christabel: (Default)
Talk About Writing
Backlog of WCJ
Writing Analytically
Researching Writing
Writing Studies Research in Practice
Naming What We Know

Reread Embassytown
China Mieville Critical Essays
Art and Ideas in the Novels of CM

Archeologies of the Future
Science Fiction Criticism
Staying with the Trouble
How We Became Posthuman

Rest of Mary/Ada series (must order)

Stack of Books for Frankenstein Project in office:
Cruel Optimism - Lauren Berlant
Powers of Horror - Julia Kristeva
Skin Shows - Judith Halberstam
Mesmerists, Monsters, and Machines - Martin Willis
A Theory of Adaptation - Linda Hutcheon
Cambridge Guide to British Romanticism - ed. Stuart Curran
The Romantic Revolution - Tim Blanning
christabel: (Captain Wentworth Writing)
372-73 - The basic general obligation here must be to consider seriously what one can reasonably do to help the realization of another person's freedom, taking note of its importance and influenceability, and of one's own circumstances and likely effectiveness.

373 - The necessity to ask that question (rather than to proceed on the possibly comforting assumption that we owe nothing to each other) can be the beginning of a more comprehensive line of ethical reasoning, and the territory of human rights belongs there.

Given any person's limited abilities and reach, and the priorities between different types of obligations as well as the demands of other . . . concerns one may reasonably havae, there is serious practical reasoning to be undertaken, in which one's various obligations (including imperfect obligations) must, directly or indirectly, figure.

The recognition of human rights is not an insistence that everone rises to help prevent and violation of any human right no matter where it occurs. It is, rather, an acknowledgment that if one is in a position to do something effective in preventing the violation of such a right, then one does have a good reason to do just that -- a reason that must be taken into acount in deciding what should be done.

There is a universal ethical demand here, but not one that automatically identifies contingency-free, ready-made actions.

375 - the presumed precision of legal rights is often contrasted with inescapable ambiguityes in the ethical claims of human rights.

376 - when the human right of a person not to be tortured is acknowledged, the importance of freedom from torture is reaffirmed and acclaimed for everyone

379 - economic and social rights -- welfare rights

384 - human rights advocates want the recognized human rights to be maximally realized.

385 - A claim that a certain freedom is important enough to be seen as a human right is also a claim that reasoned scrutiny would sustain that judgment.

386 - What sustainability of a judgement demands is a general apreciation of the reach of reasoning in favour of those rights, if and when others try to scrutinize the claims on an impartial basis.

387 - The fact that monitoring of violations of human rights and the proceduring of "naming and shaming" can be so effective (at least in putting the violators on the defensive) is some indication of the reach of public reasoning when information becomes available and ethical arguments are allowed rather than suppressed.

388-89 - what tends 'to inflame the minds' of suffering humanity cannot but be of immediate interest both to policy-making and to the diagnosis of injustice. A sense of injustice must be examined even if it turns out to be erroneously based, and it must, of course, be thoroughly pursued if it is well founded.

389 - Howeer, since injustices relate, often enough, to hardy social divisions, . . . it is often difficult to surmount those barriers to have an objective analysis of the contrast between what is happening and what could have happened -- a constrast that is central to the advancement of justice.

Outrage can be used to motivate, rather than to replace, reasoning.

390 - Resistance to injustice typically draws on both indignation and argumen.

393 - It is frequently asserted that justice should not only be done, but also be "seen to be done."

the administration of justice can, in general, be more effective if judges are seen to be doing a good job, rather than botching things up. If a judgment inspires confidence and general endorsement, then very likely it can be more easily implemented.

394 - If the importance of public reasoning has been one of the major concerns of this book, so has been the need to accept the plurality of reasons that may be sensibly accomodated in an exercise of evaluation. . . when they yield conflicting judgements, there is an important challenge in determining what credible conclusions can be derived, after considering all the arguments.

395 - non-commensurability - irreducible diversity between distinct objects of value.

nearly all appraisals undertaken as a part of normal living involve prioritization and weighting of distinct concerns, and that there is nothing particularly special in the recognition that evaluation has to grammple with competing priorities.

