom produce quality outcomes

6. Learn to use short stretches of highly focused writing time

7. Check that your have displaced all potential distractions

8. Identify SMART targets for your short periods of writing:
  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

"Democratic societies are unfit for the publication of such thunderous revelations 
as I am in the habit of making."   --- Salvador Dali

Finding a method and style suitable for publication

9. Don't try to justify every intuition by slavishly seeking out a reference to someone else's work

10. Describe and develop your ideas

11. Broad theoretical brush-strokes are exhilarating, but remember that you are not writing the history of everything

12. Avoid going off on too many tangents as these tend to confuse editors and reviewers

13. Communicate your main point(s) early

14. Include some memorable sentences that effectively summarise your work/contribution

15. Clearly demonstrate the thought-pathways leading to your conclusions

16. A clear focus beats a sprawling display of acrobatic leaps

17. If the ideas proliferate consider splitting your project into several articles

18. Be explicit and precise about your original contribution to scholarship

19. Fine-tune your writing at a later stage

20. Ask a trusted friend/colleague to read and comment on your final copy

21. Employ a proof-reader if you are unsure about the quality of your English

22. Research the most appropriate journal for your work

23. Listen to advice from colleagues and supervisors

24. Check that the format of your article has a perfect fit with each journal's requirements

25. Revise your work to suit a journal's ethos and style guide

26. Don't be disheartened - 80 to 90% of  submissions to leading journals are rejected

27. It's your chosen way of life. Enjoy!

"Search for the truth is the noblest occupation of man; its publication is a duty." --- Madame de Stael

“I finished my first book seventy-six years ago. I offered it to every publisher on the English-speaking earth I had ever heard of. Their refusals were unanimous: and it did not get into print until, fifty years later publishers would publish anything that had my name on it.” ― George Bernard Shaw


Saturday, 5 July 2014

Theories of the Abject discussed


Definitions of the Abject

  • The cast off; the taboo; the unclean; filth
  • The excrescence: mucus, blood (especially menstrual), nails, urine, excrement, vomit
  • The uncanny; the corpse
  • A psychoanalytic and aesthetic theory expounded by Julia Kristeva in Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection.
  • “On close inspection, all literature is probably a version of the apocalypse that seems to me rooted, no matter what its sociohistorical conditions might be, on the fragile border (borderline cases) where identities (subject/object, etc.) do not exist or only barely so—double, fuzzy, heterogeneous, animal, metamorphosed, altered, abject.” (Kristeva)
  •  "To each ego its object, to each superego its abject". (Kristeva)

Outline of the Strengths and weaknesses of the Kristeva's model of the Abject


Appeals to universal sense of disgust when faced with body fluids and waste products

Explains popular cultural narrative of horror and misogyny

Builds on a tradition of psychoanalysis derived from Freud and Lacan Appeals to the reality of violence against women and links with its psychosocial dimensions.

Relates to common patterns of encoding based on distinctions between clean and unclean Creates an ambiguous and richly poetic metaphor for the sense limit and liminality.

Outlines a conflict in gender between patriarchal signification and the female imaginary Explains female oppression as an inability to cast off the internalization of the mother.

Maps out an aesthetic and political category derived from both from psychoanalytic reading and corporeal differences.

Establishes a widely- deployed key term to describe and organize an abject art movement.

The Weaknesses 

A fuzzy, confused and contradictory category is loosely sketched.

The psycho-analytic foundations have been superseded and discredited.

The psycho-analytic models appeal to an academic and professional cult rather than open enquiry

Tends to re-enforce horror and disgust rather than celebration of the open body (Bakhtin)

The abject category relies on a questionable notion of primary matricide.

The explanatory model is grounded primarily in its application to avant-garde art

Rather than being actually or potentially emancipatory, the abject school of enquiry reproduces the script of exclusion and exploitation.

‘Why not develop a certain degree of rage against the history that has written such an abject script for you?’ (Spivak 1992: 62)

The mythological or aestheticizing approach displaces the actuality and singularity of lived bodily experience

It is unclear how affirmative or redemptive forms of the abject upstage and displace negative and destructive modes of abjection.

As Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak asks: ‘What are the cultural politics of application of the diagnostic taxonomy of the abject?’ (Spivak 1992: 55)

Cultural Applications: Louis-Ferdinand Céline; Antonin Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty. Abject Art: Hermann Nitsch, Gunter Brus, Otto Muehl, Carolee Schneemann, Mary Kelly , Genesis P. Orridge, GG Allin, Ron Athey, Franko B, Lennie Lee , Kira O' Reilly. Joel Peter Witkin, Andres Serrano. Whitney Museum of Abject Art (1993).

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)
Further reading 

Betterton, R. (2006) ‘Promising Monsters: Pregnant Bodies, Artistic Subjectivity, and Maternal Imagination’, Hypatia 21(1): 80–100.

Braidotti, R. (1994) Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory. New York: Columbia University Press.

Butler, J. (1993) Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. London and New York: Routledge.

Butler, J. (1999) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London and New York: Routledge.

Constable, C. (1999) ‘Becoming the Monster’s Mother’, pp.173–202 in A.Kutin (ed.)
Alien Zone II. London: Verso.

Covino, D. C. (2004) Amending the Abject Body: Aesthetic Makeovers in Medicine and Culture. New York: The State University of New York Press.

Creed, B. (1993) The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism and Psychoanalysis. London: Routledge.

Douglas, M. (1966) Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Frueh, J. (2001) Monster/Beauty: Building the Body of Love. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Gear, R. (2001) ‘All Those Nasty Womanly Things: Women Artists,Technology and the Monstrous-Feminine’, Women’s Studies International Forum 24(3): 321–33.

Halberstam, J. (1995) Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press.

Haraway, D. (1992) ‘The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others’, 295–337 in L. Grossberg, C. Nelson and P.A.Treichler (eds) Cultural Studies. New York: Routledge.

Harrington, T. (1998) ‘Speaking Abject in Kristeva’s Power of Horror’, Hypatia
13(1): 138–57.

Jacobs, A. (2007) On Matricide: Myth, Psychoanalysis and the Law of the Mother. New York: Columbia University Press.

Kristeva, J. (1982) Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. L.S.Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press.

Menninghaus, W. (2003) Disgust: Theory and History of a Strong Sensation, trans. H. Pickford. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Mulvey, L. (1991) “A Phantasmagoria of the Female Body: The Work of Cindy Sherman.”  New Left Review 188 137-150.

Oliver, K. (1993) Reading Kristeva: Unravelling the Double Bind. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Russo, M. (1994) The Female Grotesque: Risk, Excess and Modernity. NewYork: Routledge.

Shildrick, M. (2002) Embodying the Monster: Encounters with the Vulnerable Self. New York and London: Routledge.

Spivak, G. (1990) ‘Questions of Multiculturalism’, 54–60, in Postcolonial Critic: Interviews, Strategies, Dialogues, ed. Sarah Harasym.London: Routledge.

Spivak, G. (1992) ‘Extreme Eurocentrism’, Lusitania 1(4) (Special Issue ‘TheAbject America’): 55–60.

Ussher, J. (2006)  Managing the Monstrous Feminine: Regulating the Reproductive Body. London: Routledge.

Yaeger, P. (1992) ‘The “Language of Blood”: Toward a Maternal Sublime’,
Genre 25 (Spring): 5–24.

Young, I. M. (2005) On Female Body Experience: ‘Throwing Like a Girl’ and Other Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Beginner's Guide to Écriture féminine

Is the obsession with logic and rationality a limitation imposed on the free flow of writing by the hegemony of patriarchal men?

Is it possible to interrogate order and structure in writing has a masculinised project of control; to think of it as a phallocentric, a logocentric project?

On first inspection, it is an odd notion that writing is a pre-determined product of the shape of our bodies. But the anatomical difference between the female and the male body has been considered a sufficient criterion throughout most of recorded time -  and across the majority of societies - to constitute a major difference between the sexes. It is a short step from the recognition of difference to the creation of a system of unequal treatment and discrimination.

The idea that writing as a cultural production participates in this project, perhaps even perpetuates it, is clearly not far-fetched. This critical feminist approach claims that the body is written into our daily discourse. Indeed, the project of feminism has not been merely to challenge social, cultural and economic inequality, but to interrogate the complicity of language at all levels in this process of construction of differences. But is it the case that women’s writing is essentially or necessarily different from men’s? Is it more accurate to attribute stylistic, technical or structural differences to social opportunities, educational experiences and unchallenged cultural conventions?

