A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for November 2003

A Quiz, Perhaps Appropriate

Written by Randy McDonald

November 23, 2003 at 8:19 pm

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Protected: Academic Spleen-Venting

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Written by Randy McDonald

November 23, 2003 at 5:44 pm

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On the Imminent American Military Dictatorship

It’s unspeakably disturbing that at least some lead officials in the Bush Administration and the upper echelons of the American government are thinking along the lines of eliminating constitutional and democratic government, and instituting something more like Ataturkist Turkey.

FYI. Better warned than not.

Gen. Franks Doubts Constitution Will Survive WMD Attack”
John O. Edwards, NewsMax.com
Friday, Nov. 21, 2003

Gen. Tommy Franks says that if the United States is hit with a weapon of mass destruction that inflicts large casualties, the Constitution will likely be discarded in favor of a military form of government.

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Written by Randy McDonald

November 22, 2003 at 5:07 pm

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[BRIEF NOTE] Russia’s Ethnic Groups in the early 21st Century

From the RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly, the posting of 19 November 2003 (Volume 3, Number 46), the interesting article “Russia’s Ethnic Groups By the Numbers,” by Liz Fuller:

epanastatis, satyadasa, you might be interested in this article given past discussion about the numbers of Chinese in Russia according to the recent census.

The population of the Russian Federation is not only dwindling as a whole, but ethnic Russians now account for a slightly smaller percentage of the country’s overall population than they did at the time of the last Soviet census in 1989 — 79.82 percent in 2002 compared with 81.54 percent in 1989. The total number of Russians fell over that period from 119.86 million to 115.86 million. That is just one of the findings from the preliminary results of last year’s census, which were reviewed in two articles published in “Nezavisimaya gazeta” on 11 November.

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Written by Randy McDonald

November 21, 2003 at 8:10 pm

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Notes towards a paper on medieval subjectivities

Thoughts and comments will be happily welcomed. This is particularly the case in connection to medievalists on my friends page–analects, schizmatic, tudor_rose, you’ll all be richly rewarded in the appropriate currencies. This is new territory for me, and I’m not sure if I’m doing it correctly, and yes I know there are rough edges.

A. Introduction: Wyatt at Court
The early 16th century English Petrarchan poet Thomas Wyatt was an important figure in the Henrician court. The popularity of his modified Petrarchan verse can be explained, in part, by a growing structural similarity between the English court and those of Renaissance Italy. A major theme in Wyatt’s poetry is the thwarting of erotic desire by the inconstancy of the objects of desire, rendered problematic to public gaze. The Henrician court of England, over the early 16th century, became much more similar to the courts of Renaissance Italy, in being concerned with public spectacle including public erotics as subjects of concern to the despot. This relates to the application of Foucauldian concepts of control to the court, which contituted the effective political nation of concern.

B. Historical Background: Italy
During the 14th and 15th centuries, the Italian states moved far ahead of contemporary England inasmuch as they developed strong states, as despots sought to ensure their personal and political security, reflecting a generally higher level of socioeconomic development which could support a strong state. The focus of these states was on surveilling the courts, where the most serious threats to a ruler’s security could develop. This quasi-bureaucratization of Italian court life had an effect on Italian culture generally. Petrarch–a man long involved in Italian politics, including efforts to modernize Italian life in a project combining Roman/classical and Christian/medieval goals–manifested this in his poetry, which was concerned with the inability to fully express romantic love in the context of a potentially hostile public arena.

C. Historical Background: England
Traditionally, erotics in the English court were given relatively free play. Only when these became sufficiently blatant and controversial–for instance, the homosexual relationship between Edward III and Gaveston–did hostile reaction become a serious possibility. The state was generally non-intrusive and required minimal comformity. The end of the Lancastrians and the rise of the Tudors involved the growth of a relatively strong state; these extra powers were needed in order to control the court and the political nation, given the strong opposition of many powerful families (the Howards, for instance) to the ascension of the Tudors. The Henrician state was not a modern bureaucratic state; in the limited realm of the court, however, it did act as a powerful state within the limited confines of the court.

D. Wyatt’s Experience in Between
Wyatt–a courtier who grew up in the environment of the consolidating Henrician court–had extensive experience in Italy and with Italian literature, not least as a court diplomat in the 1520s. His experiences in the politically conflicted and culturally dynamic city-states and other polities of Italy translated readily to the England of the 1530s, which saw extensive religious and dynastic tumult. Wyatt himself was involved in England’s increasingly despotic politics, most notably as an accused lover of Anne Boleyn. The similaritiies of Italian and English environments encouraged Wyatt to write Italian-influenced poetry showing the problematic nature of erotics in the late Henrician court, and encouraged the positive if problematic (since connected) reception of this poetry later in the 16th century.

E. Critical Examination of the Poetry
I. Who so list to hount
II. Farewell Love
III. They fle from me
IV. Mye love toke skorne

Written by Randy McDonald

November 21, 2003 at 8:02 pm

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[SCHOOL] Notes towards a presentation on Orientalism in Poland

Thoughts and comments will be happily welcomed.

