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. 

The present version is that used in MDVL 302: European Literature of the 14th to the 16th centuries – “Criticism” (UBC, Faculty of Arts, Medieval Studies Programme, Spring 2012) and MDVL 301A : European Literature of the 5th to the 14th centuries – “The Liberal Arts” (Fall 2016). 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).


“The tree of life”
Gua Tewet, Borneo
(c. 10,000 years ago)




[I’m not writing a proper full blog post myself: I couldn’t do this matter due justice as my word-brain is fried after marking, finally crashing after working since 6 a.m. So I will hand you over to other people who can address it better, more elegantly and eloquently: Eileen A. Joy follows below (I added links, and images from Schuiten & Peeters Les Cités obscures), and other text is from Custodians Online and Rabia Gregory:]


UPDATE on ‪#‎saveashgate‬ petition-campaign: the Burlington, Vermont office did close on Nov. 25, while plans for the UK office are still up in the air. In addition, it has been announced that the list price of most existing Ashgate titles will increase on Jan. 1, 2016 to $149.95 / £95.00 per title. (more…)

On blogging and hospitality (revised August 2017)

While I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Chronic(le) pieces, and while they can be disappointingly click-baity, I thought this “advice” yesterday from David Perry was splendid. It’s short and simple. Clear and true.


Academia dot edu

An intellectual property issue:

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “Academia, Not Edu,” in Planned Obsolescence (26 October 2015)



On plagiarism

UPDATED 2015-10-30

Or, It’s That Time Of Year Again (2, or whatever number we’re up to).

imageMy FREN 101 students have their first Big Scary Written Composition assignment coming up. These are for the most part absolute beginners, with some false beginners, and they have now had six and a half weeks of French. So they’re ready for the Big Scary stuff: being beaten with a big stick and having the Fear of God put into them about The Perils Of Plagiarism.

Plagiarism sucks.

We all know it sucks because it’s theft, lazy, mean, horrible, despicable, immoral or amoral, insulting, reprehensible, and generally makes anyone who is themselves a maker of things prone to fits of pique, unhealthy stress, and the physical agony of resisting the atavistic urge to punch perpetrators.

It sucks less obviously because The Fear discourages students from any form of reference, and encourages their Academic Spirit Guides and other Learnership Leaders to give students assignments that suck because they’re either all about citation (with extreme examples in courses on “academic writing,” whatever that is) or they try to avoid it altogether.

All three Styles of Suck force an ugly unnatural divide between student writing and reference to others in a way that is bad for writing, reading, thinking, and intelligent being.  (more…)