Tuesday, 6 October 2009


Time to start blogging again. I'm on research leave until the end of December and plan to use this blog to track progress on my two projects: an edited essay collection from my 2007 sexualities conference and an article arising from archival research in Rome.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Unread books

The top 100 or so books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing's users. Bold the books you have read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: A novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked: The life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault's Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela's Ashes: A Memoir
The God of Small Things
A People's History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood: A true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

Monday, 26 May 2008

huge urls and marking essays

It's that time of year again. I've just come across my first essay in which absolutely all the refs are to websites, but include some good solid academic sites as well as JSTOR, and books from Google Books. The referencing is scrupulous in terms of providing citations for most quotes, but weak in that the author, title etc is usually omitted. The JSTOR URLs take up 5 lines and even if I could be bothered to type them in, probably wouldn't work anyway. I suppose I have to give the student credit for finding decent sources online, but it'd be nice to have them usefully referenced.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

erotics of higher education

There's an interesting piece by Hannah Fearn in THES on sex and the university. The issue of eroticism in the lecturer-student relationship is one that I first encountered in bell hooks's Teaching To Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. People get very passionate about their topics, and encouraging students to appreciate the same material, or questions, or methodologies can be seen as a seduction of sorts.

But that's a topic for another time. What I wanted to have a look at is this blatant piece of sexism:

The issue is compounded as universities become more diverse working environments. Whereas in the past a typical student-teacher relationship would have been an older male tutor beginning a sexual liaison with a young female undergraduate student, now it is just as likely to be a situation where a former City trader in his thirties returning to higher education begins a relationship with his grad tutor in her late twenties.

Right. So it was OK when it was Prof. Porky-Pants sleeping with his women undergraduates (never with men students!), or, in the lovely turn of phrase reportedly used by Alan Ryan (New College, Oxford, but talking about his Keele days), “Freddie (A.J.) Ayer (the philosopher) fell into bed with everyone who was remotely willing, and an awful lot of young women were very happy to tick him off on the list of famous professors they had laid. ” Right. Yes. Sure. That was fine. But now that it's older men undergraduates sleeping with younger women graduate tutors, that's a problem.

The quoted paragraph leads straight into this:

This has also erased some of the previously held beliefs about undergraduate students being off limits and postgraduates being fair game. In higher education today, where students of all backgrounds and all ages are studying at all levels, there are no clear boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable relationships.

This is sloppy writing, apart from anything else. The previous para claims a 'typical' relationship is lecturer-undergraduate but then immediately claims this has eroded the belief that ugs were off limits. What? If the typical relationship was male lecturer-female ug, then there's apparently no belief that ugs were off limits.

I guess it would be interesting to see just how widespread the two types of relationships are. In the departments in which I have studied or worked, it has only ever been men lecturers sleeping with women postgraduates. Or at least, those are the only ones I've known about.

IMHO, it's simply not appropriate for lecturers to sleep with students. The power balance is a big problem, and I guess people are also frightened about students using that to their advantage. Then there's pillow talk, and the kind of sharing of confidences that often happens in a close relationship. (If it's mostly the power issue that's the biggie, then presumably that means it would be OK if a lecturer's spouse started studying at the same department after the lecturer was in post? I wonder if that has ever happened.) It's interesting that this is often framed in a way that implies that bodies have no place in an educational institution--higher ed is about valuing minds, not bodies. One of the things hooks points out about learning and teaching being supposedly all about the mind, is that basically it's only (white?) men lecturers who can be 'all mind' (doesn't matter if their hair is a mess or they turn up in the same shirt three days in a row)--lecturers who are 'other' in some way do not have the privilege to be 'all mind'.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Random thoughts toward a paper (or papers) on early music, bodies, whiteness, privilege, modernity, and intersectionality.

So, if early music in Ireland and Britain is about the production of socially appropriate bodies (listeners and performers), bodies that are raced, classed and gendered, not to mention modern (ref Cook ‘Western Music as World Music’ and Taruskin or Butt on authenticity/early music and modernity), then what does that mean for diversity? On one hand, no wonder early music in Ireland and Britain has a hard time with outreach for in order to attract new audiences—audiences whose bodies are diversely raced, classed, and gendered—the early music community needs to deal with its position of privilege. Not just its historical privilege in the production of music associated with European courts around the time of the ‘birth of modernity’ but also its privilege in the 20th century.

