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Two noughts add up to a nought... May. 14th, 2009 @ 01:08 pm
Huh. Based on this sample alone, I would have voted for this guy: Humphrey-Muskie, 1968. Humphrey came into the race late, having won no primaries, and won the candidacy at a disordered Democratic convention following the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

Transcript (by me):
Voice of young man in audience: Mr Vice-President, how do you expect to gain the respect of the American people in the event you're elected?

Then-Vice-President Hubert Humphrey: "Well, I think, by my record of public service... When a man says that he thinks that the most important thing is to double the rate of convictions, that he doesn't believe in and he condemns the Vice-President, myself, for wanting to double the war on poverty - I think that man has lost his sense of values. You're not going to make this a better America just because you build more jails. What this country needs are more decent neighbourhoods. More educated people. Better homes. Uh, if we need more jails we can build them but that ought not to be the highest objective of the, a Presidency of the United States. I do not believe that repression, alone, builds a better society. Now if Mr Nixon can close his eyes to that, then he doesn't have enough vision to be President of this country. And that's why I've said what I've said.


Voiceover: Humphrey, Muskie. There is no alternative.
If only at some point in the last forty years, or the last four hundred, the idea that repression alone doesn't build a better society, had really caught on.

I mention the centuries with a reason, because the history I'm studying right now includes the era when the modern police force was invented, and almost immediately turned into an instrument of social control, to keep the lower classes in their place. And, too, the era in which the notion of criminal justice went from deliberate savagery (the idea being that, though many crimes were left unpunished, those who were punished should be punished harshly and very much in public, to serve as an example to others), to the form we follow now - the surety, not the severity, of prosecution. Neither seems to work all that well.

Though the Bloody Code was cheaper, because imprisonment just wasn't how it was done. You were flogged, you were pilloried, you were executed, you were publically humiliated - but you weren't locked up. And they were making no pretense of trying to prosecute every crime. And charging someone with a crime could be expensive to the plaintiff, and in any case, people wouldn't prosecute if they didn't think the criminal who had wronged them would be deserving of the punishment they would receive.

Of course, sometimes this became "community justice" anyway. One man who wrote against the King was pilloried, and pelted with flowers instead of rotten produce or stones by an approving populace. Just about anyone who was convicted of deviant sexual crimes (either interfering with children, or, sadly, homosexuality) had a near-certainty of being stoned to death in their time in the pillory.

An interesting digression on this, actually, is the death sentence: Many crimes were capital crimes, at the time, but only a minority of those convicted of a capital crime were generally executed. Why this was is a matter of some historical debate (isn't everything?), but (my view, fairly well supported by evidence and historiography) was that the following things were major factors in this:

1) Past a certain point, too many executions would shift public opinion from "that bastard deserves to hang for what he done!" to "just about every day someone else swings at Tyburn - do they all deserve it? What if it's me or someone I love next?" Balancing public opinion on this stuff was quite important.

2) By granting clemency and reducing death sentences to transportation, the judges (who were of and represented the upper classes) could seem merciful and kind - despite the fact that the sentence they were giving was to send people, chained in ships which could be more-or-less just like the slave ships (including the women, children, and high death rates), to servitude in distant, harsh conditions, frequently for very minor crimes. In doing so, they reinforced a paternalistic class-power structure to their own benefit.

3) While, at the same time, more-or-less retaining the legal right to kill off anyone who was too much trouble. Which they did. At certain points in this period, habeas corpus was suspended. (This is never, ever a good thing.) There was, in place, a fairly thorough system of oppression.

I think one of the most interesting things about English history is the frequency with which there weren't revolutions. Negotiating the path from absolute monarchy to parliamentary democracy by a process of gradual adaptation, overall, is kind of impressive. Especially when you factor in religious upheaval and the other countries of the British Isles.

(Of course, reading the history of Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries kind of makes you hate the English a lot, but I'm a sensitive woman of the 21st century and have only occasionally mocked my English classmate for her nationality - which, since she gives as good as she gets, including to the Glaswegian lecturer, is All Good Fun.)

It's that interesting thing about context, and power relations. It's easy to make light of casual racism when it's taking place in another country altogether, where participants are in fact on equal terms now - and when each target is represented equally as well. My lecturer can make snarky jokes about the Scots because he is Scottish; I can make snarky jokes about the English-in-history because the English were the dominant power group, I'm part-English, and so on. Whereas no-one has made a single Irish joke, because in the period we're dealing with, the Irish were the victims of some serious, comprehensive wrongness that just doesn't allow for humour.

