Friday, 25 February 2011


From Wiki.

Eugenia Falleni (Harry Crawford)
(1875 - 1938) Italy - Australia
Eugenia Falleni (1875–1938) (aka Lena Falleni, Nina Falleni, Eugene Falleni or Martello, Gene Falleni, Harry Leo (or Jack) Crawford and Jean Ford) was a female-to-male transsexual and convicted murderer.

Born near Livorno, Italy (according to family accounts), Falleni was the eldest of 22 children, of whom seventeen (ten boys and seven girls) survived. She migrated with her family toWellington in New Zealand circa 1877, aged about two. Her father, a stern disciplinarian, worked as a carrier with a horse and cart and as fisherman, among other occupations, and Eugenia, after repeatedly dressing as a boy to obtain work in brickyards and stables during her teenage years, left home in the guise of cabin boy.

By her own account her sex was discovered on board ship, and she was put ashore pregnant in Newcastle, Australia, in 1898, either as a result of rape or a consensual relationship. In the same year she gave birth to a daughter, Josephine, in Sydney, and put the child into the care of an Italian-born woman in Double Bay, and afterwards took on a male identity as ‘Harry Leo Crawford’, of Scots descent. After a series of manual jobs in meat works, pubs and in a rubber factory, in 1912 Harry entered the employ of a Dr G. R. C. Clarke in Wahroongah, Northern Sydney, as a general useful and sulky driver. On 19 February 1913 at the Methodist Parsonage in inner city Balmain, claiming to be a widower aged 38, Crawford went through a marriage ceremony with Annie Birkett, a widow of 35 with a 13-year-old son, who had been working as Dr Clarke’s housekeeper. Annie set up a confectionary shop in Balmain, evidently unaware that her husband was not a man, while Harry continued as a peripatetic manual worker.

In 1917, after Annie had apparently threatened to reveal her husband to the authorities for his deception, the couple quarrelled and Annie disappeared. Her body was discovered in October that year, partially burned and with cracks to the skull, in a forested picnic area near the Lane Cove River, but it remained unidentified for over two years. In the meantime, in a Sydney registry office in September 1919, Harry Crawford underwent another marriage ceremony with Elizabeth King Allison, a spinster.

Also in the intervening time, Annie’s son had alerted the police to his mother’s prolonged disappearance; the body of Annie was exhumed and identified, and Harry was arrested on 5 July 1920. At the time of his arrest, while living with Elizabeth in a house in Stanmore and working in an Annandale hotel, he asked to be placed in the women’s cells and requested that his wife be not apprised that he was not a man. Among male clothing in a locked leather suitcase, police located an ‘article’, later exhibited in court, made of wood and rubber bound with cloth in the shape of a phallus or dildo.

At Falleni’s preliminary hearing and trial for murder at Darlinghurst Court house in October 1920, the ‘Man-Woman case’ created a press sensation, with the accused appearing in the dock first in a man’s suit and then in women’s clothes. Falleni pleaded not guilty to the murder, but her alleged immorality in passing herself off as a man was made much of in the popular press, which portrayed her as a monster and a pervert. She was convicted and condemned to death, but her sentence was commuted to detainment at the Governor’s Pleasure. When released from Long Bay Prison eleven years later in February 1931 she assumed the name ‘Jean Ford’ and became the proprietor of a boarding house in Paddington, Sydney. On 9 June 1938 she stepped off the pavement in front of a motorcar in nearby Oxford Street, and died of her injuries the following day in Sydney Hospital. Eugenia Falleni was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave at Rookwood Cemetery.

In the intervening years, after the publication by the press and popular crime writers of a large amount of speculation and various contradictory accounts of her life (many of them propagated by Falleni herself, who had grown up believing that impersonating a man was criminal offence), the case was largely forgotten until the appearance of a detailed biography of Falleni in 1988, after which her story was taken up in Australia by a number of artists, playwrights and short film makers, museum and photography curators, and academics with an interest in gender studies.

Times change. It’s been seventy years since Harry lived. Today, he’d have had the option of surgery. His life would have been completely different.

Friday, 18 February 2011


From The Guardian newspaper. “Poem of the week”, 1st September 2008.
Charlotte Mew's work had already attracted the interest of Ezra Pound when, in 1912, Alida Monro spotted the poem, "The Farmer's Bride", in a copy of The Nation. She was "electrified". She immediately committed the verses to memory.