What does that imply about the complaints regarding arts funding in Britain? How might Ireland’s early music scene avoid the painful situation of the British early music scene?

Complaints of arts funding in Britain stem in part from the painful redistribution of funding that is considered politically and socially necessary (although IMHO not distributed well--I'd prefer a more radically socialist feminist model!). The recognition of whiteness and privilege is painful. Acknowledging the role one plays in a system of privilege, the role one plays in the perpetuation of a system of privilege is extremely painful but a necessary preliminary step to the critical examination and potential dismantling of that system. Perhaps in part the problem is that rather than increase the arts funding pot so that 'non-privileged arts organisations/practitioners' (I'm using really awful shorthands here, since this blog is really a very grand note to self) can get a hefty increase bringing them to a par with similarly sized 'privileged arts organisations/practitioners' that some (but not all) of the culturally privileged organisations have had a decrease and they see that their money is being redistributed to 'non-p arts orgs/pract'ers'. Of course, the situation might not actually favour those organisations: perhaps everyone's funding is being cut proportionally. Need to look into this.

Would a dismantling of white privilege mean the end of early music? No, it doesn’t have to. There’s no reason for early music not to be one ethnic music among many. There’s no reason for early music not to continue to be available. Why should the kinds of bodies produced by and through and in early music be any less valid than the kinds of bodies produced by and through and in any other kind of music? But equally, they should not be more valid.

The feminist consideration of whether the kinds of bodiesi being (re)produced, inscribed etc by a given music is desirable . . . The kinds of bodies validated by contemporary chart music or hip hop subject to substantial feminist critique and rightly so. The kinds of bodies created and validated by privileged arts also subject to substantial feminist critique.

But from the perspective of someone who loves ‘early music’, can anything be done to disengage from the privilege system, even to begin dismantle that, without losing the music, the repertoire? An expansion of the repertoire certainly is in order (and has begun: music by women (esp. nuns), for women, music by ethnic ‘others’ [Rossi etc]). How to be an early music feminist activist within & through early music? Isit possible? Is it desirable?

Hip hop feminists find ways to reconcile their politics with the less desirable aspects of the system that produces the music they enjoy. Can feminists in early music? Can early music feminists achieve similar goals?

No-one in hip hop to my knowledge is talking about outreach—is anyone in hip hop trying to get white grannies in to the audience? If that is a ridiculous idea, perhaps the reverse is also ridiculous? While it is desirable to dismantle systems of race, class and gender privilege, it is not actually possible or desirable to do that by attempting to ‘colonise’ other audiences…. How can early music practitioners and devotees seek to diversify their community in a way that is not colonial, patronising? In a way that does not require diverse raced, sexed, classed, gendered bodies to become white middle class bodies? Is that even possible?

Friday, 4 April 2008

beginning of the rest of the year....

Teaching ended about 10 days ago and I'm now returning to the research projects from which I allowed myself to be sidetracked.

First, the good news. My piece on 16th century male friendship and music has been through several revisions and will shortly be in press. It's nice to have something finished and coming out, and it's nice to have a piece on friendship for a friend, but I am a tad concerned about certain aspects. For a start, I totally sidestep the friends/lovers issue: these homoerotic 'true friendships' are now part of the history of (homo)sexuality as much as they are part of the history of friendship. I feel I should have addressed the issue because by ignoring it I think I might be taken as promoting heterosexism which is not my intention at all. However inadvertent, that might be the result. I suppose that's the problem with privilege—for those who are straight, it is too easy to forget to address these issues, or to miss the political significance of a particular angle. And that is what concerns me. I wasn't thinking critically enough about the political implications of that piece--or at least, not in as many ways as I could have done. It has a postscript in which I reflect upon certain ideological issues, but I ignored that one. I agonised over it in private discussions, but these were not reflected in the written work.

So, what are some of the issues?

Well, the historian part of me says that the male-male relationship I focus on was described in its own time as a 'true friendship' and briefly explains some of what that meant at the time. The historian acknowledges that language of 'true friendship' is and was homoerotic, and in the 16th c. that kind of language and that kind of friendship could be interpreted as sexual. So I come down on all sides of the fence. But I don't explicitly say something I might have said: there's no reason to believe that the men were or were not having a sexual relationship, and there probably isn't going to be evidence either way.

