Thursday, January 31, 2008

Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations and the Swiss Army Book

In case anyone else might possibly be interested in artists' books (I assume there must be at least a few people), here's some very very cool ones. Very cool. My B course essay is leaning towards the direction of an examination of definitions of the book seen through artists' books that particularly engage with the subject...for instance Begbie's book on what is a book. But these are some especially interesting books:

(Edward Ruscha's Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations, often hailed as one of the first artists' books (I'm not so sure))

"Swiss Army Book"--A unique artists' book by M. L. Van Nice, on display as part of "The Book As Art" exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. This book is modeled on the Swiss army knife, with different writing tools like a typewriter that fold out of the book. (Courtesy of the National Museum of Women)

See also for Tom Phillip's Humument (sorry, it's not letting me link it, so you'll have to copy and paste)...although I'm not so sure about altered books (possibly due to the fact that it's become such a trendy thing to do...there's a magazine called Altered Objects or something of the sort, and everyone sells "altered" notebooks at every street fair). This book, however, is amazing.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More Eugenics

From Bradshaw, David. "Eugenics: “They should certainly be killed”." A Concise Companion to Modernism. Bradshaw, David (ed). Blackwell Publishing, 2002. Blackwell Reference Online. 29 January 2008

"Before turning to Woolf's fiction, there is one passage in her diary which has caused considerable consternation and which is not remotely ironic. On January 9, 1915 Woolf and her husband went for a stroll by the River Thames between Richmond and Kingston:

On the towpath we met & had to pass a long line of imbeciles. The first was a very tall young man, just queer enough to look at twice, but no more; the second shuffled, & looked aside; & then one realised that every one in that long line was a miserable ineffective shuffling idiotic creature, with no forehead, or no chin, & an imbecile grin, or a wild suspicious stare. It was perfectly horrible. They should certainly be killed.

(Woolf 1983: 13)

Childs characterizes Woolf's conclusion, quite rightly, as “a most negative eugenics” (2001: 23), while other readers have been more damning. Yet although Woolf's remarks are offensive to our way of thinking, if we read her words in their appropriate historical context, we can see that there is nothing particularly extreme about them. The same month that she took her walk by the Thames Woolf “‘declared herself a Fabian”’ (Lee 1996: 348), and in the Fabian, progressive circles in which she and Leonard moved her attitude to the mentally handicapped would have been viewed as sound rather than callous, entirely consistent with Havelock Ellis's “radically sympathetic” solution to the problem of the unfit."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Orientalize. Metaculturalize. Repeat with Tea.

It's been a month since my last post, mostly because I've been either a) eating Christmas cookies b) at home seeing people or c) reading every minute of every day (except when I'm dancing). Don't let that fool you though, I am still enjoying things. Mostly. After presenting the problems of Orientalism for Irish Orientalism (in relation to Amitav Ghosh's In An Antique Land) (a class that didn't quite go as the professor had hoped and so invited her obvious disappointment to rain down upon us), I think I have had enough of Said for the time being. Unfortunately, discussions have burgeoned and one finds he is rather inescapable. Last weekend's project (well, one of many) was to get through Frances Mulhern's Culture/Metaculture, which, as my friend Will pointed out, is sweetly posited as a part of the New Critical Idiom series and designed to look like a beginner's guide to the subject. HA! Watch a load of 20th Century English grad students hit their heads against the wall simultaneously. We did manage to have a great discussion about however, stemming largely from the fact that Mulhern's impenetrable prose stayed out of the picture.

Another fun subject...Eugenics!!!! Did you know that Virginia Woolf commented that mentally disabled people should be killed? Or that many Modernist writers were involved with or at least connected to the Eugenics Society? Look it up. It'll be good for you. Learn how American Eugenics inspired the Nazis (not necessarily to fault the American program...Nazi Germany still twisted it around in all the wrong ways).

I will also include a brief rant on the fact that "The Three Little Pigs" has now been banned in some schools because it might prove offensive to Muslim schoolchildren. See the BBC's article at I have also been informed that some schools sing "Baa Baa Green Sheep" because Black Sheep might also harm children's minds (and as English students who are trained to find deeper meaning, especially latent racialisms, in texts, we could find NOTHING). Let's pretend problems don't exist. Then everything will be wonderful. Right.