It reminds me of a section from Mock the Week's first episode. Relevant: Dara, the host is Irish. John is English. The show is English.
Dara O'Briain, on an EU referendum: There is photographic evidence, of course, that vote-rigging took place in the referendum in France. [A picture comes up on screen of two women with their arms raised, revealing hairless armpits.] With armpits like these, there's no way these two are French.

Audience laughter.

John Oliver: Is that not - I'll go out on a limb here - a little bit racist?

Dara: It's a tiny bit racist, but not as much as the next one is racist.

John, laughing: Oh, okay, I'll look forward to that.

Dara: The next one is actually painfully, hideously racist on many many levels. It hits them repeatedly with a shovel and a pike at the same time, the next line. Do you want to hear it?

John: I love casual national hate. Come on.

Dara: It's fantastic. And it's not even my national hate. I quite like the French! The Irish get on very well with the French! It's your national hate. Anyway, I'm here, I'll play your game. All right! I'm willing to try and mix. Okay! A recent survey revealed that all of Europe sees the French as rude, smelly, and obsessed with sex and food. One Frenchman replied: "Piss off! I'm busy eating garlic off my girlfriend's nipples."

Audience laughter and applause.

John: No!

Audience response dies down.

John, pointing at the audience: Shame on you!
On the bright side, it's been years since any of these countries went to war with each other, when it used to be a near-constant; frankly I'll take making catty jokes about other European Union countries while still actually maintaining the EU as greatly preferable. (Besides, even if the racist jokes aren't funny, the snark about the racism itself often is. For instance, in this section, the jokes Dara is reading off the autocue aren't funny, but John Oliver's reactions are.) But that's the thing - the history behind this hate is of war between approximate equals, not one of oppression of one group over another.

It's interesting to look at the way this more-or-less represents progress: First violent, bloody warfare, for centuries on end, culminating in two World Wars that touched every continent except Antarctica; then, peace, uneasy at first, then more calmly, but tinged with vicious national stereotyping and hatefulness that gradually becomes jokes almost nobody really takes that seriously - then jokes that also get called out as racist. I wonder if this evolution will continue till the jokes become entirely harmless, the kind that acknowledge difference without implying either side is superior. That would be good.

But even if that takes centuries - and it might, because the grievances and hatreds have had centuries to build - I can live with that, because European countries only tend to invade each other by accident these days.

Heh, I'd forgotten that the next section of this episode of Mock the Week includes the serious discussion of who would win in a fight between an owl and a tiger. The argument: the owl would win. Every time. John Oliver explains to Linda Smith how the owl would adopt Ali's rope-a-dope strategy, letting the tiger swing itself out then flying down to peck it, while Dara simulates the fight with his hands. It is hilarious.

... No, I don't quite understand how I get from one point to another either.

Current Music: Moldovia - National Anthem

And lo, the Essay Spam begins: Part one, Language May. 13th, 2009 @ 12:27 pm
I will, for the sake of the sanity of my readers, make the effort to edit this post, rather than adding new ones, however.

Usual practice: Notes are public, actual proper essay content is locked until after the essay is handed in. If people are interested, they can read the essay itself when it's complete (probably I'll just throw a PDF up). I'm pretty sure that I've granted access to everyone who's subscribed to me, now. Locked content tends to be either Very Personal stuff (although, since I've made a medium-grade effort to keep the hateful trolls who've made me reluctant to post in my own livejournal from knowing this one is here, middling-personal stuff will probably be reasonably open), fiction works in progress, and chunks of essays and the like; if you'd rather be dropped from access for easier filtering of my posts, let me know.

Anyway, essay. )

Current Music: Cold Fairyland - A-jia-li-yalai
Current Mood: working

The Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of Doom, Eighteenth Century Edition Apr. 20th, 2009 @ 11:46 am
(Crossposted with tiny alterations to LJ.)

Because the 2009 edition kinda seems to have died down, and also because I'm not writing an essay about 2009. Mostly the essay part. (Okay, entirely the essay part.)

So, my history essay is about the extent to which Scottish culture was oppressed/suppressed after Union with England (and Wales, but realistically: England). See, the major counter-argument to this being the case that came out of my discussion with my lecturer is that the laws banning Scottish cultural elements - kilts, tartan generally, Gaelic, etc - were generally elements of Highland culture - and the Highlands were only a small part of Scotland, not all that well-regarded even by Scots.

