The small romantic and the big Romantic

When we talk about the romantic in popular culture, we tend to envisage power ballads belted out by contemporary adult crooners, or we recall variations of romance films with predictable boy meets girl, falls out due to self or circumstances outside of self, only to be reunited in a setting sun kind of romantic. Well I am here to tell you that the romantic is far more surreal and sinister than you may have previously thought!

Did you know that there are two ways of looking at romanticism?

The first type of romance is spelt with a lower case ‘r’ and it is generally a fantastical narrative (sensational and supernatural) in verse or prose taking place in exotic settings, marked by extraordinary subject matter, improbable events and larger-than-life characters.

The second type of Romance is spelt with a capital ‘R’ and it is generally an unrealistic narrative in verse or prose taking place in bizarre settings and marked by extravagant subject matter, silly events, and two-dimensional, stereotypical characters.

I have tabled below the different themes explored by the romantic and the Romantic:

Small ‘r’ romantic

Plot, setting, style

  • Enchantment
  • The Uncanny (Freud’s version)
  • Dislocation
  • Defamilarisation
  • Estrangement/Alienation
  • Mysticism/Mystery
  • Improbable
  • The Fantastic
  • The Supernatural

 Modes, styles, genres

  • The Gothic
  • Medievalism
  • Orientalism
  • The Graveyard
  • The Romance (i.e. medieval poetic)

A good example of the small romantic is the classic film King Kong as a representation of the romantic.

As for the capital ‘R’ Romantic, the below table is an example of typical Romantic pre-occupations:

Capital ‘R’ Romantic

The Romantic Mind

  • Feeling
  • Imagination
  • Genius
  • Introspection/
  • Internalisation
  • (Un)consciousness
  • Subjectivity
  • Desire

The Romantic Self

  • Self-consciousness
  • Individuality
  • Narcissism
  • Egotism
  • The cult of personality

A good example of Romantic pre-occupation is Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, “…The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.” Or the more modern Donny Darko as a cinematic example.

So folks, next time your missus wants to watch a romantic movie, don’t feel obliged to pick up Casablanca or sit through another session of The Notebook – you are well justified to stretch your scope of the romantic with the Terminator or Return of the Planet Apes. You may not get lucky, but at least you’ll be right in your use of the romantic!

Till next time, crack a queer whid!

WordSmith Jo

Psst! If you do want to make it up to your missus after making her sit through Terminator, why not pull out the big guns and recite a poem from the classic Romantic poets – William BLAKE, William Wordsworth, Lord BYRON or Percy Bysshe SHELLEY!

The Novel – a Middle Class Spectacle

When you’re rich, you’re busy living the life people dream about, and when you’re poor, you’re busting your guts to put a meal on the table. It could be argued then, that the success of the novel as one of the most prolific of English literary forms is that it is a site of middle class experiences and sensibilities, aspirations and of course, consumption.

The novel, if nothing else, is a mirror of class consciousness with imagined (and real) narratives that often reflect its audience’ perception of self. And why not – who doesn’t like to read and write stories about themselves to a sympathetic crowd?

While the term bourgeois is pejorative in origin, no one can argue the cultural significance and contribution of the middle classes to what the literati would consider ‘high art’.

Most novels in the western canon reflect characters’ struggles in their rise and fall of moral, social and financial status – of which the middle class experience is mostly about. So in this sense, while the middle class is often derided in popular discourse as being a rich wannabe that lacks social grace or compunction, take a minute to consider that entire industries, socio / political economies and indeed our own cultural identities are being supported, informed and shaped not by ephemeral heroes – but by the very real aspirations of people who live in three bedroom houses with a backyard and a gas burner barbie. Awesome!

Till next time, crack a queer whid!

WordSmith Jo

Psst! What we would consider a complex and well-structured novel today, is a result from the combination of Defoe’s sensitive understanding of social and material reality with Samuel Richardson’s (1689-1761) awareness of human complexities in personalities that struggle against private and public social forces. Love your work gentlemen!

Secrets to Writing a High Distinction Essay

For many professionals, grappling with full-time work and post-graduate education is now the norm. Between work and family commitments, it can be fair to assume that when it comes to finding time to write an essay, there is little joy in the process – the reality is that the best thing about writing an essay is finishing it.

For those who are time poor, I have outlined a methodology which I have refined (after years of study) to get your essay finished as soon as possible and, to help promote your essay from a Pass to a High Distinction! No thanks is necessary – just make yo’ momma proud!

