Monday, July 28, 2014

Michael Schmidt: The Novel: A Biography


I'm going to read a very long work on literary criticism. I try, of course, to keep abreast of lit-crit theory, and I encounter it often in much of my editing work, but this 1200-page book by Michael Schmidt differs from that sort of literary criticism, or so says Jim Higgins in his review, "Michael Schmidt's 'The Novel: A Biography' captures life, history, connections of literature" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 18, 2014):
In the book's distinguishing feature, Schmidt taps the opinions of novelists about each other, rather than leaning on professional critics a la Harold Bloom (only cited once in this gigantic volume). The likes of Woolf, Ford Madox Ford and Jonathan Lethem offer insight and argument alongside Schmidt. "The most penetrating insights into Cervantes are those of Fielding, Smollett and Sterne, of Stendhal and Flaubert and Turgenev, Dickens and Faulkner and Hunter S. Thompson; not only what they say about 'Don Quixote,' but how they incorporate the sad knight and his sidekick into their own imagination," Schmidt writes.
This sounds like the sort of lit-crit book I've been reading for, and if it is the one, I'll keep you posted.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

An Evening with Choi Chongko

Professor Choi Chongko

My wife and I met with Professor Emeritus Choi Chongko yesterday evening for dinner, but we first went to a traditional teahouse, where we snapped the photograph above during a break from discussing Yi Kwang-su, about whom Professor Choi is writing a book. We looked at the text in manuscript and compared two different photographs of Yi Kwang-su's grave in North Korea -- one of the original stone bearing his name in Chinese characters and the other of the new stone with Korean writing.

One of the odd facts about Yi Kwang-su is that his grave in North Korea is honored by that leftist state, whereas the left here in South Korea considers him a traitor for his shift toward support of the Japanese colonizers during the latter 1930s.

During our break from discussion, we also had the following photo taken, this time of all three discussants:


As you can see, I was more in the dark than my wife or Professor Choi! Actually, I really was mostly in the dark, for much of the conversation went forward in Korean -- from which I would catch the occasional Korean word or the odd English or German expression.

Mea culpa for not learning Korean . . .

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ewha Womans University


My copy of Emanations arrived yesterday, and the poetry I submitted seems unaltered, but upon checking my bio, I see that some editor 'corrected' what I'd written. In place of "Ewha Womans University" was "Ewha Woman's University"!

That's an understandable 'correction' . . . but it's wrong.

I'll really have to insist that editors check with me before 'correcting' what I've written. This sort of thing happens with various publications, though usually when my name "Jeffery" gets misspelled "Jeffrey."

The Emanations anthology, anyway, is excellent, as you can see for yourself.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

EWIS Summer Class Over

EWIS Students Laughing at/with Me

Six of my ten EWIS students were able to go with me for coffee at the ECC Starbucks on Tuesday -- bringing along some contraband doughnuts supplied by the EPO -- and these acronyms have gone far enough! Spelled out:
EWIS = Ewha Writing-Intensive School

ECC = Ewha Campus Complex

EPO = English Program Office
The photo was sent to me by the woman in the far-right corner. I think she already has her doctorate, and I know she works in the Forensic Anthropological Laboratory and Department of Anatomy, where she is an expert at estimating body mass based on the wear and tear of ankle bones on skeletons. Or that's my guess judging from the article she was working on in class.

The woman in the blue dress is leaving for the US next Monday for a doctoral program in women's studies, if I recall. She was a good addition to my course because we read about Korean identity, and she had already given it a lot of thought over the years in the history classes she had attended, and she also had a lot of insightful things to say about the need for a culture of discussion in Korea, a topic we also read on in my course.

The remaining students in the photo were undergrads, with the three on the left all coming from the Division of International Studies (DIS) at Ewha, and the one on the right coming from the States, where she studies as a pre-med student. The student closest to the camera had perfect attendance, something for her to take pride in since no one else managed that! All four of the undergrads speak good English and therefore also contributed well to the discussion topics.

