Sunday, May 31, 2009

Scholar, author inspired decades of English literature students

NZ Herald
(30 May 2009)
Bill Williams

Dr Terry Sturm, CBE, professor of English. Died aged 67.

Almost every student of English since 1980 at Auckland University would have felt Terry Sturm's influence during their studies.

He held a professorial chair at the university from 1980 until his retirement in 2005, and was an eminent critic and scholar of Australasian writing, especially New Zealand popular fiction.

He played a leading role in placing New Zealand literature at the centre of the academic curriculum.

He edited various standard literary reference works including two editions of
The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English, and the drama section of the Oxford History of Australian Literature. His literary biography An Unsettled Spirit: The Life and Frontier Fiction of Edith Lyttleton was the product of 15 years of research in New Zealand, Australia and England.

In 2005, he edited a selection of Allen Curnow's verse written under his pseudonym Whim Wham.

Assisted by a Marsden Fund grant, Sturm spent the past few years researching and writing a definitive literary biography of Allen Curnow.

His work met a setback when the memory stick from his computer was stolen last August, taking a large part of the first draft with it. The biography, if published, will be the first full-length study of Curnow's work.

Terence Laurie Sturm was born in Auckland in 1941 and went to school in Henderson. He completed his MA at Auckland University before undertaking postgraduate work at Cambridge University and at the University of Leeds, where he received his PhD.

He lectured in English literature at Sydney University from 1967 and left in 1980 to take his chair at the University of Auckland.

Sturm was involved in literary arts administration for many years. He was on the NZ Literary Fund and the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council and in 1997 became first convener of the Humanities Panel of the Marsden Fund.

In 1990, he was made a CBE in recognition of his services to literature.

John Morrow, Dean of Auckland's Arts Faculty, said Sturm was deeply valued as a colleague and a friend.

He is survived by his wife Linda and sons Jonathan, Mark and Tim.

See also: "
Literary scholar Prof. Terry Sturm dies" and "Biography last brave act by literary scholar"

Kavan’s place in NZ literary history (by Lawrence Jones)

Otago Daily Times
(30 May 2009): Books 49, rev. of Anna Kavan, Anna Kavan's New Zealand, ed. and intro. Jennifer Sturm (Random House, 2009).

ANNA KAVAN is probably known in New Zealand, if at all, primarily for her rather unflattering portrait of the country in "New Zealand: Answer to an Inquiry," published in 1943 in Horizon. This book, the fruit of eight years of research by Jennifer Sturm, has attempted to change that situation, to bring about the recognition of "Kavan’s role in the literary history of New Zealand."

Sturm has done this by editing and publishing for the first time Kavan’s manuscript "Five Months Further or What I remember about NZ," together with a full biographical introduction, notes, an account of Kavan’s correspondence with Ian Hamilton (pacifist, conscientious objector and writer of the account of his imprisonment, Till Human Voices Wake Us), and an essay on her as a New Zealand writer. In addition, the Horizon essay is included as an appendix.

Sturm in her introduction and her other commentary attempts to set the record straight about Kavan, especially in her relationship to New Zealand. On the one hand, she is shown as a ‘‘troubled and emotionally abject woman’’—self-absorbed, addicted to heroin (and alcohol), dependent on men in a series of unhappy relationships, depressed and mentally unstable; on the other hand, Sturm from a feminist psychological perspective defends her against the masculinist criticism of such as Frank Sargeson and Denis Glover and presents her as the victim of bad parenting and male prejudice, one who if she could not find a secure home in this world could show herself in her writing to be ‘‘an astute and meticulous recorder of experience, a collector of images and illustrations’’.

Her experience in New Zealand in 1941-42 was ‘‘a Pacific interlude in a turbulent life’’ so that New Zealand ‘‘came to represent a respite and a haven, adding a little colour to an otherwise sombre literary palette’’. Thus there is a case to be made for her as a New Zealand writer, one who had ‘‘more of New Zealand in [her] writing’’ than can be found in the writing of Katherine Mansfield.

