Monday, January 31, 2005

Alice Munro: Vancouver Sun

There was a laudatory article about Alice Munro and her upcoming National Arts Club's Medal of Honour for Literature in this past Saturday's Vancouver Sun. Online version here:

Group Project

The Group project is designed to be straightforward, enjoyable, and beneficial. Each group will select a short story or chapter of a book from our course reading list and create and maintain a blog about it. A short tutorial on setting up a blog will be given by me this week and Group memberships will be set in seminar.

The grading criteria are the scope, originality, inventiveness and literary insight of the accumulated blog entries. Technical proficiency will not be graded, but of course you are free to use any mechanical technique you wish. I will publish all the Groups' blog addesses on the Course blog and you are encouraged to solicit advice & criticism from the whole class throughout the course of the semester. Open collaboration is one great strength of blogging: some scholars, for instance, post parts of articles or even books in the blogosphere for criticism and correction before publication.

Of course, I am available for expert consultation: in person during office Hours, and online most times.

Because this is a Group project, you will find that synergy will soon animate and enlived the assignment. I offer the suggestion that each Group assign responsibilities to members based on individual proficiencies and preferences. For instance, in principle, only one member need do the mechanics of posting the collaborative entries.

I will take a snapshot of of your blog on the day of the last seminar of the term and use that for grading: however I will look in regularly throughout the term as a means to, shall we say, encourage you not to leave the whole enterprise until the last minute. The experience of blogging regularly for a couple of months will, I believe, be its own benefit to you down the years.

UPDATE: Groupings & Group Blog links.

Group A: Emilie Yee, Steven Reddy, Harjit Gill, Navreet Hundal.
Group B: John Lee, Andrew Clements, Jim Huang, Karim Sohrevardi
Group C: Brent Vatne, Andrew Pope, Eric Van Wieren, Anho Sham
Group D: Andreea Fantaziu, Allison Murdoch, Lindsay Madsen, Alisha Kuntz, April Pierce

Group A: Billy Chiam, Jordan Lee, Sam Huang
Group B: Tejinder Gill, Jessica Ramsay, Connie Melsted, Daisy Chen

Group C: Enock Deer, Amar Sandhar, Amar Atwal, Sim Uppal
Group D: Sunny Sidhu, Lisa Chen, Roby Dhillon

Group A: Parnaz Kashani, Zahra Ali, Lena Kanno
Group B: Sarah Evans, Paul Brokenshire, Brittney Bogyo, Kevin Caravan
Group C: Scott Ko, Darrell Yeo, Stephanie Yin, Janet Lee.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Individual Seminar Presentations: Schedule

Simply check back to this post to verify your Individual Presentation date.

D2-01: Feb 1st = Steven Reddy, Feb 8 = Emilie Yee & April Pierce, Feb 15th = Navreet Hundal & Eric Van Wieren, Feb 22nd = Andrew Clements & John Lee, March 1st = Karim Sohrevardi & Anho Sham, March 8th = Jim Huang & Lindsay Madsen, March 15th = Harj Gill & Andrew Pope, March 22nd = Andreea Fantaziu & Alison Murdoch, March 29th = Alisha Kuntz

D2-05: Feb 8 = Brent Vatne, Feb 15th = Sarah Evans & Brittney Bogyo, Feb 22nd = Paul Brokenshire & Janet Lee, March 1st = Scott Ko & Darrell Yeo, March 8th = Lena Kanno & Parnaz Kashani, March 15th = Kevin Caravan, March 22nd = Kazra Ali & Kirsten Chan, March 29th = Stephanie Yin & Jia Liu.

D2-03: Feb 3rd = Jessica Ramsay, Feb 10th = Amar Atwal, Feb 17th = Connie Melsted & Tejinder Gill, Feb 24th = Simrit Uppal & Billy Chiam, March 3rd = Amrmpal Sandhar & Sam Huang, March 10th = Jordan Lee & Daisy Chen, March 17th = Lisa Chen & Enoch Deer.

Re: Malcolm Lowry - a "Literary Drunks" Movie

Pace our discussion around Malcolm Lowry's "Gin & Goldenrod " on the mythologisation of drunkenness, here is Roger Ebert's review of a new movie on a related topic:

Ebert, by the way, is in my opinion a skilled writer and literary critic.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Sixth Lecture: Ethel Wilson

Simply, the lecture today was a preparation lecture for reading -- well, re-reading, because obviously you've all read it once already -- "The Innocent Traveller." A background of understanding is required for Ethel Wilson's superlative fiction because she is, as I claimed in lecture, an author sui generis.

