September 21, 2004

Cooking à la française

Posted by Curt at 08:07 AM in Words of Wisdom | permalink | comment

The professor of my expression course (who is French, by the way) gave me this (with my own translation):

Recette de la nation française

Séparez les sourires de toutes les autres expressions. Jetez les sourires mais gardez les autres. Ajoutez les froncements de sourcils et beaucoup de mauvaise humeur. Remuez jusqu'à obtenir un mélange froid.
Mettez une cigarette entre les lèvres, ajoutez une écharpe et versez dans une manifestation. Pour un goût piquant, ajoutez M. Le Pen. Placez dans un four chaud et faites bouillir. Ça prendra 5 minutes peut-être.
Attendez samedi, puis prenez une équipe de rugby. Ajoutez un stade, une grande foule et une équipe anglaise. Battez l'équipe française pendant 80 minutes. Vous obtiendrez une nation très triste. Versez alors du vin rouge pour oublier la défaite.

Recipe for the French nation

Separate the smiles from all the other expressions. Throw away the smiles but keep the others. Add frowns and lots of bad temper. Stir until you have a chilly mixture.
Put a cigarette between the lips, add a scarf and place in a demonstration. For a sharper taste, add M. Le Pen. Place in a hot oven and boil. This will take maybe 5 minutes.
Wait for Saturday, then take a rugby team. Add a stadium, a large crowd and an English team. Batter the French team for 80 minutes. You will obtain a very sad nation. Therefore, pour some red wine to forget the defeat.

September 15, 2004

Does one really have to go to France for relief?

Posted by Curt at 08:20 AM in Literature | permalink | 3 comments

So I was in my literature course at the institute in Tours, and we were discussing Ronsard’s sonnet 16, when a girl pipes up: “This may be an overly feminist interpretation, but…I think the way that Ronsard frames his poem, purporting to impart a lesson to a much younger woman with whom he is in love implicitly demonstrates his belief in her inferior intelligence and status in the relationship.” To which the French professor replied…”You’re right. That is an overly feminist interpretation of this text.” Of course she mitigated the rejection by explaining it as a cultural difference, with the French putting more weight on traditional modes of interpretation, but she didn’t exactly throw open the gates to more idle speculation of this kind. While it was undoubtedly a small victory, and I certainly have my differences with French literary methodolgy, after so many years of ideological drudgery in American schools, it was somewhat of a priceless moment for me.

Ok, as obvious of a target as sociological lit. crit. may be, perhaps that statement requires a bit of justification. I certainly don’t question the general validity of the sorts of conclusions that sociological lit. critics derive, but sometimes I wonder why they even turn to the study of literature, instead of remaining esconced within the pseudosciences where they belong. It would be vain to deny that subconscious cultural and societal assumptions underlie literary texts, but exposing them frequently does not yield insights that are any more brilliant or out of the ordinary from those which one could gain by consulting a land register or a marriage contract. This sort of interpretation tends to reduce all literature from a given epoch to an undifferentiated lump of cultural assumptions, without anything to distinguish works from each other or from more mundane records of economic transactions. Not to be overly cruel about it, but the current dominance of this sort of theory within American universities lends some credence to the semi-prevalent view that in general Americans don’t care about literature or learning except insofar as it correlates with their manic pursuit of, and obsession with, money and social climbing.

September 02, 2004

The decline and fall of the French tourism empire

Posted by Curt at 10:40 AM in Ramblings | permalink | comment

I too have been consistently absent for some time, but unlike Clay, I cannot promise a return to fecundity of entries anytime soon, thanks to the high price of Internet in Europe. Well, actually the Internet café where I am writing at the moment is free, but that will all come to an end in three weeks. Anyway, I’m in Tours, France, right now, which is a beautiful city, but seems to have a bit of a geo-cultural identity crisis. It seems to be a bit of northern and southern Europe at the same time. The temperatures in the morning would lead one to believe one was in northern Europe, whereas the temperatures at mid-day would incline one more towards southern Europe. Likewise, the stands of deciduous trees all around definitely incline more to the North, but the scattered palms and orange trees point more to the South. Add to the fact that many of the residents’ families immigrated fairly recently (by European standards) from other parts of France, and the makings of a hodge-podge are quite definite. In any case, at least decadence does not have to conceal its name here, and we can celebrate the chateaux which rise up across the land like upraised middle fingers directed at the peasants without even the discreeteness to disguise themselves as fortresses for the commoners’ protection. Or maybe they rise so far above our bourgeois notions of social justice that even the notion of such a thing as class antagonism seems a rather gauche motivation to ascribe to their creators. And I, riding the crest of five hundred years of contortion and revolution, can profit from their example without being subject to anything more severe than the 50% sales tax on Fanta. Anyway, I must be going, as the light waneth and my computer’s battery draineth, for as the French say: “Après le PowerBook muert, le déluge.”