Monthly Archives: May 2011

WWJD: What Would Jesus Defund?, Cont’d

Christian Conservatives who are willing to cut funding to those who need a leg up in a wicked world comprised of injustice and undeserved disadvantage, take note. The chart above demonstrates the correlation between children with serious mental or behavioral problems and poverty. Note also the unmistakable decline as income rises.

Read the report here.

It’s hard to miss another correlation: the incidence of Christian conservatism and the sort of laissez faire capitalism that comforts the comfortable and afflicts the afflicted. More on that soon.

(h/t The Dish)

Video of the Day: Bob Dylan and John Lennon in a Cab Talking about Johnny Cash


This is not a joke. It is for real. It happened in 1966. And, yes, they’re probably drunk. At least.

However, Dylan, whose birthday was yesterday, seems to do more talking in this five minute clip than the rest of his seventy years put together.

The Independent yesterday provided a list of 70 reasons why Dylan is the most important popcult figure ever. Number 23:

Because The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was such a huge influence on The Beatles. “We just played it, just wore it out,” said George Harrison. “The content of the song lyrics and just the attitude—it was incredibly original and wonderful.” John Lennon said: “For three weeks… we didn’t stop playing it. We went potty about Dylan.”

Two Poems by Frye from 1931

Frye in 1929





An attractive young sophette from Tait House

Went out to a party at Gate House,

Which was not at all wild,

But her don said, “My child,

This place is your home, not a date house.”





The loved one’s shoes are small and neat,

And my beloved is light and fleet.

But one thing seems to me unmet:

They are so awfully full of feet.


[from Acta Victoriana 56, no. 3 (December 1931): 42]


New on the Shelf: Harold Bloom’s “The Anatomy of Influence”

I have just read Harold Bloom’s most recent book, The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life (2011). This is Bloom at his finest. In many ways, it is the last statement of a living giant – a characterization he in fact makes a point of relaying to the reader who may not already know this. Bloom opens his book by acknowledging Frye’s influence on him:

I do not recall reading any literary criticism, as opposed to literary biography, until I was an undergraduate. At seventeen I purchased Northrop Frye’s study of William Blake,Fearful Symmetry, soon after its publication. What Hart Crane was to me at ten, Frye became at seventeen: an overwhelming experience. Frye’s influence on me lasted twenty years but came to an abrupt halt on my thirty-seventh birthday, July 11, 1967, when I awakened from a nightmare and then passed the entire day composing a dithyramb, “The Covering Cherub; or, Poetic Influence.” Six years later that had evolved into The Anxiety of Influence, a book Frye rightly rejected from his Christian Platonist stance. Now, in my eightieth year, I would not have the patience to reread anything by Frye, but I possess almost all of Hart Crane by memory, recite much of it daily, and continue to teach him. (3)

As readers here likely already know, I have published an article on Northrop Frye and Harold Bloom’s relationship and how they react to one another. In my article, I demonstrate how Bloom was theorising influence through a series of letters to Northrop Frye. However, unlike earlier critics of the relationship, I also argue that Frye was influenced by Bloom. and that we must now begin to think about what it means to have influence, in other words: the anxiety of influencing.

Professor Bloom is at his most interesting in this volume, particularly the first section as he comes to terms with his entire project of influence:

More than any other I have written, this book is a critical self-portrait, a sustained mediation on the writings and readings that have shaped me as a person and a critic. Now in my eightieth year, I remained gripped by particular questions. Why has influence been my obsessive concern? How have my own reading experiences shaped my thinking? Why have some poets found me and not others? What is the end of a literary life? (30)

This is an interesting observation from a critic reflecting on his lifelong obsession with influence. Bloom takes account of the situation of literature and the academy in the twenty-first century, and while he now seems like something of a relic, there is still much to be said about the ways that we teach literature. What are our roles as teachers of literature? Bloom offers a tentative answer:

All literary influence is labyrinthine. Belated authors wander the maze as if an exit could be found, until the strong among them realize that the windings of the labyrinth are all internal. No critic, however generously motivated, can help a deep reader escape from the labyrinth of influence. I have learned that my function is to help you get lost. (31)

Frye’s readers will surely find Bloom’s book of particular interest, not merely because of the relation between the two, but because it is positioned as a final statement on the problem of influence. And, in many ways, Bloom returns to the powerful critic he once was and evidently continues to be.

