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plant, Elskuligr



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June 17th, 2008

Apologies, Love, etc.

plant, Elskuligr
I was reading through this book about interaction rituals for work, and it struck me that this passage could apply very well to love relationships in particular.
Obviously, its style would have to modified somewhat before it could find it’s way in a best-selling “Love For Dummies” type of book, but this is the clearest explanation I have ever seen of why apologies matter and of how they should be conducted to be worthwhile.
Even though the offender may fail to prove his innocence, he can suggest through these means that he is now a renewed person, a person who has paid for his sin against the expressive order and is once more to be trusted in the judgmental scene. Further, he can show that he does not treat the feelings of the others lightly, and that if their feelings have been injured by him, however innocently, he is prepared to pay a price for his action. Thus he assures others that they can accept his explanations without this acceptance constituting a sign of weakness and a lack of pride on their part. Also, by his treatment of himself, by his self-castigation, he shows that he is clearly aware of the kind of crime he would have committed had the incident been what it first appeared to be, and that he knows the kind of punishment that ought to be accorded to one who would commit such a crime. The suspected person thus shows that he is thoroughly capable of taking the role of the others toward his own capacity, that he can still be used as a responsible participant in the ritual process, and that the rules of conduct which he appears to have broken are still sacred, / real, and unweakened. An offensive act may arouse anxiety about the ritual code; the offender allays this anxiety by showing that both the code and he as an upholder of it are still in working order.’
(Erving Goffman, Interaction Ritual, New York, Anchor Books 1967, pp. 21-22; my emphases)
Replace ‘participant in the ritual process’ by ‘partner in the relationship’, ‘expressive order’ and ‘ritual order’ by ‘relationship of trust and mutual respect’ or something similar, and you have it.
Goffman’s analysis is obviously meant to apply to all kinds of situations, but I think his analysis is particularly useful for love relationships, because too many people tend to think that apologies and such likes are just empty gestures and if they still go through the motions to a certain extent at work or in other social contexts because they feel under pressure to do so, some may feel it is unnecessary to pay attention to such niceties in the private sphere.
However, I think Goffman’s description shows very well that worthwhile apologies (whether verbal or otherwise) go much beyond empty niceties, they may literally save a relationship.
It also shows that, for this reason, the important part in an apology is not the use of certain words or gestures, but the evidence of a certain awareness and willingness to take one’s responsibilities seriously.
Nota Bene: the text says “he” all the time but the pronoun refers to any person in general and not specifically to men. My hypothesis would be that, like so many writers from the 1950s, he tends to forget that a person has about 50% chance of being female ;)

June 3rd, 2008

Men / Women

plant, Elskuligr
On a somewhat related note to my previous post, here is a page from a web comic I love:

 You can find the rest at http://xkcd.com/ "A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language"
"Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)."
That's not me saying it, that's the author :)