The Highlands, after all, were seen as a backward, savage haven of paganism and popery and nobody liked them; the Highlanders who came to the Lowlands were poor and not that welcome, etc.

And yet, in the eighteenth century and onwards, the Highlands came to be seen as the 'true' Scotland, and Highland culture became seen as Scottish culture.

Around 1:30am last night, I realised that this kind of entails my argument for the essay, because: what's going on here is that the English attitudes were more-or-less redefining Scottish culture to mean Highland culture - a culture that wasn't even favoured within Scotland at the time - and set about suppressing that...

... which has and had the effect, more or less, of writing Lowland Scots culture out of existence entirely. Even my Lowland Scot lecturer seemed (although he may have just been playing Devil's Advocate) to be arguing, when we talked about it, that it wasn't really an oppression of Scottish culture, just Highland culture. (Or maybe he was prodding me towards the exact realisation I've had - or maybe not. We'll see, though it's not directly relevant to producing the essay itself.)

Anyway, I'd be interested in the thoughts of others on this. Right now my lecturer just walked in, so the lecture will be starting soon.

Current Mood: needs more icons
Current Location: uni library cafe

The Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of Doom: Eighteenth Century Edition Apr. 20th, 2009 @ 11:38 am
Because the 2009 edition kinda seems to have died down, and also because I'm not writing an essay about 2009. Mostly the essay part. (Okay, entirely the essay part.)

So, my history essay is about the extent to which Scottish culture was oppressed/suppressed after Union with England (and Wales, but realistically: England). See, the major counter-argument to this being the case that came out of my discussion with my lecturer is that the laws banning Scottish cultural elements - kilts, tartan generally, Gaelic, etc - were generally elements of Highland culture - and the Highlands were only a small part of Scotland, not all that well-regarded even by Scots.

The Highlands, after all, were seen as a backward, savage haven of paganism and popery and nobody liked them; the Highlanders who came to the Lowlands were poor and not that welcome, etc.

And yet, in the eighteenth century and onwards, the Highlands came to be seen as the 'true' Scotland, and Highland culture became seen as Scottish culture.

Around 1:30am last night, I realised that this kind of entails my argument for the essay, because: what's going on here is that the English attitudes were more-or-less redefining Scottish culture to mean Highland culture - a culture that wasn't even favoured within Scotland at the time - and set about suppressing that...

... which has and had the effect, more or less, of writing Lowland Scots culture out of existence entirely. Even my Lowland Scot lecturer seemed (although he may have just been playing Devil's Advocate) to be arguing, when we talked about it, that it wasn't really an oppression of Scottish culture, just Highland culture. (Or maybe he was prodding me towards the exact realisation I've had - or maybe not. We'll see, though it's not directly relevant to producing the essay itself.)

Anyway, I'd be interested in the thoughts of others on this. Right now my lecturer just walked in, so the lecture will be starting soon.

A curious parallel Mar. 16th, 2009 @ 12:36 pm
Despite disapproval from certain quarters, I've been somewhat keeping up with that which is called RaceFail '09. (JFGI.)

I've not written about in my journal yet, and I'm not sure I'll ever write a comprehensive post about my thoughts on it, if only because I should be spending that time keeping up with uni work. If it gets on top of me, it will crush me.

Anyway, the thing is this: at the end of the 18th century, radical movements for social and political change changed from being the hobbyhorse of a few wealthy intellectuals (yes, I'm guilty of gross reductionism, shh) to the product of widespread working-class involvement, thought, activism, argument. The lower orders, as they were known, began speaking up, demanding representation, demanding rights.

This was a problem, and was met with repression, where the previous advocates of universal suffrage and suchlike had been tolerated calmly. The old advocates were eccentric aristocrats. The new radicals were workers. Lower-class, absent all the privileges held by the wealthy and titled.

The lower orders talking about politics, reading "The Rights of Man" and trying to claim they deserved respect and all that stuff? Arrogant presumption.

I think there's still something like that today, with some people's reactions to minorities advocating for themselves; while people might think they believe that disabled people should be accommodated equally with he abled, that homosexuals deserve the same rights in their loves as heterosexuals, that people who aren't white should be placed on an equal footing with people who are (including recognising that centuries of oppression have left their mark, and merely removing active barriers is not enough to put them, as a population, on that equal footing, because someone born in poverty to illiterate, alcoholic parents is not in a position of equality to someone born in better circumstances, and while it is not a firm rule for individuals of any race where they will fall on the socio-economic spectrum, on balance of population majorities, some groups are currently at a disadvantage that needs to be remedied)...

