Tuesday, 13 July 2010


I'm moving to WordPress. You can find posts from July 2010 onwards here.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Where homophobia and transphobia meet

is a bad, bad place to be.

This is a quick post to link to this very good analysis of the reportage on the Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza case, in Malawi, which has been all over the Western press lately. Ms Chimbalanga is female-identified and in a relationship with Steven Monjeza: they held an engagement ceremony in December 2009, and have been found guilty of 'performing unnatural acts and gross indecency' and sentenced to 14 years in prison with hard labour. The courts are proceeding on the basis that Ms Chimbalanga is male and that her relationship with Mr Monjeza is therefore homosexual. The Western press is also reporting the case as if Ms Chimbalanga was a man, and as if the only issue here were the right to same-sex relationships (and, in particular, same-sex marriage). This means that a whole dimension of the suffering and mistreatment that Ms Chimbalanga is going through - her being persistently misgendered as male and subject to invasive procedures to establish her biological sex - is being erased by the Western press, in order to make the predicament of this couple fit more neatly into our current obsession with the right to same-sex marriage.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Help me write my paper

I'm finishing my paper for this conference (which is going to be so great, you guys), and in all seriousness, I would like your answers to this question: why is Dante in The Divine Comedy not a Mary-Sue?

Here's a bit of the Inferno:

And so I saw together that excellent school
Of those who are masters of exalted song
Which, like an eagle, flies above the others.

When they had talked together a little while,
They turned towards me with signs of recognition;
And my master smiled to see them do so.

And then, they did me a still greater honour;
They took me as a member of their company,
So that I was a sixth among those great intellects.

So we went on in the direction of the light,
Talking of things of which it is well to say nothing,
Although it was well to talk of them at the time. (Inf.4.94-105: trans. Sisson in the Oxford World's Classics edition)

Here's the start and end of the original Mary-Sue story:

‘Gee, golly, gosh, gloriosky,’ thought Mary Sue as she stepped on the bridge of the Enterprise. ‘Here I am, the youngest lieutenant in the fleet - only fifteen and a half years old.’ Captain Kirk came up to her.
‘Oh, Lieutenant, I love you madly.'

... In the Sick Bay as she breathed her last, she was surrounded by Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Scott, all weeping unashamedly at the loss of her beautiful youth and youthful beauty, intelligence, capability and all around niceness.

Any and all answers welcome. If you don't want to make up a google account just to comment here, drop me an email - you can find my work email really easily from the contact directory at Bristol uni, or via my staff page.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

not dead

Hello! Sorry, finishing the book wiped me out for... blimey, three months. Eek. And I'm still not back - I'm marking - but I just read a post on Ballastexistenz I really wanted to link to. It's here, and it's about art and creativity and rules and elitism, but in particular, for me, it's about teaching and learning. I'm teaching languages at the moment* (in fact, I should be marking language tests right now), and the comment about language teaching resonated with me, because I'm trying to figure out - at the moment, and always - how to figure out the balance between rules-based, rote-learning stuff and just going in and reading and making stuff up. The balance between perfectionism and just-give-it-a-go-ism, I guess. (I posted about similar stuff before.)

But the thing I really wanted to repost, and to pass on to my students and indeed to everyone I ever meet, is this, again from a comment on the post:

A lot of my fear about this stuff came from being taught the only way to do things was a way I couldn’t do.

Which rings so many bells with me, in relation to students having an idea that you have to write essays by mind-mapping, then planning, then redrafting, or that you have to state a thesis, then a contrary point of view, then put your own point of view in the end. What gets lost is a sort of messiness and creativity, a sense that the essay is theirs and that they can just jump in and see what works for them. Or, as Amanda Baggs goes on to say in the same comment:

I’ve become a lot more relaxed since I started painting lots of cats. Because at least even the worst ones were done in a way that suited me and not the way people taught me.

*I should say that I teach Latin, and I don't have any active language skills in Latin (though there is a conversational Latin group at my university), so I'm only talking about reading here.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010


I guess this explains why Fugitivus has gone all password-protecty, but you know what it doesn't explain? It doesn't explain what I'm going to do without Harriet.


