Proust Questionnaire

R. Darren Gobert is the author of The Mind-Body Stage (Stanford University Press), The Theatre of Caryl Churchill (Bloomsbury), and numerous articles on modern and contemporary drama, dramatic and performance theory, and the philosophy of theatre. His honours include best-book prizes from the Canadian Association for Theatre Research and the American Society for Theatre Research, the John Charles Polanyi Prize for Literature, and both the Dean’s Award (2007) and President’s University-Wide Award for Outstanding Teaching (2016) at York University, where he teaches in English and Theatre & Performance Studies. He is also appointed to the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto, where he edits Modern Drama.

Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A: When the right subject finds the right verb.

Q: What is your greatest fear?

A: Running out of ideas.

Q: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

A: Impatience.

Q: What is the trait you most deplore in others?

A: Lack of consideration.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?

A: Mary Norris.

Q: What is your greatest extravagance?

A: Travel!

Q: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

A: “Productivity”.

Q: When and where were you happiest?

A: Whenever I see a perfect, final proof.

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

A: My introversion.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement?

A: Whatever piece of writing I have just finished, for a few minutes before I revert to nitpicking.

Q: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

A: Reading, say, the New York Times and seeing “less” when “fewer” is meant.

Q: What is your most marked characteristic?

A: Attention to detail.

Q: What do you most value in your friends?

A: A sense of humour.

Q: Who are your favorite writers?

A: Too many to list, but currently I’m dazzled by Selma Lagerlöf.

Q: What is it that you most dislike?

A: Indifference to good writing (which is distinct from difficulty writing well).

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Empowering Diversity

by UTP Journals on November 7, 2017

Written by guest blogger, Dr. Walter Schultz.


Empowering diversity, thereby securing a multicultural society, may depend on how we retain the unique human person within the context of family, ethnicity and culture. How do we reconcile or, if need be, overcome individualism and collectivism? The person, developed and sustained within community, is the key. Jacques Maritain, a far too neglected Christian philosopher from the twentieth century, confronted the smug, bourgeois individualism of his time, arguing that the promotion of private freedoms paved the way for the totalitarian monstrosities which plagued the latter half of his century. Maritain was prescient, ahead of the current, popular postmodern critique of the rational, self-serving individual prone to attaining power through totalitarian structures and ideologies which colonize and marginalize the other. However, if any credibility is allowed the many condemnatory critics of postmodernism from the Left and the Right (among them Noam Chomsky, Charles Taylor and Jordan Peterson), postmodernism may be offering us a fallacious and finally dangerous interpretation of the myriad struggles against oppressive forces currently unfolding.

Maritain distinguishes between individual and person: the individual denotes the material pole of a human being, the biological organization housing our instinctual drives and spatiotemporal orientation; the human being is a person by virtue of a spiritual pole, the seat of intellect and will. Each human being is a unique composite of the two, and orientation toward one to the diminishment or exclusion of the other is perceived by Maritain as pathology. It is precisely the intellectual nature of the human composite which elevates it in the most formidable way: “In intellectual creatures alone,” Maritain tells us referencing the mediaeval theologian, Thomas Aquinas, “. . . is found the image of God. In no other creature, not even in the universe as a whole, is this found ” (Maritain, 1972, pp. 18-19).

It is crucial to recognize that Maritain’s focus on uniqueness points the way toward a truly human community and society acknowledging the inalienable rights of all, wherein each is for all and all is for each. Being concerned with developing a healthy human composite, empowerment involves family, ethnicity and culture without diminishing the unique person. As Maritain would have it:

The common good of the city is neither the mere collection of private goods, nor the proper good of a whole which, like the species with respect to its individuals or the hive with respect to its bees, relates the parts to itself alone and sacrifices them to itself. It is the good human life of the multitude, of a multitude of persons; it is their communion in good living. It is therefore common to both the whole and the parts into which it flows back and which, in turn, must benefit from it (Maritain, 1972, pp. 50-51).

