On reading, writing, & commentary


The original title of this piece is “Criticism & commentary,” but it’s really about reading and writing as harmoniously-integrated activities within the larger whole that is a literary continuum and polyphonic collective; uniting all participants in a living textual network.

Premises and provisos: It views commentary as one of the core and ancient literary/communicative forms, along with story-telling and translation; with story-telling as the living beating heart of this human trinity of curiosity, criticism, and creativity.

It uses literature in its broad sense to extend to “any object that can be read, seen, interpreted” and reading in the broad / Barthes sense to include perception by any of the senses, with “making sense of” as its purpose, and an interpretation translated into expression via any of the senses.  This piece sees literature as synonymous with communicative expression. Not as one kind of communication, but the other way around:  what passes in other (non-literary) fields as “communication” is a more or less appropriately human, or humanly-appropriate, kind of literature. All writing has a right, duty, and responsibility to be beautiful, imaginative and innovative, and critical and creative. All writing can and should be literature. 

What follows below is the current version, for students who are reading and writing, from MDVL 301A : European Literature of the 5th to the 14th centuries – “The Liberal Arts”Its base was the version used in MDVL 302: European Literature of the 14th to the 16th centuries – “Criticism” (UBC, Faculty of Arts, Medieval Studies Programme, AY 2011-12 Winter session term 2) + a couple of upates (ex. on plagiarism and style guides). It’s one of the oldest pieces on this present blog; its most ancient archaeological layer (writing resources) is from a now-deceased previous site, “The Rose of the Romance” (2003).



Statement of teaching philosophy: l’imagination au pouvoir


I see my teaching rôle as
a flexible facilitator
and catalyst
in knowledge-centred
higher education:
centred not on instructors
or students,
nor on active teaching
and passive being taught
or variations on that binary;
but on the finding,
and shaping
of subject-matter and meaning,
in the adventure of learning itself. (more…)

Open letter: student support

(I just sent this to my own students: UBC colleagues, please feel free to share any part of it or the resources herein, they might be helpful to others too.)


Dear students, colleagues, fellow citizens of the UBC community,

I’m writing this because I promised a colleague that I would say something to students, and because, like many people at UBC, I care about UBC and about students; I also spend a lot of time on campus due to working and living here, and what I’m going to write about is something that matters to this community as a whole. I’ll probably not say the right things or say them properly so I hope you get the general underlying ideas and forgive me for expressing them clumsily and too hastily.


Yesterday, a violent assault—an attempted murder—happened here on your, our, campus. (more…)

Being in time, in images and imagination

Hieronymus Bosch, Graden of Earthly Delights (1490-1510); Museo del Prado, Madrid

Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights (1490-1510): outer wings closed; Museo del Prado, Madrid

Images accompanying MDVL 301A – week 5



Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, gift shop, 2012; via @divafancypants


Of field-work & marriage