steepholm: (Default)
All my possessions seem to be winding down in sympathy with me, dimly cognizant perhaps that my life, like the hinged year, is at a turning point. Yesterday I said goodbye to the car I'd had for ten years, waving it off as it disappeared on the back of a "dismantler"'s lorry. (I did rescue Littly My from the rear view mirror first, though.) Later, getting a taxi to the station, my phone slipped from my pocket, taking my numbers with it. The phone itself was a temporary - £15 - replacement for the £20 one that died the other week en route to the States, but I regret the numbers. My PC is currently refusing to talk to my screen, and altogether I feel like some kind of techno-Job, being stripped down to a poor bare forked thing ahead of next week's naked encounter. At the larger level, of course, this may be the day that the UK strips itself down to being (pace Donne) an island. It's hard not to get all Elizabethan-World-Picturey about these weird correspondences of inner and outer, macro and micro.

Not that I've had time to dwell too much. Last weekend I was helping run the Roald Dahl conference in Cardiff, and today I'm in Nottingham to examine a PhD. In between there have been exam boards, a quick visit to my mother, and my daughter making her last appearance before she turns 18 (another turning point - eep!).

At Bristol Temple Meads station yesterday there were many Glastonbury goers set for their annual bout of trenchfoot, but as yet their wellies gleamed green as emeralds. It's Midsummer Eve, a day that is of course ripe for magical transformations. Seeing the revellers (just at the moment I was leaving my phone in the cab) brought back sharply that other June 23rd-4th, in 2007, which I spent being quizzed all night by Tony Robinson in the British Museum, returning in the morning in a train slathered with the mud of Glastonbury's fallen, and going on to work, only to find that one of my friends had died at a meeting that morning.

But, enough. Have a picture of the peaceful Trent, taken as I walked back to my hotel from a nice pub supper yesterday.

IMG_20160622_210706


There's something very grounding about water.
steepholm: (Default)
This is basically copied from my FB, but I'm trying to spread the word. This is one of the preparatory steps for turning my ChLA paper into a proper article...

Calling anyone who's watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica!

I'm writing a paper on the Madoka fandom, and as part of that I've written a short survey so that I can get some empirical data about the people who've watched it and what they feel (good and bad) about various aspects of the show. If you've watched the series (i.e. the twelve-episode anime) it would be great if you could answer a few questions at the link below. It shouldn't take more than 8 minutes at most (probably more like three). All answers are completely anonymous.

Also, feel free to share the link.
steepholm: (tree_face)
This is basically copied from my FB, but I'm trying to spread the word. This is one of the preparatory steps for turning my ChLA paper into a proper article...

Calling anyone who's watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica!

I'm writing a paper on the Madoka fandom, and as part of that I've written a short survey so that I can get some empirical data about the people who've watched it and what they feel (good and bad) about various aspects of the show. If you've watched the series (i.e. the twelve-episode anime) it would be great if you could answer a few questions at the link below. It shouldn't take more than 8 minutes at most (probably more like three). All answers are completely anonymous.

Also, feel free to share the link.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I've been in Ohio for a couple of days now, and am well over the jetlag, though it's been replaced by common or garden tiredness from all the socializing, watching papers, getting up early for various reasons, etc.

My trip to the US began with a very pleasant detour to Boston where I stayed with [livejournal.com profile] diceytillerman. I'm just sorry it was such a short visit - really only a few hours.

I'd forgotten what colourful names the stations on the T have: there's something rather wonderful about getting a train to Alewife, Maverick or Wonderland. Then again, I might think the same about Cockfosters if I weren't used to it...

The trip was smooth, except that when my suitcase appeared on the baggage claim belt it was swathed in tape, courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration, who had broken the lock off and inserted the following billet doux:

tsa

There seemed to be no one to blame, except perhaps for Osama bin Laden, so I bought a new padlock and thought no more about it. (This new lock was, as it happened, one of the TSA-approved 'Safe Skies' variety.)

The next day there were traffic control delays, and in the end I was rerouted to Columbus via Washington. I wasn't too surprised on reaching the end of my journey to get an email telling me that my luggage hadn't been on the same flight as me (after all, something similar happened last year when I got a tight connection to Tokyo) but it made for a rather sleepless first night in Columbus, having no clean clothes to change into and hoping that the case would catch up some time overnight.

In the morning it duly arrived, and just like last year, there was a moment of intimacy between suitcase and human being:

reunion

The poor thing had, once again, been visited by the TSA, who had removed the TSA-approved lock and left another note apologising for doing so. Was I just very unlucky, or does this happen to everyone's luggage?

