The aim of this blog is to serve as a meeting point to those who study or have studied English philology and, more broadly, to all those who love literature and language.

30 Sep 2008

ENTREVISTA AL PROFESOR JOSÉ ÁNGEL GARCÍA LANDA


Comenzamos una serie de entrevistas a profesores de Filología Inglesa de diversas asignaturas y universidades y lo hacemos con José Ángel García Landa de la Universidad de Zaragoza.

1. ¿Qué asignaturas imparte?
- Shakespeare (quinto curso de Filología Inglesa)
- Comentario de Textos literarios Ingleses (tercer curso de Filología Inglesa)
Solía impartir además un curso de doctorado, pero últimamente se instaurado una singular normativa en mi departamento que me inhabilita para impartir postgrado.

2. ¿Cuántos años lleva en la enseñanza universitaria?
Desde 1987. Pongamos veinte.

3. ¿Cómo definiría usted 'filología'?
Me gusta la definición del Diccionario de Autoridades: "PHILOLOGIA. s.f. Ciencia compuesta y adornada de la Gramática, Rhetórica, Historia, Poesía, Antigüedades, Interpretación de Autores, y generalmente de la Crítica, con especulación general de todas las demás Ciencias."
Este vaporoso estudio humanístico sin embargo resulta poco adaptable a las exigencias de una titulación universitaria moderna. Es más manejable la definición de Filología como el estudio en profundidad de una lengua en relación con su literatura y (más en el trasfondo) con la historia y cultura de los pueblos que la hablan.

En qué ha cambiado, si es que lo ha hecho, el significado del término desdeque usted empezó a estudiar hasta el momento actual?
El significado no ha cambiado, pero tiende a arrinconarse como plan de estudios académico en favor de otras denominaciones como "Estudios ingleses" (franceses, alemanes, etc.), "Traducción", "Lingüística (inglesa, francesa, etc.)" Filología ya no gusta a mi profesión, les suena a decimonónico, a Historia de la Lengua, a Anglosajón. Hay aquí una cierta neurosis de no perder la comba de los tiempos, y lleva a veces a curiosas declaraciones de filólogos, en un departamento de filología, diciendo que la Filología es cosa de otros tiempos.

¿Cuál sería el futuro inmediato de las filologías?
No sé otras, pero la Filología Inglesa ha decidido mayoritariamente remozarse como "Estudios ingleses" a instancias de los acuerdos adoptados a través de la asociación nacional de anglistas, AEDEAN (Asociación de Estudios Ingleses y Norteamericanos). Cada universidad puede, sin embargo, diseñar sus propios grados, y veremos también grados (y másteres) en lingüística, en traducción, etc. En filología, creo que no. En mi despacho tengo una estatuilla de un Stegosaurus, y encima del cartelito de su peana he pegado un letrero que pone "Philologia". No es lo que yo pienso, obviamente, pero es lo que piensa y ha decidido hacer la profesión en pleno.

¿hacia dónde se dirige la disciplina?
El nombre, hacia su extinción, supongo. Los estudios, hacia una reordenación según líneas más orientadas a una disociación entre estudios lingüisticos teóricos, traducción, y estudios culturales (la literatura pierde peso y se engloba aquí). La conciencia del espacio común o de interacción entre estas disciplinas no se ha perdido totalmente, pero no interesa mucho una titulación que ponga énfasis en ello, ni que se llame"Filología".

4. ¿Qué criterios sigue usted a la hora de elaborar el contenido de lasasignaturas? ¿Cómo elige los autores y obras que forman parte del programa?
Dos criterios, de los cuales el primero tiene mayor peso: a) Lo que "se espera" en un típico programa de estudios universitario de literatura, crítica literaria, o lo que sea la asignatura. b) Con menor peso: mis gustos o preferencias personales, que siempre orientan la elección de contenido, pero no conviene que pasen a ser el librillo que tienen que estudiar los sufridos estudiantes.