Failing to acknowledge the full stature of the human person as the image of God in community, humanity can only fall back into its material individuality. As the icons of postmodernism, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari would have it, human bodies participate in creative desire and power as isolated members of a greater whole. For Deleuze and Guattari, such emphasis on varied intensities of desire is founded within a univocal conceptualization of being. Failing to acknowledge the difference of human beings truly unique while analogically similar, as is the case with Aquinas and Maritain, returns us full circle to the very source of the power struggles marring the development of Western culture. Daniel M. Bell, Jr., a contributor to the radical orthodoxy project, which maintains a theological perspective that looks back to the origins of the Church while investigating modern and postmodern thought, summarizes the failure of postmodernism to escape the hegemonic forces which colonize and marginalize the other:

From whence cometh the confidence that the flows of desire, deprived of any shared end and barred from analogous participation in the other (which entails desire be understood not merely as assertive or creative, but also as receptive), will not simply collide in absolute war? As was perhaps most famously pointed out by Thomas Hobbes, the sort of nominalist-voluntarist account of desire that Deleuze advocates requires a teleology (whether divinely given or imposed by a secular state) to avoid a state of bellum omnis contra omnem (Bell, 2001, p.34).

References

Daniel M. Bell, Jr. (2001). Liberation Theology After the End of History: The Refusal to Cease Suffering. London and New York: Routledge.
Jacques Maritain. (1972). The Person and the Common Good. Translated by John J. Fitzgerald. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press.


Walter Schultz is an Auxiliary Professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at the Dominican University College. Look out for Dr. Schultz’s article “Liberation, Postmodernism and Jacques Maritain: Confronting Individualism and Collectivism in the Twenty-First Century” in the upcoming Fall 2017 issue of the Toronto Journal of Theology.

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Written by the Canadian Journal of History/Annales Canadiennes d’Histoire


Jan Záhořík is an Africanist who teaches at the department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen. His article on the Cold War relationship between the former Czechoslovakia and Congo/Zaire is available in the latest issue of the CJH/ACH.

CJH/ACH: What made you pursue a career in history?

JZ: My main focus is on African history and politics, and secondary on European-African relations. I have been attracted by African history and politics because I have seen it as something totally different from European history with its nation-states, world wars, and big –isms throughout the 20th century. African history seemed to me much more complex. For instance, in order to understand African politics, one has to take into account lots of things we do not think about in Europe that much, such as religion, ethnicity, clan identity, territory, mythology, etc. And when it comes to the so-called big history, like Czechoslovak-African relations, it only shows how everything in history is interlinked.

CJH/ACH: When dealing with a topic that has so many historical actors, how do you keep track of all the parties involved and make sense of their actions? How does incorporating so many perspectives impact your research – for example, your archival visits?

JZ: I see history and historical events as [a] network in which everything happens as a reaction or in interaction with other events, or actors. I also believe in broader social scientific research that goes beyond pure archival research. History is about interpretation, and about complexities. From my point of view, as an historian of Africa, I do not believe so much in history being done by great personalities but rather as a complex set of relations, actions, reactions, and interactions where everything is in one way or another interlinked.

CJH/ACH: Your article uses documents that have only recently been opened up to research. What does it mean for historians when new documents are uncovered and/or released?

JZ: It is absolutely great. First, there is this feeling that perhaps no one before you has ever read or analyzed the materials so you are the first one using them for scholarly purposes. Second, it extends our understanding of events that have not been fully researched or analyzed.

CJH/ACH: Can you comment on the importance of archival work to history?

JZ: Archival work is obviously important, one of the main parts of historical research. But as I said, as an historian of Africa, I do not rely solely on archival research because history is about interpretations. It, of course, depends on a particular topic but generally any kind of source, whether unpublished or published, is a useful tool for our understanding of the studied problem. Therefore, students should primarily read, and read in order to not only broaden their knowledge but also critically think about different approaches to historical thinking, different views on a particular problem, and therefore different interpretations.

CJH/ACH: What do you think the role of the historian is in today’s world?

JZ: The way we understand our history is the way we will shape our future. That sounds perhaps too simplistic but we see in everyday life, in the media, attempts to “rewrite” history, to question brutalities of Nazism, Communism, and other –isms in the 20th century. So there is a significant space for historians, as well as other scholars, to analyze and explain various historical processes to [the] general public, because what happened yesterday may affect what will happen tomorrow, to simplify it a little bit.