Bob Dylan


“Subterranean Homesick Blues,” rendered in one of the first great proto-videos. (Yes, that’s Alan Ginsberg animatedly in conversation in the background.)

Frye has a few things to say about Dylan, but this is especially high praise to offer up for his 70th birthday:

Oh, I think Bob Dylan is a poet.  I am quite interested in the folk-song idiom as a poetic idiom.  It’s a revival of an oral tradition in poetry which disappeared for centuries.  Poetry got too badly bogged down with books, and I think it’s a very healthy thing when poetry becomes something that can be recited to an audience with a musical background.  (CW 24, 474)

WWJD: What Would Jesus Defund?

Further to our previous post: It is difficult even to imagine that the Prince of Peace, who exalted the least among us, would defund any of the organizations below. The Conservatives, on the other hand — led by a man who is a declared Christian and has said that there is room for religion in Canadian politics — defunded all of them. (List compiled by

Despite our budgetary woes, however, we can still afford jets, jails and corporate tax cuts. Just like the Sermon on the Mount teaches us.

Unofficial tentative list of organizations whose funding has been cut or ended by the Harper government, including government agencies that supported civil society groups.

Community organizations, NGOs and research bodies reported to have been cut or defunded[1]

  • Action travail des femmes
  • Afghan Association of Ontario, Canada Toronto
  • Alberta Network of Immigrant Women
  • Alternatives (Quebec)
  • Association féminine d’éducation et d’action sociale (AFEAS)
  • Bloor Information and Life Skills Centre[2]
  • Brampton Neighbourhood Services (Ontario) [3]
  • Canadian Arab Federation
  • Canadian Child Care Federation
  • Canadian Council for International Cooperation
  • Canadian Council on Learning
  • Canadian Council on Social Development
  • Canadian Heritage Centre for Research and Information on Canada
  • Canadian International Development Agency, Office of Democratic Governance[4]
  • Canadian Labour Business Centre
  • Canada Policy Research Networks
  • Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women
  • Canada School of Public Service
  • Canadian Teachers’ Federation International porgram
  • Canadian Volunteerism Initiative
  • Centre de documentation sur l’éducation des adultes et la condition feminine
  • Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA.)
  • Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples (Toronto
  • Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada
  • Childcare Resource and Research Unit, Specialink
  • Climate Action Network
  • Community Access Program, internet access for communities at libraries, post offices, community centers
  • Community Action Resource Centre (CARC)
  • Conseil d’intervention pour l’accès des femmes au travail (CIAFT)
  • Court Challenges Program (except language rights cases and legacy cases)
  • Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre Toronto: (Funding cut by CIC in December 2010).
  • Democracy Council[5]
  • Department of Foreign Affairs, Democracy Unit[6]
  • Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women Toronto: (Funding cut by CIC in December 2010).
  • Environment: Youth International Internship Program
  • Eritrean Canadian Community Centre of Metropolitan Toronto (Funding cut by CIC in December 2010)
  • Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy (FemJEPP) in Nova Scotia
  • First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
  • First Nations and Inuit Tobacco Control Program
  • Forum of Federations
  • Global Environmental Monitoring System
  • HRD Adult Learning and Literacy programs
  • HRD Youth Employment Programs
  • Hamilton’s Settlement and Integration Services Organization (Ontario) [7]
  • Immigrant settlement programs
  • Inter-Cultural Neighbourhood Social Services (Peel)[8]
  • International Planned Parenthood Federation
  • Kairos[9]
  • Law Reform Commission of Canada
  • Mada Al-Carmel Arab Centre
  • Marie Stopes International, a maternal health agency – has received only a promise of “conditional funding IF it avoids any & all connection with abortion.
  • MATCH International
  • National association of Women and the Law (NAWL)
  • Native Women’s Association of Canada
  • New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity
  • Northwood Neighbourhood Services (Toronto: (Funding cut by CIC in December 2010).
  • Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH)
  • Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Housing (OAITH)
  • Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care
  • Pride Toronto
  • Réseau des Tables régionales de groupes de femmes du Québec
  • Riverdale Women’s Centre in Toronto
  • Sierra Club of BC
  • Sisters in Spirit
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
  • South Asian Women’s Centre[10]
  • Status of Women (mandate also changed to exclude “gender equality and political justice” and to ban all advocacy, policy research and lobbying
  • Tropicana Community Services
  • Womanspace Resource Centre (Lethbridge, Alberta)
  • Women’s Innovative Justice Initiative – Nova Scotia
  • Workplace Equity/Employment Equity Program
  • York-Weston Community Services Centre Toronto