Method before you start writing

  1. Before you commit to a thesis/position, do your research first. This will help with new ideas, which in turn, will help you formulate a clearer position/response to the essay question
  2. Make sure your position directly answers the essay question before you start writing
  3. Locate your sources. Only use academic sources (credible sources are considered those that are published by University Press or known academic publishing houses (e.g. Allen & Unwin etc)
  4. Copy all the extracts you want to use to support your thesis onto one document
  5. Arrange/chunk the extracts according to theme
  6. Write a bullet point outline of your essay to help you orientate your thinking and order your argument logically and sequentially. The structure of your essay should start with (a) Your thesis/claim (b) two or three paragraph summary on how you will support your claim (i.e. sources, argument and counter-arguments) (c) logically ordered body of evidence (d) any counter arguments (e) Leave the broader implications/outcomes/unanswered questions your essay evokes to your conclusion – this helps you tie your ending back to your thesis (i.e. thesis + antithesis = synthesis).

You’re now ready to start writing!

Method when writing

  1. To demonstrate a good understanding of your thesis/position and provide substantial evidence to support your position, try to find as many examples through different modes of expression to give further weight to your claim i.e. setting, language, narrative device, imagery, symbolism etc.
  2. Never use general, blanket statements in an essay e.g. “Everyone knows that…” or “It is true that…” or “some people say…”
  3. Never write in absolutes – instead, use transitional or connective words/phrases such as: suggests, argues, posits, claims, presents us with, we may assume, accordingly, consequently, considering, as a result etc…
  4. Always write in the third person, past tense in essays, unless otherwise stated.
  5. For citations, always reference the source according to Harvard convention unless otherwise stated
  6. Always make sure you directly answer the essay question. Do not talk about related ideas or periphery associations – it dilutes your claim and is not the central focus
  7. Use other perspectives to find a ‘counter-argument’ and discuss this to show you have considered the subject matter in-depth.
  8. After you have finished your essay, walk away. Re-read your assignment question and then go through your essay again to make sure you have addressed all of the essay question criteria in your essay.
  9. Always read your essay aloud so you can self-correct any syntax/spelling/punctuation errors. These are ‘easy marks’ so it is a shame to lose points on these grounds!

Till next time, crack a queer whid!

WordSmith Jo

Psst! The essay form has been around since the seventeenth century (e.g. Thomas Browne and Cowley’s essays). However, it wasn’t until Charles Lamb (1775-1834), whom is considered an early master of the genre, that the essay form crystalized as a genre in its own right. His famous ‘Dissertation Upon Roast Pig’ is a fine example for those whom are interested in solid argumentation laced with mock seriousness!

Pleasures and Pangs of Pathetic Fallacy

A Pathetic Fallacy is not some lame excuse to hide some shady activity you may have been up to recently, but rather, it is a bit like a jealous cousin of the narrative device Personification.

Personification is a figurative device in which human traits (i.e. emotions, characters, sensations) are given to inanimate natural objects – e.g. ‘the banana looked tired, and bored by my company’.

Anyway, along comes John Ruskin in 1856, whom invented the phrase Pathetic Fallacy, as a derogatory term – or a speaking back – against the use of any personification in ‘high art’. Ruskin argued that only truth “should be the criterion of art” no matter how damn good or evocate the poet’s use of personification may have been.

Well, my speaking back to Ruskin (as he is not here to defend himself) is that he must have been a rather rigid, angry fellow to be so distaining about what is essentially a very endearing, human tendency – to see oneself in the beauty, and horror, of all of creation.

Till next time, crack some queer whids!

WordSmith Jo

To Hyphen or not to Hyphen?

According to Harts Rules, the Hyphen is used in compounds used attributively, to clarify the unification of the sense, (Oxford University Press).

Put simply, what my good mate Harts is trying to say, is that when an adverb is used to qualify an adjective and the meaning or sense of the compound is obvious, it is not necessary to hyphen e.g. ‘a beautifully furnished house’.

However, where the sense of the adverb may not immediately be understood, and, it forms a single concept with the adjective, a hyphen should be used e.g. ‘She is a well-known clown’ or ‘It’s a new-found mole’.

Where a noun and an adjective or vice versa are used attributively in combination, the hyphen should also be used e.g. ‘come meet my poverty-stricken family’. Hmm, he sounds like a catch ladies!

Till next time, crack a whid!

WordSmith Jo