(1) Work in progress

(2) An actual real live funded group collaborative research project thanks to the UBC TLEF: “Blended Learning: Redesigning First- and Second-Year Language Courses in French and Spanish.”

Part the First: thinking-and-reading-and-writing work in progress:

  • Flamenca:
    • feminist literary studies–creative reading, criticism, possibly some theorising: Flamenca and authorship
    • an offshoot project from the sexy bathing-scene in Flamenca: doing what I did in the dissertation with respect to the letter-reading lacuna as a central focal-node
  • value(s), human and otherwise:
    • continuation of William of Aragon and Raimon Vidal de Besalú on value, worth, and true nobility
    • continuation of work on amor cortes and cortesia: on gentility and courtesy
    • on the liberal arts: collecting and compiling everything I’ve read, received, posted, shared, forwarded, and otherwise saved on FaceBook
  • commentary and satire
    • some more collection and compilation of summertime Facebook satire (anonymised for all other people, of course)
    • this might mean I finally get around to doing something about the 70,000+ words kicking around on “Medioevophilic Apollinaire” but I’m not making any promises because the form and content reflect those of the original materials…


  •  fictions:
    • ideas for hypothetical papers:
      —some are simply questions, of the form “why,” “what if…,” and “I wonder…”
      —some already exist as titles, some have notes, some are fuller-fledged but unpublished or unpublishable (in their current form as scholarly articles anyway), some may be reworked as creative non-fiction “essays,” but whatever I happen to do with these things, there’s no harm–and there may be some good–in circulating the raw ideas to all and sundry. Someone else might like them, might do something better with them, will certainly do something different with them; more than one person working on any given idea means conversation is possible; and that way the increase and enrichment of knowledge lie.
      —some more, via Facebook summertime interactivity, on fiction and literature and reading. About words and what we do with them in beautiful and imaginative ways. How thinking and writing about these things flows through academic and other areas. What happens in these motile grey areas of confluence, so lively: experimental work, boundary-crossing, margins and marginality and marginalia, intersections and intersectionality, the continuing tensions and convergences between “stories” and “history/ies”, bookishness and beyond the book, and of course medievalism.
    • here’s an idea as a bonus freebie:
      “Fictionality and imagination are what make ‘literature’ what it is”
    • another fantastical freebie for consideration, and surely the most useful MOOC imaginable:
      = an online course for all incoming students.
      Also open to others. Obligatory for all incoming administrators from outside academia, for whom there would also be a compusory final examination with three-hour classic essay; failure to be punished with the stocks and public flogging, with live commentary by a fool in full motley.
      UPDATE: UBC Jumpstart already does a good job here, in material person on campus, as an orientation programme for new international students; beginning with a two-week immersion program in August and continuing with support for students throughout their first year at UBC. Other universities do similar things; but it’s a good opportunity to highlight The Local and support colleagues here.

folon-envolPart the Second is the big project:

  • UBC TLEF, “Blended Learning: Redesigning First- and Second-Year Language Courses in French and Spanish.”


Internal funding has been granted for this first year of what is planned as three-year project. (The intelligent reader may observe from the complete list of projects that, in comparison with others, we might have been foolish in our modesty and honesty; given the scope of the project, actual work, and end results in the production of actual useful things. But that’s another story and whole other kettle of fish.)

There are four of us working on this; most of our funding is going to research assistants this summer and through the next academic year. Most of the RAs will be graduate students in our department; though RAships will be open, at certain stages of certain parts of the project and for certain purposes, to suitably-qualified undergraduates and students in other departments and disciplines. (UPDATE: in case you think that RA could be you, or you know of someone who might be interested, application information is at the end of this present post. The deadline is MONDAY so act fast! We could go ahead with a selection of the candidates we aleady have, but it seems fair to post this in case other equally-qualified candidates are interested.)

My part is on the first two courses in beginners’ French and on the second-year oral practice course for non-Francophones. Research assistants will be genuinely assisting in research, in that their starting-point will be a list of things I would be doing if I had the time, and a plan of how I would do them. This whole project is a compromise: in an ideal world, I would have teaching release so as to do the work myself. In a truly idea world, I would do this on an Epic Voyage of Discovery with an Apprentice or two. As it is, the Magician’s Apprentices will be having more of the fun, but it would selfish and churlish of me to begrudge them it.