The distinctions between "modern," "modernity," and "moderism" were detailed, as these are terms from the stories we have read so far. This places Wilson in the literary chronology, but what distinguishes (in two senses) her fiction is its difference from -- and implied challenge to -- the prevailing mode of her times.

More to come ...
Literary modernism was explained, in part, as placing importance on a stable structure: a set of fixed symbols (such as classical mythology); a narrative clearly based in reason; and a "day in the life" experience. Evidence was given that Wilson was deliberate in differing from this convention -- such as her resistance to an intended publisher's demands that Innocent Traveller be re-written. The fact that Wilson wrote well into the modernist period, combined with her inventiveness, justify the argument that Wilson is Canada's first Post-Modernist writer.
Wilson's remark that "Life is without plot but full of meaning" forms the centre of our study her fiction, which is full of incident, action and dialogue and pointed and pungent metaphysical remarks by the narrator.
Also addressed in lecture were the significance of the book's opening paragraph, and of Wilson's location in Vancouver relative to colonial Britain.

I hope you enjoy Innocent Traveller as much as I do!

Homelessness: Piscene Variety

An IT staff member re-filling the fish tank outside Rm 535 told me that the fish, the tank, & the equipment are his own, but since the tower opened it's become taxing to come back & maintain them.
He hopes to give the heated tank and the three hardy fish away:

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Fifth Lecture

The major concepts presented in this lecture were:
- understanding through process of classical dialectic
- didacticism
- paradox

On paradox & didicticism, I've added to the "Trap door" post. Classical dialectic, which we trace back to the Athenian Greeks, Soctrates-Plato and Aristotle, approaches understanding by difference. Classical dialectic is not the (more popularly familiar) Hegelian dialectic of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. Instead, the dialectic here identifies two concepts that have apparent similarity case, connects them by stating their basic similarity, and then identifies significant points of difference which, then, are part of the unique identity of the concept under study.

In our case, blogs and fiction are both published forms of written expression containing elements of creative description, a cohesive voice, and a narrative shape. Your knowledge of the differences beween the two will, by the completion of the course, be part of your understanding of what fiction uniquely is.

In lecture, Munro's "Forgiveness in Familes" and Malcolm Lowry's "Gin and Goldenrod" were connected dialectically and the differences on the point of the confessional mode in fiction were detailed.

Vancouver Fiction

As the first lecture laid out, our course focuses on Vancouver fiction. We are proceeding in main historically, from Pauline Johnson's re-telling of First Nations' accounts to Gibson & Coupland today, through some important narratives about experiences and perceptions in Vancouver as it grows and changes. As we have heard, these stories told not only allow us to relive a virtual reality of Vancouver's past, but have also influenced the present character that Vancouver has.

With Ethel Wilson, we have reached the Vancouver at a formative time in the early twentieth century.

[Tenuously a propos of that, click on the title of this post to see what is possibly a very early prefiguring of a challenge this city (& this province & this country) may come to face. The article is intriguing -- perhaps disturbing, perhaps not -- in any case.]

The Oxford English Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary is an indispensable resource for scholars of English. The online version of the full twenty-volume set, with half a million words and 2.4 million suppoting quotations, is on the SFU Library homepage: click the title of this post for a hotlink there.
Some background to the OED, and its value for studying fiction will be introduced in lecture.
To take a virtual tour of the bound volumes, and read some plaudits, click here:

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The best time to go to seminars & lectures is when you don't want to.

More to come on this: but click the following to learn why persistent attendance is an extremely valuable total drag.

Essential quotation? Woody Allen - "Seventy percent of success in life is just showing up."

Monday, January 24, 2005

Sign up for individual class presentations

You'll sign up in seminar this week for the individual class presentations. There can be be two per week: there's different advantages to going earlier or later.

I'll blog the completed schedule after Thursday's seminar.

The assignment is to select a short story or book chapter from any course text and give a short, five minute, oral presentation describing of your choice of fiction (a) how it is blog-like, (b) how it is un-blog-like, and (c) how the difference between a. & b. can be identified as a unique quality of fiction. You will then hand in to me all your notes, any rough work, and list of resources used.

You will only need to select one blog for your comparison. This assignment doesn't require you to understand the essence of blog-ness.

The assignment will be graded on your degree of preparedness. Based on your presentation and the documentation you hand in, if it is clear that you did serious effort and worked independently, you will be given full marks.

If you have any specific questions about the assignment requirments, just post them in the comments section of this post, and I'll add my replies there.