Sturm perhaps overstates the case of Kavan as a significant "New Zealand" writer (only a handful of her 20 published books deal with New Zealand), but she has in this book, as C.K. Stead states in the foreword, made available for readers "an essentially 'New Zealand' work, previously lost to us—a piece of recovered history."

Kavan’s manuscript, made up of 18 stories that form a slightly fictionalised autobiographical account of her stay at Torbay with Ian Hamilton and her wartime sea journey from New Zealand to England afterwards, is worth recovering. In her first story Kavan described her strategy as being not to fight history but to ‘‘simply submit and record what happens," and she does this with sensitivity and insight. She captures the feel of life in Torbay — the sea and sky and shore; the eccentric neighbours; the Maori man with "two faces," caught between his given Maori and his assumed Pakeha identities; the slow rhythm of communal life; the very different world of Sargeson and the North Shore intelligentsia.

She also captures the feel of the strange, dreamlike yet dangerous journey to England, the ship a self-contained, seemingly timeless world that left her "feeling unequal to facing life apart from [it], just as a person who has been ill a long time shrinks from living without the buffer of his disease."

Kavan’s account is an attractive piece of impressionistic observation of the self and the worlds which it passes through, not a major New Zealand text but a welcome one, while Sturm’s editorial material adds considerably to our knowledge of an interesting international writer.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Logics: a reminder

a. Deduction allows deriving b as a consequence of a (deriving the consequences of what is assumed [synagögé or anagögé]) = applying a law

b. Induction allows inferring a from multiple instantiations of b when a entails b (inferring probable antecedents as a result of observing multiple consequents [epagögé, "bringing in"]) = inferring a law

c. Abduction allows inferring a as an explanation of b (inferring the precondition a from the consequence b [apagögé—note that Peirce translates this term as retroduction]), a.k.a. "inference to the best explanation" = assuming a law (i.e. a hypothesis)

Peirce's definition of abduction differs: it is "the inference of the truth of the minor premiss of a syllogism of which the major premiss is selected as known already to be true while the conclusion is found to be true," i.e. it supplies the middle premise of an enthymeme. What is called abduction above, Peirce calls . . .

d. Retroduction, which is "reasoning from consequent to [hypothetical] antecedent" (C. S. Peirce, "A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God" [1908], CP 6.469-70). Peirce sometimes calls it "Hypothetic Inference." It "depends on our hope, sooner or later, to guess at the conditions under which a given kind of phenomenon will present itself" (Letter to F. A. Woods [1913], CP 8.385-88). Cf. the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Thus, we can infer the conditions of possibility of a state of affairs, e.g. a problem in argumentation, existing.


Topoi 2: strange logics/hypertopias

The panoply of possibilities (truths, many worlds, the field of argument) > a reality (Truth, the world, an argument).

= the collapse of the wave-function in observation—or in writing, the assumption that you must reduce your argument to a singular position.

Cf. Kochen & Specker (1967): every statement about a quantum system must
a. rely on a host of assumptions, and/or
b. refuse to obey the standard rules of logic (which are distributive and use the Boolean operators "and," "or," and "not").

Standard logic and mathematics fit the topos of set theory. (They are straight.)

Quantum logics do not. (They are fuzzy and strange.)

has identified the topos of quantum theory, the logic of which serves for the quantum and real worlds, i.e. it is distributive (C. J. Isham and J. Butterfield, "Some Possible Roles for Topos Theory in Quantum Theory and Quantum Gravity," Found. Phys. 30.10 (2000): 1707-35).

But, rather than finding a topos that fits (inductively [yields a law]), we can also opt for a certain topos (abductively [yields a hypothesis or possibility]). (See
Robert Matthews, "Impossible Things for Breakfast, at the Logic Café," New Scientist [14 April 2007], online at <>.)

That would allow us to assume a partial truth to be true—or a hypertopia to exist as a genuine possibility.