For that matter, so did everyone in the course, including the four who couldn't make the coffee klatch . . .

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nihilistically Nihilistic Nihilism?

Richard Fernandez

Richard Fernandez, who used to write under the pseudonym "Wretchard the Cat," has an intriguing post on nihilism titled "The Seven Gambit" -- a post I became aware of via my maverick friend Bill Vallicella -- and Fernandez writes:
Nihilism isn't the absence of a belief. It is something subtly different: it is the belief in nothing. The most powerful weapon of terrorism is therefore the unyielding No. "No I will not give up. No I will not tell the truth. No I will not play fair. No I will not spare children. No I will not stop even if you surrender to me; I will not cease even if you give me everything you have, up to and including your children's lives. Nothing short of destroying me absolutely can make me stop. And therefore I will defeat you even if you kill me. Because I will make you pay the price in guilt for annihilating me." (italics mine)
Fernandez applies this analysis to militant Islamism, which -- I suppose he infers -- extrapolates from Allah as Absolute Will to Allah as Nihilistic Force, and perhaps that's the case, implicitly, though I doubt that even Islamists carry this point to its full nihilistic conclusion since they do have a political aim, the establishment of a Caliphate to dominate the world and enforce Islamic law.

But that nihilistic point accounts for a lot since militant Islamists seem capable of any atrocity in the name of Allah, as if Allah's hands were unbound by any moral principles . . .

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Five Theories of Korean Unification

Victor Cha
JoongAng Daily

Victor Cha finds "Five theories of unification" (JoongAng Daily, July 22,2014) in Korean history, and I'm posting them below for memory's sake:
The first theory of unification emerged after the division of Korea and throughout the Cold War. This was essentially the notion of "unification by force" . . . , or the idea that the only legitimate definition of unification was the crushing victory of one Korea over the other . . . . This "winner take all" view was held by Syngman Rhee, Park Chung Hee and Kim Il Sung . . . . [T]he second theory of unification[, formulated after German unification, was] . . . that it was too difficult and too dangerous. Unification became something that was not desired, but something to be avoided because of its staggering costs and the terrible uncertainties . . . . This second "hard landing" theory of unification predominated Korean thinking from the end of the cold war in Europe until the Asian financial crisis in 1997 . . . . [The third theory of unification came in] 1997[, when] Kim Dae-jung put forward the idea of the sunshine policy. A strategy of unconditional engagement designed to open the North to the forces of reform. This was a policy tied to DJ's more liberal political ideology, and then carried forth by his successor Roh Moo-hyun for an entire decade . . . . [and it] was motivated by hard economic realities. Korea's liquidity crisis in 1997-98 made unification impossible, so it was best to engage the North Korean regime over the long-term, and pave the way for a gradual transition or "soft landing." What was so distinct in retrospect about the Sunshine Policy was the notion that unification should be pushed generations into the distant future . . . . [The fourth theory of unification started] with the . . . election of conservative Lee Myung-bak. Lee was a businessman, not an ideologue. He was pragmatic and saw unification in pragmatic terms . . . . This fourth theory was a pragmatic one -- that is, unification may be expensive, it may be difficult and it may be dangerous. But . . . . as traumatic as unification may be, it could very well come tomorrow or next month or next year. Koreans must start to prepare now for it, not simply wish it would go away forever . . . . [The fifth theory of unification started with] President Park. In her Dresden speech, she laid out her own theory of unification as a bonanza or jackpot for Korea and her neighbors . . . . This fifth theory of unification does not see it as winner take all . . . , or something to be feared and delayed indefinitely (sunshine), or even something that we must reluctantly prepare for. . . . Rather she paints it as something bright. (bold font and underlining mine)
There are things to keep in mind, namely, "that the stability of the regime in the North is far from certain" and that "there is a direct correlation between the increased interest in unification and South Korea's outreach to China." But this rapprochement does not "mean that Seoul will be willing to cut a deal with China on North Korea that excludes the United States[, for] without the U.S. alliance, South Korea gets treated by China like a small province."