The first stage over the summer is collectio and imaginatio. Materia will include:

  • market research synchronic and diachronic (yes, including the CEFR),
    history of the textbook,
    history of the book,
    textualities (not just Western European) and post-textuality;
  • history of language-teaching (ex. Latin, Occitan as a foreign language),
    actual experimental research-data in psychology, neuroscience, and cognition: how adult brains acquire language,
    especially on people who are learning a third or later language, a further language for adults who are already to at least some extent functionally bi- or tri-lingual, AND a first foreign language ab initio (so: language acquisition as appropriate to our very interesting local demographic),
    what (little?) exists on ANDRAGOGY, as distinct from paedagogy;
  • applied practicalities,
    approaches to and ways of learning,
    yes (sorry, antiquarian acolytes of the communicative method) this will include parallel text, translation, code-switching, and multilingualism as forms of comparativist and cultural practice–culture being an integral part of language–and with particular attention to word-play, YES including cross-lingual puns: “fumier Dunhill” being a good example
    tips and tricks (ex. Quintillian and Erasmus);

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  • and gathering images (objects, architecture and other monuments, art and sculpture and other plastic arts), performance arts (clips of mime for starters), poetry, songs, video, maps, infographics, ads, cartoons, jokes and running jokes (inc. ad campaigns and comedy shows), puns, anecdotes, stories, myths, urban myths, cultural references, other “texts” (loosely construed as “coherent assemblage of French words conveying some message”) not covered above, and pre-existing online repositories / libraries / archives thereof.


There will be possibilities for spin-off independent research and publication for the research assistants (and your truly), if so desired, later on. So: first do the work for the project, then go off and analyse and publish about it. This is following the model of the Princeton Charrette Project; though there are no plans (by me anyway) for an actual volume, because that would run contrary to the point of the project, which is RETHINKING THE BOOK BY THINKING BEYOND THE PRINTED PUBLISHED BOOK.

There will also be crowdsourcing, beyond Principal Protagonists and research assistants. Some of that may be recompensed with meals, chocolate, booze, and of course my undying gratitude and the granting of immortality as Named Contributors.

As much as possible and practicable, and as far as is agreed by the whole group, will be freely openly publicly available online. This will probably be a Googly thing.

john eats book

For specifics on  FREN 101-102 and 215, I’ll be setting up UBC blogs (= wordpress like this here); the former will be linked to the current “coin des profs” areas of the FREN101@UBCBlogs & FREN102@UBCBlogs course sites, as we start to “blend in” project elements, into materials and teaching of these courses, from September 2015 onwards. Through these “coin profs” areas and discussions with teaching-assistant-colleagues, we’d already effectively started working on this project earlier this present academic year, and it was that work from last September onwards that fed into my part in planning this group project and drafting (Robert is the heroic force responsible for that) and submitting the proposal.

Much as I would like those UBC Blog areas to be as open as possible, in the interests of intellectual property (to protect the rights of others in this group, particularly graduate students who might be considering writing and publishing their own individual corners of research) they’ll be password-protected and interested parties will need to email me to ask for a password (and if need be explain their interest, if this is someone I don’t know).

More anon once all this is set up. See further down this post for some slides, based on material in the original application.


A colleague asked me about methodology and approach. My initial answer was “none.” Here is my full answer:

  • philology  = standard humanities research methodology:
  1. read everything, think about it, read more, read everything in bibliographies, follow history and background- and contextual-studies and tangents, cut the crap and read more of the quality good stuff, think about it, read more, cogitate, do more reading and reading around the topic (this may include, in the case of everything I ever do, reading science fiction and other imaginative and speculative fictions, and watching long complicated TV series), rinse and repeat. Immerse oneself in the topic, like an anthropologist or other xenobiologist doing field-work.
  2. compilatio of all stuff.

  3. the application of intellectus, san(s), and ratio.
    This includes those mythical beasts common sense, good sense, νόος, and critical (in the full κρίνω meaning) judgement (with apologies to sticklers for the tautology). Judgement” includes whatever innate talent I might have, combined with skill, training, and what wisdom I might have developed in trusting what my mind does and following it where it goes. The more one reads, the more one thinks, the stronger and less hazy these Mythical Beasts become, and so on. It’s a lovely virtuous circle. This stage loops back to stage 1 and runs all the way through other stages, and then on to other projects; as transferrable applicable skils, and because however unrelated a new project might seem, it’ll always turn out to have some connection to previous ones. As is the case with this present French language one:.