Anyway, so far Columbus is fun. The conference is excellent, the weather not quite as diabolically hot nor the air-conditioning as brutally cold as I'd been fearing, and I've been hanging out with friends old and new. I gave my paper on Puella Magi Madoka Magica at 8am this morning to a select audience of early birds, but it went pretty well - and in fact one of the major journal editors invited me to work it up into an article. Which I'd been thinking of doing anyway, but certainly will now.

As promised by [livejournal.com profile] kalimac, I'm staying right across from the Statehouse, which boasts a large bronze statue of William McKinley, flanked by two groups of allegorical supporters, of which this is the more inscrutable:

dividers
steepholm: (Default)
I've been in Ohio for a couple of days now, and am well over the jetlag, though it's been replaced by common or garden tiredness from all the socializing, watching papers, getting up early for various reasons, etc.

My trip to the US began with a very pleasant detour to Boston where I stayed with [personal profile] diceytillerman. I'm just sorry it was such a short visit - really only a few hours.

I'd forgotten what colourful names the stations on the T have: there's something rather wonderful about getting a train to Alewife, Maverick or Wonderland. Then again, I might think the same about Cockfosters if I weren't used to it...

The trip was smooth, except that when my suitcase appeared on the baggage claim belt it was swathed in tape, courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration, who had broken the lock off and inserted the following billet doux:

tsa

There seemed to be no one to blame, except perhaps for Osama bin Laden, so I bought a new padlock and thought no more about it. (This new lock was, as it happened, one of the TSA-approved 'Safe Skies' variety.)

The next day there were traffic control delays, and in the end I was rerouted to Columbus via Washington. I wasn't too surprised on reaching the end of my journey to get an email telling me that my luggage hadn't been on the same flight as me (after all, something similar happened last year when I got a tight connection to Tokyo) but it made for a rather sleepless first night in Columbus, having no clean clothes to change into and hoping that the case would catch up some time overnight.

In the morning it duly arrived, and just like last year, there was a moment of intimacy between suitcase and human being:

reunion

The poor thing had, once again, been visited by the TSA, who had removed the TSA-approved lock and left another note apologising for doing so. Was I just very unlucky, or does this happen to everyone's luggage?

Anyway, so far Columbus is fun. The conference is excellent, the weather not quite as diabolically hot nor the air-conditioning as brutally cold as I'd been fearing, and I've been hanging out with friends old and new. I gave my paper on Puella Magi Madoka Magica at 8am this morning to a select audience of early birds, but it went pretty well - and in fact one of the major journal editors invited me to work it up into an article. Which I'd been thinking of doing anyway, but certainly will now.

As promised by [personal profile] kalimac, I'm staying right across from the Statehouse, which boasts a large bronze statue of William McKinley, flanked by two groups of allegorical supporters, of which this is the more inscrutable:

dividers
steepholm: (tree_face)
I'll be off to the ChLA in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday - stopping for a night en route to stay with Rebecca in Boston. Is anyone else here likely to be headed to that conference?

I know nothing of Ohio - nothing. This makes it difficult to get as excited about going there for the first time as the place no doubt deserves, but it's too late to become an ohioologist in the short time remaining, so I'll have to wing it. One thing, though: after getting ill the last time I was at an American con through all the sudden changes between extreme heat and brutal airconditioning, I will be packing plenty of layers.

My talk? Why, it will be on Madoka Magica, of course. Specifically: "Shoujo versus Seinen? Dual Address and Misdirection in Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011)". Right now I'm cutting like mad, because I have (naturally) far too much to say on the matter.
steepholm: (tree_face)
This week - between the end of teaching and my departure for Japan - was meant to be fantastically productive, but...

It's not that I haven't been working. The time has been taken up with multiple tasks that are legitimately part of my job, but of the kind that tend to get thrown at me unpredictably at short notice, gobbling time as they go. Looking at drafts of student dissertations, editorial work for Children's Literature in Education, admin around the Roald Dahl conference this June: these are all useful, necessary and at times even enjoyable things, but they're not what I'd been meaning to do - which was mostly to get on my talk for this event. I have a plan, and lots of notes, but a block of time to put them all together is still wanting.

Oh well, it's time to put thoughts of that aside and get packed. This year, like last year, I'll be blogging - hopefully with pictures, if I can bend the technology to my will. Also like last year, the forecast is a bit gloomy. I will apparently be accompanied by my personal British microclimate, a bit like a Mario Thunder Cloud, displacing sunshine wherever I go. But forecasts have been known to be wrong, and I hope to be carrying sunshine too, if only the form of my disposition.