412 - Rawls's attempt at getting to a perfectly just society with a combination of ideal institutions and corresponding ideal behaviour. In a world where those extremely demanding behavioural assumptions do not hold, the institutional choices made will tend not to deliver the kind of society that would have strong claims to being seen as perfectly just.

a good deal of the theory presented here has been directly concerned with people's lives and capabilities, and the deprivation and suppression suffered.

414-15 - a number of different theories of justice share some common presumptions about what it is like to be a human being. We could have been creatures incapable of sympathy, unmoved by the pain and humiliation f others, uncaring of freedom, and -- no less significant -- unable to reason, argue, disagree and concur. The strong presence of these features in human lives does not tell us a great deal about what particular theory of justice should be chosen, but it does indicate that the general pursuit of justice might be hard to eradicate in human society, evven though we can go about that pursuit in different ways.
christabel: (Captain Wentworth Writing)
362 (context, Bentham's claim that human rights are nonexistent as they are not laws) -- in so far as human rights are meant to be significant ethical claims, the pointer to the fact that they do not necessarily have legal force is as obvious as it is irrelevant to the nature of those clasims.

the human rights approach demands that the acknowledged rights of everyone, in the form of respecting freedoms and corresponding obligations, must be given ethical recognition.

363 Herbert Hart in "Are There Any Natural Rights?" - Hart's view takes the form of seeing human rights as, in effect, parents of law: they motivate specific legislations.

364 if human rights are seen as powerful moral claims . . then surely we have reason for some catholicity in considering different avenues for promoting these moral claims.

365 "media exposure and criticism as well as public debates and agitation" "the influence of education and public discussion on civility and social contract"

372-73 - The basic general obligations here must be to consider seriously what one can reasonably do to help the realization of another person's freedome, taking note of its importance and influenceability, and of one's own circumstances and likely effectiveness. . . .

373 - The necessity to ask that question (rather than to proceed on the possibly comforting assumption that we owe nothing to each other) can be the beginning of a more comprehensive line of ethical reasoning, and the territory of human rights belongs there. . . . Given any person's limited abilities and reach, and the priorities between different types of obligations as well as the demands of other . . . concerns one may reasonable have ,there is serious practical reasoning to be undertaken, in which one's various obligations . . . must, directly or indirectly, figure.

The recognition of human rights is not an insistence that everyone rises to help prevent any violation of any human right no matter where it occurs. It is, rather, an acknowledgement that if one is in a position to do something effective in preventing the violation of such a right, then one does have a good reason to do just that -- a reason that must be taken into account in deciding what should have been done.

There is a universal ethical demand here, but not one that automatically identifies contingency-free, ready-made actions.

Because of the importance of communication, advocacy, exposure and informed public discussion, human rights can have influence without necessarily depending on coercive legislation.

366 Human rights can serve as the motivation for many different activities, from legislation and implementation of appropriate laws to enabling help from other people and public agitation against rights violations.

366-67 - an appropriate starting point for investigating the relevance of human rights must be the importance of the freedomes underlying those rights. The importance of freedoms provides a foundational reason not only for affirming our own rights and liberties, but also for taking an interest in the freedoms and rights of others -- going well beyond the pleasures and desire-fulfilment on which utiltarians concentrate.

372 - the significance of rights relates ultimately to the importance of freedom including its opportunity aspect and the process aspect. What about the duties of others that may be associated with these rights?

Since violation -- or non-realization -- of the freedoms underlying significant rights are bad things to happen . . . even othrs who are not themselves causing the violation, but who are in a position to help, have a reason to consider what they should do in this case.

However, the move from a reason to an action . . . to an actual duty to undertake that action is neither simple, nor sensibly covered under just one straightforward formula.

christabel: (Default)
324 - It should be clear how central the role of public reasoning is for the understanding of justice.
BH is a world w/o public reasoning.

326 - central issues in a broader understanding of democracy are political participation, dialogue, and public interaction.

335-37 freedom of the press (censorship class) -- handout for first class?
christabel: (Default)
175 - rationality of choice -- conscious choice -- assumption that there IS a choice.

