Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Carnival of Blog Translation - a post from La letra escarlata

Here is my (rather hasty, last minute) translation of a post by Hester Prynne of La letra escarlata, "Primera persona del singular del futuro imperfecto"; done for the first Carnival of Blog Translation over on the ALTA blog. (I apologize for any mistakes or awkward phrasing, and anyone can feel free to correct me.)

And --- I have to say --- what fun this is!

First person singular future imperfect

A ticket for a bet on the films that might make it to the Oscars this year, four beer cans crumpled as if they were balls of paper where someone didn't find inspiration, a container of dirty paintbrushes, a radio set (playing happy reggaeton that everyone in the world tends to listen to lately and that gives me a headache), a smell that hasn't been aired out for several days, a mountain of sheets on the bed, a pizza box I don't dare to open.

"Did you find it?" asks my housemate from the kitchen, where she's making sandwiches, she'll leave everything messed up and I don't care very much, because I've gotten used to it. People in the United States are very disorderly; the most neglectful person in Madrid can't surpass it. I think it's becuase they have so many things, trivial things that sometimes don't seem to serve any purpose, things that they buy every time they go to the shopping center -- I don't know.

"Yes, here it is, thanks." I pick up the book I was looking for, under a pile of notebooks. I close the door.

Outside it's snowing. I put on my black overcoat, the thickest one I have, the scarf and legwarmers my bruja made me (isn't she wonderful?). The gloves my friend Henar gave me, the hat with earflaps that makes me look Peruvian.

How landscapes change according to time's passing. Now the leafeless trees show what was hidden when I arrived in summer to Saratoga Springs. many people walking hurried with their paper cups full of coffee. I nevertheless am stupified, with my nose redder and redder, gazing at infinity.

More and more, I grow conscious that I'm living a sort of privileged parenthesis. In this one year I've been put in a bubble whwere I know what I'm supposed to do with every minute. To go to class, to read, to study, to write, to work, to go to dinner, to take a walk... I don't have to set out to plan anything on my own, the elitist university system of the United States of America protects me.

But there, watching me, is the near future. June will come and in its backpack loads up verbs like: getting my degree, writing, (or salvation, for me it means the same), working, going back... It's a future that scares me but at the same time appeals to me. The great bourgeois problem of "what do I do with my life" that we have the luxury of being able to ponder.

Saratoga celebrates the Winterfest, an equivalent to Groundhog Day (Day of the Marmot) that is celebrated in Pennsylvania, and by which people predict how much winter is left (I don't know if you've ever seen the film by Atrapando about this time, about this event). There's a buffet of soups in all the town's restaurants, a display of snowmen, and somehow, a band plays with its trombones semifrozen. I have a book in my bag and there's my favorite cafe. Whenever I go in, my glasses fog up and with the paraphrenalia of scarf, bag, purse, and all that, it takes me a while to clean them off and look around me. The girl behind the bar recognizes me and knows that Iike the hazelnut coffee. She makes me want to say:
"Eeeeeh, could I have also just a little bit of the future, please?"

I hope that my life is always a mix of the Unitedstatesian messy room and precise protective bubble, of glasses misty with the heat of an agreeable place where they know what kind of coffee you like and the white cold of a snowfall predicted by the dreams of a marmot, that forces you to open yourself to a road of responsibility and risk. There are things that I know I want, things I don't know if I want, things that I know I don't want... There's fears, there's goals, there's laziness, there's the emotions of an uncertain and tempting future. I'm going to end this post with a rotten rhetorical question, but oh such a true one: who said going outside is easy?

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Woolf Camp

woolf camp
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.
Here's some of the crowd at WoolfCamp, a writing/blogging retreat.

Duuuuude! It was heavenly to hang out with those 30+ women and 5 men, most of them with laptops surgically attached to their bodies. All people who find it normal to listen while typing. In fact, typing during a conversation is a compliment; it means you're taking notes because the conversation is so cool you want to write it up in realtime.

We had discussions on ideas like:

- Who is your audience, and why do you care?
- Gender, blogging as a genre
- Blogging, business, and feminism
- tagging; thinking about tagging
- memoir

And demos/workshops like

- nifty bloggy techie tools
- art blogging
- videoblogging and podcasting

And there was a poetry reading. I swear, I had no idea people really *wanted* a poetry reading. They did, and lots of people participated.