Pause here because that sentence got away from me a little, and I have a lot of reading to do and haven't time to edit it properly.

Yes. While they think they believe all that stuff, and probably sincerely do, some people seem to find it something of an affront when members of that minority group express their own opinions, voice their own experiences, insist on the respect which in theory most of us agree they deserve but only some of us notice they don't get. The idea being that "we" know whats best for "them"; it's probably an intellectual (as grouping) bias, in that intellectuals tend towards believing that We're Right.

And it can feel like a terrible shock, I guess, when you think you're being ever so kind and wonderful, and discover that actually, no, the person doesn't want your help, exactly, they want independent equality.

The thing is that that attitude is condescending. Like a wealthy landowner condescending to talk to his gardener; it's understood that it is an act of kindness and charity for the master merely to acknowledge that the servant is human, with experiences beyond his role as The Gardener. For the gardener to initiate the conversation would be presumption.

The unprivileged demanding equal status with the privilege is presumption almost by definition; it is denying that the unprivileged person should just "know their place", demanding that their place be moved, presuming equality to be their right.

I don't have a point to this, really; I just noticed the parallel between a number of people involved in RaceFail and the behaviour of people 220 years ago.

There is nothing new under the sun.

Current Mood: tired
Current Location: Reid Library
Current Music: Pete Anthony - Introducing Charlotte

Hell or glory, I don't want anything in between... Mar. 14th, 2009 @ 12:27 pm
A first: My history research has become obscure enough that right here, in the highly-trafficked Reid Library at the University of Western Australia, I pulled a couple of books in a row off a shelf and had to blow dust off them. (The scatter of dust that leaps into the air as you tug them off the shelf sparkles in the light, and warns you that seriously, blow those puppies off or you will be choosing between reading and breathing.)

Today's books I want to go through:

Basil Williams, The Whig Supremacy 1714-1760

Coupland, The American Revolution and the British Empire

Denis Gwynn, The Struggle for Catholic Emancipation 1750-1829

C. Robertson, England Under the Hanoverians

The problem is, there just isn't time enough in all the world to do as much reading as I want to for this essay, so a lot of the reading I'm doing now is kind of a skim-for-key-chapters thing. But I need to start keeping a bibliography, because if I've used them for my essay, they have to go in...

Speaking of reading, I keep seeing people mentioning [ profile] 50books_poc. It seems like an interesting and edifying concept, something I'd like to try (after all, I do like being exposed to cultural perspectives not native to me), but I'm totally not going to.

(Because I'm clearly a racist. Because I don't read fiction, really, right now. At all. I have mountainous piles of reading to do for history, Linguistics to keep up with, and when I'm resting my mind from history I tend to do things which engage my brain on only the most superficial levels, like watch Japanese kids' shows or play Civ4 or World of Warcraft. And those times are also generally after my ADHD meds have worn off, which means reading any work of fiction longer than about ten pages is beyond me. With sufficient will/incentive, I'm capable of reading novels, but the focus-spoons that requires are currently being devoted to history.)

Just, take it as read that I'm aware of it, so you don't need to tell me and encourage me to take part.

Meanwhile, I am still reading RaceFail09 stuff occasionally. One of the things I've taken from it? I clearly need to return to working on [Kentish and Jude], the story I started writing after doing History in Fantasy/Fantasy in History. Inspired by that course, it's a novel that's deliberately aware of the way ideology underwrites speculative fiction; I've put together a socio-historical background in my head, and each chapter opens with an excerpt from a fictional history book, about the history of that universe. I kind of love it, I just got distracted. (RaceFail brought it to mind, along with [ profile] verb_noire, because of people talking about the dearth of non-white heroes; the two central characters of the story are Kentish, who is black, and Jude, who is a lesbian, although neither of these points is explicit until a couple of chapters in. Which one is the main protagonist, and which one is, in real terms, the Hero? Highly arguable, if I do my job right, because the nature of heroism is also something which I am intentionally letting be a little questionable in this story. Argh, need more time for working on this stuff.)