In the following year, Alida and her husband, the Georgian poet Harold Monro, started up the Poetry Bookshop in Theobalds Road, near the British Museum. Not only a shop and a poets' meeting place, it was also a publishing venture dedicated to the work of younger writers. In 1916, the press brought out the 17 poems that form Charlotte Mew's strikingly original first collection, “The Farmer's Bride.”

Charlotte Mew (1869-1928) also wrote short stories; perhaps it was her prose-writing that led to a notably elastic treatment of the poetic line. Her style is elegant; graceful. She brings musicality to her vivid, naturalistic speech rhythms. Though she never seems to have written free verse, she was unafraid to mix meters and experiment with different line-lengths. It's said that she asked that the poems of “The Farmer's Bride”, should be typeset sideways, so as to accommodate those with unusually long lines.

Mew's poems amount to a slender but remarkable body of work. She brings to Georgian poetry not only a distinctive technique but an unusual, in many ways un-English, sensibility. She read widely in French, and in her younger days frequently visited Paris and Brittany. She was attracted by Catholicism, and there is a sensuous, Southern colour in much of her work.

The intense, hopeless romantic love that she often depicts, reflects her own emotional entombment. Both a sister and a brother had been confined to mental hospitals. Charlotte and her artist sister, Anne, vowed never to marry, because of the fear of hereditary insanity. Most of Mew's romantic attachments were to women, in fact, but she moved in a Bloomsbury less liberated than that of the Woolfs, enclosed in a shabby gentility where lesbian longings were hardly likely to be fulfilled.

The speaker in "The Farmer's Bride" tells his story with powerful immediacy, and no attempt at concealment. His dialect is tactfully indicated. Mew's paternal grandfather had been a farmer on the Isle of Wight, and she made childhood visits there. Perhaps this is where both the tale and dialect originated.

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)

The changing seasons that a farmer would naturally register in terms of work patterns, serve here to sharpen unbearable emotion. Three summers have passed since the ill-omened wedding: autumn is fading to winter, and the sense of wasted life is building. The terrified bride seems to be on the edge of madness. She communicates only with animals and birds: that she is wild and elusive like these creatures is beautifully suggested in the tripping dactylic rhythms (e.g. "shy as a leveret"). The rhyming scheme keeps giving way to couplets, as if to express the increasingly headlong passion of the speaker. He had once had better things to do "than bide and woo". Now desire is his whole, futile occupation. We realise this especially at the end, when he exclaims, first of all, not over the woman's hair or eyes, but over "the soft young down of her". He must have watched her closely, studied while she slept, the texture of her skin. How much longer he will be able to resist raping her is the unasked question. The shadow of that, and the possibility of eventual madness and death for them both, drives and darkens the whole poem: and yet it is still a love poem.

After her great year of writing, 1916, Mew became less and less productive. Unable to recover from Anne's death in 1927, she was admitted to a sanatorium for treatment for "neurasthenia". Perhaps it was the fear that the family madness had caught up with her that drove her to a horrible suicide by swallowing Lysol, a concentrated cleaning product. The newspaper report of her death referred to her as "Miss Charlotte Mary New, a writer of verse". The 20th century has since made up for its neglect, and she is now highly regarded.

Dark, ominous clouds gather. You know that the violation will happen. It is inevitable.

Here is Charlotte’s poem.

“The Farmer's Bride”.

"Three summers since I chose a maid, Too young maybe - but more's to do At harvest-time than bide and woo. When us was wed she turned afraid Of love and me and all things human; Like the shut of a winter's day. Her smile went out, and t'wasn't a woman - More like a little frightened fay. One night, in the Fall, she runned away.

"Out 'mong the sheep, her be," they said, 'Should properly have been abed; But sure enough she wasn't there Lying awake with her wide brown stare. So over seven-acre field and up-along across the down We chased her, flying like a hare Before our lanterns. To Church-Town All in a shiver and a scare We caught her, fetched her home at last And turned the key upon her, fast.

She does the work about the house As well as most, but like a mouse: Happy enough to chat and play With birds and rabbits and such as they, So long as men-folk keep away. "Not near, not near!" her eyes beseech When one of us comes within reach. The women say that beasts at stall Look round like children at her call. I've hardly heard her speak at all.

Shy as a leveret, swift as he, Straight and slight as a young larch tree, Sweet as the first wild violets, she, To her wild self. But what to me?

The short days shorten and the oaks are brown, The blue smoke rises to the low grey sky, One leaf in the still air falls slowly down, A magpie's spotted feathers lie On the black earth spread white with rime. The berries redden up to Christmas-time. What's Christmas-time without there be Some other in the house than we!