5. ¿Qué ventajas e inconvenientes ve a la reforma de los estudios deFilología Inglesa?
Ventajas: una mayor adaptación a las necesidades del mercado de trabajo. Quizá un mayor reconocimiento de las otras vías existentes hoy en día para una formación en inglés. Inconvenientes: la pérdida de identidad de la disciplina como tal, y del trabajo más propio de ella, en favor de estudios más estandarizados de secretariado multilingüe, traducción, lingüística o "estudios culturales". He escrito bastante en mi blog sobre los avatares e incidencias de esta reforma, incluida la amenaza (que la hubo) de suprimir la titulación de Filología Inglesa o Estudios Ingleses http://garciala.blogia.com/temas/filologia-inglesa.php

6. ¿Qué le recomendaría a alguien que se plantea matricularse en Filología Inglesa?
Que escoja una buena universidad. Y que tenga claras sus perspectivas de carrera: quizá para ser profesor de enseñanza secundaria le valga más un título de máster específico y quizá, para ser traductor, le sirva más una titulación en traducción. Son tiempos de crisis e incertidumbre en la filología, y se nota en el alumnado. Muy distinto es ahora de cuando yo terminé la carrera, y estudiar Filología Inglesa era una garantía de colocación.

29 Sep 2008

JACK LYNCH, AGAIN

It is always a pleasure to read what Jack Lynch has to say about grammar and style. I find refreshing his use of a high dose of common sense applied to these subjects. Here’s an example:

Taste.- As in “There´s no accounting for” (De gustibus non est disputandum). Few people want to hear it –we all crave authoritative answers- but taste is part of any discussion of language. The rules only go so far; after that, all you’ve got to guide you are preferences.

Me, personally, myself, I’d sooner go to my grave than use disconnect as a noun (“There’s a big disconnect between what he says and what he does”): I feel so dirty when I have to say it. The word lifestyle makes my teeth itch, and I’d rather gnaw my own leg off that say something like “any way, shape, or form.” (Ditto phrases like “Me, personally, myself.”)

But they’re not right or wrong, and certainly not the sort of thing that a grammar guide can settle definitively: there’s no authoritative answer. I find them ugly as sin, but your mileage may vary. They’re a matter of taste.

I, of course, am convinced I have impeccable taste; and like most people who set up linguistic soapboxes, I sometimes offer opinions on such questions. I like to think I’m rarely perverse or pedantic, and I flatter myself that I have a better ear for style than many. But take my opinions for what they’re worth: they’re one guy’s judgment on what sounds good. And on many issues, that’s all you get.

Guide to Grammar and Style. Jack Lynch

24 Sep 2008

CONCORDANCERS

I learnt about concordancers and text corpora three years ago when studying SEMANTICA Y LEXICOGRAFÍA INGLESAS

These are three websites which allow the use of large quantities of written texts and transcriptions of oral language in order to learn about the use of a particular word:


The Collins Wordbanks Online English corpus is composed of 56 million words collected from
British books, ephemera, radio, newspapers, magazines (36m words) , American books, ephemera and radio (10m words), and British transcribed speech (10m words) The demo available on the Internet for free is restricted to 40 lines of concordance but, anyhow, it is useful to get an idea of the usage of words.

The Web Concordancer allows searching for words in different corpora such as 'Sherlock Holmes stories', 'Louis Stevenson, 'Computing texts', 'the Bible', etc.'

Corpus Concordance English includes the 'Brown corpus' (1,000,000 words), 'US TV talk' (2,000,000 words) and other thematic banks of texts.

I tried the three resources by looking up 'wordsmith'. Collins produced the largest set of sentences (only four, though)

artful sound, revolving around a shy mumbling wordsmith, crouched in the middle of the stage,
DO TODAY IS WARN WROTE the brilliant young wordsmith Wilfred Owen from the hell-hole trenches of
What exactly is ME? According to that fecund wordsmith Fritz Spiegl in his new medical browsing
to hapless university lecturer and renowned wordsmith Timothy Hutton in George A. Romero's

22 Sep 2008

ENGLISH LANGUAGE ODDITIES III

I know some of you disagree with me but I do believe that English speaking world have an attitude towards its language more playful than ours, Spanish speakers. Take for example the expression ‘wordsmith’ that the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as “a person who works with words ; especially : a skillful writer”, and try to find the correspondent Spanish term - it doesn´t exist.
By the way, take a look to this site: http://wordsmith.org/ It´s nice!