179 - Since human beings can easily have good reason also to pay some attention to objectives other than the single-minded pursuit of self-interest, and can see arguments in favour of taking cognizance of broader values or of normative rules of decent behavior, RCT (rational choice theory) does reflect an extremely limited understanding of reason and rationality.

194 - The insistence of so-called rational choice theory on defining rationality simply as intelligent promotion of personal self-interest sells human reasoning extremely short.

203 - there are two grad ways of bringing about the attainment of mutual benefits through cooperation, namely agreed contracts that can be enforced, and social norms that may work voluntarily in that direction. (Alice: LG?)

**225 - It is not difficult to appreciate the centrality of human lives in reasoned assessments of the world in which we live. That, as has already been discussed in the Introduction and later, is a central feature of the perspective of nyaya in contrast with the rule-bound niti, even though the idea of nyaya is not at all alone in pointing to the relevance of human lives for assessing how a society is doing.

**271 - if someone has the power to make a difference that he or she can see will reduce injustice in the world, then there is a strong and reasoned argument for doing just that . . .

272 - welfare economics, which is the part of economics that is concerned with the assessment of the goodness of states of affairs and the appraisal of policies, has had a long history in placing happiness at the very center of the discipline of evaluation, seeing it as a sole guide ot human well-being and to the advantages enjoyed by different people.

- utilitarianism . . . gave happiiness the status of being uniquely important in assessing human well-being and advantage, and thus serving as the basis for social evaluation and the making of public policy.

- The nature and cause of 'joylessness' in the lives of people in prosperous economies have also received attention

273 - the tension between the income perspective and the happiness perspective is, at long last receiving more mainstream attention.

275 - What the critics of unreasoning acceptance of persistent deprivation want is more reasoning about what ails the perennial underdogs, with the expectation that, with more scrutiny, the 'well-adapted' deprived would see -- and 'feel' reason enough to grumble.

289 - when more capability includes more power in ways that can influence other people's lives, a person may have good reason to use the enhanced capability -- the larger agency freedom -- to uplift the lives of others, especially if they are relatively worse off, rather than concentrating only on their own well-being.
christabel: (Default)
105 A systematic theory of comparative justice does not need, nor does it necessarily yield, an answer to the question "what is a just society?"

115 It is, I think, a mistake to try to interpret the different decisions that a person takes on a variety of disparate subjects in terms of just one classificatory idea . . .
christabel: (Default)
Continuing with the Amartya Sen book. Delightfully written, especially after slogging through Rawls, which is deservedly influential, but so abstract and repetitive. Sen uses vivid examples from Indian and Western culture, and is sometimes snarky. There were some really useful moments early in the text; righ tnow he is positioning himself in comparison with a tradition, so there's not so much that's speaking to me as far as potentially writing. I need to look at my Bleak House chapter, and possibly the Trollope chapter as well, as the focus of both is appropriate and could definitely direct me towards relevant material.

Fuzzy headed, today, however, and making less focused progress in my reading. Still, progress is progress, and not every day is going to be idea.
christabel: (Oscar Wilde)
as a useful place to make notes and then find them again, particularly helpful when I'm currently working on two different computers.

Teaching notes:

Death Penalty:

interesting article in The New Yorker, January 2, 2012, p. 54-63. No Remorse by Rachel Aviv. About a teenager who killed his grandfather and didn't seem to understand the consequences.
Corresponding case: Roper v. Simmons, SCt 2005 -- death penalty made illegal for juveniles.
Not sure how useful for the class, but maybe with A Clockwork Orange in C&P to consider Alex's level of responsibility? Maybe with Philosophy for HJS?