She sleeps up in the attic there Alone, poor maid. 'Tis but a stair Betwixt us. Oh! My God! the down, The soft young down of her, the brown, The brown of her - her eyes, her hair, her hair!"

(N.B. Searching the Web, I came across several different ways of how this poem was presented on the page. As Charlotte had specified a sideways typeset, to accommodate the longer lines, I like to think that this layout here is the layout she would have preferred.)

Friday, 11 February 2011

Jacques Lacan. Linguistics and Psychoanalysis

I am thrilled that the wonderful John Haber has given me permission to post his great essay on Jacques Lacan on my blog. You may have heard of Lacan and his linguistic theories -- been puzzled, or infuriated by him. John explains Lacan, clearly and concisely. So if you’ve glazed over at the mention of Semiotics, switched channels as soon as they start talking about Structuralism, never heard of “the mirror stage”, all will become clear when you’ve read John’s essay. You can access John’s haberarts blog here.
Who Is Jacques Lacan?

John Haber
in New York City
A Primer for Pre-Post-Structuralists

Jacques Lacan is a Parisian psychoanalyst who has influenced literary criticism and feminism. He began work in the 1950s, in the Freudian society there. It was a time when those official ties meant something—when one could be expelled for deviation, as if from the Communist party.

It was also a time when Freud's reputation in France was very low, for Existentialism was the thing. Lacan changed all that almost overnight, when he broke off to start his own society, commencing seminars there and at the École Normale Superior.

The cry of "return of Freud" went up at just the right moment. It was 1964, with pressure building against the establishment, the same pressures that led to the 1968 student riots and Michel Foucault's philosophy of suspicion. But then where would art be without sex, neurosis, ideas, and rebellion? Structuralism was in the air, too, and Lacan offered a structuralist Freud. A structuralist Freud? That is it in a nutshell, and that is what needs explaining.

Words, words, words

Lacan was fascinated by Sigmund Freud's earliest discovery—unconscious desires, as revealed through free associations and dreams. In other words, desires emerge through words and images. They speak a language parallel to our own.

Jean-Paul Sartre's followers had no interest in such things. Existentialists believe in conscious decisions. The unconscious seems far too squishy to them, too much a denial of responsibility. Instead of internal conflicts, Sartre said, other people create our identity. The "unconscious" is just the part of us that others understand when we do not.

Lacan picked up on the unconscious as a social being. He even spoke of a child's passage through a mirror stage, in which it must learn to see itself from outside before it can have an internal identity. Yet the psychologist refused to dismiss the reality of an unconscious mind. Nope, it is quite real enough to destroy lives, and it can be made perfectly precise: the unconscious is structured like a language. As Anthony Wilden's book about him puts it, the unconscious is The Language of the Self. To explain this, I have to spell out how Structuralists understood language

One often thinks of a language as a lexicon. Each word points to a familiar object, like a dictionary or even a picture book. In a real language, however, words take on meaning only from other words. Batty philosophers are not exactly catty because of a difference in sounds, and semantics works much the same way. Those clowns are not exactly insane or comical either, because shades of meaning emerge by contrast.

The ultimate unit of meaning is less the word than the sentence—or even the entire language. One has a system, a structure, without a base. Language is like a computer network without a central computer. Meaning is always "deferred" to the next word in the chain of associations.

Picking up on Freud's idea of free associations, Lacan tried Structuralism on the mind. The reward for him was in that mysteriously productive deferral. He marvelled at a word's absence of fixed reference taken alone, apart from a context in language. It reminded him of what happens when one feels an absence in oneself, a lack in life: desire. Lacan had brought together Freud's technique, of word association, with his subject matter, desire. In this way he found new relevance in Freud's whole vocabulary of unconscious urges.

The symbol truth

The trick was to stick to how words work. One necessarily expresses desires in words, so every desire needs a symbol. The father against whom one rebels is a symbol, and from it the mind takes shape. The mother is what each symbol lacks, so desire for her makes symbolic sense, too. These symbols form not some hidden art gallery of the mind, but a living vocabulary: "The unconscious is always empty."

Does it seem silly for Freud to talk about one's old man as a mythic figure out of Oedipus Rex? Does penis envy seem even sillier, if not sexist? Fine. What matters is "the name of the father" and the social authority of men, with their darn "phallus." Lacan used that word, rather than "penis," to stress its symbolic, downright arbitrary nature.