Anyway, I leave on Saturday. This is my route, if you're interested, travelling north and east from Kagoshima to Tokyo.

Japan-Map
steepholm: (Default)
This week - between the end of teaching and my departure for Japan - was meant to be fantastically productive, but...

It's not that I haven't been working. The time has been taken up with multiple tasks that are legitimately part of my job, but of the kind that tend to get thrown at me unpredictably at short notice, gobbling time as they go. Looking at drafts of student dissertations, editorial work for Children's Literature in Education, admin around the Roald Dahl conference this June: these are all useful, necessary and at times even enjoyable things, but they're not what I'd been meaning to do - which was mostly to get on my talk for this event. I have a plan, and lots of notes, but a block of time to put them all together is still wanting.

Oh well, it's time to put thoughts of that aside and get packed. This year, like last year, I'll be blogging - hopefully with pictures, if I can bend the technology to my will. Also like last year, the forecast is a bit gloomy. I will apparently be accompanied by my personal British microclimate, a bit like a Mario Thunder Cloud, displacing sunshine wherever I go. But forecasts have been known to be wrong, and I hope to be carrying sunshine too, if only the form of my disposition.

Anyway, I leave on Saturday. This is my route, if you're interested, travelling north and east from Kagoshima to Tokyo.

Japan-Map

Elbe Room

Jan. 28th, 2016 02:23 pm
steepholm: (Default)
I wasn't going to write anything about The Danish Girl here, because it's all been well said in various other places, but since I had to give a little impromptu talk on it the other night after a film showing and was subsequently asked to write it up for a newsletter, I may as well put the summary here too. (I'm not going into the details of the plot, as the circumstances of the talk made this unnecessary.)

tl;dr I'm ambivalent, but mostly disappointed )

Elbe Room

Jan. 28th, 2016 02:14 pm
steepholm: (Default)
I wasn't going to write anything about The Danish Girl here, because it's all been well said in various other places, but since I had to give a little impromptu talk on it the other night after a film showing and was subsequently asked to write it up for a newsletter, I may as well put the summary here too. (I'm not going into the details of the plot, as the circumstances of the talk made this unnecessary.)

tl;dr I'm ambivalent, but mostly disappointed )

"Not I"

Jan. 13th, 2016 05:43 pm
steepholm: (tree_face)
I want to find out about the extent to which school pupils and university students are discouraged by English teachers/lecturers from using the first person pronoun in essays.

Does anyone know whether recent-ish research has been carried out on that topic - or where might be a good place to look for it?

"Not I"

Jan. 13th, 2016 05:42 pm
steepholm: (Default)
I want to find out about the extent to which school pupils and university students are discouraged by English teachers/lecturers from using the first person pronoun in essays.

Does anyone know whether recent-ish research has been carried out on that topic - or where might be a good place to look for it?

Kuhny Tunes

Jan. 4th, 2016 10:12 pm
steepholm: (tree_face)
I've long been a fan of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, so I was interested to read (via [livejournal.com profile] andrewducker) this interesting LJ entry which notes that "[Thomas] Kuhn's book is no longer regarded quite so highly, in part because there are a whole lot of scientific advances to which it doesn’t apply – modern day science still doesn’t undergo radical changes rapidly and easily, but it does so far faster and easier than Kuhn predicts".

This prompts me to wonder whether the explanation might be that the people doing science today (and, perhaps more importantly, those with influence over its dissemination, publication, funding and acknowledgement) have grown up reading Kuhn, whose seminal work after all came out over 50 years ago? Was Kuhn predicting, in fact? Or did his description of the way that science appeared to have developed up to his own time admit the possibility that it might work differently in the future - a kind of meta-paradigm shift?

I've been thinking about Kuhn, because I was recently informed that in order to earn a 4-star rating in the next REF it was expected that research should qualify as "paradigm-shifting". It seemed to me that this was the kind of demand that could only be made by people who hadn't actually read Kuhn, and therefore hadn't realized a) how infrequently paradigms get shifted, b) that a lot of good science - as in, the vast majority of it - gets done under existing paradigms, and c) that (more interestingly) an exercise such as the REF would be unlikely to recognize a truly paradigm-shifting work because it would - more or less by definition - be defined in terms of metrics generated according to the previous paradigm.

(Whether the humanities and sciences are at all comparable in this regard is of course yet another question.)

So, coming back to my original question. Can sensitivity to and encouragement of paradigm shifts be built into scientific or any other intellectual practice? Are institutions and conventions capable of exhibiting that kind of reflexivity without ceasing to be useful as institutions and conventions? Answers on a microchip, please.

