Showing posts from November, 2015

Sundry reflections on academia

Toronto: University College, 1858 Its marble towers of urbanitas ; its fertile meadows of pastorale ; its lofty epic contests; its festivals of comedy and its fleet footed intoxicated lyrics ;   the grins and grimace of the satyr and the harsh winter land of tragedy ; this other academia and that ... “It was a perfect title, in that it crystallized the article's niggling mindlessness, its funeral parade of yawn-enforcing facts, the pseudo-light it threw upon non-problems.” ― Kingsley Amis. "There is this tremendous body of knowledge in the world of academia where extraordinary numbers of incredibly thoughtful people have taken the time to examine on a really profound level the way we live our lives and who we are and where we've been. That brilliant learning sometimes gets trapped in academia and never sees the light of day." — Malcolm Gladwell. "If I stay in academia, I might end up going someplace random." — Lauren Wil

The Art of Dedication

Anaïs Nin Dedications, like Prefaces, are a neglected field in the study of book construction and creative composition. But they can reveal quite a lot about power and politics; authorship and authority; celebration and bitterness. In critical terms deconstructionists would argue that a preface displaces and defaces the text that follows, perhaps (humorously?) tripping it up, or tying it up in precursor knots.Often Jacques Derrida never got past the deconstruction of the preface, or a footnote therein, in order to make his 'point'. And you probably recall all the levels of ludicrous entrapment that Jonathan Swift employed in A Tale of a Tub (1704) ? Have dedications grown shorter and more ironic (or bitter) since the dec line of aristocratic patronage? Are they still a zone of praise or insult? What about this one, taken from Herman Melville's Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile (1854) TO His Highness THE BUNKER-HILL MONUMENT (Discu

Association, causation and the purely random: ideology and astrology in the classroom

Since the replacement of the octagonal mahogany dining tables with pine benches you can never be quite sure who you'll end up sitting down beside during the lunch break in the Senior Common Room. Yesterday, Dr Ptolemy Macrobius, Reader in Paranormal Psychology, was expounding some of the key advances that had taken place in reaction to the limitations exposed in Theodor Adorno's dialectical materialist debunking of the topic in The Stars Down to Earth and other Essays (1952-3 / 1994). Yet this work deserves a little respect! I responded: “It pretends to a higher level of scientificness than the supposedly more primitive forms of esoteric wisdom without, however, entering into the argument itself: the lack of a transparent interconnection between astronomical observations and inferences pertaining to the fate of individuals or nations… Astrology attempts to get away from crude and unpopular fatalism by establishing outward forces operating on the individual’s de