But might not the US be willing to cut such a deal? That is tempting for some American policy-makers, I suspect, the ones who argue that Korea doesn't need US forces anymore, especially since the US forces are generally unappreciated anyway. Make an offer to pull out of Korea in return for China's support on re-unification?

But wouldn't this contradict Obama's pivot to Asia . . .

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Simply in Genius?

Genius at Work
Like the Language of Delirium
Image by Jacob Magraw and Rachell Sumpter
NYT

Joshua Wolf Shenk, writing "The End of 'Genius'" (NYT, July 19, 2014), argues that genius is not individual, despite the shared view of the Enlightenment and Romanticism, whose combined effect is still felt today:
The big change began with Enlightenment thinkers, who sought to give man a dignified, central place in the world. They made man's thinking the center of their universe and created a profoundly asocial self . . . . But it was during the Romantic era that "the true cult of the natural genius emerged" . . . . Today, the Romantic genius can be seen everywhere.
But, argues Shenk, it ain't true:
[T]he real heart of creativity . . . [is] the intimate exchange of the creative pair, such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney and myriad other examples with which we've yet to fully reckon . . . . The elemental collective . . . is the pair. Two people are the root of social experience -- and of creative work . . . . -- most strikingly with Paul McCartney and John Lennon . . . . Why is this? For one thing, given that our psyches take shape through one-on-one exchanges, we're likely set up to interact with a single person more openly and deeply than with any group. The pair is also inherently fluid and flexible. Two people can make their own society. When even one more person is added, roles and power positions harden. This may be good for stability but problematic for creativity. Three legs make a table stand in place. Two legs are made for moving.
Two's company, three's a crowd. Okay, I got it. But I like to see where ideas are stretched to the breaking point, and here's the place:
The pair is the primary creative unit -- not just because pairs produce such a staggering amount of work but also because they help us to grasp the concept of dialectical exchange. At its heart, the creative process itself is about a push and pull between two entities, two cultures or traditions, or two people, or even a single person and the voice inside her head. Indeed, thinking itself is a kind of download of dialogue between ourselves and others. And when we listen to creative people describe breakthrough moments that occur when they are alone, they often mention the sensation of having a conversation in their own minds.
I have italicized and thereby emphasized the phrase "or even a single person and the voice inside her head" because we are here back to the individual genius, even if 'she' is carrying on a conversation in 'her' head. Don't get me wrong. Creativity often does emerge in collaborative pairs. That's how my wife and I work on our translations.

But that's not how I wrote my novella, The Bottomless Bottle of Beer. I worked mostly alone on that, albeit in dialogue with other writers, most dead, but some living.

I'm no genius, of course, but Shenk is basically talking about creativity.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Franklin Willis: Artist, Athlete, Fulbright Fellow

Franklin Willis
Challenges Changing Form

My wife was cleaning out our closet and found a packet with slides of artwork by an old Fulbrighter friend from 1989-90 -- the man in the photo above, Franklin Willis. The man has made his way to some degree of success, as his website shows.

When I knew him, he was just getting onto the fast track, and he's certainly outpaced me! We had some good talks about art and basketball and culture, our ABCs for living in Germany.

Here's a sample of his art:

Franklin Willis

Good job, Franklin . . . I hope you remember me . . .