19 Sep 2008

TWO SITES TO PRACTISE ORAL ENGLISH

These are two websites that foster practice of oral skills:

Yappr. Videos sorted out according to their level of difficulty (easy, medium, hard) or genre (commercials, music, nature...) The recordings are accompanied by thier scripts in English and, sometimes, Spanish.

Pronunciar inglés. A blog devoted to phonetics in order to help readers improve their pronunciation.

18 Sep 2008

¿POR QUÉ NO ESCRIBEN?

¿Alguien se ha parado a pensar en la paradoja que supone el que los estudiantes de filología escribamos tan poco? Precisamente nosotros, que estudiamos y diseccionamos el lenguaje y leemos y analizamos las obras de los más destacados escritores, nosotros que nos movemos como peces en el agua entre letras, palabras y oraciones, apenas creamos textos por propia iniciativa. ¡Demonios, pero si deberíamos pasarnos el día escribiendo! ¿Se han preguntado ustedes cuándo fue la última vez, en el último año, que escribieron algo que no fuese por obligación?
¡Anímense a escribir! ¡Digan algo! ¡Lo que sea! Aquí no hay notas, ni críticas, ni evaluación docente. Háganlo en inglés o en español, da igual. Si continuamos siendo tres o cuatro los únicos que escribimos en este blog, pronto los lectores se cansarán de leer las mismas ideas una y otra vez.
Hagan la prueba, ¡es totalmente indoloro! Envíennos sus escritos a blog.poe1809@gmail.com y nosotros los colgaremos. Y si les gusta, repitan.

17 Sep 2008

LYRICAL, TOUCHING & STARTLING POEMS

I've taken my English Literature books back from their shelves for a while and looked for three poems. I wanted to find something lyrical, something touching and something startling among the poems studied in the last five years. After an hour of leafing through pages more or less familiar, depending on the time devoted to their study, here is my selection:

Lyrical...
THE LADY OF SHALLOTT by Alfred Tennison

 On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott. ...
... touching...
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind,
Drunck with fatigue, deaf even to the hoots
Of gas shells dropping softly behind.
...

(whole text)

...and startling.
THIS BE THE VERSE by Philip Larkin

11 Sep 2008

GENDERLECTS

“Do men and women speak in the same way? Do men dominate topics of conversation? Are men more assertive than women? Do men interrupt women more often than women interrupt men?" This is the beginning of the section devoted to the gender variable in language production, included in the text book used for SOCIOLINGÜÍSTICA INGLESA last year. In it several aspects, such as the notion of genderlect, the neurophysiologic differences in the way males and females process language, the ‘unmarked’ status of the masculine forms… are discussed.

It is also commented that, to some extent, the differences in western societies are blurring with time.

“Gender differences are exceedingly complex, particularly in a society and era when women have been moving self-consciously into the marketplace and calling traditional gender roles into question”. (Eckert, 1997:214)

I accept that there are differences such as the features identified by Robin Lakoff (more frequent use of evaluative adjectives, hesitant intonation, more indirectness, etc. in women than in men) but, taking into account my immediate environment and experience, I’d say that they are not substantial... or are they and I don't realize?

Today I was emailed a copy of this video sketch:


I found it funny and recognised the criticism on the stereotyped image of ignorant and quiet women as more feminine and socially valued in a certain type of patriarchal world in the past. I also thought that a situation like that sounds more and more improbable nowadays. Anyway, I was shocked by some of the comments made by viewers of the video on YouTube. The topic engages people and fosters participation and arguments.

8 Sep 2008

Poems: Shakespeare's "Sonnet 18"

I'd been browsing through the English literature course books searching for a poem in order to start in that way a series of favourite poems that could appear interwoven among the rest of posts in this blog. I start with Shakespeare's 'Sonnet 18', a poem I remember writing about in my first exam of LITERATURA INGLESA I.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

One of the many recordings that can be found on the WWW:



Further information.