Grace, Jackie and I wanted to mix up literary, arty, and techie people a bit, and bring together people who love blogging, in an unconferencey, informal way. We had a feminist take on the event, are closely connected with BlogHer and mommyblogging, and wanted to work hard to bring people into the conversation who might usually hang back.

One of my main goals was to bring people together. I was so happy to see everyone making personal connections, and I got to meet a lot of awesome bloggers! Intensity, and people who get excited about ideas, give me energy. I don't require people to prove themselves as some kind of big technical expert, or a zillionaire, or ask them where they work, before I listen to their ideas and take them seriously! The non-"legitimate" people are often edge-thinkers who don't just think outside the box, they live outside it. (That automatically includes most mommybloggers, especially the potty-mouthed and dirty minded kind.)

My own favorite conversations were in the "gender and genre" discussion, diva-ed by Amber Hatfield; I also loved the ideas thrown around in "Who's your audience" diva-ed by Emily!

Personal blogging had many strong voices in the mix. It was a given that personal blogging can be a political and feminist act. I liked what Emily said: "If I like what you write, I want to read everything about everything. Your kids, your job, your bowel movements. So I like it all mashed up, which is how I love to blog."

Chris Heuer answered with this excellent thought about the importance of categories and tagging in mixy-uppy blogging: "The whole self is very intriguing. But we don't have enough time to get to know everyone on that deep level."

It was also a given that blogging was a serious literary or artistic endeavor - or can be. That in itself was interesting and empowering. We were a group of people who share that belief.

I have more to say, and in more detail, but I've been flying on one brain cell for the last couple of days, and have a lot going on, for school, writing projects, and friends in crisis.

Can some of the people who took notes in discussions, post them raw?

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Friday, February 17, 2006

transparency, identity, blogging

Huzzah for this article... Jon Udell on transparency in blogging professional life.

The issue here isn't simply that employers don't get what blogging is or can be. I think that's changing. I think there is an emerging consensus that professional lives can, should, and will be lived more transparently. But a successful negotiation of the limits of that transparency will be incredibly tricky. I'm hopeful that we'll get there, but doubtful that we'll get there soon.

People are going there, but it's risky. I said last year at BlogHer that academic scientists are blogging about their work more than academics in the humanities. For example - Pharyngula. But no one knows the boundaries.

Are the most interesting details inevitably the most unbloggable, either because they're proprietary, or because they reveal interpersonal complexity, or because they go too far into "private lives"? I think the blogosphere is revealing the power and danger of gossip. Feminists have often reclaimed the idea of gossip - and that's going to happen again so that "what is trivial" will be redefined, remodeled. I know I harp on Feyerabend's "Against Method", but its ideas about how science works, how research and intellectual development actually unfold, are crucial here. What history points to as important, the narrative process of intellectual history, is not always "what happened". Blogging, especially professional/personal blogging, will expose the richness of experience to a wide audience. Autobiography will change. And we can apply blog or social network models of reality to the past, as well; what if we represented, say, a literary/intellectual movement not through biography which shapes lives into a narrative, or an encyclopedia of biographical entries, but instead, create "Orkut 1910"? What would that look like?

Just as it's pertinent information to know someone else's blogroll from now -- i.e. I share something in common with other readers of Pandagon and Bitch Ph.D., with the other commenters there -- it would be lovely to draw sideways-going, networky, intersecting nexi (nexuses?) of people in various disciplines.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

function of the line

A handy link to Denise Levertov's essay On the Function of the Line. (So I don't lose it... I'll come back to this later.)

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

One book to rule them all

I just got back from the library/community meeting to choose the possible books for the "One Book, One Community" program that will happen in May. Our town has about 90,000 people and about half of them speak Spanish (counting the unincorporated part of town that has the most Spanish speakers, an extra 15,000.)

The library committee had chosen a list of possible books, but then the city council said, "Hey, why didn't you ask the community." So, they threw out that list, and opened an invitation. I came because I'm in the local mothers' club, and another mom asked a few people she knew loved books to participate. Two of us went. Other groups represented: high school teachers, elementary school librarians, senior citizens, librarians, one Latina librarian, men, and high school students.

