The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Friday, December 28, 2007

Priests Brawl at Jesus' Birthplace

The headline needs no correction or modification.

Irony, anyone? I've always thought religious people are kinda kooky.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I'm off to TO today and will return on January 6. See you all in 2008, which is already looking like a better year.

Blast from the past, vol. III

Here's an interesting bit of royal and televisual history: it's the Queen's first televised Christmas message from 1957. Enjoy

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I've heard of Stockholm Syndrome, but...

I was having a drink with the prof I TAed for this term (cool guy), and he mentioned something very bizarre. Apparently, there is a phenomenon in psychological circles known as "Paris Syndrome" which causes a small percentage of tourists to Paris to suffer from shock or even hallucinations. Interestingly, and as far as I can tell, it only affects the Japanese. The syndrome is caused no doubt in part (if not in whole) by the discrepancy between idealized images of Paris and the reality tourists are struck with.

I've never been to Paris myself, and I hope I do go someday, but most people I know who have gone came back with less than flattering things to say about it.

Reminds me of Oscar Wilde's witticism on the superiority of art over nature, which is very apt in the current context: the whole of Japan is a pure invention. There is no such country, there are no such people.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ten Years Have Passed, with the Length of Ten Long Winters

I just found out that this week marks the tenth anniversary of the passing of Chris Farley, who was taken far too soon from us. (I can't believe it's been ten years already).

I remember watching and actually enjoying Saturday Night Live back in the early-mid 90s when he was on the show. Here's one of my favourite Farley sketches.

Farley's humour was neither clever, nor urbane, nor ironic. His was a "pure" humour, and he made it look so easy.

Miss Belgium Does Not Speak Dutch

Can you believe it? I mean...Gah! What's the world coming to?

I am, of course, being ironic. In all fairness to those who booed her at the Miss Belgium competition, however, Belgium is about 66% Flemish (a dialect of Dutch) speaking.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Real Life Family Guy

It isn't even winter yet, and already I've seen more snow fall in the past two weeks than I have in my entire life in Canada. Today's no exception, so in the absence of much going on, here's something amusing: people who look like Family Guy characters. For the record, Meg and Peter are spot on.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Res Ipsa Loquitur, vol. V

No comment

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Damn Kanties

A somewhat whacky yet humorous anti-Kant campaign ad, which is not surprisingly funded by the Friedrich Nietzsche for president organization.

In case it weren't obvious, anyone who finds this remotely funny is a total geek.

Lost Dog

This is incredibly mean, but also very clever (rated PG-13)

Click here

Tired of Being Asian

Apparently, someone thinks there's a demand for this:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Only in New York

Here's a delightful set of pictures, depicting things that one would only find in NYC. I'm sure at least one reader will find it amusing. Here's my personal favourite:

Tonson's Miscellanies, vol. ?

Here's a neat quote from the 18th century sage Joseph Addison (this was when Johnson was a toddler):

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. They are but trifles, to be sure, but, scattered along life's pathway, The good they do is inconceivable.

This is more or less my practice. Though I may not genuinely mean it when I ask a cashier how they are doin', nevertheless, as one who had the misfortune of working in retail for years, I know how much of a difference it can make in one's day (the logic is very much like Kant's categorical imperative).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Quite Brilliant

Never thought I'd say this, but if I caught someone cheating thus I would probably reward them with bonus marks.
But seriously, this is something to keep in mind the next time I'm invigilating an exam.

An oldie

This is a bit of an old gem, but still remarkable.

(Not So) Conspiracy Theories

You all laughed when I said Facebook was bad news.

Foucualt's Panopticon doesn't sound so far-fetched all of a suddent.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Comps Update vol. I

It's official: I passed both my comps on Friday.

I feel strangely ripped off and anti-climactic. I also feel as if I should be doing something now workwise, but I supposed these are normal, post-comp sentiments.

I will repeat the process in 2008, except the stakes will be higher because I will be studying for my major are comp, the 18th century. I found juggling two comp areas challenging, so the major should prove somewhat refreshing.

Friday, December 07, 2007


Whether or not you are a fan of the adult film industry, you have to appreciate the titles of some of the films, which are indeed very creative and witty.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Exam 2

Well, I just came back from writing my second minor exam, so that makes 6 hours of exam writing in two days, and I still have to defend orally tomorrow. I found out I passed my previous exam, but today's was much more vague and difficult than expected. Not sure if I can even answer some of the ones I avoided at all.

Here is, in abbreviated form, the exam I wrote today.
(For the record, I chose questions 1 from Part A and 1, 2 from Part B. These questions were incredibly general, more so than I was expecting, and although I answered in some length, I was rarely able to engage with individual texts):

Part A (choose one: refer to at least two genres and three writers)

1. In her intro to Frankenstein, Mary Shelley declares "Invention...does not consist of creating out of a void, but out of chaos." To what extent does the literary innovation of the 19th century support the claim that chaos breeds invention? Refer either to genre/form or aesthetic theory. [I used the poetics and aesthetic theories of Pater, Keats, and Wordsworth/Shelley]

2. Modernity is characterized by accelerated temporality that profoundly unhinges the present. In what way did the 19th century experience this, and what were its responses?