A healthy person thrives on this system of symbols and desires. One needs all this "Imaginary" to stay in touch with "the Real." A neurotic is someone for whom the system has broken down. Language has utterly deserted a depressive, who is reduced to mute despair. Psychoanalysis heals by restoring a tortured mind to speech. More formally, Lacan translated Freud's ego, id, and superego into levels of linguistic mastery, but the jargon ("schema R") is more than you need to know to cope with my Web site.

Students were spellbound, owing to the standard ingredients of cult status—ideas and charisma. Ironically, Lacan's ego got caught up in the very paradox of his work: psychoanalysis, too, seemed to need the name of the father. It could achieve maturity only by recognizing Lacan's unshakeable authority, even if only as yet another productive symbol. Oddly enough, the obscurity of Lacan's language fed into all this, or at least into his charisma. Mostly the difficulty comes through in print, too, for he writes just awfully.
Lacan at once relished his status and recognized a problem with it. He revelled in his high-handed style, but he dissolved his own society in 1980.

By that time, however, Lacanian thought had taken on a life of its own. At first its influence outside Paris was, to put it graciously, nil. Laying Existentialism and Structuralism on top of Freud, most therapists felt, only made the squishy into pure liquid. Lacan's lousy prose only confirmed how useless it all was. Even today, American undergraduates studying abnormal psychology beware: they will hardly find Lacan so much as mentioned in their textbook.

Per loins

Outside psychology, however, Structuralism was taking over intellectual life. Literary criticism, especially felt its influence. It was starting to call itself literary theory and imagining it was philosophy! Did Lacan treat the mind like a work of literature, to be interpreted through attention to its language? Hardly a bad message for those who take literature for the meaning of life, and a new kind of Freudian interpretation took hold. Lacanians got to insist that, unlike the nasty old kind, they were not just reducing books to the writer's hang-ups or to Freud's system. They were showing people how to read. One can even apply Lacan to Dickens.

What other critics were showing people, however, was no longer a system—not even Lacan's. Indirectly, Lacan helped give birth to a happy mess that his system could never comprehend. Starting with such titles as Grammatology, Jacques Derrida made the decisive step. The French philosopher took Structuralism apart and found he liked it better in pieces.

Can any meaning be traced through an entire language? Can any word take on fresh associations? Fine, but then what sense does it make to catalog a language—or the mind? The operative word became Poststructuralism, the first "post" in a long run of fashionable Postmodernisms.

Lacan himself helped out the literary trends: his opening seminar in his collected writings analyses "The Purloined Letter" as an example of how the mind works. Remember the letter used for blackmail in Edgar Allan Poe's short story? In the same way, Lacan argued, words take on new significance, threats, power, and desires for each person as they circulate.

If some English professors in America were happy, feminists were simply overjoyed. The Freudian father? Not even real. Just a mental construct. Jacqueline Rose and Juliet Mitchell in London saw that as cause for Marxists to re-examine how society creates gender roles for us, just as social and economic conditions create other sorts of havoc. Lacan's mirror makes a great metaphor for a world that surrounds women with mirrors and fashion photography, makes them into Madonnas and whores, and long called a still-life painting Vanitas.

Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigary, Hélène Cixoux, and other feminists in Paris found cause for yet another celebration. Art, they wrote, releases a kind of meaning that's freer than ordinary prose—a rich, meaningful babbling dominated by the dream of one's mother. The doctrine of lack and deferral truly means something for women who feel more like male society's displaced persons than happy creatures born to nurture men. And in fact Kristeva was an exile in another sense, Bulgarian born.

Po' Poe

The b.s. quotient here had not escaped the rest of the world, of course. Kristeva sounds like a typical Parisian intellectual. In her novels, women naturally watch film noir and always wear just the right outfit. The deacon of deconstruction himself, Derrida, demolished Lacan through another reading of Poe, just as he has frolicked through art history and Vincent van Gogh.

Let me look more carefully, then, at Lacan's "Seminar on the Purloined Letter." It was originally published in French as the opening essay in Ecrits ("Writings").
Derrida's response, "Le Facteur de la Verité," has a more punning title, typical of his playfulness. It means both "The Truth Factor" and "The Mailman Bringing Truth." Alan Bass's translation first appeared in what quickly became a legendary issue of Yale French Studies. Derrida included the essay as well in a book on Freud, which Bass also translated: La Carte Postale (or "The Post Card").

Lacan is as dense as ever, but Derrida is formidable for a different reason, one already announced in his title's virtuosity. Throughout a long essay, he finds room to play even as he sticks to a careful structure that one must also bear in mind. Quite a challenge, but worth it.

