Reading intersectionally

Two years ago, I had a long, hard look at how, and who, I read. I was rather disappointed. Reading is at the heart of my identity, both in that I am, to my core, someone who reads, but also in that the books I have read have had a major impact on how I see the world. Alongside this, I have identified as a feminist since I was a kid. Finding out that I fairly consistently read only 20% women was therefore both surprising and dismaying. To make matters worse, the same percentages were present both in my library as a whole and in my list of books to read. Clearly something needed doing.

Last year, at this time, I had spent a year reading 50% women, an experiment which would have been a tremendous success, were it not for the fact that nearly all the women (and men, for that matter) on my list were distinctly of the white & Western persuasion. I resolved to do better.

I decided to keep reading 50% women while also reading 50% non-western authors. I limited "non-western" to the world outside of Europe & the Americas, and likewise excluded authors of Western descent (so no Coetzee, Camus or Kipling in this group).1 The purpose was to break out of my rather insular way of reading. I believe in literature as a political agent, and the choice to have my world described and shaped almost exclusively by Western European voices is one ...
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Terry Pratchett & why he is wonderful

Yesterday, a sad man decided that the best way for him to look serious and important was to step on what looked like too much fun. But who cares about him. I thought I'd tell you #whyIloveTerry Pratchett.

The Discworld is balanced on the backs of four elephants, who in turn stand on the back of The Great A'Tuin, a giant turtle moving slowly through space: There may seem to be little room for realism on the Disc. If you are imaginatively impaired, you may think it therefore follows that there is little of worth there. But literature can be at its truest when it is most honest about lying, and the fantastic setting is used as a space for the meeting of incompatible narratives, a collision of contradictory ways of thinking, which serve to give our patterns of thought a good shake. All while being delightfully funny. As is often the case in these situations, the cure for not seeing the point of Pratchett might be to read some Pratchett.

Stereotypes and narrative patterns form our expectations: certain things appear natural in one context, but not in another. The lazy attitude to such patterns would be to reinforce them by conforming to them: For a story to seem believable, the storyteller needs to follow the rules governing what seems plausible in a given context (hello, Hollywood). Bringing two incompatible patterns together, however, puts them both in play, thereby not only creating something new but also providing a ...
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The Iliad

The Almeida theatre, is currently fulfilling all my dreams. Spectacularly. Unfortunately, they are doing it at a remove of 1450 km. Inspired by the origins of theatre in the Great Dionysia, they are setting up a series of great Greek plays with some devastatingly great actors. The Oresteia, Medea, Bakkhai, and no less than three of Aristophanes' comedies! And a whole lot of related events, one of which caught my eye just as it was beginning: a live reading of The Iliad.

I had more or less resigned myself to the horror of missing out on all of this, what with the 1450 km and all, so when I found out technology could magick them away I seized the opportunity with both hands, and did not put it down for 16 hours. Tor was a little surprised to have to sit through a bloody battle at dinner, and I confess I was possibly not in the right frame of mind to appreciate the funeral games of Patroclus (my heart says Patroclos, but English is a weird language) at one in the morning, but otherwise it was quite wonderful.

Dionysos and the stuff of legends.

I love The Iliad. Have done since I first read it, high on Greek mythology; and I got to love it even more when I revisited it at university, in a more scholarly setting and in the context of other ancient Greek literature. I will admit, however, that I love some bits of The Iliad more ...
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The narrative significance of Dickens' death

Part of the gloriously unfinished “Dickens' Dream” by Robert William Buss (Dickens Museum).
[Edwin Drood] is, after all, not such a fragment as it looks. In itself it is really complete. If it pauses in mid-story, it is exactly at the point where the stop, if inevitable, could best occur. (“Literature: The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” The Athenaeum, 1870)
I suspect that anyone who knows the history of frantic speculation that accompanies Dickens' unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood would be surprised to hear it described as “not such a fragment as it looks” and “really complete”. However, the anonymous writer in The Athenaeum is not entirely alone: 120+ years later, in “Who Cares Who Killed Edwin Drood?, or on the Whole I’d Rather Be in Philadelphia” (1996) Gerhard Joseph writes that
there is not, nor need there be, any more. Whatever Dickens’s intention may have been had he lived to write further, the fact that the last extant chapter of Drood is the last thing in both his art and his life encourages us not merely to speculate about what might have come textually thereafter . . . but it also allows us to make meaning of both Dickens’s novel and life as if what we have up to the end of chapter 22 is all there imaginatively is; it allows us to read that chapter as an ending of a finished manuscript rather than as the exact middle it has been for most previous readers. (Joseph 170)
He ...
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This summer, while Tor and Jørgen were traipsing about the countryside, I was hard at work on a spectacular conference paper. And as required in the production of works of genius, I wrote it in seclusion, hidden away from the world and its trivialities.

More specifically, in the tea rooms of Clovelly.

Clovelly is a village in Devon, so idyllic I half expected to be murdered within the first few hours.

It has one street, no cars, two donkeys, two inns w/pubs (or possibly the other way around), about 200 people and no mobile coverage. I exaggerate.

Disturbingly idyllic.
There was mobile coverage if you stood half-way out on the pier.

The village is probably the setting for a short story by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, called A Message from the Sea (the description certainly fits):

Captain Jorgan had to look high to look at it, for the village was built sheer up the face of a steep and lofty cliff. There was no road in it, there was no wheeled vehicle in it, there was not a level yard in it. From the sea-beach to the cliff-top, two irregular rows of white houses,

Village on the face of a sheer cliff.
placed opposite to one another, and twisting here and there and there and here, rose, like the sides of a long succession of stages of crooked ladders, and you climbed up the village or climbed down the village by the staves between: some six feet ...
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Cycling to work

I* have now removed the winter tires from my bike. This means that I have officially survived a winter of cycling to work. Bow down before me.