Part B (choose two: refer to three writers without repeating material)

1. How did the 19th century "rise" of the reader shape the period's understanding of authorship. [Discussed the the troubled relation of writer to audience and how some, such as Wordsworth, disavowed it while others, such as Byron and Dickens, indulged in it]

2. Poets wrestled with the problem of form in the century. What connection, if any, do you see between the question of form and that f the authority of poetry in the 19th century? [Discussed the Romantic fragments of Shelley/Keats, Tennyson's "In Memoriam" and EB Browning's Aurora Leigh. Amazingly, I didn't realize until I was done writing this answer that I neglected Robert Browning, but alas time was ticking].

3. The century was characterized by an understanding of large impersonal forces, which influenced social and individual formation. At the same time, middle class culture invested in models of individual agency and self help. How does this tension manifest itself in Victorian sage writing?

4. George Eliot titled one of her chapters in Middlemarch "The Dead Hand of the Past." Was the past a "dead hand" for nineteenth-century fiction?

5. Do you agree that Victorian England developed an "autoethnographic consciousness" (a consciousness shaped by the notion of oneself as the product and possessor of a distinct culture)? If so, what might be some of its implications? If not, what might its absence suggest?


I can't believe I hadn't found this earlier. Very clever.

Beer Prayer

Our lager
Which art in barrels
Hallowed be thy drink
Thy will be drunk, (I will be drunk)
At home as it is in the tavern
Give us this day our foamy head
And forgive us our spillage
As we forgive those who spill against us
And lead us not into incarceration
But deliver us from hangovers
For thine is the beer, the bitter, and the lager

As for me, I'm off to write my second minor comp exam in about an hour. I'll find out later this afternoon or early tomorrow how I did. If I have been approved, I must submit to an oral interrogation tomorrow afternoon, after which I will finally be done.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Exam 1

Phew, just wrote my first minor exam in Literary Theory (the second will be on Thursday, so stay tuned). I am neurotic, but this exam worries me less than my next one on 19th century British literature.

I read a few previous exams written by the same examiner, but this one was a bit tougher. The first section was fairly straightforward, though some terms are hard to define even if I understand them. Here is my exam is abbreviated form:

PartI: Define four of the following [ I chose numbers 2, 4, 6 and 7. 5 was too broad]

1. mimesis (Plato)
2. ecriture (Derrida)
3. pleasure (Barthes)
4. author function (Foucault)
5. ideology (Marxism)
6. subaltern (Postcolonialism)
7. simulation (Baudrillard)

Part II: Answer two of the following [I've abbreviated these long questions. I answered 1 and 4. I wanted to do 2 but couldn't think of any theoretical objections. None of the three examinees, myself included, touched 5 with a ten foot pole. ]

1. Define the concept of genealogy with reference to Foucault and Nietzsche. How is it distinct from 19th century classical historicism? How does New Historicism appropriate the genealogical method? [I'm fairly confident of my answer here]

2. Edward Said's Orientalism established postcolonialism. What are the premises of this work? How has it been challenged by theorists both within and outside postcolonialism.

3. Drawing on two current literary theories, indicate how the concept of culture has been mobilized and or deconstructed [not touching this one].

4. Literary theory over the past century has witnessed an abiding competition between historical and ahistorical methods of literary interpretation. Present an argument for/against the thesis that the study of literature is essentially an historic discipline, and that ahistorical formalist methods can best be justified through their integration into a comprehensive historical theory of literature. Refer to any two theories of literature in your answer [ I argued in that ahistorical methods are just as valuable as historical ones, and that denouncing a method because it ignores history is merely espousing one ideology over another].

5. The question of the relation of literature and "power" has long been central, in various forms, to reflections on literature. The question of power, in turn, is related to, and ultimately founded in, questions of truth. What is your understanding of the truth or untruth of the literary work and consequently to power? In your answer, carefull define the concepts of truth and power.

Now I have to prepare for my oral interrogation. I may be asked merely to clarify answers or potentially answer the questions I avoided. Fortunately, this is only a minor exam, so their expectations are a little lower. These exams are, for all intents and purposes, pass/fail, so a passing grade is as good as an A.

The theory exam is always a bit of a rip off because only a small percentage of what an examinee has read for the past 1.5-3 months will be on it. Fortunately, I had a good idea of what was not going to be on the exam, but I'm awfully surprised there were no big questions on Marxism.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Blast from the past, vol. II

This list bring up some old memories. I remember playing most of these games about nearly 20 years ago. Sigh..

By the way, just this second I remembered that there was a short-lived cereal based on the Nintendo game console (I'm not kidding). I have an excellent memory, but this is what I mean when I tell people that it is filled with utterly useless information.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Delicious (and Nutritious) Irony

Granted, many of the pictures here aren't strictly ironic, but they sure are funny.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Good News, vol. I

This is the first of what I hope will be many volumes.

I just found out today, three months after applying, that I've been accepted to a prestigious Adam Smith conference, which is to be held in January 2009 at Oxford. This was the first bit of good news I had received in a while, so I really needed this. Normally, getting into a conference isn't all that impressive, but this is a very prestigious and competitive one, so I'm absolutely thrilled. There's also a chance that my paper will be included in a publication following the conference. Of course, I have more pressing concerns for the moment (comps, etc), so I will not even begin on this until summer 2008. Here's hoping that this is a good sign for better things to come in 2008.

If you are at all interested, click here for the CFP (call for paper).