Part 1 is online here.


Read Jan Záhořík’s article “Czechoslovakia and Congo/Zaire under Mobutu, 1965-1980” FREE for a limited time online here: http://bit.ly/CJH522d.

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Written by the Canadian Journal of History/Annales Canadiennes d’Histoire


Jan Záhořík is an Africanist who teaches at the department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen. His article on the Cold War relationship between the former Czechoslovakia and Congo/Zaire is available in the latest issue of the CJH/ACH.

Dr. Záhořík’s main area of research is modern and contemporary African history and politics. He noted, however, that “because I come from the Czech Republic I also feel I have some sort of duty to explore and analyze our history in regard to Africa. Former Czechoslovakia played quite a significant role in Africa during the Cold War.”

As explained in the article, in 1964 an agreement of scientific-technological cooperation was signed between Czechoslovakia and Congo/Zaire. We asked Dr. Záhořík about the significance of this agreement and whether it was an unusual arrangement. He explained: “Former Czechoslovakia was trying to establish multiple multilevel relations with many African countries by that time. Of course, one of the main aspects was export of arms and ammunition – Czechoslovakia was the 6th biggest exporter of weapons to Africa in the 1960s and 1970s – but besides this there was a big tendency to establish fruitful cooperation in research, medical care, [and] education. Dozens, or better to say hundreds, of Czechoslovak teachers, medical doctors, and engineers served in Africa during the Cold War, and this is one of the main reasons why Czechoslovakia, or now Czech Republic, has still a good name in many corners of Africa.”

Dr. Záhořík explained that with this article, new light is shed on the economic interactions between the Eastern Bloc and African countries during this time period. He noted that, “for a long time, presence of the Eastern Bloc actors in Africa has been seen as rather ideological, supporting primarily socialist or Marxist regimes, but as this study shows, there were many rather pragmatic reasons for cooperation with, in this case, African regimes such as that of Mobutu in the Congo, who was otherwise one of the main regional Western allies.” Though he was familiar with a similar pragmatic relationship between Ethiopia and Czechoslovakia, he was still surprised by the degree of pragmatism he found in trade relations between Czechoslovakia and Congo/Zaire. He noted that “the results show that Czechoslovak foreign policy towards Africa turned quickly from, let us say, an era of naïve ideological ‘export’ to a rather pragmatic approach.”

In addition to the various other restrictions it created, the Cold War stilled dissemination of academic work between the Eastern and Western Blocs. Dr. Záhořík stressed that now that these barriers have been removed, we must continue to work to break down others. He emphasized that scholars in the Eastern bloc did excellent work, but they were unable to share it with the outside world. Now that the political climate has changed, Dr. Záhořík believes that publishing in English what may seem like “minor” subject matter “may help us to understand certain historical events and processes in a different light. Therefore, I am sure there will be more works on, for instance, Czechoslovak-African relations in the near future.”

Part 2 now online here.


Read Jan Záhořík’s article “Czechoslovakia and Congo/Zaire under Mobutu, 1965-1980” FREE for a limited time online here: http://bit.ly/CJH522d.

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Written by guest blogger, Christopher B. Zeichmann.


Christopher B. Zeichmann, “Champion of the Oppressed: Redescribing the Jewishness of Superman as Populist Authenticity Politics.” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 29.2 (Summer 2017) – now available to read here

It’s exciting enough to get a manuscript accepted for publication, but since it was on the topic of Superman and Jewish identity, I knew my childhood self was cheering as well. Among the refereed suggestions for revisions was the following: “I very much like the inclusion of relevant scans of the comics. My only suggestion here would be to balance out the social justice samples with ones referenced later in the article that make the case for Superman’s Jewishness – e.g., the panels that mention Samson.” Easy enough: several comic book panels jumped to mind to which I had access and might clarify things for the reader. The editors were happy with the new scans and that was the end of the story, or so I thought…

A few months later, UTP asked me to procure reproduction permission for these images. Though the images would presumably fall under “fair use” policies, UTP understandably has a policy that requiring explicit permission to avoid legal issues. This seemed straightforward enough to me: since I’m not making any money on this article and UTP is a university press, DC Comics would happily grant such permission. First, I was surprised at how incredibly difficult it was to even find contact information for DC Comics’ rights-and-permissions department; nothing is posted on their website, nor on the website of their parent company, Warner Entertainment, and the few references to a phone number I found online were to their old offices before they moved from the east coast to the west coast. After a few days of fruitless googling, I decided to go with the “Hail Mary” option of calling Warner Brothers’ main number and just getting transferred until I found someone who could help me. This took a few hours and several phone calls, but eventually I got hold of someone who gave me the email address to get hold of the right person.