In Trondheim I have always lived along the bus route which takes you to the university and to town. I have both walked and cycled to work, but on the whole the bus was my friend all through the Dark period.

This past year, that changed. And while I was happy cycling to work in the summer (a little less happy whenever the rain started), I was a bit apprehensive about how I would get to work in the winter. Tor suggested winter tires; I laughed. And then I bought winter tires. And I was fairly sure I would not make it to spring. Until I tried it.

As an aside, it should be noted that the municipality does not believe in pedestrians. And I suspeect that has somewhat the same effect as not believing in fairies. A few times this past winter I decided to walk to work; I have never been quite so close to death, I think.

But back to my main point: Winter tires are magical things. On the hardest, most slippery ice, they happily roll along in the right direction.

Granted, there are drawbacks. Salted snow is hellish, refusing to be packed and ending up giving the effect of cycling through flour. But you quickly learn to avoid those patches. And if push comes to shove you can ...
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International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day.

It is not about congratulating the women in your life for being women. Or about bringing them flowers. Or doing the dishes today. Thinking of it as a second Mother's Day or Valentine's Day is rather missing the point.

It is a day in which we band together to fight the patriarchy.

The patriarchy is not a group of scheming men. While it is tempting to point to the many grey haired, white men in board rooms and say they are it, they are not. Imagine how simple it would be if they were. They are, however, one expression of patriarchy.

Patriarchy is a system. It is not a group of people. Men are not oppressing women, and when I say "fight the patriarchy", I do not mean "fight men" or "beat men" or "exclude men from all the fun stuff". I mean, there is a system that is making all our lives less than they could be.

It is a system that is invisible unless you know to look for it. Like some deadly infection. And it kills. Patriarchy kills. Both men and women (in case you were wondering).

Patriarchy is what tells women to become princesses, what tells them not to ask for a higher salary, what tells them it is their job to make sure things progress smoothly. It is what tells women they should be nurturing, that they should seek a protector, that they should be sexy but ...
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Toasting the Professor

Despite the title, this is not an outline of how I intend to get a permanent position at a university.

On this day, in 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born, and we celebrate it at 9 p.m. (local time, wherever you are) quite simply with a short toast:
The Professor!
to be delivered while standing, with a glass filled with something good; take a sip, then sit back down to continue your evening. If you are sensible, like we are, said evening will consist of leisurely reading of Tolkien's works.

The new Beowulf translation with the commentary is lovely; though Lord of the Rings is a classic; and On Fairytales is instructive; whereas Mr Bliss is utterly sweet; as is The Hobbit, come to think of it; The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun is rather impressive; The Father Christmas Letters are beautiful; and The Fall of Arthur is tantalising; whereas The Silmarillion is essential; with perhaps a touch of the Unfinished Tales; -- in fact, read it all.
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Read non-Western writers in 2015

Last year, I resolved to read more women writers. And I did. Going from 20% to 50% was surprisingly painless (as I suspect getting rid of casual sexism generally is if you are willing to just take a moment to think about your choices). There are still fewer women than men in my library, but when we have gone off the rails in bookshops this past year, we have kept an eye on the gender of the authors we are buying (and if, as a result, we have had to buy more books than normal, that is a consequence I am willing to suffer).

In fact, reading more women was so easy, there is no real sense of achievement in having managed it. I suspect that would have been different if I had resolved to read only women this past year; but my aim is not a one-time gimmick, but a more balanced way of reading overall. On that note, I have also realised I would have had a greater sense of achievement if nearly all the writers I have read were not white Westerners of the anglo-American persuasion.

On the whole, setting out to read more women highlighted the fact that I read only one type of women (and men). I intend to do better in 2015. While I will keep up my reading of women's writing, I will try to include a greater percentage of non-Western writers. Having looked through my bookshelf, I confess I find this ...
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Liveblogg Nyttårsaften 2014


01.00: Karoline pakket nå sammen Passport (riktignok etter å ha tatt bilde av brettet slik at vi kunne fortsette i morgen) og erklærte at hun var trøtt og ville legge seg. Det kan være fordi jeg er syk og har smittet henne.

00.45: Dere bør imidlertid legge merke til at Calcuttagutta har en helt egen overskrift 1. nyttårsdag hvert år.

I mellomtiden: Det er tid for nyttårsforsettene! (Etter å ha lest og ledd av fjorårets.) Vi diskuterer forøvrig hvorvidt nyttårsforsett gjelder kun for ett år eller for resten av livet.

Vi begynner med Karoline: Samme som i fjor. Hun greide det i fjor, så hun kjører copy/paste. I tillegg skal hun få besøk av mormor (veldig ambisiøst).

Tor: Han nedjusterer aikido-ambisjonen sin til én gang i uken (fordi han feilet stort i fjordårets -- han gikk ved en feil to ganger i året istedet for to ganger i uken). Og i år skal han lese Hobbiten på tysk (på ordentlig). Han vil også søke Forskningsrådet. Han skal dessuten publisere en artikkel fra sitt nye fagfelt: oljesølgrafs. Og fortsette å bade i iskaldt vann. Og blogge to ganger i uka!

Anja: Skal lære seg HTML-koding og lage sin egen hjemmeside. Og så skal hun lære seg å navigere rundt i FL-studio (et musikkprogram). Og gi ut minst fire låter til! (Vi andre blir helt svette.) Og hun skal ikke være så tung i hjertet. Hun skal forøvrig fokusere all sin energi på musikk (med litt til ...
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