June 2nd, 2008

I am human too

plant, Elskuligr
             I would like to say a few words here about feminism, and more particularly about how feminism is often perceived.
            Let us start with the facts: there is a great deal of discrimination and violence against women in the world, even in supposedly “advanced” western societies. I shall only give a few examples, because I believe a long list would be tedious to read and because such things are no secrets so the reader will already be familiar with them. Domestic violence, rapes, unequal work opportunities, prejudices against women who take the initiative in a relationship, who are ‘too eager’ for sex, not eager enough to have children, etc. Some of these elements are much more serious than others, but none is quite trivial, I think. The chapter of work opportunities in itself could fill volumes.
            Few people would actually deny those facts, so there is no need to insist. It is not superfluous on the other hand to consider how such facts are perceived in our societies. I am not surprised that only a minority of people actively fight against such injustice because I am quite realistic and no matter how just the cause is, it will usually only enlist a minority of people willing to fight for it. The same goes for every cause: whether it be against poverty or racism, you cannot realistically expect everybody to defend it actively. You can, however, expect the majority to support passively the action of the minority, not necessarily its methods but at the very least its goal. Yet, feminism is not widely approved of, and that is a rather mild understatement.
            Worse, it is often ridiculed. And when I say ridiculed, I don’t mean only that some feminists or some of their actions are sometimes ridiculed, which is fair enough, but, more radically, that their aim itself — i.e. the idea of fighting violence and discrimination against women — is ridiculed, which is much more serious. A good example of this is the way, if the issue of gender discrimination happens to be raised, men will sometimes joke and say with a pseudo-ironic smile ‘oh well, that’s only to be expected, you women aren’t too clever’ or similar statements. Of course, such sentences are not to be taken literally: the smile which usually accompanies them is clear evidence of that. But it would be quite naïve to believe it is simple irony, i.e. someone saying the exact contrary of what they mean. As a matter of fact, someone who makes such a joke usually doesn’t mean ‘oh my God, I can’t believe such things happen, women really deserve better’. You only need to listen to the rest of their conversation to be persuaded of it. The irony in their comment is actually not directed against the statement itself, but against the people who are shocked by such statements, i.e. basically, women who think they are entitled to human rights. It is quite obvious from the way they expect women to react to such quips so that they can make fun of their disproportionate reaction to what is presented as just a harmless joke.
            I do not believe such jokes are harmless and that discrimination is a laughing matter. Or, to be more accurate, I think not every way of laughing about it is commendable. Laughter is a very powerful tool, which can be used to deal with anxieties or to challenge preconceptions, but plainly sexist jokes and ironic dismissals of feminism do not fall into that category. On the contrary they reinforce existing prejudices and inequalities. Now, I am not saying they should be forbidden, far from it. Freedom of speech is precious and should not be encroached upon lightly. On the other hand, I do admit I hoped I wouldn’t have to hear such things from people whose opinions I usually respect, people who are educated and who work on a daily basis with highly competent and intelligent women, people whom I thought were my friends.
            I will try to keep bitterness at bay and will proceed to another point, which is well worth raising. Feminists are often charged with wanting to ‘act like men’ or ‘be like men’. Now, I can’t speak for all the feminists in the world, obviously, but personally, I think this is a complete misunderstanding. Feminists want to be part of ‘men’ as in ‘All men are born equal’, which I have the naivety to believe, refers to ‘men’ in the sense of ‘mankind’ or ‘human beings’ and not in that of male individuals of our species. I have no interest in being male, but, strangely enough, I do think I am a human being. Now, I admit the use of ‘men’ or ‘Man’ is quite confusing and one is never quite sure of its exact meaning. This, I believe, is quite revealing of the whole problem. By using the same word to designate male human beings and humanity at large, it would seem our culture has confused the two, so that woman appears to strive after the rightful attributes of men, when she is in fact only claiming what is rightfully hers, the attributes of humanity.
            Finally, feminism properly construed is not the war of women against men, on the contrary. Feminism fights against inequality and more widely against the pressures exerted by rigid gender representations. In both cases, its action can benefit all society, not just women. Equality ensures that half the talent of a nation is not wasted away. Challenging gender representations means that we — men and women — do not have to accept the narrow roles that society offers us, but that we can do justice to the richness of human experience and live our lives fully, no matter if our inclinations do not quite fit the consensual representations of what a ‘real man’ or a ‘real woman’ is. This is why, although violence and discrimination are perforce greater emergencies, reflexion on gender is the most exciting and perhaps the most promising aspect of feminism.

May 17th, 2008

I haven't written here for ages, and I think it's about time I post the second chapter I promised ages ago.
It hasn't been betaed yet, because my faithful partner in crime,
[info]r_fluffy, is kind of busy at the moment (as usual). If anyone notices obvious problems with the text as it is, I'll be grateful for their comments.




October 20th, 2007

Musings on Irony

plant, Elskuligr

As a student of Old English literature, I’ve always been struck by the fact there is always at least one scholar to invoke irony for every single piece of poetry that does not make immediate sense to the modern reader.

This reflex, it seems to me, would be fairly reasonable when confronted with a literature that does make a great use of irony (e.g. 18th c. French literature). On the other hand, it seems a bit off when dealing with a literary tradition which, as a whole, is not very big on irony.


I was recently working on something quite different from Old English, but suspicions of irony crept up again in the most unexpected fashion, which led me to write this note.


I am currently working on a translation of an extract from The Devil’s Advocate, by Morris West and one particular sentence is puzzling me:


“Nerone threw back his head and laughed as heartily as if it were a washerwoman’s joke down by the torrent.”


What puzzles me in this sentence is the expression “washerwoman’s joke.” 