In different way, the binary opposition has been expressed as a conflict between men and women, nature and art, or between what we are essentially and what is merely a product of social construction. The idea that there is a marked difference between the writing styles and practices of the two sexes has been a contested topic in the academic field since the surge in feminist scholarship of the 1970s. 

Écriture féminine has emerged as the key term that celebrates and explores the qualities at work in women’s writing which are produced by the female body and by female difference. Writers such as Hélène Cixous, Monique Wittig, Luce Irigaray, Chantal Chawaf and Julia Kristeva have been influential in the interrogation of language as a male domain, and in offering a creative and critical challenge to the dominant discourse. Admittedly, the work of poststructuralist feminism has taken many different directions, with different results, and continuing controversy about its use and effectiveness for the emancipation of women. 

The starting point has been the assertion that women’s sexual pleasure has been denied; that deployment of language by men is oppressive; that jouissance, play, metamorphic mobility and transgression should be adopted as techniques and strategies for liberation from the patriarchal order. While the slogans and rhetoric are often exhilarating, and the refusal of logic, order and reason is enigmatic and engaging, it does not seem unfair to ask whether the project has enhanced the quality of women’s lives or brought about a revolution of consciousness. 

In order to form an opinion of écriture féminine the reader is advised to sample some of the key texts by the writers listed above. Some readers will be inspired by the approach taken while others will be frustrated and alienated by this species of writing. Similarly, the refusal to adopt a clear plan, and a linear structure that may be observed in works that adopt a ‘schizoid’ approach. This is a kind of anti-methodology, with planes and zones, and a nomadic tendency, rather than strict linear and logical progression. In Thousand Plateaux, for instance,  Gilles Deleuze and psychoanalyst Félix Guattari explored this approach. It is the second volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, and the successor to Anti-Oedipus (1972). The aim was to challenge the phallogocentric project which may be regarded as courageous experiments of flawed and failed enterprises.

One criticism is that écriture féminine, like poststructralism, has failed to live up to its ideals and that it has become a high-level theoretical game with limited impact on women’s lives and real world practical issues. Whether as a product of market forces, cultural resistance, or inherent weakness, modernist and postmodern writing has failed to activate a major shift in mainstream creative production. Traditional forms of writing practice are therefore still predominant in the sphere of industry, entertainment, and institutional education. There appears also to be a potential discrepancy or difference between the joy of writing such works, and the difficulty of reading them. This brings us back to a critique of reading as consumption, but perhaps it also returns us to the desire for transparency in communication, rather than a dream-like, impenetrable opacity. As the previous sentence suggests the inevitability of analysis falling back on a linguistic structure derived from the male body and masculine domination alerts us to the notion that the playful inner connections and coherence of écriture féminine appears to resist intrusive analysis derived from the exterior.

Nonetheless, the sceptical reaction to écriture féminine ought to be corrected by a recognition that in key respects contemporary writing and reading practice is shifting away from the traditional forms and modes. On one level, the tyranny of institutional moderation and commercial approval has been disrupted by the ability to express oneself by self-publishing. Nowadays one can easily participate digitally as a commentator and critic in both the ‘high’ official or the ‘low’ transgressive forums, with the result that sharp cultural hierarchies are being broken down. Writing is increasingly a dialogue, a conversation, and a flow, rather than a top-down imposition. Writing is increasingly fragmentary and ephemeral rather than structured and pre-determined in advance. For conservative critics this new age of writing has produced a dumbing-down of discourse and a free-for-all of unpleasant and rude amateurism. On the other hand, the reading process is also less linear. Increasingly,  reading is a mobile and shifting process, whimsical, diversified, aleatory and unlocked from the confines of the sentence, paragraph, the page and the essay. We leap between associated ideas or jump into unfamiliar and unexpected zones.

Yet all of this is manipulated at another level, with the prescription and anticipation of our existing taste preferences and local milieu. Also, we are reduced to the parameters of the data collected and arranged to suit the needs of increased consumption of the corporate product. The social life of the link is also the guided tour of corporate manipulation and metrics. In these respects, gender and sexuality are part of a complex set of force, but they are not the whole story.

Dr Ian McCormick served as Professor in the Arts at the University of Northampton. His most recent book is The Art of Connection. [Quibble Academic, 2013]