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.

24 Feb 2009


An English Philology student at the UNED sends us this contribution to our blog:

Ahora que ha finalizado el Carnaval, y que los estudiantes de Literatura Inglesa (I) comenzamos el cuatrimestre donde reina Shakespeare, no está de más recordar la figura carnavalesca por excelencia de la literatura inglesa, sir John Falstaff, el rubicundo amigo del príncipe Hal, en sus correrías tabernarias de juventud, antes de convertirse en el “ejemplar” Henry V.

Tal como aparece en la Unidad Didáctica, traslado aquí la descripción que Graham Holderness hace de la función de este personaje:

“Falstaff clearly performs the function, in Henry IV Parts I and II, of carnival. He constitutes a constant focus of opposition to the official and serious tone of authority and power: his discourse confronts and challenges those of king and state. His attitude to authority is always parodic and satirical: he mocks authority, flouts power, responds to the pressures of social duty and civic obligation by retreating into Bacchanalian revelry. His world is a world of ease, moral license, appetite and desire; of humour and ridicule, theatricals and satire, of community, freedom and abundance; a world created by inverting the abstract society, the oppression and the hierarchy of the official world. In the tavern the fool reigns as sovereign; on the high road the thief is an honest man; while in the royal court the cares and duties of state frown an the frivolity and absurdity of saturnalian revelry. To this extent Falstaff can be located in that popular tradition of carnival and utopian comedy defined by Bakhtin”.

Termina, pues, el carnaval. Y arranca la Cuaresma. Ash Wednesday. Pero con T.S.Eliot no me atrevo. Todavía.

Thank you very much!

21 Feb 2009


Today I spent some time browsing through some blogs related to English language. This is a small selection:

David Crystal's blog mainly focuses on English usage. As the author states in his initial post, the blog is intended to create a public space where the questions people address him can be accessed by anyone interested in the topic, allowing readers to participate and sparing the writer repetition.

The Engine Room deals with language use, publishing and the media in general. Posts are usually short and light to read. It contains a section on rare 'words of the day'

Literal-Minded provides linguistic analyses based on samples of real speech or written texts.

14 Feb 2009


En un día como éste, parece propio hacer alguna referencia al amor y qué mejor que alguna selección poética. Revisando algunos libros de literatura inglesa, he terminado recurriendo otra vez a Shakespeare, esta vez en su Soneto número 29. La verdad es que no se me ocurrían muchos más poemas que tuvieran tanta fuerza. Al pensar qué seleccionaría en castellano, me venían más ideas aunque me haya vuelto a quedar con un clásico, con este otro soneto de Quevedo. ¿Son las literaturas en lenguas romances más proclives a tratar el tema del amor? ¿no hay diferencia notable entre las tradiciones europeas?

Resultados -

12 Feb 2009


A bit late, but still in time to celebrate Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, I'd like to devote a post to this influential scientist.

Although Darwin's work did not constitute an object of study in Filología Inglesa, at least at the UNED, the effect of his theories on literature, especially in the first half of the 20th century, were part of the syllabus for PENSAMIENTO Y CREACION LITERARIA INGLESA EN EL SIGLO XX. Defenders and opponents to Darwinism raised a social debate that permeated different spheres of culture. The ideas of 'evolution' and 'degeneration' took shape in literary works such as H.G.Wells's The Time Machine.

Having a look at some websites with contents related to Darwin, I've come across this Open University page, which among facts and other kinds of information, invites us to "monkey around a little". I've followed their advice and saw my (d)evolution!

11 Feb 2009


The recently released film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is based on the short story of the same name written by F. Scott Fitzgerald . I intend to watch the movie after reading it and then write something about the comparison. Meanwhile, I leave here a link to the text:

A review of the film can be read in Vanity Fea.

10 Feb 2009


Some ago I wrote about the book The Know-It-All, by A. J. Jacobs, a story about a man who imposed himself the task of reading the whole Encyclopedia Britannica. Well, after this I started myself to read two dictionaries: the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Linguistics and the O.C.D. of Literature (What? You know that even the most stupid idea gets a bunch of followers. Besides, it´s not that bad!) It is not as boring as you may think and once in a while I find some pearls, like this one,

Catalectic: Lacking the final syllable expected in the regular pattern of a metrical verse line. The term is most often used of the common English trochaic line in which the optional final unstressed syllable is not used. Of these lines from Shelley´s ‘To a Skylark’, the second and the fourth are catalectic:

In the golden lighting
Of the sunken sun.
O’er which clouds are bright’ning.
Thou dost float and run