I suppose what I'm concerned about is that I just avoid/ignore the debate over terminology for human relationships past and present. Same-sex relationships existed, but there is considerable uncertainty about terminology, the nature of these relationships etc. I'm all for accepting and acknowledging difference, yet what strikes me about this particular case is that there is no such argument against heterosexuality existing in the 16th century. It seems to me, though, that if there wasn't such a thing as homosexuality as we understand it today, then there wasn't such a thing as heterosexuality either, and of course that also suggests that friendship as we know it today was different too--and the archetype of 'true friendship' really doesn't seem to have a modern equivalent. (But then, I am quite tired and perhaps I'm just not firing on all cylinders. I have a cold. My back hurts. There are many distractions.)

That said, I'm reading (still) Guido Ruggiero's book on Machiavelli in which he argues that actually homosexuality did exist.

Now, the not-so-good news. I'm waaaaaaay behind with work for the other book chapter I'm writing at the moment. Waaaay behind. And I don't currently have access to the materials I need to see to complete that.

And other projects are nagging at me: two or three articles have been on the back burner for several years (I am mortified) that I want to submit to peer-reviewed journals; and two book reviews (one a joint review with a colleague). And there's the vexing question of whether I should propose an edited collection from a conference I organised.

Ugh. Now I'm going to feel real guilty. That's a recipe for a really good night's sleep.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

bodies/music at last

Finally we're holding the preliminary b/m meeting on Weds 30 Jan at 4pm. We'll sketch out a plan as a group.

In terms of projects, I have one that might or might not be suitable. I was thinking of doing something on early music and singing, but then I wondered about early music and whiteness. Now, I'm not sure exactly how this might work at the moment, but I was thinking of doing something on early music in Ireland/England (possibly also rest of Britain) in relation to those who attend festivals and/or performers. Nick Cook is giving a seminar paper in a couple of months on 'Western Music as World Music' in which he's going to be looking at Western music in Korea, so that could be relevant in a way.

I was thinking particularly about some anxiety/frustration with arts funding that I've heard expressed by early music performers based in England. It seems to tie in with the SE England anxiety about immigration--our government is giving our funding/benefits/work (privilege?) to x immigrant group, basically. So that's quite interesting. It ties in with the whole discourse on privilege in really fascinating ways. That's not to say that internationally early music is about whiteness, but I am interested in certain ways the conversation I've heard relates to whiteness.

Some things to consider.

1. My informant says it's impossible to get arts funding for concerts now; you have to get the money for other work (community outreach etc), and you're still left having to scrape the barrel to pay for concerts. So, one of the issues here is that festival organisers (well, at least one) feel like the arts council is forcing early music to be a local/community music when perhaps they don't see it that way. In a sense, although early music in southern England does seem to be the domain of white people (in terms of audience, performers, if not also scholars, instrument builders, festival organisers etc) the festival organisers don't like to be reminded of this. Would I need demographics for early music in S. E. or is it enough to work with people's perceptions? Should I contrast perception with demographics collected over a period of time?

2. The idea that early music is nevertheless good for people--part of cultural history that one needs to know about, but also somehow conveys good . . . morals? or other attributes--not sure quite how to articulate this--education, cultivation, sophistication all come into it. Anyway, early music is good for everyone--universal, transcends cultures etc. Very colonial attitude. Complimented, perhaps, as Han pointed out, by the white liberal enjoyment of world music that we saw displayed so provocatively in UCC's Glucksman Gallery last year. (Niwel Tsumbu's ensemble included a "mysterious" Japanese player of the shakuhachi flute; the same announcer made some comment about Niwel's rhythmic guitar, but said nothing about the Irish and German musicians in the same group: western Europeans were unmarked.)

3. The resentment about funding is directed primarily toward non-'Western European' ('old European'?!) cultures--Asian, Afro-Caribbean, and even Polish ('Eastern European'/'new European')--not toward the big institutions that seem to me to suck up substantial amounts of arts council funding (opera houses etc). I'd need to check out the stats on arts funding in Britain. On top of this resentment about the allocation of funds by a presumably already cash-strapped arts council is going to come resentment about the diversion of arts council budget away from arts in favour of the Olympics. I am guessing this will particularly hit southern England, even as the Olympics potentially brings in an arts audience (even if arts isn't the main activity of sports tourists, athletes etc, one assumes at least one or two will visit a gallery, catch a show, attend a concert, check out a museum...).

Lots to go on, and more to come here. Cross-ref to one of my earlier rants about classical music .