Current Music: Cold Fairyland - Mula-shabel War
Current Location: Reid Library

Mar. 12th, 2009 @ 09:53 am
So. The Proceedings of the Old Bailey are available (free!) online. Records from 1674 to 1913. I have to go through them as part of my prep for my history workshop tomorrow. (I only JUST took my meds, so I'm not feeling I have to be in study mode quite yet.) It does contain a fair amount of stuff that's really quite interesting.

And sometimes disconcerting. This is the summary of the crime of a man hanged at Tyburn for Piracy on the High Seas:

A bill of indictment was found by the Grand Inquest, against George Geery, and others, for piratically and feloniously boarding a Dutch hoy, called the Derge Sustures, the property of persons to the jurors unknown, upon the high Seas, within the jurisdiction of the Admiralty of England, on the 15th day of August, 1768, about three leagues from Beachy-head, on the coast of Sussex, in this kingdom, and assaulting Peter Bootes, then master thereof, and robbing him of several hats, the property of persons to the jurors unknown.

Several hats?

And today, Chas calmed Sami down by talking about cute boys Mar. 9th, 2009 @ 08:47 pm
Monday mornings are for History lectures. I just indulged in a bit of casual racial profiling, too, by asking the (Scottish) lecturer the difference between a burn and a firth.

His accent makes me miss my grandmother more.

But then, today I know I'm prone to melancholy, because I'm seriously sleep-deprived. Last night I went to bed before ten, got to sleep around midnight, and woke up around 4; I gave up on trying to sleep more (partly under the influence of extreme hunger) around 6 and got up.

Ah well.

Also my bus driver was terrible. Jerky, jumpy, and then he took several wrong turns and missed my stop entirely. His bad driving was, apart from anything else, irksomely distracting from the book I'm trying to read. It's called Scottish Harbours. It's about Scottish harbours. (ARE YOU ASTONISHED I KNOW YOU ARE ASTONISHED)

It's actually about as interesting as a brief summary of the locations and histories of all Scotland's mainland harbours and ports can be. Which... you know, it's not exciting or anything, but it's got points of interest if you're interested in the development of Scottish trade and industry in the 18th and 19th centuries.


Lecture: The British Political System and the Radical Challenge, 1790-1832 )

Ended up not really taking notes on the second lecture.

And forgetting to post this all day. It gives me a chance to add a PSA:

Making loud phone calls in the Library is NOT OKAY. EVER. Thank you.

Mar. 6th, 2009 @ 03:53 pm
ENABLEnet, the WiFi at the State Library of Western Australia, is... temperamental. I'm having pretty much no luck with it, but I can live with that.

I'm currently at one of the Genealogy computers, discovering that, awesomely, the State Library has the 1881 Census, amongst a bunch of other useful data available. One of the librarians was acutally really helpful, showing me what resources they have.

Notes for my reference: )

Mar. 6th, 2009 @ 12:10 pm
THE MIRROR. No. 83. Tuesday, February 22, 1780.

IN a paper published at Edinburgh, it would be improper to enter into any comparison of the writers of this country with those on the other side of the Tweed : but, whatever be the comparitive rank of Scottish and English authors, it must surely be allowed, that, of late, there have been writers in this country, upon different subjects, who are possessed of very considerable merit. In one species of writing, however, in works and compositions of humour, there can be no sort of doubt that the English stand perfectly unrivalled by their northern neighbours. The English excel in comedy ; several of their romances are replete with the most humourous representations of life and character, and many of their other works are full of excellent ridicule. But, in Scotland, we have hardly any book which aims at humour, and, of the very few which do, still fewer have any degree of merit. Though we have tragedies written by Scots authors, we have no comedy, excepting Ramsay's Gentle Shepherd ; and though we have tender novels, we have none of humour, excepting those of Smollet, who, from his long residence in England, can hardly be said to have acquired in this country his talent for writing ; nor can we, for the same reason, lay a perfect claim to Arbuthnot, who is a still more illustrious exception to my general remark. There must be something in the national genius of the two people which makes this remarkable difference in their writings, though it may be difficult to discover from what cause it arises.

I am inclined to suspect, that there is something in the situation and present government of Scotland, which may, in part, account for this difference in the genius of the two countries. Scotland, before the union of the two kingdoms, was a separate state, with a parliament and constitution of its own. Now the feat of government is removed, and its constitution is involved in that of England. At the time the two nations came to be so intimately connected, its great men were less affluent than those of England, its agriculture was little advanced, and its manufactures were in their infancy. A Scotsman was, therefore, in this situation, obliged to exert every nerve, that he might be able to hold his place.