8 Feb 2009


Is there anybody really out there? And I´m not talking about you, José Ángel. You are the only one (God bless you!) who takes the time to write some comments. This blog has only two contributors, Maite and me. Most of my entries are bad written, academically incorrect (don´t miss my next entry about linguistic diversity!) or both and nobody says ANYTHING! Does anybody care? Take part, guys! Get involved! If you don´t want to risk your reputation, you can do it anonymously or using a pseudonym (and spend a good time inventing funny nicknames, such as “The Shadow Student”, “A bored reader” or “The Angry Scholar”). Now seriously, if the participation in this blog doesn´t increase, I´ll start writing about ‘low culture’: comic books, Tele 5 tv programs and Dan Brown´s best sellers. You´ve been warned!

7 Feb 2009


This is a memory exercise for all those of us who studied English Literature I (From the Anglo-Saxons to the 17th century) and need to refresh the authors and works we learnt about.

6 Feb 2009


El biólogo danés Kaj Sand-Jensen ha proporcionado una posible respuesta para el que bien puede ser uno de los grandes enigmas de la ciencia moderna, junto con el motivo de la desaparición de los dinosaurios: la razón por la que muchos de los ensayos escritos por los académicos de nuestra era son prácticamente incomprensibles.
Sand-Jensen, profesor de biología en la Universidad de Copenhage, ha resuelto este misterio popular analizando la prosa de sus colegas y aislando sus fallos estilísticos. En un artículo publicado por la revista ecológica Oikos, Sand-Jensen señala los rasgos que vuelven aburridos este tipo de ensayos y las razones para que sean así, la primera de las cuales es desviar la atención de ellos mismos: “Estas tácticas evitan que el lector tenga una idea clara de cuál es el objetivo del ensayo y de la dirección que sigue su línea de pensamiento, permitiendo, al mismo tiempo, al autor ocultar su ausencia de ideas originales”, dice Sand-Jensen.
Albert H. Teich, director de la Academia Americana para el Progreso de la Ciencia, considera que la capacidad para aburrir es una adaptación evolutiva para la auto-preservación. “Si tu artículo es aburrido nadie lo lee, y si nadie lo lee no puede ser criticado o rebatido, pero a pesar de todo, una vez que ha sido publicado, puede figurar en tu CV. Y cuanto más larga es tu lista de publicaciones, más oportunidades se te presentan”, dice Teich.
Sin comentarios.

4 Feb 2009


Researchers at the Florida State University have come to the conclusion that regarding to teaching children to read what work best are individual programs. Sounds logic, but they have proved it by systematic field studies. "There is too much of a tendency in education to go with what ‘sounds’ really good”, says Carol M. Connor, researcher at the Florida Center for Reading Research. In a study published in the Science Magazine, "Algorithm-Guided Individualized Reading Instruction", Connor shows how individualized instruction works better that the usual approach of using the same system to teach all the students traditionally used in most of the schools.
Probably Connor is not discovering anything new to experienced teachers, who face the problem to teach too many students to dedicate personalized attention to each one. However, she, Frederick J. Morrison and Barry Fishman, professors at the University of Michigan, have developed "Assessment to Instruction”, a web-based software program designed to help teachers to create particular reading programs adapted to each pupil. So, the teacher would have to monitor the students, check their progress and adapt the individual programs for each children in the classroom. Which, by the way, seems a lot of work, too and probably it would require a considerable effort.

2 Feb 2009


Good news for language learners! Have you ever turned on the BBC News as a kind of ‘background noise’, just for the sake of ‘hacer oido’? If you felt intuitively that get used to the particular sounds of the language that you were learning may enhance your language skills, then you were right! At least, according to recent studies developed in the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, by PhD Paul Sulzberger.
Frequent exposure to the sounds patterns of a language is the best way to learn it, says Dr Sulzberger: “However crazy it may sound, just listening to the language, even though you don’t understand it, is critical.”
Of course, we all may see how frequent listening of conversations or speeches in other languages will help us to discriminate words, but Sulzberger goes further. He considers that such simple activity sets up the structures in the brain required to learn the words. It seems that the key is in the way the brain develops neural structures. Dr Sulzberger: “When we are trying to learn new foreign words we are faced with sounds for which we may have absolutely no neural representation.” So, frequent exposure to the sounds of these new words would create such neural structures.
What immediately come to my mind are two questions: First, if the same hypothesis is applicable to reading texts in a foreign language although you don’t know the words, and second, would the old theory of listen foreign languages recordings while you are sleeping has any sense at all?