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Frye on Democracy and Religion: “An open mythology has no canon”

Continuing with Frye on religion and democracy, here he is in The Modern Century:

[D]emocracy can hardly function with a closed myth, and books of the type I have mentioned as contributions to our mythology, however illuminating and helpful, cannot, in a free society, be given any authority beyond what they earn by their own merits. That is, an open mythology has no canon. Similarly, there can be no general elite in a democratic society: in a democracy everybody belongs to some kind of elite, which derives from the social function a particular knowledge or skill that no other group has.

The earlier closed mythology of the Western world was a religion, and the emergence of an open mythology has brought about a cultural crisis which is at bottom a religious crisis. Traditionally, there are two elements in religion, considered as such apart from a definite faith. One is the primitive element of religio, the collection of duties, rituals, and observances which are binding on all members of a community. In this sense Marxism and the American way of life are religions. The other is the sense of a transcendence of the ordinary categories of human experience, a transcendence normally expressed by the words “infinite” and “eternal.” As a structure of belief, religion is generally weakened; it has no secular power to back it up, and its mandates affect far fewer people, and those far less completely, than a century ago. What is significant is not so much the losing of faith as the losing of guilt feelings about losing it. Religion tends increasingly to make its primary impact, not as a system of taught and learned belief, but as an imaginary structure which, whether “true” or not, has imaginative consistency and imaginative informing power. In other words, it makes its essential appeal as myth or possible truth, and whatever belief it attracts follows from that. (CW 11, 67)

This is not what we’re seeing from the highly politicized religious right: it tends to be aggressive and exclusionary, and the agenda seems largely driven by intolerance of secular values as well as resentment of the freedoms they promiscuously provide irrespective of belief, gender or sexual preference. Issues relating to these areas, at any rate, always seem to be top-of-the-list targets. Want to make a religious conservative group resolutely committed to political action? Just raise the issue of gay marriage or the rights of women over their own bodies. It never misses.

I will be posting a list of agencies and organizations that have already been defunded by the Conservatives. Those no longer worthy of government assistance unmistakably have the “wrong” set of priorities: women’s organizations, agencies offering various kinds of assistance to the poor, including immigrants and children, and organizations promoting gay rights, among a number of others with a recognizable progressive mandate. It is a persistent pattern of behavior.

Frye on “the separation of church and state”

From The Double Vision, which aptly anticipates the increasingly intrusive religious orthodoxy and fundamentalism into politics:

In the course of time the movement begun by the Reformation did achieve one major victory: the gradual spread throughout the Western world of the principle of separation of church and state. Something of the genuine secular benefits of democracy have rubbed off on the religious groups, to the immense benefit of humanity, and depriving religion of all secular or temporal power is one of the most genuinely emancipating movements of our time. It seems to be a general rule that the more “orthodox” or “fundamentalist” a religious attitude is, the more strongly it resents this separation and the more consistently it lobbies for legislation giving its formulas secular authority. (CW 4, 174-5)

I’ve expanded an earlier post to provide some sense of how and why that is already happening here.

“The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada”

Marci McDonald has started a blog based upon the book she published last year, The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, which is in turn based upon her earlier article in The Walrus, “Stephen Harper and the Theo-Cons.” The article is a concise review of the American-inspired and Alberta-based republican nationalism that most Canadians do not seem to know anything about. It will no doubt surprise many how deeply embedded this movement is in the Conservative party, and that it seems to be achieving increased access to the institutions of government. It has, at the very least, ready access to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Religion is of course a private matter. But when it begins to impinge upon the public sphere, particularly in government, then it must be scrutinized and made accountable.

Over the next little while we’ll be rolling out a number of passages from Frye in which he discusses the necessary subordination of religion to secular interests in a democracy.

A thorough-going review of McDonald’s book here.

An interview with McDonald on TVO’s The Agenda here.