If preferment, or offices in public life, were his object, he was obliged to remove from home to a city, which, though now the metropolis of the united kingdoms, had formerly been to him a sort of foreign capital. If wealth was the object of his pursuit, he could only acquire it at home by great industry and perseverance ; and if he found he could not easily succeed in his own country, he repaired to other countries, where he expected to be able to amass a fortune. Hence it has been remarked, that there are more natives of Scotland to be found abroad than of any other country.

People in this situation are not apt to indulge themselves in humour ; and few humourous characters will appear. It is only in countries where men wanton in the extravagancies of wealth, that some are led to indulge a particular vein of character, and that others are induced to delineate and express it in writing. Besides, where men are in a situation which makes it necessary for them to push their way in the world, more particularly if they are obliged to do so among strangers, though this may give them a firmness and a resoluteness in their conduct, it will naturally produce a modest caution and reserve in their deportment, which must chill every approach to humour. Hence, though the Scots are allowed to be brave and undaunted in dangerous situations ; yet bashfulness, reserve, and even timidity of manner, unless when they are called forth to action, are justly considered as making part of their character. Men of this disposition are not apt to have humour ; it is the open, the careless, the indifferent, and the forward who indulge in it ; it is the man who does not think of interest, and who sets himself above attending to the proprieties of conduct. But he who has objects of interest in view, who attends with circumspection to his conduct, and finds it necessary to do so, is generally grave and silent, and seldom makes any attempt at humour.

These circumstances may have had a considerable influence upon the genius and temper of the pepole in Scotland ; and if they have given a particular formation to the genius of the people in general, they would naturally have a similar effect upon its authors : the genius of an author commonly takes its direction from that of his countrymen.

To these causes, arising from the present situation and government of our country, may be added another circumstance, that of there being no court or seat of the Monarch in Scotland. It is only where the court is, that the standard of manners can be fixed ; and, of consequence, it is only in the neighbourhood of the court that a deviation from that standard can be exactly ascertained, or a departure from it be easily made the object of ridicule. Where there is no court, it becomes of little importance what dress the people wear, what ours they observe, what language they express themselves in, or what is their general deportment. Men living at a distance from the court become also unacquainted with the rules of fashion which it establishes, and are unable to mark or point them out. But the great subject for wit and ludicrous representation arises from men's having a thorough knowledge of what is the fashionable standard of manners, and being able to seize upon, and hold out a departure from it, in an humourous point of view. In Scotland, therefore, which, since the removal of the court, has become, in a certain degree, a provincial country, there being no fixed standard of manners within the country itself, one great source of ridicule is cut off, and an author is not led to attempt humourous composition ; or, if he does, has little chance of succeeding.

There is another particular which may have had a very considerable effect upon the genius of the Scots writers, and that is, the nature of the language in which they write. The old Scottish dialect is now banished from our books, and the English is substituted in its place. But though our books be written in English, our conversation is in Scotch. Of our language it may be said, as we are told of the wit of Sir Hudibras, that we have a suit for holidays and another for working-days. The Scottish dialect is our ordinary suit ; the English is used only on solemn occasions. When a Scotsman therefore writes, he does it generally in trammels. His own native original language, which he hears spoken around him, he does not make use of ; but he expresses himself in a language in some respects foreign to him, and which he has acquired by study and observation. When a celebrated Scottish writer, after the publication of his History of Scotland, was first introduced to Lord Chesterfield, his Lordship, with that happy talent of compliment for which he was so remarkable, addressed him, at parting, in these words: "I am happy, Sir, to have met with you, - happy to have passed a day with you, - and extremely happy to find that you speak Scotch. - It would be too much, were you to speak, as well as write our language, better than we do ourselves."

This circumstance of a Scottish author not writing his own natural dialect, must have a considerable influence upon the nature of his literary productions. When he is employed in any grave dignified composition, when he writes history, politics or poetry, the pains he must take to write in a manner different from that in which he speaks, will not much his affect his productions ; the language of such compositions is, in every cafe, raised above that of common life ; and, therefore, the deviation which a Scottish author is obliged to make from the common language of the country, can be of little prejudice to him. But if a writer is to descend to common and ludicrous pictures of life ; if, in short, he is to deal in humourous composition, his language must be, as nearly as possible, that of common life, that of the bulk of the people : but a Scotsman who wishes to write English cannot easily do this. He neither speaks the English dialect, nor is it spoken by those around him : any knowledge he has acquired of the language is got from books, not from conversation. Hence Scottish authors may have been prevented from attempting to write books of humour ; and, when they have tried it, we may be able, in some measure, to account for their failure.

