Monday, May 30, 2011

chubby heroines

so, besides austen biographies that are missing important social issues that i feel should have been included, i also finished Wallflower (The Old Maids Club book 1) by Catherine Gayle.

Overall the book was pretty good.  a meh++

the hero was so sweet, the grand gestures he made to win her over was fantastic.  the problem was tabby's reticence to marry besides a pact made was not explained until 3/4 of the way through the story.  there were some major plot details thrown in and randomly thrown out at the hero that came way too late for me to not be annoyed with her self-hating.  once those stories were told, and some of her past details came out, much of her reluctance to believe our dashing hero made more sense.  but, some readers might not make it to that point because they get annoyed with poor tabby first.  i'd suggest sticking with it, the end is out of control!!

my problem is all the little details that went no where, just little mysteries included as ways to prepare the reader for the next books.  they felt to set-upish,  and so disconnected that i was distracted at those moments in the story.  these details for future books could've been introduced in a smoother manner so the story was more seamless, but alas, the great difficulty in romance novels is introducing multiple strong heroines to develop an entire series without overshadowing the heroine being featured in the current book.  parts of this book did not do that well.  i'll still read the next two, however, so they aren't that bad. 

jane austen biography

started reading a biography about jane austen by Peter Leithart.  it's part of the 'christian encounters' line of books trying to tell the 'truth' about authors, etc.  the first part makes jane seem like a pop culture phenomenon because we are currently a godless society, hmmmmm.  the second part is detailing the access to religious men in her life, to ultimately discuss how christian austen was and why that's important.  i find it very odd that the authors, leithart, spends so much time detailing the current austen craze, fanfic, movies, etc, and poinitng out all the ways a less christian  more godless society idolizes authors/authoresses like austen, then moves on to a 'true' account of her life and her christianity.  what about the social implications of her christianity, the social causes of her practicing christianity?  has he not read the opening line "it is a truth universally acknowledged."  biographies are never without social influence, leithart claims the christian influence as his, but then holds austen's current popularity against the godless fans currently worshiping her, while completely leaving out the societal influences of austen's christianity and claiming his retelling for the closest truth.  how can those two parts exist within the same chapter?  how can current popularity demonstrate unacceptable hero worship, being traced to less than ideal (according to leithart) christian practices, while social influences are not at all discussed when detailing austen's christian practices?  granted i'm not done with the book, but i'm already really taking issue with the methodology of this biography.  in my book you can't be up front with your influences (in this case christianity) then try to pass of different types of methodology in different era's as 'truth' about a long dead author.  reading austen fanfic should label me as an austen worshiper.  leaving out the social influences of attending church, some of the social reasons small communities attend church services beyond just worship is missing all the important social influences on religion that influenced the cultural practices of religion in austen's time period.  not being seen at church services would have made you a social outcast in a small community, your place, your pew, your practices, who you sat with said a lot about your position in the society.  this still holds true in many churches today, so why was this aspect of religion completely ignored?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

austen work for sale

while it is exciting than a hand written version of The Watsons, see this article, is up for sale in London, the focus in this article on Austen's writing and editing style is particularly interesting to me.  to begin, a senior book specialist for Sotheby's highlights writers who edit versus writers who are inspired.  i'm constantly trying to correct the incorrect assumption that good writers don't revise, they just write (the way a poet just spits out poetry - which of course is not what really happens).  having jane austen as an example, with a very particular way of folding the paper to write her story, then cramming her editing into it, that's just amazing.  the next time i have to edit a paper for the hundredth time (oh, that will happen several times this summer) i'll have to channel austen and all her corrections so i can create an academic article as well dialogued as P&P.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

letters versus email

my dissertation topic is online English 101 classes.  i'm most interested in how instructors and stud nets create, or try to create a sense of classroom bonding through the digital space provided.  do all instructors take a more hands off approach (i've certainly see this)?  do all students take online thinking it will be easier?  these and many more questions fuel my research.  when i explain to ludite, i'm often forced to provide evidence of connections being made online, and of senses of bonding in digital space.  my membership in fan communities and facebook usually serve as those examples.  but for extreme ludites like my dad i bring up letter writing.  prior to the 1960's, and maybe even later, many people were building lasting friendships on nothing more than postal letters.  i just finished watching season 1 of Downton Abbey and the letters being written and delivered in the early 1910's were amazing.  gossip traveled through letter, news about the continent, the impending war, politics, all traveled via letter.  lasting connections were forged in gossip, and credibility was built through news.  these were rhetorical moves created and discussed by early epistolary authors (many of whom wrote to improve the minds of women, blah).

so i know all this, however, when faced with odd real world news of something similar i immediately cringed.  someone was recently telling me they met someone online, and formed a lasting bond he expects to turn into marriage with a girl in russia.  she is quite a bit younger than him.  i immediately found myself questioning this completely unknown girls motives.  i questioned the possibility of a bond through these means.  however, i'm usually pro-this type of communication/interaction.  so what's the difference?  why are we still so turned off by the idea of a mail-order bride, a bride who in many cases is volunteering for the job?  cities that have legalized prostitution have found the prostitute has a better life, less disease, more choice, more money, less harm done to her because she has more control, doesn't have to hide everything.  so choosing to enter the mail-order bride market provides these women with choice.  providing them the opportunity to converse regularly provides the potential couple more interaction than some arranged marriages have now.  so i guess  my real issue is that i can teach the idea that many people enter marriage for business arrangements, less for love, but i can't act out that understanding in real life.  whether the couple-hood is mediated through paper and pencil, or computer and internet, the business aspect that started that potential match is still there.  so where would a site like fit into my completely arbitrary scale?  when people sign up for these sites are they looking for love? companionship? partnership?  in any case, all of these emotions, values, lifestyles are now being mediated through a computer screen.  do we truly know how to tell the difference?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dissertation reading: Professing literacy in composition studies

Goggin, P.  (2008).  Professing literacy in composition studies.  Cresskill, NJ:  Hampton Press.