6 Sep 2008

ENGLISH LANGUAGE ODDITIES II

Cuanto más busco más encuentro. Y es que está claro que a los anglosajones les encanta jugar con su idioma. Esta vez se trata de alguien que ha decidido especializarse en ‘chiasmus and oxymorons’, que ya es decir. Incluso ha editado varios libros relativos al tema. Se llama Mardy Grothe y es un psicólogo que vive y trabaja en Nueva Inglaterra, EE. UU., y aquí está su dirección, por si alguien quiere pasar un buen rato: http://www.drmardy.com/ Más allá de la anécdota, me parece que el hecho de que haya tanta gente dedicada a estudiar y experimentar con una lengua determinada, acaba inevitablemente enriqueciendo dicha lengua. Es posible que en con el español ocurra algo parecido y yo, simplemente, no me haya dado cuenta. Cualquier aportación en este sentido, será bienvenida. Entre tanto, aquí va un quiasmo citado en la página del Dr. Grothe y atribuido a Lyndon B. Johnson:



It's probably better to have himinside the tent pissing out,than outside the tent pissing in.”
— Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th U. S. President, on J. Edgar Hoover. Johnson was born on August 27, 1908

4 Sep 2008

NO FUE CARVER

Acabo de enterarme de que la obra literaria de Raymond Carver, el autor de ‘Cathedral’, que estudiamos este año pasado, fue alterada en gran medida por su editor Gordon Lish y que buena parte de la frialdad, el minimalismo y ese ‘realismo sucio’ que caracterizaban a sus narraciones eran debidas a este último. Al parecer, se trata de una polémica que se inició nada menos que en 1998 con la publicación en el New York Times del artículo escrito por un tal D. T. Max, quien se tomó la molestia de visitar la biblioteca de la ciudad de Bloomington. Allí es donde reposan los manuscritos originales de Carver y las correcciones efectuadas sobre los mismos por su editor Lish. Las modificaciones que éste hizo sobre la obra de Carver llegan hasta el punto de, por ejemplo, cambiar el final a diez de los trece cuentos que componen la antología De qué hablamos cuando hablamos de amor. Más tarde, el escritor italiano Alessandro Baricco confirmó la investigación de D. T. Max en un artículo que a su vez publica en el diario La Reppublica (ver http://www.jornada.unam.mx/1999/08/29/sem-baricco.html )
¡De lo que se entera uno! Esta noticia (‘noticia’ para mí, se entiende) hace que me pregunte hasta qué punto es relevante, desde un punto de vista puramente literario, quién fue el artífice de la obra final. Desde luego como lectores, debería importarnos bien poco. Lo que cuenta es el resultado, no a quién debemos atribuirle el mérito. Sin embargo, como estudiosos de la literatura (¡y mira que me pasé horas estudiando a los autores incluidos en el programa!) creo que sí es relevante el cómo se construyó el producto final. Me imagino que en los Anales de la Literatura no se incluye ningún dato hasta que no ha sido convenientemente contrastado y adquiere la categoría de hecho (más o menos) histórico, pero personalmente me hubiese gustado que se hiciese alguna referencia a este asunto que, a la hora de estudiar a Carver como persona y como escritor, es tan relevante. Al menos a mí así me lo parece.

1 Sep 2008

LUCKY JIM


I wanted to but I was not able to read Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis when preparing the first term exam of LITERATURA INGLESA III, so I put it off for the summer. I expected it to be a funny book and, to some extent, I cannot deny that some scenes can make readers laugh or, in case of not being too expressive, at least, smile. I also expected bitter criticism of the university system of the period or social hypocrisy in general and I admit that both issues are present although not exactly in the way I imagined. Some other topics turned out more unexpectantly.
All in all, I’d say that the story supports some conventional values although it does it through a contradictory character, difficult to define. I’ll try to comment on some aspects from my point of view:


HUMOUR.
I could not help recalling Mr Bean when reading about Jim Dixon’s reactions to deal with embarrassing situations such as the cigarette burning of bedclothes, the way to get a taxi some other people had called for, or the final delivery of a lecture about Merrie England under the pressure of stage freight and the effects of too much drinking. It is often a kind of humour based on disclosing petty manifestations of dishonesty (mainly lying or pretending not to have done something) which request some wit or originality on the part of the performer.

