Daily Archives: September 21, 2010

Kory Teneycke Under Investigation?

It was very satisfying to watch Harper henchman Kory Teneycke take on Margaret Atwood — and lose about as decisively as it is possible to lose.  He quit as point man for Sun TV News last week (“it becomes increasingly clear my involvement only serves to inflame”), and he may now be under criminal investigation for fraud and identity theft in relation to Avaaz’ “Stop Fox News North” petition, which we (courtesy of Eva Kushner) posted on a couple of weeks ago.

Stephen Maher picks up the story in the Chronicle Herald:

On Sept. 2, Teneycke complained on Twitter that he had been signed up: “So, apparently I have signed the Soros/Atwood petition against Sun TV News as well. What BS.”

Early the next morning, the Sun papers published a column from Teneycke — titled Maggie Atwood: Buzz off! — in which he revealed that the petition contained many false names, including Snuffleupagus, the Sesame Street character who only ever appears to Big Bird.

The activists at Avaaz read the column and checked the list and found out that, sure enough, someone had added Snuffleupagus and Boba Fett and also a number of Ottawa journalists in an apparent attempt to discredit the petition.

The next day, I received an email from Avaaz informing me that I had been signed up. So had Martin and plucky CBC blogger Kady O’Malley, who decided to stick her adorable nose into the story and went hunting for the list of names.

“am i the only one who can’t actually find the list of names online? someone url me, will you?” she wrote on Twitter.

A few minutes later, she tweeted: “maybe he knows. hey, @KoryTeneycke, where’d you see the list of names on the Avaaz petition?”

See, Teneycke had revealed — likely without meaning to — that he knew who had added the names to the petition. Avaaz had not put the names online.

Teneycke, I think, realized the jig was up and replied on Twitter: “@kady Source emailed me to say they registered Boba Fett, D. Shroot, etc. Petition lacks basic controls. Not sure who signed me up.”

Well, how did he know he’d been signed up?

Avaaz squealed about dirty tricks and hired big-shot Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby.

On Tuesday, Ruby sent letters to the RCMP and Ottawa police, giving them the IP address of the Ottawa-area computer used to add the names and asking them to prosecute the guilty party for fraud, identity fraud and theft of a telecommunications service.

The better news is that this may prove to be a fatal blow to the Fox News North application to the CRTC.  This is also yet another ugly development whose provenance is Harper’s office.  Canadians never have much appetite for this sort of thing, and their limited tolerance for it in this case may be exhausted.

Bring on the general election.

Frye and The Critical Path

In Bob’s announcement yesterday on the posting in the Denham Library of Frye’s previously unpublished letters to his secretary Jane Welch, he includes this tidbit:

[The Critical Path] is the first book since the Anatomy of Criticism that I’ve actually written, i.e., that hasn’t been a series of public lectures.  It’s also a very important book.  I probably won’t live to see it recognized as such, but you may.

I thought I might post on this and explore the reasons why Frye regarded this work as so important — and why its importance might not be immediately recognized.  But then I discovered that Bob Imre Salusinszky had already outlined as much in his introduction to volume 17 of the Collected Works:

In The Critical Path, in 1971, Frye talks about a “myth of concern” as comprising “everything that most concerns its society to know” and as functioning to “hold society together, so far as words are can help to do this” (36). This, then, is the equivalent in Frye’s thinking to the New Historicism focus on ideology.  But, for Frye, literature is not the same as concern: “it displays the imaginative possibilities of concern” (98).  Much later, in Words with Power, published in the same year as “Varieties of Eighteenth Century Sensibility,” Frye develops this discussion into a dialectic of “primary concern” — those things that concern all peoples in all societies at all times — and “secondary concern,” the ideological preoccupations of specific societies at specific historical moments: and literature is where secondary and primary concern are brought into relationship (42-3).  These reflections are where Frye’s veer sharply away from both the literary Marxism he engaged in the first quarter of his career, and the New Historicism he confronted in the final quarter.  It is in maintaining the distinction between an ideology and a myth that Frye’s criticism preserves the multicultural component that A.C. Hamilton has suggested will give it permanence in “an increasingly globalized world.” (CW 17, xxv)

To which I can only add that the inability of a whole generation of literary scholars to maintain a distinction between ideology and myth is at the root of the problems literary criticism now faces, including its steady decline in influence upon the general reading public.  In our current post-post-structuralist age, scholars tend only to talk to one another in a rarefied language only they understand.  But much of this is no more than what Frye calls the “squirrel’s chatter” of specialized scholarship.  He knew better than most that, because literature belongs to everybody, literary criticism belongs to everybody as well and can be written in a way that is accessible to anybody, as surely as every literary work is available to every reader who cares to engage it.  What makes literature accessible –and ought to make literary criticism equally accessible — is the universality of primary concern and literature’s unique ability to explore its imaginative possibilities.  As Frye puts it in Words with Power, any work of literature will reflect the secondary ideological concerns of its time, but it will also place those ideological concerns in the context of “making a living, making love, and struggling to stay free and alive.”  And that’s something everyone can understand.  We can only hope that literary scholarship will recognize sooner rather than later what Frye could already lucidly articulate forty years ago.

Leonard Cohen


The 1965 NFB documentary Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Leonard Cohen

Today is Leonard Cohen‘s birthday (born 1934).

An excerpt from Frye’s 1957 review of Cohen’s first collection of poetry, Let us Compare Mythologies:

The poems are of very unequal merit, but the book as a whole is a remarkable production.  The erotic poems follow the usual convention of stacking up thighs like a Rockette chorus line, and for them Mr. Cohen’s own phrase, “obligations, the formalities of passion,” is comment enough.  But it is an excess of energy rather than a deficiency of it that is his main technical obstacle.  Sometimes moods and images get tangled up with each other and fail to come through to the reader, or allusions to books or paintings distract the attention and muffle the climax, as in Jingle.  In short, this book has the normal characteristics of a good first volume. (CW 12, 165)

A 1979 television performance of “Famous Blue Raincoat” after the jump.

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