Category Archives: literature

Perfunctory Valentine’s Day Post 2015 [Yes, I Write About That]

To start things off, Happy Galentine’s Day. What’s that, you say, you’re not familiar with the term? Well, I’m sure Pawnee’s very own Leslie Knope could, as Gordon says, “break it down for you”:

That was a lot less specific than I had hoped, but the point of that was to a) reference a sitcom, the last season of which you should all be watching right now, b) bring attention to a day that is for “celebrating special lady friends”, and c) start things off on a lighter note before I have to tackle what has been all over all of your social media feeds for the past two weeks now.

In case it wasn’t painfully obvious, it’s 50 Shades of Grey.

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Writers’ Roundtable Interview: Stew, Old Friend and New CWR!

EVAN: I have a dream. That one day this blog will rise up and establish a regular schedule. From that point on each weekday will have its own writer, and all five will be equal. Today, friends, we grow one step closer to that dream becoming a reality.

Joining us officially as of this week is Stew, who both Gordon and I attended college with. He’s also left a grand total of 47 comments on this blog, so you know he is a person with thoughts to share and things to say. Honestly, I could go on, so let’s just start things off already.

Similar to our introduction of Kat two years ago [has it really been that long?] each of the CWR regulars will be asking Stew four questions apiece, ending with the chance for him to throw a couple of his own at each of us. Considering that she knows him the least well, and not for any chivalrous reasons…

KAT: My first question for you is, what makes you want to write for the blog?

EVAN: Wow, Kat, way to take my first question. And now I regret my decision.

STEW: Too slow, Evan.

KAT: Sorry, but you guys wanted me to go first, so…

STEW: Well, I’ve been a pretty avid reader of CWR since it first started. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of topics that you guys cover. But I’ve been harassing Evan to cover more science-y topics for ages now, and apparently this is the best way to make that happen.

EVAN: Favourite Lovecraft-themed alcoholic beverage?

STEW: Narragansett Lovecraft Honey Ale, both because it is delicious, and because I don’t think anything else fits the category.

GORDON: Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?

STEW: Nah, I love sitting on the fence.

KAT: Would you consider yourself a feminist and/or feminist ally?

STEW: Absolutely!

KAT: I feel a little bit like we are browbeating you right now, haha.

EVAN: If his brow makes it out in one piece we will have failed in our mission.

STEW: Generally, brows should be in two pieces anyway. Mine is no exception. Continue reading

The Last 3 Books That Made Me Cry (And Why You Should Read Them)

I love getting lost into the world of a book. You know how it is when you can’t handle taking a bathroom break or stopping to eat lunch because it might mean tearing your eyes away from the page? Luckily, as an English major, reading is a big part of my learning experience. Not every book I’ve been assigned to read has been my style, but some of those books have been so good that they sucked me deep into the story until the next things I knew, tears were streaming down my cheeks.

For the sake of this article, I won’t be focusing on all the books I’ve read over the past year. If you want to read a fantastic overview of a wide span of books, I suggest you check out Evan’s 2014 Literary Awards. Instead, I want to share the last three books that made me cry, and, more importantly, I want to discuss the larger issues that make each of these three books valuable reads.

Each of these novels engages with what it means to live in a post-colonial world. In each story, it quickly becomes apparent that the horrors of colonization do not simply end the moment government policy changes.

While I will avoid any key plot points in these books, I will be alluding to general context around the books. If you prefer to go into your reading experience with a blank slate, I should warn you, Spoiler-ish content below.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Generally regarded as the post-colonial prequel to Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea opens in Jamaica, shortly after the abolition of slavery. Rhys’ protagonist, Antoinette, comes from a family of plantation owners who were brought to financial ruin by abolition. As a child, Antoinette struggles to understand what separates her family from the rising class of British capitalists.

By writing from the perspective of a child on the wrong side of history, Rhys prevents any oversimplification of her narrative. She also challenges the idea that colonial injustice somehow ended when slavery did.

Rhys’ strong narrative style creates a story that will immediately pull you in, but her imagery and carefully thought-through word choices create layers of meaning that make this novel much more complicated than it appears at first read. While it initially seems to be a Gothic Romance, Wide Sargasso Sea also explores a variety of important questions around race and gender. Continue reading

Jane Austen vs. Nicholas Sparks (How Romance Literature can be Empowering or Enslaving)

When I first attempted to write this post, several months ago, I titled it “the real reason Nicholas Sparks is the worst”. I was planning to discuss the lawsuit against Nicholas Sparks that has accused him of being racist, antisemitic, and homophobic in the workplace. I then planned to use that as a lead-in to discuss how romance novels are just awful in general.