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rhie Won-bok on Christian 'Misuse' of "Allah"

Rhie Won-bok
JoongAng Ilbo

Rhie Won-bok, a cartoonist who encountered some charges of antisemitism a few years back over his depiction of the US as controlled by Jews, has recently opined on Malaysia's decision to block non-Muslims from using the Muslim word for "God," i.e., "Allah." He concludes that this is analogous to differences in the name for "God" among Catholics and Protestants in Korea:
In Korea, the Catholics and Protestants believe in different gods. Catholics believe in Haneunim while Protestant Christians believe in Hananim. While Haneunim was the general term to refer to the Christian god when the religion was first introduced in Korea, Protestant churches differentiated their god by using a different spelling. Just as Allah is not for everyone, Haneunim is not the same god for all Christians. The Malaysian case is therefore not much different from the Korean situation. (Rhie, "'Allah' is not for all," JoongAng Ilbo, July 17, Page 28)
I don't want to be rude, but Mr. Rhie is all wet. Catholics and Protestants do not worship different 'Gods'! They simply use different Korean names for "God." Furthermore, no law exists in Korea forbidding one or the other usage by anybody. The Malaysian case is therefore completely different from the Korean situation, for the Malaysian legal system outlaws the use of "Allah" by non-Christians in certain contexts.

Moreover, Mr. Rhie never thought to inquire about the term used by Arab Christians for God.

That word is "Allah."

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Deva Hupaylo: Nobel Prize 'Winner'

Deva Hupaylo and Colleagues
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Mr. Richard Irby, editor of my hometown's Area Wide News, has an article on my old friend Deva: "Deva Hupaylo started with a Salem diploma; worked up to the Nobel Peace Prize" (Wednesday, July 16, 2014). Although I blogged on this when the prize was awarded, Mr. Irby has more details:
From horse and buggy days and one room school houses to today's tech filled school rooms, many north central Arkansas youth have gone from humble, rural beginnings to distinguish themselves.
Good hook in that opening line, and another good hook follows:
But Salem High School graduate Deva Hupaylo is surely the first to have a Nobel Peace Prize on her resume.
Now that Mr. Irby has us doubly hooked, he reels us in:
"It's a medallion and it's real gold," Hupaylo said . . . , showing a photograph taken after the OPCW -- the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons -- was given the prestigious award on Oct. 11, 2013 . . . . "I have a chocolate one they gave us [employees]. They are preparing replicas for us . . . [but] ours will not be gold" . . . . Deva Hupaylo graduated from Salem High School in 1976, began studying engineering at the University of Arkansas because she was good in math and science and has had a long, successful career as a chemical engineer . . . . In 2010, Hupaylo, who has three grown sons, moved to The Hauge, a capitol city in the Netherlands, to work for the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons . . . . To high school classmate, Dr. Griffin Arnold, that sounds like the Deva Hupaylo he knows. "She was always very organized and determined. She has a way of making things she wants to happen. I am happy for all she's accomplished but not surprised."
Nor am I surprised at her accomplishments. Well, okay, I was a bit surprised about the Nobel award, and I wondered what Deva's precise role was. Mr. Irby clarifies that:
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons works to eliminate existing chemical weapon supplies and make sure they do not re-emerge, by getting countries to sign a treaty and give up any chemical weapon supplies they have. Hupaylo is the head of the Industry Verification Branch. She leads a division of 120 inspectors who work, once chemical weapons are removed from a country, to make sure new supplies are not manufactured. They monitor and actually inspect chemical industries in 190 countries to make sure chemicals that can be turned into weapons are being used correctly.
And Deva has some good words for our school:
Hupaylo credits Salem schools . . . . [and] some very good teachers who encouraged them, and other teachers who motivated them through "fear and dislike," to excel.
I know those teachers, too, but no names . . .
During her visit to Arkansas, she stopped in to give some advice to Salem High School's eighth grade careers class. "I told them to get as much education as soon as possible" . . . . [And she added,] "You should not be working for money. You should be working for something that you believe in, that you enjoy doing."
Pretty good advice, generally speaking, though I think that I ought to have been a bit more fastidious about money.

For more on Deva, read the full article.

UPDATE: Deva sent me a correction of a slight inaccuracy: "'She leads a division of 120 inspectors'. I don't lead the inspectors division. I have 8 Substantive Officers. We plan the missions that the inspectors conduct, while they are actually managed in a separate division."

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