At our first meeting, we brainstormed a list of qualitites we felt were important for The Book to have. This worked very well. The list of qualities was rewritten into loosely grouped categories. Then we voted, three votes each, on the most important qualities. Our top three picks were: available in Spanish and English; of high interest to the community; and ability to cross generational lines, i.e. be accessible as far downward in age as possible. "Good story" and "interestingness" I think got folded into "of high interest" which originally meant "topical, relevant to our town". "Literariness" was actually a negative quality even though many people in the room personally liked it.

Not voted on, but often mentioned, was that the book had to be something that would not be offputting to men. We all seemed to know what this meant. It was a dealbreaker quality. No one liked this idea, but there was a sort of pragmatic consensus.

That was three weeks ago. We all talked to people in our communities and came up with no more than 5 books each that we felt would have the right qualities, and that we felt passionate about. I put the question out there, "So are we committing to the idea of availability in Spanish?" And there was reluctance... though it had the most votes. Tonight there was a moment again where some books only in English might have slipped through, but I put my back up, and then the librarian agreed, and everyone else went with it. I was glad. My main goal of being there was fulfilled...

We had an interesting discussion of books that were good, but that were overused, were sort of too canonical. The Giver, or The Red Pony, or House on Mango Street. The high school student sort of closed her eyes and groaned at all these, which have become standard middle-school reading list fare. I was thinking of House on Mango Street as standard community-college fare, but that was 20 years ago. Now it's for middle school!

There were only a few of us for this second meeting: The high school girl (new), the senior citizen (she was in favor of more 'literary' options), the other mom-club woman's husband who is a community college lit prof and who was the only non-anglo, me, the librarian who was unbearably cool, and some other old guy who seemed quite well read and interesting, parent of a high school student. I was impressed with everyone. They had all made sincere efforts to ask around and get opinions!

We had some discussion, ruled out a few books, spoke up in favor of some others, passed books around the table, and came up with:

- The Kite Runner
- Before We Were Free
- Grapes of Wrath
- Seabiscuit
- Their Eyes Were Watching God

That's a pretty cool list. I could lose "Seabiscuit" and not care, but the rest of it's fine! I don't think anyone will vote for Grapes of Wrath, which IMHO is too long at 600-ish pages, and also too high of a reading level. "Before We Were Free" was my suggestion. I loved the idea of everyone reading "The Moon is Down", but could not find it in print in Spanish. The other book we wanted that wasn't in print in Spanish: Night, by Elie Wiesel.

I would have been unnerved to suggest The Kite Runner, but the high school girl's freshman class had read it and all really liked it and had super intense discussions. "It's got war, it's got racism, it's got father-son relationships, and going back to your old country, and class issues, it's got EVERYTHING," - radiating valley-girly intensity enthusiasm.
"And it's, well, it's sort of about, it's got this... rape. Of a guy." Okay, after that endorsement from a 14 year old, we were all voting for it! Plus the author lives here. I'll probably vote for it over my original choice.

Well, I wanted to write that all up because it was a great example of actual community involvement in politics and in canon formation.

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Carnival of Blog Translation

Announcing the first Carnival of Blog Translation! Tuesday, Feb. 28th, 2006!

On the day of the Carnival, a participant translates one post by another blogger, and posts it on her own blog with a link to the original. She would need to email me, or post in the comments right here, and I'll compile one big post on the day of the Carnival with links to all the participants.

You can translate any blog entry that was posted in the month of February 2006. It can be your own blog entry, if you like.

From participants I need:

your name
name of your blog
your blog URL
post title in target language

name of blog you're translating
name of person you're translating
that URL
the post title in the source language

You should get permission from the person you're translating to post your translation of their work. I would also suggest that you might introduce your translation for the target-language audience, and provide some context if you can.

A Blog Carnival is sort of like a travelling signpost that points to a bunch of magazine articles. It is a post that contains links to other posts written especially on a particular theme. I'll host it this month, and next month will hand it off to another host. The content will not appear here; only links to that content!

If you're looking for a blog in a particular language, try searching on Technorati, a useful blog search engine.