Topos (Gk "place"; i.e. "place to find ['invent'] something") referred in classical Greek rhetoric to a standardised method of constructing or treating an argument, i.e. categories that help delineate the relationships among ideas (i.e. stock predicates), and stock concepts. The arguments based on these topoi were divided by Aristotle into "common" and "special" groups:

a. common (categories): laws, witnesses, contracts, oaths, comparisons of similarity, difference, or degree, definitions of things, division of things (whole/parts, for instance), cause and effect, and other items that could be analyzed, researched or documented;

b. special (concepts): justice or injustice, virtue, good, and worthiness.

Curtius expanded this concept in studying topoi as commonplaces: reworkings of traditional material, particularly the descriptions of standardised settings, but extended to almost any literary meme. They might be more-or-less stock characters (ethoi), topics (topoi), settings (kairoi), argument strategies (like types of exposition [logoi] or narratives [mythoi]), etc.

In physics, a topos is something a little different . . .

Friday, May 15, 2009

Escribir Es Nacer

Hijo de la oraciòn,
cada mañana
dejo el seno del cántico,
me desnudo del himno que se eleva
a la gloria de Dios
y desde el polvo
me atrevo a murmurar
tristes palabras.

Escribir es nacer,
dejar la cristalina
morada de inocencia
donde ya no estoy.

Mi verso tiene formas maternales;
es nube sobre el mar
y una gota de lluvia,
es niño que en la arena se entretiene
con las espumas y las caracolas
Mi padre está en los cielos
y yo me siento alegre,
nacido de su Verbo,
de donde salgo cada día.

Snowflakes and Icebergs

= a. isomorphic form in writing, b. deep learning

The snowflake

There is an isomorphic, even fractal (especially, perhaps, when the isomorphism is more than merely structural, i.e., when it's semantically loaded), relationship between the structure of the sentence, paragraph and essay, viz.

a. essay: intro (with TS), body (with aspects of the T in the t-s's), and conclusion (returning to the TS)

b. paragraph: t-s (intro), evidence (body) and argumentation (conclusion)

c. sentence: S + P

Or you might say that it is a structure-preserving mapping relation.

[T(S) = thesis(-statement)
t-s = topic-sentence
S= subject
P = predicate

An isomorphic (ἴσος isos "equal" + μορφή morphe "shape") structure is structurally identical, i.e., if two objects are isomorphic, then any property which is preserved by an isomorphism and which is true of one of the objects is also true of the other.
A fractal (L fractus, "broken" or "fractured") is "a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole," a property called self-similarity (B. B. Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature [W.H. Freeman and Company, 1982]). A mathematical fractal is based on an equation that undergoes iteration (recursive feedback).]

The iceberg

a. Deep and shallow learning are not attributes of individuals: one person may use both approaches at different times, although he or she may have a preference for one or the other.

b. They correlate fairly closely with motivation: "deep" with intrinsic motivation and "surface" with extrinsic, but they are not necessarily the same thing; either approach can be adopted by a person with either motivation.

(There is a third form, known as the “achieving” or strategic approach, which can be summarised as a very well-organised form of surface approach, and in which the motivation is to get good marks. Learning is construed as a game, so that acquisition of technique improves performance.)

The features of deep and surface approaches can be summarised thus:



Focus is on “what is signified”

Focus is on the “signs” (or on the learning as a signifier of something else)

Relates previous knowledge to new knowledge

Focus on unrelated parts of the task

Relates knowledge from different courses

Information for assessment is simply memorised

Relates theoretical ideas to everyday experience

Facts and concepts are associated unreflectively

Relates and distinguishes evidence and argument

Principles are not distinguished from examples

Organises and structures content into coherent whole

Task is treated as an external imposition

Emphasis is internal, from within the student

Emphasis is external, from demands of assessment

(based on Ramsden 1988)

(See F. Marton and Säljö, "On Qualitative Differences in Learning—1: Outcome and Process," Brit. J. Educ. Psych. 46 (1976): 4-11; "On Qualitative Differences in Learning—2: Outcome as a function of the learner's conception of the task" Brit. J. Educ. Psych. 46 (1976): 115-27.)