Too old for global censorship course, but reading of new edition of Dorian Grey, taken from Wilde's edited typescripts -- two levels of censorship: Lippincott's (widely regarded as still more homoerotic than book version) for reasons of commercial feasibility; Wilde's own in expanded book edition for commercial reasons -- because of wide condemnation of Lippincott's version. Since Wilde agreed to these changes, how are they censorship? a) cultural censorship -- the love that literally dare not speak its name -- must be kept from leaking through explicitly, even though now everyone sees it. But also more scandalous hetero references as well. b) commercial censorship -- a writer must be able to publish in order to make a living.
christabel: (Default)
I got slightly derailed from my Difference Engine reread by wanting to remember what the originals of Sybil Gerard, Dandy Mick Radley, Walter Gerard, and Charles Egremont (the characters Gibson and Sterling reconceived in the first section of the novel) were like. So I dusted off my copy of Disraeli's Sybil: Or, the Two Nations (1845).

Disraeli intrigues me as a novelist because he began as a fiction writer, became a politician (and, of course, Prime Minister on two separate occasions), and returned to fiction periodically through his career. Some of his fiction is out-and-out fluff, but some of it is written for political purpose; his early Young England trilogy, of which Sybil is the second, proposed the Romantic Toryism he espoused. Young England was the start of Disraeli's career; it *got him noticed.*

Hard to understand why, as his political platform is nearly incomprehensible, comprising a near-worship of aristocracy as well as the notion that the aristocracy and the people are natural allies; it's this pesky middle class we've got to look out for. (Quick quiz: what social class did Disraeli belong to?) Sybil has historical digressions that betray a willful misunderstanding of history: James II was the friend of the people? The Glorious Revolution was entirely . . . inglorious. (Bastards! Er, sorry.) Basically, things all went wrong with the Reformation and the redistribution of monastic wealth -- the monks were benevolent landlords who looked out for the tenants on their lands; most of those horrible parvenues who've come along since the Reformation have not. (If you were, say, a servant in the time of Henry VIII, your bloodline is still irrevocably tainted.)

Moreover, although he goes on and on about the sufferings of the people (horrible conditions in mines and factories, the plight of the handloom weavers when the factories came in, the advantage taken of workers by the proprietors of factory stores), he also seems never to have met a working class person. There's a nigh-insane scene of a trade union meeting . . . or as he calls it (with a fondness for ending chapters with ALL CAPS revelations): A TRADES UNION . . . that has masks and robes and torchlight and a skeleton sitting on a throne, all the stuff of paranoid antiMasonic fantasy. Yeah, just like the meeting down at Local 128. He tells us about orderly and honorable strikers, but then his big strike scenes at the end are filled with depictions of riot. His working class hero and heroine turn out to be of old noble Saxon lineage, and the one town, Wodgate, where the working class isn't oppressed by the millowners and the idle aristocracy? They just go ahead and oppress *themselves* . . . okay, when they're not getting drunk and running riot, much to the discomfort of everyone else. (But at least they have a good time, unlike everyone else in this book; the useless element among the aristocrats mostly complain about being bored).

Judging by the character of Sybil, who is beautiful, pure, and bizarrely attracted to nunhood, not only has he never met a member of the working classes, but he has also never met an actual woman. This is patently untrue -- I've read a biography, and he was a *huge* flirt and gallant, besides being married to a wealthy older woman who helped to finance his political endeavors.

It's fair to say that Benjamin Disraeli is not actually a good writer. One of my Facebook friends was recently groaning about having to read Disraeli for a project, and just revealed it was Sybil she read. Somehow I found myself wanting to jump to the book's defense (I did not), because I feel an odd fondness for it. But the honest truth is . . . it is pretty bad. There's some solid social critique, but it gets unanchored pretty quickly. Disraeli can be very funny, on purpose -- the early chapters of Sybil, where he mocks the aristocracy, are pretty damn good. But he can also be funny accidentally, in the melodrama of much of the rest of the novel. Did other writers (Gaskell, Dickens, etc.) do a better job with the plight of the working classes? Oh yes. Still, neither Elizabeth Gaskell nor Charles Dickens ever held a seat in Parliament; their novels may have been more influential as texts, but Disraeli is worth reading because of the intersections between fiction and politics.

Plus, again, it's pretty funny, both in the bits where it's meant to be, and the bits where it's not.
christabel: courtesy of luis_mw (steampunk alice)
First thoughts: William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's 1991 novel The Difference Engine was my first encounter with the Steampunk genre. Strictly speaking, one might argue my first encounter was in childhood, with the Disney film version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or possibly with the original tv series of The Wild, Wild West in syndicated reruns . . . In any case, it's certainly true that it was my first encounter with Steampunk as a term.