This idea came from a discussion on Bev Traynor's blog and further discussion of bilingual blogging and tagging at BlogHer. I'm excited about the idea and its possibilities!

*** Rebecca Mckay points out that the "Translation Carnival" is a graduate student conference happening at University of Iowa in April. Here's some information on the U. of Iowa Translation Carnival; it sounds like a great event!

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Waverley report, January reading

I'm behind in my notes on readings that I go to. Here's some notes from the January meeting of Waverley Writers, a large, friendly open mike that happens in a Quaker church. The MC, Jean Chacona, introduces people in groups of three.

Willy - "remember standing... wearing sheepskin vest, wanting nothing..." Streetcorner poem. "Before there was a before." A bit of messing with rhyme and meter. I think for a moment of the Tom Lehrer song, "The Folk Song Army."

Ron Lang - "Middle East Politics"

Ella Rae Locke - as always, her odd use of language stands out. She will always use a 50 cent word where you'd expect sparseness of a nickel one. It's jarring, I'm not sure it works, it struck me at first as if she took every noun and adjective, looked them up in the thesaurus, and replaced them with the longest most multi-syllabic word; and yet it charms me as part of her attempt at baroque style. "mouth to mouth resuscitation, loaded beyond recognition, and accrue malignant momentum, evolutionary editing as involuntary as wet clothes, consenting mandatory neutralizing meaningless significants awareness nuisances lay their libellousness immunity testimony reality...." That is not a direct quote but as I listened I was jotting down the Big Words. I like the effect, in fact, the more it grates on me.


Muriel - "Short Stories". "She is afraid of him. He was afraid of her. He likes his own friends more."

Anita Holz - "Paper making". Competently descriptive prose paragraphs. I wonder why it's a poem. In fact, it's not. Would be fine as a short magazine article or memoir about an experience.

Steven Riddle - "Notes of the bird." "My lost ghost tracks me... The egret stalks; beauty eats beauty."


Tom Digby - Quality vs. Quality. Dammit, I can't read my notes and I've forgotten the poem. Does this say "wheelmaker"?

Dude whose name I forgot. This poem was so long and simple in concept that I began to write down bits of it. "I was a bad boy. They didn't beat the others, only me. The cycle must end. Let it end with me. No abuse from me for my boys. So I left them. I was bad. I was not a bad man. I am a good man. I have done good things. I have done bad things. Fear into strength. Pain into enlightenment. " Okay, it was heartfelt and sincere. But it made me think of the children's book, "Pickles the Fire Cat". "Pickles was not a good cat. Pickles was not a bad cat. He was good and bad. He was a mixed-up cat." I recognize the value of such therapy poems. This one was very sweet and very clear. Just not my cup of tea.

Christine Holland - "so lightly out, brief candles... Fatima at 16... he murdered her to clean their name." Christine has been reading more political poems lately. Much more raw and painful than what she was reading a year ago.

Brucey Slama - "Merlot merlot/ low to the ground/ coy as a boy/ joy for all/ tall not small." and an ice cream poem. "Flavors with nuts/Best, I assert/ Don't like sorbet or sherbert." Okay. Let's move on.

Peter Chow - Guy who wrote that one really good, long, 100-poem, with the line I liked about bones and snow. This poem is one he wrote when he mom (recently) died, and it's a burial poem, an acrostic on "gratitude". He read a second poem about her in the morgue. "a quilt with eight swans over us / Plato says the swan sings... /the Sanskrit for swan/ you have a good heart, mama..."

Greg Kimura - Oh, now here's a poet. Huzzah! "The thousand and first kiss; or, how men love". So excellent and such a relief, I did not take any notes. I'd like to hear him feature somewhere.


David Cummings - "The last of the leaves". Hearing David's poems is one of the main reasons to go to Waverley. always excellent.

John Hutton - "July 4 1998". "You are celery and I am tomato/ and somehow we embrace/as your mother / cruises by on a Harley..." Excellent! Everyone liked it, too. Hutton's nerdy quirkiness worked well, here.

Aline S. - "in the hospital, 45 breaths per minute from the respirator/ to keep your organs pink and healthy/ later I counted/ the people at your funeral.... your urn... we can measure that too, you get smaller all the time/day by day by measured day." Good! Very quintessentially Waverleyish.
Rob Parry announce a meeting of Bay Area Book Arts.
(Announcement deleted at poet's request)
Someone recommends we take a look at the paintings in Books, Inc. in Mountain View.