The Surface learner is trying to "suss out" what the teacher wants and to provide it, and is likely to be motivated primarily by fear of failure. One study has suggested that efforts by teachers to convey that what they want is deep learning only succeeds in getting surface learners to engage in ever more complex contextualising exercises, trying to reproduce the features of the deep approach from a surface basis (P. Ramsden, D. Beswick and J. Bowden, "Effects of Learning Skills Intervention on First Year Students' Learning," Human Learning 5 [1986]: 151-64).

[James Atherton,]

Or you can look at it slightly differently: deep learning is something you deliver sotto voce—or sotto agua, to use the iceberg metaphor—along with the surface learning (which should be strategically, rather than extrinsically, motivated): modelling, reflecting, critically reading, in a way that is charitable, positional and "de-authorising," i.e. contextual and co-constructed.

It's the Same Old Story: Meme Likelike Youyou - Maybe We Can Wewe

That is to say, mythogenetics: agentive and intentional memes enact narrative memes . . .

How about stories as "grammatical games" that consist chiefly of nouns (agents) and verbs (actions)—and, by extension, adjectives and adverbs. Verbs as "intentional memes"—with nouns as agentive memes, perhaps (see

From game design theory (see also—by way of a contrast—"We hate memes, pass it on . . ."

How to Write a Novel: The Snowflake Method

From "How to Write a Novel: The Snowflake Method" by Randy Ingermanson:

Our fundamental question is this: How do you design a novel?
For a number of years, I was a software architect designing large software projects. I write novels the same way I write software, using the "snowflake metaphor." OK, what's the snowflake metaphor? Before you go further, take a look at this cool website [].

At the top of the page, you'll see a cute pattern known as a snowflake fractal [see above]. Don't tell anyone, but this is an important mathematical object that's been widely studied. For our purposes, it's just a cool sketch of a snowflake. If you scroll down that same web page a little, you'll see a box with a large triangle in it and arrows underneath. If you press the right-arrow button repeatedly, you'll see the steps used to create the snowflake. It doesn't look much like a snowflake at first, but after a few steps, it starts looking more and more like one, until it's done.
The first few steps look like this:

I claim that that's how you design a novel—you start small, then build stuff up until it looks like a story.

The same might be true of building up evidence to support your thesis or point (which, in a standard five-paragraph essay, might be viewed in its three aspects—or sides, i.e. like triangulation).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Stanley Fish on Theory Minimalism (2000)

In 2000, Fish wrote . . .

I have just returned from the AALS (American Association of Law Schools) meeting in Washington, where I was a member of a panel considering the state of legal theory at the beginning of the new century. I gave my standard stump speech (called "Theory Minimalism"), which always makes the same three points:

1) if by theory you mean the attaining of a perspective unattached to any local or partisan concerns but providing a vantage point from which local and partisan concerns can be clarified and ordered, the theory quest will always fail because no such perspective is or could be available; [theory as a vantage point, i.e. a supra-contextual "grounding," is unavailable, cf. Heidegger on theoria (= the God's eye view, i.e. the theos-eye]

2) the unavailability of that supra-contextual is in no way disabling because in its absence you will not be adrift and groundless; rather you will be grounded in and by the same everyday practices—complete with authoritative exemplars, understood goals, canons of evidence, shared histories—that gave you a habitation before you began your fruitless quest for a theory; [. . . but you're grounded in everyday, i.e. historical and therefore revisable, practices anyways] and

3) nothing follows from 1) and 2); knowing that resources of everyday life are all you have and knowing too that such resources are historical and therefore revisable will neither help you to identify them nor teach you to rely on them with a certain skeptical reserve; the lesson of 1) and 2) goes nowhere; if grand theories provide no guidance (because they are so general as to be empty), the realization that grand theories provide no guidance doesn't provide any guidance either. [. . . BUT, knowing this won't make everyday practices any easier to identify or be sceptical about, i.e. they aren't available as a "ground" either.]

End of story, end of theory as an interesting topic.

I like this argument because no one else does. Those on the right don't like it because they have a stake in believing that without the foundations of fixed and absolute verities, the world will go to hell in a handbasket. Those on the left don't like it because they have a stake in believing that in a world where truths are always being revised and authorities dislodged, we can sweep old structures away and begin from scratch to build the just society. This means that I am never in danger of persuading everyone or even many; and that means that I'll never have to give up the argument because there will always be those who don't get it and complain (as did two members of the audience) either that I have undermined certainty and stability, or that I haven't.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Darwin-Wallace explanation of evolution: "Darwinism"

Richard C. Lewontin, "Why Darwin?," The New York Times Review of Books 56.9 (28 May 2009).