A. Notes on Orientalism as a Generally Applicable Concept

B. Poland as an Actor
i. Poland is generally seen as a subject of empire, whether under the first partition (1772-1918), Nazi occupation durnig the Second World War, or under the 45 years of Soviet occupation which followed. It has generally been seen as an imperial subject; often, it has been conceived of (by western Europeans and North Americans) as “eastern.” However, Poland has an imperialism history of its own; for four centuries before the partitions, and to a lesser degree in the Second Republic, Poland acted as an imperial power towards its eastern neighbours. Modern Lithuania and Belarus formed the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, an autonomous state of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that was heavily polonized, while the core of Ukraine was directly subject to Poland despite numerous rebellions; Joseph Conrad, a famed chronicler of the impact of colonialism, traced his ancestry from a Polish magnate family.
ii. The Polish east– traditionally known as the kresy–has generally been described in very Orientalist terms, like the frontier or perhaps the South for America. The kresy has been identified with nostalgia for the past, a national and familial myth, often a private reflection about a world gone with the
wind, of glory once possessed and lost. (Most of the top ten Google references in English to the keyword “kresy” refer to Stalin’s deportations.) The kresy mythos identifies the region with ethnic and religious diversity, with exoticism and orientalism. It is the frontier of Western Civilization, the eastward influence of Polish culture and the test of its national identity.

C. Three Writers
The kresy is a theme present throughout Polish literature. In three authors which belong squarely to the Polish canon–19th century poet Adam Mickiewicz, turn of the century novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz, and 20th century poet Czeslaw Milosz–the development of this theme can be traced.
i. Adam Mickiewicz was born in the first generation of Poles following the 18th century partitions. Born in the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, in modern Belarus, Mickiewicz was strongly attached to a vision of a Poland reunited within its former boundaries. In his most famous work, the epic Pan Tadeusz, the protagonists–members of Lithuania’s Polish nobility–lead a successful national revolt against Russia. However, the peasants on the ground (almost all non-Polish, whether Eastern Slavs, Jews, or Lithuanians) are treated as ciphers, while Russians (who probably bore a closer relationship to the peasants than their Polish rulers) are Orientalized.
ii. Henryk Sienkiewicz was born in the mid-19th century, after the suppression of the last Polish revolts. One of Poland’s first Nobel Laureate writers, he is famous in the West for his novel Quo Vadis?, set in the Roman Empire. Inside Poland, however, he is most famous for his Trilogy dealing with the wars of mid-17th century Poland, against the Cossack rebels of Ukraine and against foreign threats (Swedes, Turks, Tatars). Polish identity is defended in terms which inadvertantly exclude the Ukrainians and many other easterners from the political nation, particularly in terms of the relationship to the Catholic Church and the hegemony of the Polish magnates of Ukraine and elsewhere in the kresy. Where Mickiewicz assumed the existence of a broad imperial identity centered on Poles but including non-Poles, Sienkiewicz’ vision is narrower.
iii. Czeslaw Milosz reached adolescence in the Second Republic (1918-1939). Born in the city of Vilnius in what is now Lithuania, Vilnius in Milosz’ first thirty years was known as Wilno, as a chief Polish city in the east, with a mostly Polish and Jewish population. Milosz lived long enough to see the destruction of the kresy, between the Nazi genocide of its Jews and the Soviet expulsions of its Slavic populations. This experience has created in him and his poetry a profound sense about the fragility of all things: Whenever he looks back to his childhood and his early adulthood in Wilno in his poetry he always considers its transience, while in his essays he reflects on how, in the age of 20th century nationalisms and totalitarianisms, the experience of the kresy in the Second Republic was limited.

D. Conclusion: Orientalism as Applicable to the Polish Canon

Written by Randy McDonald

November 21, 2003 at 6:50 pm

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[BRIEF NOTE] Catalonia and European Regionalism

Recently, there was an interesting article in the New York Times on Catalonia,“Catalonian Political Rivals Agree on Seeking Autonomy”:
By DALE FUCHS

Published: November 16, 2003

MADRID, Nov. 15–Madrid, Spain’s official capital, has government ministries and the headquarters of multinational corporations. Fashion-conscious Barcelona, a short train ride from the French border, calls itself the country’s most “European” city and cultural heart. It is a longstanding rivalry.

But the regional elections on Sunday in Catalonia–Barcelona is the region’s capital–have pushed the competition, usually confined to good-natured ribbing, to a new level. The two top candidates trying to help their respective parties win control of the regional Parliament have both campaigned on promises to break away from the political and financial orbit of the central government.

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Written by Randy McDonald

November 20, 2003 at 8:26 pm

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Written by Randy McDonald

November 20, 2003 at 11:14 am

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What theorist am I?

Written by Randy McDonald

November 20, 2003 at 11:10 am

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If you’re not a fan of The Matrix: Reloaded

INT. WELL-LIT, NON-NOIR RESTAURANT

LAURENCE, CARRIE-ANNE, and KEANU enter the restaurant and
talk to LAMBERT WILSON.

LAURENCE FISHBURNE
We want Randall Duk Kim. I am totally dead serious here, as I always am.

LAMBERT WILSON
I won’t give him to you, but you can use my girlfriend, Monica Belluci to go behind my back and get him. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go have some matrix sex.

MONICA BELLUCI
Grrr, I get so mad when he cheats on me. To spite him, I will give you Randall.

KEANU REEVES
Wait, you’re a program right? So some machine actually specifically programmed you and gave you the ability to be jealous, conniving, and spiteful?

MONICA BELLUCI
Not only that, but they made me a hornball. I will only help if you make out with me.

LAURENCE FISHBURNE
What? It’s bad enough that the agents no longer pose any threat at all, but now these are the kind of obstacles we must overcome to save Zion? Make out with Monica Belluci? What will we have to do next, eat our way through a prison wall made of chocolate?

From The Matrix Reloaded: The Abridged Script.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 19, 2003 at 10:00 pm

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