In confirmation of these remarks, it may be observed, that almost the only works of humour which we have in this country, are in the Scottish dialect, and most of them were written before the union of the kingdoms, when the Scotch was the written, as well as the spoken language of the country. The Gentle Shepherd, which is full of natural and ludicrous representations of low, life, is written in broad Scotch. Many of our ancient Scottish ballads are full of humour. If there have been lately any publications of humour in this country, written in good English, they have been mostly of that graver sort, called irony. In this species of writing, where the author himself never appears to laugh, a more dignified composition is admissible ; and, in that case, the disadvantage of writing in a language different from that in which the author speaks, or those around him converse, is not so sensibly felt.


More relics Mar. 5th, 2009 @ 10:43 pm
From 1740, or thereabouts, a letter to the Guardian:

Most Venerable NESTOR,

I Am now three and twenty, and in the utmost Perplexity how to behave my self towards a Gentleman, whom my Father has admitted to visit me, as a Lover. I plainly perceive my Father designs to take Advantage of his Passion towards me, and require Terms of him which will make him fly off. I have Orders to be cold to him in all my Behaviour ; but if you insert this Letter in the Guardian, he will know that Distance is constrained. I love him better than Life, am satisfied with the Offer he has made, and desire him to stick to it, that he may not hereafter think he has purchased me too dear. My Mother knows I love him, so that my Father must comply.

Your thankful Ward,
Susanna ______

P.S. I give my Service to him, and desire the Settlement may be such, as shows I have my Thoughts fixed upon my Happiness in being his Wife, rather than his Widow.

More of my studies for our pleasure Mar. 3rd, 2009 @ 07:08 pm
So, I've finally finished transcribing the first of two articles I photographed today.

The following was first published in April 1740. Note that I have transcribed into modern font (e.g. all those esses I've put in) and that all proper nouns were italicised in the original. I'm not cutting the final paragraph because I think it's brilliantly fascinating that it was written when it was.
Cut for length: A satirical piece about English customs, as nominally described by visiting Indians. I am reasonably sure the Indians in question are native Americans, but they may in fact be Indian. )
THE Author then proceeds to shew the Absurdity of Breeches and Petticoats, with many other curious Observations, which I shall reserve for another Occasion. I cannot however conclude this Paper without taking notice, That amidst these wild Remarks there now and then appears something very reasonable. I cannot likewise forbear observing, that we are all guilty in some measure of the same narrow way of Thinking, which we meet with in this Abstract of the Indian Journal, when we fancy the Customs, Dresses, and Manners of other Countries are ridiculous and extravagant, if they do not resemble those of our own.

Current Location: Destiny; kitchen table
Current Mood: productive

I feel ali-i-i-ive... Mar. 3rd, 2009 @ 01:51 pm
So, I've been hanging out in the library since my lecture ended at 11, both restoring my sanity levels (yesterday I got too overstimulated, I need a quiet, restful day today) and doing necessary work for History.

I'd forgotten how good this feels - the thrill, the charge of reading books, tracking sources, finding texts. In addition to the Times' online archives and various other links, I spent a productive hour or so in the Scholars' Centre reading original copies of mid-19th century publications. Oh so fragile, and oh so fascinating.

Adjusting to reading the typeface can be disconcerting - mostly it's standard, except for those half-crossed "f"s in place of "s" - but only when not capitalised or word-final. My brain keeps parsing them as "f"s, but I'm gradually breaking that.

There are strict rules about using these ancient texts - pretty much all related to not damaging the materials, which can be quite fragile. (As I discovered when I untied the ribbon holding the first volume of The Mirror together, and the covers and half the spine turned out not to be actually attached to the bulk of the book.) But modern technology is not wholly forbidden. Taking notes on laptops is permitted (taking bags into the Centre is not), and digital cameras may be used to take pictures of the contents of the book if done with care not to damage the binding and the consent of the librarians. (Mostly so they can remind you to be careful of the binding, I think.)