Initial correspondence was encouraging, but this was tempered when I spoke with my father – he works at a company that recently got permission make their product with “major brand” logos on them. My father, in his kind and loving way, informed me that my optimism might be misplaced; if I thought about the situation from DC’s perspective, they had no reason to give permission to reproduce that wouldn’t net them any money. It would turn out he was more or less correct. DC Comics has not denied me permission, but they have ceased responding to me.

UTP and I have come up with two viable workarounds. First, one of the benefits of a digital-only journal is that I can link readers to a relevant page on my own personal website, where I have already reproduced the images for presenting similar work [http://christopherzeichmann.com/superman/]. DC is normally quite happy to have fansites promote their properties, so long as they do not reproduce entire comics and do profit from it – that is, I don’t have much to worry about myself. Second, there are a few obscure-but-relevant comic book stories that are in the public domain, including the famous one up above of Superman threatening Adolf Hitler. UTP and I have not yet decided on which of the two (or a combination thereof) we might adopt, but all hope is not lost. All of this to say, if you’re hoping to reproduce images of a major intellectual property in an article, it may be good to have backup options.


Christopher B. Zeichmann’s article on Superman and Jewish identity, titled “Champion of the Oppressed: Redescribing the Jewishness of Superman as Populist Authenticity Politics,” appears in the Summer 2017 issue of the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture. Available to read on JRPC Online or on Project MUSE.

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SONGS TO LISTEN TO WHILE READING MY ARTICLE

September 14, 2017

Written by guest blogger, Eric Spalding.   Eric-Spalding, University of the Fraser Valley Below is a playlist to listen to while reading my article on Canadian content regulations for commercial radio in the 1970s. I tried to think of favourite Canadian songs that I heard on the radio back in that decade, when I was […]

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Watchmen, Nostalgia, and Fascism; or, Rorschach Voted Trump (Part 2 of 2)

September 7, 2017

Written by guest blogger, Kathryn Imray.   READ PART ONE HERE The grown Rorschach’s enemies are ‘lechers,’ communists, liberals, the pampered and decadent, intellectuals, smooth-talkers, heroin users, child pornographers, homosexuals, politicians, ‘whores,’ women who have children by different fathers, and welfare cheats (1:1, 14 16, 19). Some rapists are not acceptable (4:23), others aren’t so […]

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Watchmen, Nostalgia, and Fascism; or, Rorschach Voted Trump (Part 1 of 2)

September 5, 2017

Written by guest blogger, Kathryn Imray. PART TWO NOW ONLINE Rorschach is the character I appreciate least in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen,* and I begrudgingly included him in my article for the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture on theodicies in Watchmen. To summarize my argument there, Rorschach represents the position that evil, […]

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The Official Secrets Act and the PICNIC Wiretapping Program

August 16, 2017

Written by guest blogger, Dennis Molinaro. *Dennis Molinaro’s upcoming article, “In the Field of Espionage, There’s No Such Thing as Peacetime”: The Official Secrets Act and the PICNIC Wiretapping Program”, will be available in the forthcoming issue of the Canadian Historical Review, Vol. 98, Issue 3 (2017). Author Dennis Molinaro whose article on The Official […]

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Orthodoxy in Dialogue

August 14, 2017

Written by guest blogger, Giacomo Sanfilippo.   Orthodoxy in Dialogue Orthodoxy in Dialogue, an online publication edited by three doctoral students in theological studies at Trinity College in the University of Toronto, is scheduled to launch on September 1 with a maiden article by the editors, “The State of Orthodox Theology Today.” The editorial committee […]

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