The genitive seems to imply a rather strong link between washerwoman and joke, as if that link was already known from the text itself or from common cultural knowledge (e.g. “my neighbour’s cat” suggests the reader already knows about this particular cat vs. “the cat of my neighbour” implies no such thing).


Here, washerwomen as such have nothing to do with the plot. 

Clearly it is an image and the substance of the comparison seems to be that washerwomen tell good jokes and Nerone is reacting precisely as if he had just heard one such good joke, whereas we know from the text he just heard a dire warning and shouldn’t be laughing.


The puzzling thing for me is that the text seems to assume it is common knowledge washerwomen tell good jokes, which was new to me.


I asked two friends about it, one native speaker of English and one French girl with an extensive literary culture and both found irony, though not in the same place.


The French found irony in the name Nerone, allusion to the famous emperor who set fire to Rome.

The American found irony in the hearty laugh, assuming Nerone was not really laughing so much and that the allusion to the torrent meant you couldn’t even hear the joke and would thus merely fake a polite laugh and pretend you got it.


Admittedly, neither had the context of the whole passage (let alone the whole book!), so it was easier for them to read irony where there is none.


Still I found that puzzling, that when in doubt about the meaning of a passage, people tend to jump to the conclusion it must be ironic somehow.


I have no hypothesis regarding the source of that puzzling phenomenon, but would welcome

a) knowledge about the image of washerwomen in literature and the arts ;)

b) views or anecdotes about that tendency to assume irony when faced with something not immediately understandable. 

September 9th, 2007

Blood of Mud, Wing of Bat

plant, Elskuligr

As I had promised long ago, here is the review for one of my favourite fanfics, one which has many elements in common with Trouble in Paradise, by AngieJ, although romance plays no important part in it.
Blood of Mud, Wing of Bat, by Whippy: ReviewCollapse )
Author: Whippy
Length: 43 chapters that get longer and longer
My opinion: definitely in my top 10, would be excellent if was complete.
Genre: Our favourite characters, twenty years later, or “When did my life start going so wrong?”
Pairings: Hermione / Ron, but the story revolves around the character of Draco Malfoy as seen from Hermione’s point of view.
Spoilers: the fic is based on the first four Harry Potter books
Author’s Summary: “20 years post-Hogwarts, Hermione is married to Chudley Cannons beater Ron Weasley and employed by successful inventor Sibyll Trelawney. Then she is asked to work with Draco Malfoy. Can her job and marriage survive the test?”
This fanfic is one of my all time favourites.
One of the things that make it rare and thus remarkable is that its plot is not based on a romance. At all.
And yet, it is a page-turner, which gives considerable insight into the psyches of many major characters.

This story is for people who, when they read Harry Potter, wonder how much a sickle is worth, how the Minister of Magic gets elected or what the actual size of the wizarding population in Britain is.
It is also a story for people who wonder what the ideals of youth become once you get older and what happens to the characters after “they get married and lived happily ever after.”
The story devotes considerable attention to the workings of Wizarding society and the evolution of individual characters in it, focusing both on their choices and on the instances when they are not really given a choice.

Blood of Mud, Wing of Bat has only two significant flaws, in my view.
First, it not complete.
Second, things go so steadily wrong and out of control for the main characters that it would require great talent to bring the story to some sort of a conclusion, that is to say without killing all the protagonists, which would be a rather lame solution.
That being said, the story is excellent. The representations of Draco and Hermione are rich and fascinating. They have all the complexity of real life and so do those of many minor characters, including Ron and Arthur Weasley.
Trivia: the title is inspired by Macbeth, although it is not a direct quote from Shakespeare’s work. In Act 4, Scene 1, the witches are brewing a potion whose ingredients include “Eye of newt, and toe of frog, / Wool of bat, and tongue of dog”...etc. The title uses that reference to potion both to refer symbolically to its two protagonists and to evoke the importance of potion ingredients in the story.
Where to find it: This fanfic is available on Fictionalley.org and Fanfiction.net, but the most complete and edited version is on Whippy’s own website Blast-Ended.

Also, for the few people who enjoyed the first instalment of Better Than Expected, the second chapter is written at last and will be posted as soon as it is betaed and corrected.

August 3rd, 2007

(no subject)

plant, Elskuligr

Hey folks,


July has been a very busy month, sorry for not writing more... and I’m not sure August will be any better. Not only have I not finished writing the second chapter of Better Than Expected, I’ve actually barely started reading the Deathly Hallows yet.