For consideration as my original sources to take to my workshop this week, I have a couple of pieces photographed, but I'm leaning towards a really interesting column(ish thing) on the dearth of Scottish humour. It has a range of interesting ramifications implicit in the text - I'll post it here when I've typed it up - but it's some time before the author approaches what I suspect is the central issue: the Scottish language being banned in print, but still widespread in spoken conversation, the Scots are writing in a second language that does not entirely lend itself to natural humour-writing. The author notes that there was a great deal of written humour in pre-Union times, written in Scotch; now, however, the only real humour-writing tends to bitter irony.

Oh, the wealth of material in this one column alone! I am in love.

Current Location: Reid Library
Current Mood: ecstatic

And the sign said the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls... Mar. 2nd, 2009 @ 10:39 pm
It's amazing how much my posting rate goes up when I have interesting-to-me non-angst-based things to write about.

Today's Odd Thing that I forgot to mention earlier: In the Arts block women's toilets, end left stall, there is a sticker. Someone has, at some point, tried to remove this sticker, but it shredded, leaving glued-on paper residue.

On this paper, three words are written.

In my handwriting.

They've been there about nine years now.

Other graffiti has come and gone - in the long tradition of university toilets, scurrilous toilet humour regularly shares space with grand ideological battles and simple exclamations of raw emotion on the toilet walls. (My current favourite: Reid Library, first floor, women's toilets, right-hand stall: Fuck comp.sci deadlines and segfaults.) Periodically the walls are scrubbed blank, and then the conversations start anew. (Another favourite: a warning against toilet vampires having been seen in the area.)

Somehow, those three words - a remnant of an ideological fervour I outgrew not long afterwards - have remained.

I am not sure what to draw from this, really.

Meanwhile, for vague reference, today's book tally:


History course reader (well, ordered; they'd sold out)
Dear Fatty, by Dawn French

Borrowed (Reid Library):

A History of European Socialism (Lindemann, 1983)
Scottish Harbors (Morris, 1983)
The History and Archaeology of Ports (Jackson, 1983)

I'm not sure why they're all from 1983.

The three borrowed books are vague pre-reading, trying angles in search of a topic for the 4,500 word research essay I have to write by the 20th of May. Perhaps something on the ideological movements of the Industrial Revolution, perhaps something on the effects on and of trade both domestic and overseas... Perhaps nothing related to any of this, but I live with the belief that no knowledge gained is worthless.

Current Location: Destiny; kitchen table
Current Mood: nemui
Current Music: Chas on the phone

I think never is enough, yeah, never gonna do that stuff... Mar. 2nd, 2009 @ 11:54 am
I thought my SNAP access had somehow broken today, but it turned out it was just the SNAP deadzone around ALR 8 and 9. (Which I have already reported to a relevant authority. *cough*) Ended up going to the library to download lecture recordings, where, at SISO, I had the reassuring presence of [ profile] cthulhubitch to keep me from panicking.

I've been kind of high-anxiety the last couple of days. (Originally, typoed as "king of...". It almost works.)

The previous class is in progress in ALR8 still. 9am Monday in an ALR; it's gotta be a first-year class. (I'll check when I have internet again, am currently back in the deadzone.) I just saw a student walk out and back in again ten minutes before the end of class. That's just not done.

My history class's lectures are set to streaming only. This makes me sad and distressed. I may speak to the lecturer about it. In the meantime, after class I shall be listening to the lecture while on-campus. It's just so much easier to do that kind of thing as local traffic. (For example, downloading my Linguistics lectures, my transfer rate got to about 1500k/sec over wireless.)

Class has opened up/entered. I snagged a seat by a powerpoint, and my lecturer is surprisingly young and seems very pleasant. My network list shows SNAP at two bars but can't connect; I'll live. I'm sitting right at the back, but: powerpoint! For a two-hour lecture when I've already been running my laptop off battery for a while this is reassuring, especially since it means I can run in full performance instead of battery-saving mode, which means my desktop background returns. It's currently a very, very pretty picture of Mizushima Hiro looking swoony DON'T JUDGE ME.

And now, both by request and because until I get ADHD meds it's relevant to my ability to focus:

Liveblogging History of Industrial Revolution Britain. )

OH GOD THE CO-OP *cries* And I couldn't even get my course reader, I just had to order one 'cause they were sold out of the one I need. But I also bought Dear Fatty by Dawn French.

Due to getting held up at the co-op and leaving as early as I did, I was over four hours from breakfast by the time I got to UniSFA - and was shaking and queasy and feeling terrible. After I got here I slammed most of a can of Apple Isle for quick transmission to bloodstream.

Time to post.
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