  4. (applying (3) above) the selection and arrangement of materia into what seems to be sound and pleasing ordo. 

  5. the analysis, synthesis, conclusions, abstractions, meta-level discussion, postulations, suggestions for the future, opening up questions: the end result to be sententia and sapientia.


  • standard methodology of the “scientific” sort:

that is, pertaining to knowledge–scientia–and as contrated with “pseudoscience”; see Karl Popper for further details

  • related to the previous item: scepticism.

See: history and philosophy of science, history of epistemology, and good folks like François Rigolot for a history and subtle analysis of the concept of “error” in a way that intersects with the literary humanities. There will also be a post here at some point with my personal Greatest Hits of Online Scepticism. Ben Goldacre and suchlike.

Scepticism: questioning everything, but also approaching everything with an equitably open mind, so as to do justice to all.

A refusal as a matter of principle to apply any theory, school of thought, or Named Approach. No such secondary sources and mediated materials. Nope. The use of primary sources and arguments from first principles. It’s a Protestant rather than Catholic approach, in Early Modern European terms.

Questioning everything.

Attempting within the human possible to read everything, with an open mind, because you never know until you’ve actually read it for yourself if something is worthwhile or not. Its worth might not be immediately obvious from others’ reading as they may have missed what you (as, often, a better reader) would have found. Furthermore, others have been reading in a more limited way, blinkered by following a School of Thought or a Theory or an Approach and/or by having a Well-Formed Hypothesis as the starting-point of their research.


  • related to both previous items: feminism, anarchism, gynarchism.

A refusal of patriarchy, patronising patriarchism, and phallogocentricity in all its forms.

A refusal of Named Authority and the very idea that anything I do should be in (someone else’s) approach at all.

A refusal to follow fashion: tool of patriarchal oppression, cunningly disguised as novelty and liberty via appeals to vanity and the fascist cult of youth (vs. the proper veneration of wisdom and style).

Crowdsourcing, community, cooperation, concert.

  • what Sarah Kay labelled “deconstruction with a human face”

First stage: that open-minded collection of materials. It’ll be fun. I’m envious of the RAs we’ll be hiring, because this is the cornucopian Rabelaisian part of research that I always enjoy the most. (Karl D. Uitti would have had something witty to say at this point about steering a balanced course between the Scylla of cherry-picking and the Charibdis of wool-gathering).

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For the summer research assistantships, here are the specifications from the job ad circulated in the department:


The department of French, Hispanic and Italian Studies is seeking to hire up to 5 Graduate or Undergraduate UBC Students who will be appointed part time as Research Assistants to work on a one-year Flexible Learning Project “Blended Learning : Redesigning 1st and 2nd year languages courses for French and Spanish”. The project includes the creation of content modules, course activities, online assessments, and assignments for four first-year courses and one second-year course in French and two second-year courses in Spanish.

The Graduate Students will work together alongside with the coordinators of these courses and the Instructional Designer and will be tasked with the following:

  • Research for online and multi-media materials
  • The creation of interactive online and class activities
  • The creation of content material, online exercises, online assessments, and other  teaching resources
  • The review, evaluation, and communication of project outcomes

Candidates should be enrolled in a graduate or an undergraduate program at UBC until the end of March 2016. They should be fluent in the French language to work on the French courses and fluent in Spanish for Spanish courses. Students applying to work on French courses should have at least near-native fluency in French and those applying to work on Spanish courses should have at least near-native fluency in Spanish. The ideal candidate will be able to demonstrate practical common sense, initiative, creativity, and the ability to produce quality work to a deadline. Candidates should also possess the ability to work both independently and as part of team. Teaching experience with new technology and with the courses involved will be considered an asset.

Initial appointment will vary in length and may be renewable depending on funding and performance.

Applicant should provide a curriculum vitae and a brief cover letter and emailed to before April 20, 2015. Only those candidates short-listed for the position will be contacted.

The University of British Columbia hires on the basis of merit and is committed to employment equity. We encourage all qualified persons to apply.


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