Goggin looks at the various definitions of literacy, specifically tracing how they are applied and used with computers and composition studies.  Mapping the definitions of literacy shows changes in definitions and applications over time, as well as places where changes need to occur, or disconnects exist.  Focusing on Goggin’s mapping of the various definitions of literacy as they apply to computers and composition is an important way to understand the applications of literacy in pedagogy, and how digital literacy functions in classroom space.  The map becomes a way to understand applications of literacy in current scholarship of digital classrooms, digital literacy and composition pedagogy.

the title becomes catchier after you've read the book and really let it all sink in.  being literate about literacy is what so many literacy scholars profess, without realizing the many different ways they use the word, define the word, apply the word.  One of the hardest spellings for many children to learn is their, there and they're.  All three words sound exactly the same, but have very different meanings.  Goggin is arguing literacy has the same problem.  we think it can apply to everything and anything, but that also means its hard to define, so we assume everyone knows what it means when we use it in a given context.  at the beginning of the semester i gave my freshmen composition 101 students and extra credit assignment, as 5 people "what is literacy?" write it down.  When they came in to class and we discussed the assignment some were amazed at my mind reading skills, i could guess a lot about the age, education and SES about a person based on how they defined the term and what they knew, or at least what aspects of it they cared about, which again points to SES.  In describing all the various ways computers and composition specifically apply the term literacy, and all the skills, applications, pedagogy, reading and writing implications one little concept has needs to be fleshed out so we don't accidentally use the literacy version of they're when we really mean their. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Romance Review: Challenge to Honor

Challenge to Honor
By: Jennifer Blake
Review: another meh

Unfortunately i think the meh review is more due to my raised expectations than the book itself.  i read a lot of regency romance and contemporary romance, and LOVE Gone With the Wind, so i feel that middle period is often missing from romance settings.  several austen fanfic writers are taking on WWI and WWII, a few have taken on the Old West in its various stages, but 1800's American New Orleans is such a mystical mix of creoles, spanish, french, americans, slaves and free slaves that still influence so many of its traditions today that the setting is ripe for culture.  i've read lisa kleypas' When Strangers Marry which is set in New Orleans and LOVED the story.  so when i saw a whole series (recommended through amazon's listmania which is awesome, i love the idea of recommending books based on categories that you self design.  its so interesting to see how people categorize, list and describe their own reading) about 1800s New Orleans i was super excited, so i bought the first one (YAY Kindle).  i had a really hard time liking the characters.  the culture, and the honor duels, and the training of swords men for honor duels, the lack of access to anything including money and choice of husband that the women had, the issue of slavery and the impending war with mexico for control of the south were amazing.  but the hero and heroine were so annoying and they just kept lying to each other.  fine, don't put your heart out there, by all means take a risk with losing your virginity outside of marriage in a time where your bride price is based on the existence of a hymen, but don't go so far as to tell that man you actually like him.  definitely get naked, and lie, always a good idea.  or just a way to annoy the reader.  so it took me forever to get into the story, i was about 75% done according to the kindle before i started to like them.  then there was a fire, the whole story came out, there was a kidnapping, sneaky maids, more sword fights, guns, parents standing up for their daughters, then it was over.  so i really liked 25% of this book, but the first 75 was a struggle.  the scenery, the food, the rituals and history of the area kept me reading the 75% because they really were amazing, but the hero and heroine were so blah and liars to boot.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Romance Review: The Baby Project

The Baby Project
By Linda Susan Meier

score: meh

I recently attended a Linguistics conference where my co-presenter discussed repetition in arabic, especially the Quaran, the the helpfulness in teaching language and culture when repetition occurs in a language.  He did note, however, that repetition in the English language is less common.  I don't say "my mom said x" over and over, i would typically switch to "she said" assuming listeners/readers were following my train of thought.  in general terms, its seen as rude to not assume the reader/listeners are paying attention, and to keep repeating the subjects instead of pronouns.

Unfortunately Ms Meier was not aware of this when she wrote the baby project.  overall the story is interesting, heartbroken female lead who suffered a ridiculous tragedy, abandoned male lead who is forced into fatherhood after never having a father in his life.  he quickly forces joint living, attraction is everywhere, baby is adorable, hearts are mended and we work toward HEA.  fairly basic set up.  HOWEVER, the tragedy that broke our dear heroine's heart is AWFUL, just awful.  to make matters worse, Ms Meier tells us the tragedy over and over and over again.  i was never sure if she assumed we readers had already forgotten the horrific tragedy after 5 pages, or she was trying to make us really really sad so we would identify with the humanness that our heroine presented.  either way, the repetition became tedious and was more distracting than an actual reminder of events in the plot line.  unlike the linguistic practices of languages like arabic, english speakers find it annoying to be repeatedly told the same thing, it feels like you're assuming we're not paying attention.  if you're worried we're not following your story, telling us a horrific plot device will not fix the overall problem. 

so, overall, fairly predictable plot line.  adorable baby that is underplayed.  lots and lots of repetition to be sure you don't forget the backstory of our dear female lead.  making the story meh.