Fiction & Life: Pop Music & Politics

For a current very intriguing & amusing short article that connects (a type of) fiction to (a type of) real life, click here:

Nb: The title of a blog post can be given an active link -- like this one has.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Lyric: "The Trap Door"

The lyrics typed below -- from T-Bone Burnett's song "The Trap Door" from his 1982 EP of the same name -- are relevant to a point about good fiction to be argued in the upcoming Tuesday lecture.

"It's a funny thing about humility: as soon as you know you're being humble, you're no longer humble.
It's a funny thing about life: you've got to give up your life to be alive.
You've got to suffer to know compassion; you can't want nothing if you want satisfaction.
... Watch out for the trap door.
It's a funny thing about love: the harder you try to be loved, the less lovable you
It's a funny thing about pride: when you're being proud you should be ashamed.
You find only pain if you seek after pleasure; you work like a slave if you seek after leisure.

... Watch out for the trap door."

If you are interested in information on Burnett, click here: ]

MORE: the topic of didactic fiction was discussed in the fifth lecture: stories and novels designed to teach a lesson about a particular idea or principle. Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale came up as an example of didactic in fiction. In connection with our study of Alice Munro's "Forgiveness in Families," what I call the paradox of didactics was outlined. Along the lines of Burnett's lyric, above, the more direct your didacticism is, the less effective will your teaching be. Munro's lesson about revelation of self and repentance takes its effectiveness from the delicate aristry by which the lesson is concealed.

MORE: Wow: this is serendipitous. Follow this link, read the post, and click the "wonders" hotlink. There is a comment post from author Charles Stross today, discussing didacticism in fiction & why he avoids it. This also illustrates how the blogosphere works: its vitality, variety & communication.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Fourth Lecture

Alice Munro is certainly one of Canada's literary greats, and I think you'll agree that "Forgiveness in Families" is evidence for that.

The main point of the lecture was to show the story's subtlty and variety, and its realistic - as opposed to realist - representation of a human personality. Its mode is confessional - linking back to St. Augustine's great De Confessione in the 5th Century AD - with a nod to Sigmund Freud's own appropriation of Augustine in his technique of psychotherapy. I suggested that the story reveals more about the narrator Val than the brother Cam, its ostensible subject.

The three types of character portrait used by Munro were detailed Also, the strong religious theme of the story was traced and an introduction was given to techniques for recognising themes in fiction -- especially when they are designed with the literary subtlty of which Munro is capable. Here is a link, by the way, to the parable of the Prodigal Son -- in kind of a neat format.

First external blog contact

Cool. Contact made with another member of the blogosphere: a Canadian blog,
The blog protocol is for me to say to y'all "drop by and say 'hi'. Use the blog's comments section, that is. [As I mentioned to some of you, incidently, the plural of "y'all" is "all y'all"!]
However, note vis a vis blog protocol, a blog link doesn't mean advocacy of the blog's content. This will not be part of course grading!
Anyone figure out the significance of the blog's name?

Friday, January 21, 2005

Wider Relevance of Good Story-telling

This entry from the blog "Captology Notebook" discusses the importance of story-telling -- "narrative" -- in successful elections.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Third Lecture

The intention of Tuesday's lecture was to put you in a frame of mind where you could see that your life has much in common with the form of works of fiction. So, for example the events that make up your life can appear as a story plot; the places you go form the settings; characters go without saying; and you, certainly, are the hero. And if you don't think villains exist in your story, re-think your last road-rage experience.

There is a complementary relationship, then, between fiction and life. On one side, as you learn, in this course for a start, to analyse, understand, and enjoy fiction better, you are, mutatis mutandis, better enabled to understand your own life. It is a real challenge to ask yourself -seriously ask- the question: what is the theme of my life so far? And on the other side, the particular place in your own life story that you have reached at the time that you read a work of fiction affects what benefit you take from reading a story: either in delight of pure enjoyment or in self-awareness.

The particular stories we studied were of the realist genre. Designed to show "unadorned-life-as-it-is" they read quite like personal blogs do. They allow an observer (that is, reader) to witness a reflected image of a particular slice of life different from one's own. In a sense, reading realism is an educative experience (look up the etymology of education in the OED for the sense of that statement.)

Thursday's lecture will introduce a different kind of story, which will be described as experiential . . . .

Sunday, January 16, 2005


As you have some online time during the week, have a read of some blogs -- especially Vancouver blogs -- that catch your eye. Make some notes -- and add some postings to our blog -- about similarities between the blogs and the course fiction. Scroll down to see the earlier, introductory, post with links to representative blogs, should you need an introduction.