Something about that original post just never feel right. Maybe it’s because I have no way of knowing if Sparks is really guilty of what he has been accused, or maybe it’s because any time I start to attack the Romance genre I find myself haunted by the memory of Jane Austen.

This is what you find when you search for “Jane Austen” and “ghost”.

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The 2014 Evan Yeong Literary Awards

My mom taught me how to read when I was 4-years-old, which WebMD, a reliable source if there ever was one, says is about two years younger than average. According to Iowa Tests [American standardized tests that I ended up taking at an American school] I was reading at a 12th Grade reading level when I was only ten. When I inevitably ended up majoring in both English and Writing at a Christian liberal arts college I was, to put it directly, horrifyingly average.

evanyeongliteraryawards2014I write all of that not to share that I was some sort of prodigy [I wasn’t], but that I was good at reading because I loved it. The written word continues to be my favourite artistic medium, and my appreciation for the literary has not faded. Today I start what I hope to be an annual tradition, a review of what was read in the past year to acknowledge the standouts [for better and for worse]. These are the 2014 Evan Yeong Literary Awards.

In 2014 I resolved to read 52 books, and while I only ended up stopping just four short of my goal, I do believe it was an overall success. You can check out a full list [with the exact dates of when I read each one] at this link. Continue reading

Passing Post-Modernism

It’s 2015, readers, and what better way to start off the year that’s just beginning than by railing on an idea that need to end? Yup, we’re talking Postmodernism here.

Not too long ago, I wrote an article giving an overview of Postmodernism, and it nearly killed me. Yours truly tries to make a point of not including my own judgments in these posts and just let folks draw their own conclusions, but this one- gah. Took every ounce of my (limited) restraint not to rip it to pieces and cackle victoriously as I squat over the grave of Jacques Derrida and…

…well I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?

What’s Postmodernism? Continue reading

Not Strictly Literary: 6 Unexpected Subjects You Learn About in English

I’m currently in the last year of my English undergraduate degree. Well, kinda. I will probably have to do an extra semester to finish off my credits completely, but after next semester I will have finally finished all my English requirements.

Like many students, I kind of fell into my major. In my first year of full time studies I was seriously considering a degree in economics, or anthropology. Until I took a class in those subjects and quickly changed my mind. Once I started figuring out what kind of classes I actually liked, I started talking about doing my degree in Sociology, Political Science, or Environmental Ethics. Then, when I transferred to UVic, I decided I would take their writing program. Well I thought I was decided, until I was invited to join the English Honours program. That invitation totally went to my head and I dropped everything in order to pursue that (very structured) program.

Because of the number of required English classes (and because I blew many of my elective classes during first year), I’ve been taking pretty-well only English classes for the last two years. During that time, I began to ask myself if I had made the best choice. After all, English is really just reading books, isn’t it? Couldn’t I do that in my own time?

Ah, reading for fun/relaxation. Can’t wait until I get to do that again.

Now that I’m getting close to the end of my degree, I’m able to look back and be thankful for (almost) all of the English classes I needed to take. Yes, I still feel like there are a million others I wish I could have taken, but I think I would have felt that way regardless of my major. There are more fantastic courses out there than what you can possibly fit into one undergraduate degree.

Getting close to the end has also allowed me to reflect on the many English courses I have taken and realize just how broad a range of subjects they actually address. I’ve included a few examples below.

Linguistics

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One of the texts we are translating for our final project.

I’m currently finishing off a class on Middle English that I did not want to take. Not at all. I’m required to take a class in early English literature, so I chose this class after a friend recommended the professor. I was then pleasantly surprised to find that it was a fantastic class. It was also not at all what I was expecting.

English has evolved considerably since the 12th century, so it’s hardly surprising that trying to read Middle English texts is like reading an entirely different language.

At the beginning of the class our professor touched on many of the other languages that have influenced the formation of the English language. Then, as the class progressed, a lot of the work we did in class involved translating various works. The translation process required a basic understanding of how to parse language, something I had almost no experience with. Like many English speakers, sentence structure is something I know intuitively, not something I’ve intentionally learned. However, if my experience in Quebec this summer taught me anything, it’s that knowing how to break down language is key to learning a new one. So I’m hopeful that the linguistic skills I’ve been struggling to learn in this class will help me with my future language learning goals. Continue reading