Other strategies to produce humour include the labelled facial expressions that Jim adopts on varied occasions and contribute to portray his state of mind in a caricaturesque way (“Dixon huddled himself further into the periodical he was reading and unobtrusively made his Martian-invader face”, ch.9) or other funny physical reactions that help Dixon give vent to his inner struggles, as the following excerpt from Chapter 20 shows:

(Dixon is finishing his notes for his lecture)
“… in that way we shall be saying a word, however small in its individual effect, for our native tradition, for our common heritage, in short, for what we once had and may, some day, have again – Merrie England’
With a long, jabbering belch, Dixon got up from the chair where he’d been writing this and did his ape imitation all round the room. With one arm bent at the elbow so that the fingers brushed the armpit, the other crooked in the air so that the inside of the forearm lay across the top of his head, he wove with bent knees and hunched, rocking shoulders across to the bed, upon which he jumped up and down a few times, gibbering to himself.”

LOVE.
Throughout the novel Jim Dixon was torn between a somehow forced relationship with Margaret, a plain and emotionally unbalanced university teacher, and Christine, the good-looking and more self-assured city girl. In both cases dialogues and thoughts reflect the hesitations and a certain immaturity of the involved characters, probably due to their age (Christine is nineteen; the rest, in their twenties). A reference to how love is lived at that age is uttered by Carol, the married woman who’s having a love affair with Bertrand, Christine’s boyfriend.
“Another thing you’ll find is that the years of illusion aren’t those of adolescence, as the grown-ups try to tell us; they’re the ones immediately after it, say the middle twenties, the false maturity if you like, when you first get thoroughly embroiled in things and lose your head.” (ch.12)
Jim is attracted by the self-assuredness he sees in Christine but, in some way, he feels unworthy of her and sticks to Margaret, moved by pity rather than love. Maybe it is that sense of security, opposed to Margaret’s outbursts of hysterics and his own unexpected behaviour, what Jim is looking for.
“I mean it’s not your appearance that makes you seem older and more experienced and all that. It’s the way you behave and talk (…..) It’s… you seem to… keep getting on to your high horse all the time (……) you have got a habit, every now and then, of talking and behaving like a governess” (ch.13)

UNIVERSITY.
A critical eye on provincial universities is projected throughout the whole novel: old fashioned points on academic matters, professors who pass dull work onto their junior colleagues, scholars who sign articles they have ‘snatched’ from aspirants to being published… are reflected in this story. Overt criticism on the massive access to higher education is also stated:
“It’s the same everywhere you look; not only this place, but all the provincial universities are going the same way. Not London, I suppose, and not the Scottish ones. But my God, go to most places and try and get someone turfed out merely because he’s too stupid to pass his exams -- it’d be easier to sack a prof,”
’We want two hundred teachers this year and we mean to have them,’ All right, we’ll lower the pass mark to twenty per cent and give you the quantity you want, but for God’s sake don’t start complaining in two years’ time that your schools ar full of teachers who couldn’t pass the General Certificate themselves, let alone teach anyone else to pass it (ch.17)”

LUCK.
The title of the novel is directly related to the closure of the story. After pages of embarrassment, hesitation, pretension, fear of being sacked from college teaching and having to work as a school teacher… James Dixon is doubly stricken by luck as he gets a good job out of the blue and is on the track of starting a promising relationship with Christine. A typical and conventional happy ending for an atypical character. It is curious to see what a good job can be in this context.
“Good. I’ve got a job for you. Five hundred a year (……) Sort of private secretarial work. Not much correspondence, though; a young woman does most of that. It’ll be mainly meeting people or telling people I can’t meet them” (ch.23)

PHONE CALLS, ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO.
Even if we did not know about the time of publication of Lucky Jim, we would certainly guess that it is not the 21st century. The absence of mobile phones and the quantity of cigarettes smoked anywhere (bedrooms, buses…) prove that. Drinking alcohol is another constant feature but it does not sound outdated.