Second Lecture

The analysis of the two Johnson stories, beside introducing important literary technical terms such as "anthropomorphic," and defining the difference between "fiction" and "falsehood," introduced the powerful, and not easily dismissed, effect that story-telling has on social and individual reality. Also, the radical concept advanced in Johnson's second story, "Siwash Rock," is evidence that reading fiction from past times promises perennial surprise and stimulation.
The relationship between truth and fiction, fact and falsehood, and appearance and reality will be explored further in the two upcoming lectures. As the Vancouver short stories in the Gerson anthologies are re-read, the different voices that are telling the severial tales and the effects they have had on the contemporary experience of Greater Vancouver should be given consideration.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Vancouver Short Stories: Assigned

The assigned stories from the Gerson collection are:
Grainger: "In Vancouver"
Johnson: "The Two Sisters" & "Siwash Rock"
Livesay: "A Cup of Coffee"
Lowry: "Gin and Goldenrod"
Munro: "Forgiveness in Families"
Lee: "Broken Teeth"
Ideally, you will read all the stories and find one or two you have a strong reaction to. This will be advantageous during your individual seminar presentation and your group project.

Course Syllabus

English 101: Introduction to Fiction
SFU Surrey Spring 2005

"Books, Blogs & The Terminal City.
Imag[in]ing Fiction in an e-text Age: the Vancouver Experiment"

Course Syllabus & Information

Course Texts and Reading Schedule:
Vancouver Short Stories
January 11th & 13th
January 18th & 20th
The Innocent Traveller

January 25th & 27th
February 1st & 3rd
Thank Your Mother for the Rabbits

February 8th & 10th
February 15th & 17th
Hey Nostradamus!

February 22nd & 24th
March 1st & 3rd
All Tomorrow’s Parties

March 8th & 10th
March 15th & 17th

Analysis, Review, and prep. for Group Project & Final Exam
March 22nd & 24th
March 29th & 31st,
April 5th & 7th
Final Exam

April 16th

See support material available on Library Reserve.

Assignment Deadlines: Nb. There is a 3% per day late penalty for assignments, documented medical or bereavement leave excepted.

1. Mid term paper, fifteen hundred words: due March 1st in lecture. Assignment sheet will be handed out in lecture on February 15th. Emphasis will be equally on literary analysis and writing mechanics.
2. Group e-text project: in collaboration with the Course Instructor, create a web log dedicated to one of the works from the course reading list. Groups set & assignment sheet handed out January 27th. Seminar time will be set aside throughout the term to work with the Instructor on this project
3. Individual class presentation: schedule and assignment sheet handed out in seminar. A five minute presentation expounding a short story or story chapter in ‘blog terms.
4. Final exam: 08:30 – 11:30 am, April 16th 2005. See GoSFU “View my Exam Schedule” for Room.

Course Approach

Read the material well in advance at least once, attend lectures & seminars and participate in seminar discussion, and you’re halfway to success.

Course requirement weighting:
10% Course participation
15% Seminar presentation
20% Group e-Text project
20% Mid-term paper (approx. 1500 words)
35% Final examination

Nb: “Participation requires both participation in seminar and attendance and punctuality at lecture and seminar."

Instructor Contact:

Office Hours: Tuesday & Thursday,
11:30 – 12:30 in General Area across from Room 0535. Bring your coffee and discuss course matters freely. and

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Opening Lecture

The first lecture gave the back-story for the course. The intention for Engl 101 is to introduce what fiction is, how it works, and, ultimately, the life-long advantages that a decent understanding of fiction provides. The lectures will accomplish this by explaining in detail how the course readings accomplish their design as excellent fiction. In seminar we will consider from time to time how our course readings are both similar to and different from the writings found in various 'blogs.

My thesis is that a web log is a form of writing which has several points of agreement with literary fiction; or, put from the other direction, the stories we will read in the course are simply superlative web logs which happen to be printed on paper.

I should make clear, by the way, that in regard to 'blogs, no technical expertise is required beyond that necessary to use 'goSFU'.

Dr. Ogden

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Introductory Bloglist for Engl 101

Here are some representative Blogs to get us started.

Here's us:

The "blogfather" - Glenn Reynolds. The most popular blog world-wide:

Reynold's evidence on "Rathergate": blogs hit the big time.

A blog from one of our course authors:

A typical personal blog, from Vancouver:

Two Canadian political blogs:



Two American political blogs:



Comment on the importance of storytelling:

Monday, January 10, 2005

Tech One English Literature Launch

Here it is: the blog for "Introduction to Fiction" at Simon Fraser University - Surrey campus. Tech One is alive .....