After that, can I risk a quick summary? Here goes. Lacan notes that the letter never changes as it circulates. Yet its significance changes constantly, depending on who holds it who recognizes it for what it is. Lacan takes this as emblematic of how the unconscious works.

In his theory, recall, the unconscious works like a language. The mind teems with desires that grow real only when translated into symbols, as in Freud's device of free association. Like words in a language, the associations are arbitrary. As symbols of desire for the lost intimacies of infancy, the thing they signify is simply not there: it is always lacking. Similarly, the letter, despite its power, remains somehow empty, for blackmail can no longer threaten the moment someone uses it.

Lacking Lacan

Derrida takes on Lacan, just as he had any Structuralist view of language. He criticized Structuralism for hoping rigorously to define meaning, as if a system like language could ever be closed and could ever have a fixed center. In the same way, Derrida deconstructs Lacan: he claims that the psychologist returns firmly to a system of tidy meanings.

After Lacan, psychoanalysis remains a system, with fanatical followers. Psychoanalytic readings, or so goes the standard complaint, still read a predetermined message into literary texts. Derrida agrees on both counts. Lacan finds what he wants in Poe because he pumps it into the text. This "lack" of which he speaks is poststructuralist only on the surface. Lacan may seem to play around, but for him lack is all too real, the essential subject of psychoanalysis.

Derrida also tears into Lacan's writing. That famously tendentious style is far from playful (unlike Derrida's own, he tactfully neglects to say). It is a sad blockage for readers. It cannot help being insensitive to a literary work like Poe's. In fact, by creating a breakdown between meaning and form, it again calls up a tired notion of literary content. The quaint Freudian in tweeds has returned, reading psychoanalysis into everything that moves.

Lacan, Derrida argues further, commits the ultimate sin against literature: he works from the plot rather than Poe's language. Lacan finds yet another way, too, to cut off the chain of meaning on which a literary work subsists: he isolates the story from two others about Detective Dupin. Worse, Lacan isolates the mythic triangle of characters in Poe's story from the narrator. By bursting these frames, Derrida hopes to open up all those Lacanian triangles.

Lacan, in other words, imposes a frame on the story as triumphantly as a blackmailer frames the innocent victim. He is one more player in the game, trumping the previous one to assert his own mastery—much like each person in turn in "The Purloined Letter."

For Lacan, context is everything. It creates desire, and so for each person, as in Poe, the letter bears profound significance: a letter always finds its address. Derrida plays on that truly memorable line. In language, literature, or psychology, meaning can never be closed off or translated once and for all, not even into other words: a letter never finds its address.

Art and the undecidable

Literary critics love arguments, and I suppose they will go on until the world loses patience entirely with anything so turgid. No wonder an American moved the dispute officially to the world of literary criticism. Barbara Johnson weighed in with "Poe, Lacan, Derrida," an essay in her finest book, The Critical Difference.

All three essays appear along with Poe's story—and goodness knows what else—in a paperback called The Purloined Poe. Johnson's book, which was her first, also has a superb essay (if longer and at least as tough) on Herman Melville's Billy Budd.
Johnson deconstructs the difference between the two Poststructuralists. She suggests that both men are up to the same games with the structure of words.

Really, does all that much separate them? Both are out to trump the master. Both play around with associations, desires, and lacks at the heart of consciousness. Besides, is meaning truly indeterminate, in the sense of having no fixed translation once and for all? If Derrida is right, then, the difference between him and Lacan must, she concludes, be undecidable.

I side with the French, but both at once, for the same reason that I want to end this primer in the world of fiction—and art. (After all, I have myself stolen from Derrida when I came to Constantin Brancusi and Andy Warhol.) With Lacan and Derrida, I take the idea of deferral to mean that differences matter. Meanings may never become final, but locating them is a necessary decision. It involves letting the differences multiply—between artists, between art objects, between art and life—even as the copy becomes a basic tool of Postmodernism.

Locating meaning is the difference between depression and vitality, between feminism and silence. It is the difference between unconscious lack and that fullness of desire called art.

Here is John Haber’s Wiki entry.

John Haber (b. June 5, 1954, New York City) is an American art critic and art blogger who lives in New York. He uses the perspective of critical theory in an accessible, journalistic prose to write online reviews and essays about topics ranging from traditional art history, Modernism and Postmodernism.When his New York Art Crit art blog site started in 1994 with art reviews from around New York, it was the most thorough and extensive set of gallery and museum reviews anywhere online. This art hyperbook currently features over 1,000 indexed artists, critics, and art historians from the early Renaissance to Postmodernism, with more than 7,000 links between reviews. Of special interest is the connection of art to feminism, philosophy, and politics.