(Let this serve as a reminder that I want at some point to do brief introductions to all those blogs over there in the sidebar. But wow, finishing a book leaves you with a backlog--)

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

it's not finished... it's finished

so the last few days have been very like this (link goes to YouTube video), especially from 1:26: It's not finished.... It's finished, but yesterday I printed it off and emailed it to the publishers. and given how strict their 'guidelines to authors' are about not making changes after submission, I guess... it's finished?

PS: There is not really going to be an author photo, I lied. Sorry.

Friday, 29 January 2010

here goes

here's what our calendar looks like today:


Going in to the library now with my laptop, my data stick, and my Giant List Of Things To Look Up In The Oxford Latin Dictionary (and elsewhere). By the time I come home again, the book should be f... f... fin....

... no, I can't say it.

(What do you think of this for the author photo?)


Wednesday, 27 January 2010


I love some good marginalia, me. Even when it was me that wrote them, ages ago, and then forgot.

Heidegger: We say that an equipmental contexture environs us.

me [in margin]: Do we indeed Martin

(But honestly, though. Honestly. An equipmental contexture environs us, indeed. Maybe it's better in German.)

Saturday, 23 January 2010

you know what?

The Aeneid is really good. Just really good. Even outside of the whole crazy edifice I have made for it, the Tower of Song in the Underworld where Vergil lives with Lucan and Dante* and Roland Barthes drops in for tea,** it is just completely brilliant.

I am going to make myself a TEAM AENEAS t-shirt like those TEAM EDWARD ones. (Though I guess it should really be TEAM DIDO... Ooh, also, I should make a TEAM BELLA t-shirt!***)

Or possibly I should go back to fixing my damn footnotes. Okay, see you in a week--

*as in 'Jenny lives with Eric and Martin', except I guess Lucan would be the sulky teenage son here.

**from the Tower of Theory. He invites Derrida along every week, but Derrida is too reclusive (Oh, you know what, maybe next time, Roland...)

***Hooray! Lots of people already have! I like this one.

Friday, 22 January 2010

actually it wasn't very good

I haven't quite finished it yet, but A Question of Love turned out to be fudging/pulling its punches on the grief stuff, and to have some very odd misogynies scattered through it. Alas.

Thursday, 21 January 2010


Yes, hello, ten days till the deadline, I have five meetings tomorrow and a new semester's teaching starts on Monday, WHATEVER. The point is that I am planning (for February, when a utopian world of time-having and headspace and sunshine and tweeting birds will open up ahead of me) a post on chicklit, because I like chicklit and I don't want that giant post on Linda Green to look like I am dissing the genre. (In fact, LG claims to have invented a new genre called 'chick-noir', presumably on the basis of a strand of the plot I didn't talk about in which her heroine's behaviour is shown to result from a bad experience in her past - she had a miscarriage - which is an absolutely standard chicklit plot - I've read two others dealing with it in the last week or so, both of which handled it much better and, indeed, more noirly.)

Anyway, though, this is not that post, it's a reminder to myself/teaser trailer to that post, in that I have just opened another sugary-pastel novel with a scribbly cover picture of a dreamy girl, described by Sophie Kinsella* on the front as Pure feel-good escapism and summarized by Heat on the back in the words A resigned singleton, Laura's world is rocked when her first boyfriend appears... and it appears to be about the process of grieving your husband's suicide.

Which, again, is the thing about chicklit. It tends to deal with big, complicated emotions. It has big themes: love, death, birth, grief, pain, joy; how to build and rebuilt a romantic relationship; how to be a good friend. But for some reason, it gets painted sugary pink or acid green and described as being escapist, feel-good, charming, and/or exclusively about the 30-something hetero-dating scene. I can't decide whether this is camouflage or outright lies.

Anyway, I am only 13 pages into this book (Isabell Wolff's A Question of Love), so I will tell you how it turns out.

(Yes! Obviously some chicklit is very bad! But have you read a literary novel lately? Sturgeon's Law, people, Sturgeon's Law. Either of them.)

*I really, really like Sophie Kinsella. The Shopaholic books go off the rails quite quickly (though I really like the P J Hogan movie - remind me to tell you about P J Hogan as a critical reader of popular novels one day), but all the others are great, especially the amnesia one whose title I quite genuinely forget.