I know, I’m a bad person.

Before leaving my homecountry again, this time for the States, I thought I would give you a small Icelandic present.

First of all I bought Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Icelandic (Harry Potter og viskusteinninn) so I could try to practice a bit (given my command of Icelandic this is way too ambitious, but then again I know the book practically by heart in English so I can probably guess my way through the Icelandic version), so here is the very beginning :


« Dursleyhjónin á Runnaflöt númer fjögur hreyktu sér gjarnan af því að vera sérdeilis og algerlega eðlilegt fólk. Engan hefði grunað að þau væru flækt í eitthvað skrítið eða dularfullt, því svoleiðis vitleysu kærðu þau sig ekki um. »


« Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense. »


I love it in English and I think it’s great in Icelandic too.


Also, and this is a special dedication for r_fluffy, I was perusing old books in Kolaportið, Reykjavík’s flea market, and I saw Hroki og hleypidómar, aka Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. 


I know r_fluffy loves the book and that she particularly loves the very first sentence : 

« It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. »


So I just had to copy it down in Icelandic, here it is :


« Það er kunnara en frá þurfi að segja að piparsvein í góðum efnum hlýtur að vanta eiginkonu. »


And that’s all I have to say for now, really.






July 13th, 2007


I’m sorry, I haven’t written anything here for a couple of weeks, but for once I have a great excuse, so I’m not feeling guilty at all, yeah! :-D
I’m currently in Iceland, desperately trying to learn Icelandic, which happens to be quite tough, so I don’t have that much time to write: I’m way too busy learning declensions, swimming in naturally hot water and hiking lovely mountains to spend a lot of time on the internet.

Anyway, I thought the time was appropriate for a little explanation about my name here, elskuligr.
Elskuligr is a word in Old Norse (or Old Icelandic, that is the language which was spoken in Scandinavia and parts of Britain during the Middle Ages). Its modern equivalent is elskulegur.
Both elskuligr and elskulegur mean “affectionate”, “loving”, “friendly” or “beloved”, “dear.”
It is an adjective derived from the word elska, which can be either a noun or a verb and means “love”.
Elskuligr is the masculine singular form of the adjective, as in elskuligr maðr, “a loving or lovable person”.

From what I’ve been able to find out in an Icelandic Etymological dictionary, elska as such has no parallel in other Germanic languages and is probably derived by a form such as *aliska-R, meaning to be raised or to grow older with someone.
Some people also relate that word to elja or eljun, meaning "vigour" or "energy", but the connection is doubtful.

I hope you enjoy the clever explanation and I promise I have not abandoned my ficlet Better Than Expected. I’ll work on it some more as soon as I get the time!


elskulega (lovingly)

Me. ;-)

Here is a small picture of Thingvellir, where the Assembly of Iceland (Althing) used to meet to pass judgments and make laws in the medieval and modern periods.
Just to make you jealous ;-)


June 29th, 2007

Today, I read a really sweet ficlet on fpb’s livejournal. It’s called To Be Opened In the Event of My Death and it’s a love letter written by Harry to Ginny before he dies. 

I quite liked it, but I also found hilarious one of the comments, by dustthouart, saying:

I like this but it's far too erudite and well-written to be from Harry. ^_^ His would be more likely to be some scribbed notation "I love you and don't be sad too long ok and I'm doing this for you PS DON'T KISS DEAN". Kidding. ^_^”

fpb protested that Harry would probably make a bit more of an effort than that if he thought it was his very last letter and I think he’s right.

So this got me thinking and I tried to imagine a letter that would be halfway between fpb’s romantic love letter and dustthouart’s hasty scribble and that’s what I came up with. 

I'd like to think that fpb's letter is probably what Ginny would deserve and that this is the sad sad reality (well apart from the fact it's probably too long to be realistic, but what can I say, I'm a talkative girl...).

June 24th, 2007

Dear old r_fluffyhas finally found the time to beta my first chapter for a fic called Better Than Expected, so here it is in exclusivity!

This is a rather darkish story set after the Death Eaters have been defeated by Harry Potter. When it all happened, Draco Malfoy expected he was about to go through rather difficult times, but as it turns out things are not going quite the way he would have thought...

Warning: some characters you might be fond of die in this fic.


I hope you enjoy this fic, I would be very glad to read your comments or reviews :-)

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