Kuhny Tunes

Jan. 4th, 2016 09:53 pm
steepholm: (Default)
I've long been a fan of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, so I was interested to read (via [personal profile] andrewducker) this interesting LJ entry which notes that "[Thomas] Kuhn's book is no longer regarded quite so highly, in part because there are a whole lot of scientific advances to which it doesn’t apply – modern day science still doesn’t undergo radical changes rapidly and easily, but it does so far faster and easier than Kuhn predicts".

This prompts me to wonder whether the explanation might be that the people doing science today (and, perhaps more importantly, those with influence over its dissemination, publication, funding and acknowledgement) have grown up reading Kuhn, whose seminal work after all came out over 50 years ago? Was Kuhn predicting, in fact? Or did his description of the way that science appeared to have developed up to his own time admit the possibility that it might work differently in the future - a kind of meta-paradigm shift?

I've been thinking about Kuhn, because I was recently informed that in order to earn a 4-star rating in the next REF it was expected that research should qualify as "paradigm-shifting". It seemed to me that this was the kind of demand that could only be made by people who hadn't actually read Kuhn, and therefore hadn't realized a) how infrequently paradigms get shifted, b) that a lot of good science - as in, the vast majority of it - gets done under existing paradigms, and c) that (more interestingly) an exercise such as the REF would be unlikely to recognize a truly paradigm-shifting work because it would - more or less by definition - be defined in terms of metrics generated according to the previous paradigm.

(Whether the humanities and sciences are at all comparable in this regard is of course yet another question.)

So, coming back to my original question. Can sensitivity to and encouragement of paradigm shifts be built into scientific or any other intellectual practice? Are institutions and conventions capable of exhibiting that kind of reflexivity without ceasing to be useful as institutions and conventions? Answers on a microchip, please.
steepholm: (tree_face)
Good. My mission to squish Work and Fun together into a kind of beige doughy lump called Firk (aka Life itself) continues apace, as my proposal for a paper at this year's Children's Literature Association conference on the theme of Animation has been accepted.

My title? “Shoujo versus Seinen? Dual Address and Misdirection in Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011).” Well, it was never going to be anything but Madoka, was it? Now I just have to write the bugger.

The conference takes place in Ohio from 9-11 June, and I'll do my best to get some kind of stopover in Boston en route so that I can see any MA friends who happen to be about. (For some reason 80% of the Americans I know live in Massachusetts. Why that?)
steepholm: (Default)
Good. My mission to squish Work and Fun together into a kind of beige doughy lump called Firk (aka Life itself) continues apace, as my proposal for a paper at this year's Children's Literature Association conference on the theme of Animation has been accepted.

My title? “Shoujo versus Seinen? Dual Address and Misdirection in Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011).” Well, it was never going to be anything but Madoka, was it? Now I just have to write the bugger.

The conference takes place in Ohio from 9-11 June, and I'll do my best to get some kind of stopover in Boston en route so that I can see any MA friends who happen to be about. (For some reason 80% of the Americans I know live in Massachusetts. Why that?)
steepholm: (tree_face)
When did critics start using the word 'analysis' in connection with the discussion of literature? My feeling is that it's virtually absent from pre-1900 work, though if I'm wrong I'd be grateful to be told so. A. C. Bradley introduces it in Shakesperian Tragedy (1904) with some misgivings, fearing that it may be antithetical to imagination, and in the case of some characters - such as Ophelia - even a 'desecration', but believing too that its potential benefits justify its use:

[Lovers of Shakespeare] do not need, of course, to imagine whereabouts the persons are to stand, or what gestures they ought to use; but they want to realise fully and exactly the inner movements which produced these words and no other, these deeds and no other, at each particular moment. This, carried through a drama, is the right way to read the dramatist Shakespeare; and the prime requisite here is therefore a vivid and intent imagination. But this alone will hardly suffice. It is necessary also, especially to a true conception of the whole, to compare, to analyse, to dissect. And such readers often shrink from this task, which seems to them prosaic or even a desecration. They misunderstand, I believe. They would not shrink if they remembered two things. In the first place, in this process of comparison and analysis, it is not requisite, it is on the contrary ruinous, to set imagination aside and to substitute some supposed 'cold reason'; and it is only want of practice that makes the concurrent use of analysis and of poetic perception difficult or irksome. And, in the second place, these dissecting processes, though they are also imaginative, are still, and are meant to be, nothing but means to an end. When they have finished their work (it can only be finished for the time) they give place to the end, which is that same imaginative reading or re-creation of the drama from which they set out, but a reading now enriched by the products of analysis, and therefore far more adequate and enjoyable.