Steve Arntson - "Helicopter dust". Another main reason to come to Waverley. One of the best poets in the Bay Area, but almost no one seems to know it.

Me - two poems, "queen of swords" which is just 2 lines, and "this is the first morning", a hard poem for me to read. It's like it's in the voice of me 15 years ago. "where is the surface of my body? organ sonorous,/ when in the wave-cold blast i shrink from touch/ the present mixes with the past and I tune out..."

Bruce Jewett - "I never get screwed by car salesman/ I never play video poker/ But I bought a war, once." So good! Another poem on paper-making; "paper a paper-maker just made.... long after I forget my own name..." I dig Bruce's work and his aesthetic.


(Deleted at poet's request)

Kit bliss Jones - "girlfriend" "Life is uncertainty, so eat dessert first." Rhyming poem.

Len Anderson - Flamenco poem. "The deeper his grief/ the ... consolation... / he too was... by the turning of the earth..." Damn. I can't read my notes, but it was a very good poem. I always enjoy Len's poems, usually explorations of a form, and he also has a keen pen for style. I love his marvellous parody of Howl - the silicon valley version, "Beep".
"I am always grateful for the repetition of notes; /it tells me the music will go on / after I leave the room." Aw yeah! Tell it, Len!

Judith Bishop - Ants. "I spray hot water over the crawling dishes... " Ants on the dishes. Suburban goddess of destruction.
Then a long story. Solstice - Native american ceremony - spirals - recovery from alcoholism. This, also, very quintessentially Waverleyish. But must it be a poem? Why not foray into memoir or "spoken word"? There's some necessary fermentation missing, a bit frustrating to hear because it's so close, and Judith is a good writer.

Jayne Kos - Temple... stairs... I'm sorry to Jayne but at this point I spaced out and lost the thread of attention.

Jean Chacona - "Infiltration" - love - entrails - black box - a lock, but also leaks - knowing there is no cure. Another good poem from Jean. Also, I admired her black, grey, and pink argyle sweater...

Mary Petroski - what trick of light/makes today/ different from other days?

Nelly Capra - "Job Interview in Alameda". Scene. wait and pray. breezes. butterfly. birds. truck. workers. sun. write and wait. Oct. 31. No clouds. Here is a diary entry or blog post...

Esther Kamkar - I'm a huge fan of her work. Esther, main reason #3 to come to Waverley and if you come and she's not there it's a disappointment. "Simple Words". 1. Bones A baker bakes bread/ A shoemaker makes shoes...."

Robert Parry - "Devil and the Deep Blue Sea"

Carol Hankemeyer - "Red" "Red is....." etc.

JC Watson - Excellent as always. Reason #4 to come to Waverley. I always scribble like mad when she reads. "Art is made in Death's kitchen... the war is made up. The leaves fell again this year. .." "Where is the tunnel? You may choose / darkness, / It's a good friend. Doesn't make promises, doesn't lick at your heart..."

At some point I began thinking hard about modernismo. The private aesthetic appreciation, and retreat into self and perception. Trying to make the moment glorious. Encapsulating a moment and its depth. How many connections can it handle?

me the moment has to have infinite connections and is a nexus of possibility. You can't wrap it up too neatly.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Reading tonight in Oakland

I'll be reading tonight at the Nomad Cafe in Oakland...

It's on Shattuck and 65th St., walking distance from Ashby BART. 7:00-9:00.

Serene will read a few poems, then I'll read my poems and translations, and then a break and an open mike.

like to try a couple of my translations of Nestor Perlongher. They're strange poems, and they don't make a huge amount of linear sense, and they work by talking around the subject in baroque fractal image/wordplay digressions. So that the images will all be of starfish and rays of light and greasy film running through a projector and rayon shirts and feather boas, and every word has three meanings and interconnections to other words, but somewhere in the middle you are hit by a blinding realization that the poem is all about the metaphysics of cocksucking. They were VERY hard to translate and I would dig testing them out in front of people. I'll read some of the short ones in Spanish, but most in English. I'd also like to read a sampling of my translations from the anthology I'm working on - Latin American women poets from 1880-1930.

