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Index: Occ. Notes

In Defence of Stress.

John Wilkinson: ‘The apogee of academic instruction in close reading and literary history, was attained at a brief moment in the 1950s and 1960s, remaining essential to a reaction in subsequent deconstructive theory. Reliance on such a literary culture and its associated skills has become anachronistic.’

From ‘Corot’s Walk’.

John Taylor: ‘Did Corot have a story to tell? Nearly all his paintings tell of the absence of a memorable story: only a mother and her child, only two peasant women gathering herbs or flowers, only a peasant leading his cow down the road.’


Anthony Howell: ‘For Dante, Purgatory is just part of his grand scheme. Didactic allegories in verse had already been pioneered by Brunetto Latini, with his Tesoretto appearing in 1295.’

The Metaphoric Graveyard.

Alan Wall: ‘Obviously, the words are not always to hand. Words disappear; they fall out of use irretrievably, particularly when a language substantially changes form.’

Brexit fudge.

Alan Macfarlane; ‘The UK has done what I did when I left my Fellowship in 1975.  It has half left the club. It is half a stranger, half a friend. It will find, as I found when I left and then have experienced when I re-joined, that there is something special in being a member of something larger than oneself in this cold world.’

Walking while white.

Peter Knobler: ‘I heard footsteps and could feel a looming presence behind me, but I was hungry and I couldn’t eat this thing properly while moving. I stopped to take a bite, bending at the waist so as not to get tahini sauce on my jacket.’

Blind boys.

Stephen Ward: ‘What both Pearson and Scapini realised- and acted upon – was that the ‘despair’ Lucas wrote of, was not insurmountable. One of the secrets of success in this respect was the kinship and the support systems among those afflicted. Life could go on.’

An invitation to support this project.

. THE PROJECT: What would a nineteenth-century general-interest periodical, with an intended audience of educated non-specialists and a studied lack of interest in both shallow political rhetoric and conventional feature journalism—and with its critical and editorial faculties intact—look like today? The answer will help us know and evaluate changes in what was once called ‘higher […]

T-units and n-grams.

Davina Allison: ‘To suggest that academic writing is anything other than syntactically complex and lexically rich is to deny writers access to a proper understanding of the academic sentence. This, in turn, denies them access to the knowledge and skills that correlate to expertise.’

Discount entrepreneurship and the start-up accelerator.

Hugo Gibson: ‘On EF, people skipped lunch and drank Huel or Soylent. They lived within walking distance of the offices. Their social lives were with other EF people. They read books like ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries or ‘Zero to One’ by Peter Thiel. They watched the latest Elon Musk press conference with zeal, setting up their laptop displays with YouTube and Musk on the left, and lines of code on the right.’

A respectable case for Brexit.

Nick O’Hear: ‘When things go wrong the EU can be pitiless. The Greeks are in a dreadful mess. Unemployment is 21 per cent, but youth unemployment is a catastrophic 45 per cent. Even if much it was their own doing, they have amassed a mountain of debt (180 per cent of GDP) with consequent failing public services. Austerity won’t get them out of this.’

A charming sense of novelty.

Christopher Landrum: ‘Machiavelli writes that legitimate governance, by either a prince or a republic, tends to accomplish new things for their people. This is because illegitimate governance is so common that its opposite always feels quite remarkable. But these new things, in order to be effective for the people, must resemble the previous things––even if their resemblance is completely contrived. For it is only the tyrant who tries to make everything appear so new that nothing resembles the old.’

Making Mugabe: the Gukurahundi massacres.

Lance Guma: ‘Wearing red berets to distinguish from the regular army the [North Korean-trained] brigade drawn from 3500 ex-ZANLA troops butchered over 20 000 people living in the southern parts of Zimbabwe believed to be opposition supporters. Mugabe christened the new brigade, ‘Gukurahundi’ which, loosely translated, means ‘the rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains’. ‘ Among his closest aides: Emmerson Mnangagwa.

A Christmas tree in Aleppo.

Denis Boyles: ‘It took until this morning, on the BBC’s “Today” programme on Radio 4, for correspondent Jeremy Bowen, cornered by Ford, to finally admit that the rebels have been systematically using the people they were ostensibly “liberating” as human shields, a war crime that went unreported.’

‘Jane Austen’ and ‘Jane Austen at home’.

Thomas Kebbel: ‘The danger to which a young lady is exposed by imagining too readily that a polite gentleman is in love with her; and the danger to which a young gentleman is exposed by imagining too readily that a good-natured girl is in love with him; the misunderstandings that arise from careless conversation, from exaggerated reserve, from overrated pretensions, from all the little mistakes which create the common embarrassments of ordinary society; these are the minor mischiefs which [Jane Austen’s] pen is devoted to setting in their proper light, and no man or woman turned forty will deny that such work may be of great utility, or that anybody who chooses to read her novels with a view to practical instruction may learn a great deal from them. ‘