On my first reading, when the book came out in paperback in '92, I was reading as a fan of Gibson's Neuromancer and its sequels, and as someone who avidly read Victorian novels for enjoyment. I was not yet an academic, although I was starting to imagine grad school as my next step, and I wasn't reading much science fiction, though I was keen on cyberpunk. I read it again in grad school, after reading Benjamin Disraeli's Sybil: Or the Two Nations; his character Dandy Mick Radley had an oddly familiar name that I just couldn't place until idle conversation at a party led me to realize that I apparently had a brain like a sieve. (G & S appropriate the major characters from that work for the first section of TDE, although they give all of them a very different spin.) I reread the book, and even gave a conference paper on the intersection of the two texts. A recent reread of my notes for this project, hoping to resurrect it, left me appalled at the facile things I am apparently capable of saying.

I've been intending a reread for some time. First of all, The Difference Engine continually makes the list of Influential Steampunk Works. And second, there seems to be a lot of backlash about it. Although it certainly has it fans, it seems that a lot of steampunks don't really like the book. This isn't surprising; it's a demanding book. It's dystopian, it's not an adventure story, the sole airship appears in a 1905 frame to a flashback, and it really, really helps to have an in-depth knowledge of Victorian culture and history in order to "get" everything. (This is *not* one of those books where the more you know, the more annoyed you get.) I happen, as a 19th century literature Ph.D., to have that level of background knowledge; but there is The Difference Dictionary, a fabulous resource for the vast percentage of the population who didn't waste, er, spend a decade of their adult life dedicated to the Victorian era: ) I did not have most of that knowledge the first time I read it, and I liked the book well enough, but gave my first copy away to someone who was interested in reading it; I didn't think I'd likely reread it.

I was wrong. And now I'm coming back to the book for the first time in over a decade from a very different place. My Ph.D. is completed; I'm working on a series of neoVictorian conference papers and nascent projects which I'm hoping will add up into a book, and one of them involves this book. I've been exploring and participating in the Steampunk subculture as well as the fiction. I'm coming in this reread wondering what's going to stand out for me this time, and wondering if the text will stand up to my re-reread, and to the place it's come to occupy in my imagination.

Hence, I'm going to blog this reread. (I'm also rereading Sybil, and I'm sure there will be additional byways along the way.) I'll be linking to this journal, eventually, from places where people might be interested in sharing their opinions. So . . .

Shall we begin?
christabel: (Default)
Almost through the final hoops: final days of class, steampunk world's fair, grades due, spring concert. Then it's freelancing and scholarship.

Reading goals:

five theory/criticism books I have shamefully not read:
Postmodernism, Frederic Jameson
Family Fortunes, Davidoff & Hall
In Defense of Lost Causes, Slavoj Zizek
The Idea of Justice, Amartya Sen
Distinction, Pierre Bourdieu (ok, I have read part of this one)

six Victorians I have not yet read:
The Daisy Chain, Yonge
The Perpetual Curate, Oliphant
Aurora Floyd, Braddon
Mr. Scarborough's Family, Trollope
Hargrave, F. Trollope
The Ring and the Book, Browning

Alice & the law - out soon
Alice contemporary iterations -- major project
Difference Engine project -- begin
Byron as vampire -- begin, early notes
Spinsters and the law -- begin research
christabel: (Default)
Lack of posting directly connected to lack of progress made over the summer.

Finally finished Andrew Motion's Keats biography -- remarkable that someone how lived only 25 years can still have a near-600 page biography -- and that it was not dull. Thinking about which poems to teach.

Rereading East Lynne by Ellen ("Mrs. Henry") Wood, which came about by chance. Spent most of the novel thinking about gender issues, the sensation plot, how difficult it was to believe Lady Isabel as a character . . . then realized this is a novel with a lawyer as male lead/romantic hero. But because of the plot and the novel's preoccupations, he is mostly a lawyer offstage. Wonder what I can do with that? Something, certainly.