If that sounds good, then I hope you show up!

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Monday, February 06, 2006

genre or movement?

I was challenged to explain what I mean by "genre" and how it's different from a "literary movement". So, is modernismo a genre? A movement? Or what? Some theorists talk about genre as form - as poetry, drama, prose; elegy, epic, lyric. Then there's another way of talking about genre or subgenre, or "historical genres": science fiction, gothic romance, realist painting. And if a literary movement is some people copying each other to do something a new way, or a particular way, and create a different frame of reference of aesthetic judgement, how is that different from inventing a genre -- a body of work that shares some particular characteristics?

Or, think of it this way... a sonnet is a form, not a genre. But we could talk about a historical genre of "courtly love poetry" which often uses sonnet form. Or one could talk about a genre of writing about "courtly love" which would include various form-genres like poetry and exchanges of letters.

So am I way off base in using that word to talk about modernismo as a genre? And suggesting a countergenre? "Movement" doesn't fit, and I'm trying to talk about the beginnings of decisions about canonicity... though I suppose you can talk about being canonical within a particular movement. But how critics/poets decide who's in the movement and who isn't is quite suspect. So if a movement depends on traceable connections between writers, and I'm reframing rather than proving connections, I don't feel like "movement" is the right word. Plus - it makes me think of going to the bathroom.

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Friday, February 03, 2006

East Coast bilingual poets

"In Two Tongues/En Dos Lenguas: Bilingual Spoken Word." Emerging poets (or student poets) living in the Mid-Atlantic region sought for a new reading series to begin this Spring in Arlington. Each emerging poet will be paired with a "master" poet. Poems will be presented in both English and Spanish. Submit 4 typed copies of up to 3 poems in English or Spanish.

Deadline: Feb. 24. Mail to:

Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201. For more info
and entry forms, see: http://www.arlingtonartscenter.org.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Dear Lillian,

Reading "Treason Our Text" is so orgasmic... it makes everything clear and beautiful. Well, clear and scary, but that's better than dark and scary.

Am I really going beyond it? I feel like I can see beyond it, but I'm still IN it. And no one I have read seems to have gone beyond it.

1) criticize existing canon - pick it apart
2) make case for individual women writers that they fit the canonicity
3) make countercanons (but: questions of aesthetics/quality)
4) women's culture, continuity, connections (evading "quality")
- break down class/elite/genre high/low (here is where I am pounding the keys on genre formation, which Robinson only lightly touches on: "an entire literature previously dismissed because it was popular with women and affirmed standards and values associated with femininity" )
5) style challenged

"Once again, the arena is the female tradition itself. If we are thinking in terms of canon formation, it is the alternative canon. Until the aesthetic arguments can be fully worked out in the feminist context, it will be impossible to argue...."

and then:

The development of feminist literary criticism and scholarship has already proceeded through a number of identifiable stages. Its pace is more reminiscent of the survey course than of the slow processes of canon formation and revision, and it has been more successful in defining and sticking to its own intellectual turf, the female counter-canon, than in gaining general canonical recognition for Edith Wharton, Fanny Fern, or the female diarists of the Westward Expansion. In one sense, the more coherent our sense of the female tradition is, the stronger will be our eventual case. Yet the longer we wait, the more comfortable the women's literature ghetto -- separate, apparently autonomous, and far from equal -- may begin to feel.

So my answer to that has been to construct not a countercanon, but a countergenre. Then within that genre (which might be the "women's culture" strategy) I propose to redefine literary quality. Then to reintegrate canons. (Of course: Someday? When? How?)

But where I go much further, or where I can see further, is in tech, in databases and tagging. Databases and indices, taggable entries, and open source algorithms that people can tweak to construct their individual or institutional canon of the moment. Obviously, large powerful universities would "brand" their own algorithm and perhaps might make them closed-source. I've been saying it for a couple of years now. It would be so beautiful. Tagging and tag clouds would make popular input possible. The construction of algorithms with spectrums of weighting desired important qualities would come up with results to construct syllabi, anthologies, and reading lists on the fly. Databases and the web make it possible to build infinite multiple dynamic canons.

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