The Darwin-Wallace explanation of evolution, the theory of natural selection, is based on three principles:

1) Individuals in a population differ from each other in the form of particular characteristics (the principle of variation).

2) Offspring resemble their parents more than they resemble unrelated individuals (the principle of heritability).

3) The resources necessary for life and reproduction are limited. Individuals with different characteristics differ in their ability to acquire those resources and thus to survive and leave offspring in the next generations (the principle of natural selection).

One can hardly imagine anything that would have better justified the established social and economic theories of the Industrial Revolution than the claim that our very biological natures are examples of basic laws of political economy [thus, "Darwinism" = "Biological Competitive Capitalism"].


The theory of competitive socioeconomic success is a theory about the rise of individuals and individual enterprises as a consequence of their superior fitness [the few over the many].


The theory of evolution by natural selection, in contrast, is meant to explain the adaptation and biological success of an entire species as a consequence of the disappearance of the less fit [the many over the few].


If we seek a true originality in the understanding of Darwin and Wallace, it is to be found in their ability to adapt a theory meant to explain the success of a few to produce a theory of the success of the many [i.e. "Darwinism" is socialist—or, historically speaking, Utilitarian].

What it lacked is an understanding of heredity. Mendel saved the theory: his experiments on peas demonstrated that inheritance was not based on the blending of some fluid-like material, but by the passage of particles that maintained their individual properties even when mixed together in a hybrid [thus, DNA].

In full historical justice, if we are to personalize our modern explanation of evolution we should call it not "Darwinism," nor even "Darwin-Wallacism," but "Darwin-Wallace-Mendelism."

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Mind-world/world-mind meld: the interpenetration of the internal psychical and physiological systems of the individual and the external environment.

Imago Templi = Sophia = Penetralium
but here the Truth is in the weft of inner and outer

legendary psychasthenia

A concept developed by the social theorist Roger Caillios, legendary psychasthenia refers to the ability of some animals to alter their appearance in response to their physical environment. A chameleon, for example, changes color in order to blend into its surroundings. Caillois compares this biological phenomenon to psychological experiences of subjects who perceive themselves becoming absorbed into, or mixed up with, the physical space surrounding them (one of his examples is the fear of the dark). For Lacan, this idea offers a useful model of a transformation in an individual through an encounter with an external stimulus.


Child psychologist Charlotte Buhler observed that very young children often do not distinguish sharply between their own experiences and those of others—if one child falls and is injured, for example, another child may cry.

Lacan presents such references to external, formative influences on the development of the ego to support his argument that ego does not emerge sui generis—out of itself—but is the product of a dialectical interaction between the psyche (Innenwelt) and the external world (Umwelt)—an interaction perpetuated in life in the interaction of the subject and the other.

It comes down to . . .

Kohler's gestalt moment, in which the elements of a task or problem—or a self—come together: the ah-ha experience (Aha-Erlebnis), e.g. in the mirror stage [cf. Nietzsche on Apollo/Orpheus and the principium individuationis],


the fragmented body, where the infant experiences his or her body as uncoordinated, vulnerable, and insufficient; this propels the infant toward identification with the (apparently) unified and stable imago of the mirror reflection or of the caregiver (or of the Umwelt, perhaps), though he or she remains haunted by the contrary image of their fragmentation [cf. Nietzsche on Dionysus Zagreus/Pentheus, torn apart by the maenads = σπαραγμός, sparagmos].

1. Niran Bahjat Abbas, Thinking Machines: Discourses of Artificial Intelligence (LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster, 2006) 97-98.
2. John Keats: "Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason—Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half knowledge" (Letter to George and Thomas Keats [21 Dec 1817], in H. E. Rollins (ed.), Letters of John Keats, vol. 1 [1958] 193-94).