Have read some neoVictorians, the best of which was Michael Cox's The Meaning of Night, which has a solid feel of the period. Little steampunk, primarily lurking on LJ communities and seeing that the preoccupations seem to be more about the clothes and taking on personas. Although Foglio & Foglio's Girl Genius webcomic plays with the tropes interestingly.

There's a whole industry of Byron/vampire novels out there. Have two by Tom Hollander, which I have hope for, as he also writes history, and Tim Powers' The Stress of Her Regard in which Keats, Shelley, Byron and a less-interesting primary character encounter lamias. Interesting primarily in the fact that they *exist* but also the afterlife of Byron's public image.
christabel: (Default)
Byron turned up as friend of Darcy in Maya Slater's The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy (I was sent a review copy). Used as generic Regency libertine/mbdtk friend. Still, funny how they're popping up all over. Wonder if Wordsworth will turn up in a novel when I get 'round to him; probably not but of course Coleridge was in The Somnambulist, so he's covered.
christabel: (Default)
Weekend away was fairly productive:

read George Levine's How to Read the Victorian Novel, which was basic but a nice survey/reminder, and did not buy into the "the Victorian novel exists to uphold the conservative social order" trope which I find stifling.

read Peter Ackroyd's Blake biography, which is lavishly illustrated and makes me want to seek out more of Blake's art than just the illustrated books and illustrations I'm familiar with. Also picked up a Portable Blake used, though it is rather old fashioned in regularizing the spelling and etc. Will have to have the complete works sooner or later. Am looking forward to pulling out my copy of reproductions of all the Illuminated Books. (Also read a rather fluffy historical novel With Blake In, Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier. Could have done with More Blake In.)
christabel: (Default)
Finished the Grosskurth bio; wrote up a preliminary Byron lecture. Will fill in from other sources: Eisler bio, Byron & the Victorians, etc.

Progress on Don Juan -- up to book VI. Although it's v. funny, sense of humor sometimes does me in, as seems rather sophomoric. Suspect if Byron could have gotten over his class snobbery (and into a time machine) he would have enjoyed Seth Rogen comedies. Also, as all the naughty bits are glossed over, hard to conceive of the scandal -- but then not, compared to Victorian texts.

Reading: Three Oriental Tales, ed. Alan Richardson.
Frances Sheridan, History of Nourjahad. 1767. Mother of the playwright; moral tale, uses orientalism to distance and to make "pleasures" more acceptable.
William Beckford, Vathek. 1786. Can only be described as a total hoot. Characters are as evil and incompetent as Melmoth the Wanderer. V. v. over the top, image after image and scene after scene. As Beckford was exiled from England for sodomy, would expect more homoeroticism. Probably critics will locate it for me.

Halfway through Vathek at the moment.


May. 19th, 2009 08:59 am
christabel: (Default)
Reading: Byron: The Flawed Angel by Phyllis Grosskurth.

Grosskurth's biography, like Benita Eisler's, which I read perhaps a decade ago, doesn't actually make me like Byron very much. I suppose I'm a little *cough* mature now to be enthralled by the Byronic hero, but Byron himself doesn't live up to that standard. Mostly, he seems spoiled and bipolar. Plus he's the least interesting of the Romantics as a poet.

Mostly, he is interesting as "This first modern celebrity" (271). Also, worth looking at his Romantic Orientalism.

V. pretty when his weight was down. Thoroughly bisexual. Very promiscuous. A sort of less sunny, more talented, more petulant Capt. Jack Harkness.

I used to imagine Byron/Augusta incest as v. romantic & tragic, but Augusta sounds not v. bright; perhaps obvs. that because she looked a good deal like him he projected onto her. Ada grows up to become interesting figure. Annoyed at him that he sought out Shelley for intellectual conversation but not Mary, whom Shelley always treated as an equal.

To read: excerpts from Childe Harold and Don Juan in the Longman's anthology. The Giaour in Three Oriental Tales. Byron and the Victorians -- interesting to see how his more judgmental successors approached him.
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