Haber studied physics as an undergraduate student at Princeton University. His essays on new media bridge the connections between science and art.
Many of Haber’s articles have also appeared in Artillery Magazine, Perfect 8, Artists Books Reviews, American Abstract Artists Journal, and Sharkforum.

Friday, 4 February 2011



I’ve been thinking about posting something about censorship for a while. I don’t like it, I don’t agree with it, but as writers of Erotica, we censor our stuff all the time. We have to, if we want our stories to be published. I don’t particularly want to write underage sex stories, non-consensual sex stories, and “snuff” stories. If I do decide to, I have to file them away somewhere and wait for a cultural change.

Having said that, I have written a story about bestiality; another topic that’s on the censor’s hit list. I enjoyed writing it -- a few people have said they enjoyed reading it.

But as I’ve said before, there are examples of all of these practices in Homer and Shakespeare. So what’s going on? Perhaps folk in days gone by, weren’t so touchy about being politically correct. Maybe, just maybe, they were more in touch with themselves, than we are with all our ever growing gadgets, potions and technologies. Perhaps we, in the angst ridden 21st century, just look for stuff to worry about.

So, I was shocked and dismayed, when I read Benedict Page’s article in the Guardian newspaper, telling me that Alabama in the U.S. has dropped Mark Twain’s classic, “Huckleberry Finn”, from the school curriculum. Not only that, but the entire book is being re-written;

“…and will be published with a notable language alteration: all instances of the offensive racial term "nigger" are to be expunged. The word occurs more than 200 times in Huckleberry Finn, first published in 1884, and its 1876 precursor, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which tell the story of the boys' adventures along the Mississippi river in the mid-19th century. In the new edition, the word will be replaced in each instance by "slave". The word "injun" will also be replaced in the text.”

Twain scholar Dr Alan Gribben of Auburn University, Montgomery says it will have the effect, of replacing "two hurtful epithets" in order to "counter the 'pre-emptive censorship' that Dr Gribben observes, “has caused these important works of literature to fall off curriculum lists worldwide."

Gribben said he had decided on the move because over decades of teaching Twain, and reading sections of the text aloud, he had found himself recoiling from uttering the racial slurs in the words of the young protagonists. "The n-word possessed, then as now, demeaning implications more vile than almost any insult that can be applied to other racial groups," he said. "As a result, with every passing decade this affront appears to gain rather than lose its impact."

"We may applaud Twain's ability as a prominent American literary realist to record the speech of a particular region during a specific historical era," Gribben added, "but abusive racial insults that bear distinct connotations of permanent inferiority nonetheless repulse modern-day readers."

So what next? Re-writes of “To Kill A Mockingbird”? “Of Mice And Men”? There’s bestiality in “A Midsummer Nights’ Dream.” And “The Merchant Of Venice” is blatantly anti-Semitic. So, for that matter, is Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist”. And while we’re at it, what about Vladimir Nabokov’s pornographic novel, “Lolita”? Nothing more than a call for legitimising paedophilia. What’s that? It’s not porn? And it’s not advocating paedophilia? Well, it would surely embarrass Dr Gribben! Re-write it anyway!

I have a mischievous image in my mind of Dr Gribben’s lectures. His students would pick up on the esteemed Academic’s embarrassment immediately. There would be nudges and giggles and wonderful impersonations of Dr Gribben. How the great man would be mortified.

It may be an uncomfortable fact, but the human race does have a lot to feel ashamed about, in terms of how we have treated “the other”. The person, whom for whatever reason, be it race, sexuality, disability, is different to the majority. That doesn’t mean we should re-write history. That was how things were back then. Yes, blush and mumble our excuses. Learn from the past, don’t negate it. To do anything else, lacks integrity.

Shame on you, Dr Gribben, you attempt to make words a liar. But words are tricky, slippery things and the truth has a way of working itself out. You should know, as an Academic, that we don’t control language; it controls us. You mess with words; they bite back.

Mark Twain himself, was a passionate critic of American racism, and donated money to a number of civil rights organisations including the nascent NAACP, as well as ironically critiquing prejudice in both Huckleberry Finn and the later novel Puddn'head Wilson.

I am mildly amused that Mark Twain makes Dr Gribben feel uncomfortable, I like to think that Mr Twain would be amused too -- but really, Dr Gribben, don’t be such a baby. Get over it. Get over yourself.