What I'm mostly interested in is the domain or domains from which the term leached into literary critical usage, becoming central to it from the 1920s on. There's psycho-analysis, of course (though note that Bradley at least is a pre-Freudian); but there are also mathematical, philosophical and scientific varieties, and perhaps others besides. My sense - perhaps biased by the fact that it fits the argument I want to make - is that literary critics took up the term so enthusiastically because of its quasi-scientific cachet, wishing to be seen as doing to texts much what biologists did to living material (note Bradley's 'dissect') and chemists to things in test tubes.

Does that seem wildly off-kilter?
steepholm: (Default)
When did critics start using the word 'analysis' in connection with the discussion of literature? My feeling is that it's virtually absent from pre-1900 work, though if I'm wrong I'd be grateful to be told so. A. C. Bradley introduces it in Shakesperian Tragedy (1904) with some misgivings, fearing that it may be antithetical to imagination, and in the case of some characters - such as Ophelia - even a 'desecration', but believing too that its potential benefits justify its use:

[Lovers of Shakespeare] do not need, of course, to imagine whereabouts the persons are to stand, or what gestures they ought to use; but they want to realise fully and exactly the inner movements which produced these words and no other, these deeds and no other, at each particular moment. This, carried through a drama, is the right way to read the dramatist Shakespeare; and the prime requisite here is therefore a vivid and intent imagination. But this alone will hardly suffice. It is necessary also, especially to a true conception of the whole, to compare, to analyse, to dissect. And such readers often shrink from this task, which seems to them prosaic or even a desecration. They misunderstand, I believe. They would not shrink if they remembered two things. In the first place, in this process of comparison and analysis, it is not requisite, it is on the contrary ruinous, to set imagination aside and to substitute some supposed 'cold reason'; and it is only want of practice that makes the concurrent use of analysis and of poetic perception difficult or irksome. And, in the second place, these dissecting processes, though they are also imaginative, are still, and are meant to be, nothing but means to an end. When they have finished their work (it can only be finished for the time) they give place to the end, which is that same imaginative reading or re-creation of the drama from which they set out, but a reading now enriched by the products of analysis, and therefore far more adequate and enjoyable.


What I'm mostly interested in is the domain or domains from which the term leached into literary critical usage, becoming central to it from the 1920s on. There's psycho-analysis, of course (though note that Bradley at least is a pre-Freudian); but there are also mathematical, philosophical and scientific varieties, and perhaps others besides. My sense - perhaps biased by the fact that it fits the argument I want to make - is that literary critics took up the term so enthusiastically because of its quasi-scientific cachet, wishing to be seen as doing to texts much what biologists did to living material (note Bradley's 'dissect') and chemists to things in test tubes.

Does that seem wildly off-kilter?
steepholm: (tree_face)
This is just a PSA. To quote from the website:

This interdisciplinary international conference, held in the city of Roald Dahl’s birth and childhood in his centenary year, will give further impetus to the substantial critical attention devoted to the author’s work by seeking new ways of understanding his achievement and place in twentieth- and twenty-first-century culture, broadly considered. The emphasis will be on defamiliarizing Dahl in the very act of bringing him ‘home’. Dahl’s work for children and young adults will, naturally, receive robust attention; innovative crossdisciplinary approaches that encounter his writing through the lens of (for example) illustration, adaptation and performance are particularly welcome. Dahl’s output for adult readers will also be a key focus, as will the need to resist the compartmentalization that sees his books for adults and children as separate imaginative entities. The conference will also consider Dahl’s interventions in other disciplines, from education to medicine, together with his manifold, influential legacies (both enabling and contentious). Discussions of Dahl’s various locations of culture, from Wales to Washington, Tanganyika to Buckinghamshire, Norway to New York, are also sought. The conference will offer opportunities for delegates to visit the places of Dahl’s youth, to examine manuscript and visual material from the archive at Great Missenden, and to enjoy dramatic readings and performances of Dahl’s work.


For more details, including the full Call for Papers, see the conference website. Feel free to share.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I don't think I've ever had an article with such a long gestation time as this. I gave the paper it's based on in Cambridge, one very snowy day in January 2013, and it's only just appeared - even though the journal issue is officially dated April.

I'm particularly pleased to see it, because I think I had more fun with this than with any other article I've written. Mostly this was due to Margaret Mahy herself, whose work is always such a pleasure and a provocation. In fact, I was so into it while writing that I started (rather obviously) channelling her habits of thought and style, which could be a dangerous strategy, but in this case I think worked. And I also got to talk about Borges and John Wilkins - whose Selected Works I was once ambitious to edit.

Like the man said: "I thought it all out twenty years ago."

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