Last month (the 6th of August, to be specific) marked the one year anniversary of my arrival in Montréal with my wife, Amber, my dog, Linus, and two cubefuls of various life possessions. As is often the case, the summer flew by, and the academic year at Université de Montréal is well underway. For better or for worse, my fall and winter 2014-15 schedule will not be dictated by classes, as I completed the last of my required master’s credits during this past summer session. My lack of activity on the blog (indeed becoming a cliché or expectation…) is not at all indicative, however, of a lack of activity during these summer months—in fact, it’s been quite the opposite.
“Ulysses and the Myth of Monumental Modernism”
Although I wish that I could, I can’t lay claim to the heading above: it was, in fact, the title of the last master’s course I will be taking at UdeM, which began on May 5th and ended June 18th. If you quickly do the math, that’s approximately six weeks dedicated to what many have called the single most important novel of the 20th century (in English or otherwise). Each class session of this rather peculiar seminar consisted of discussing one or two episodes of the novel alongside one or two critical essays on the same episode(s). Discussions tended to meander through disparate territories, including such topics as Ulysses‘s relation to the “monument” of Modernism, Joyce’s positionality as a Irish man inscribing a visibly Jewish subjectivity in Leopold Bloom, the materiality of Ulysses‘s original and subsequent publications, and how certain texts like Ulysses manage to teach their readers particular ways of reading.
As anticipated, I thoroughly enjoyed the class—in fact, I’d love to take another Ulysses seminar (or two) if ever given the chance. Something may come of my final project for the class, which consisted of a paper proposal and annotated bibliography. My proposed topic dealt with two stereotypes of the Jew that have managed to ingrain themselves within the Western imaginary over centuries of development in religious, historical, scientific, and nationalist discourses. These two stereotypes are that of the “Womanly Jew” and that of the “Perverse Jew,” and there are clearly characteristics of both embedded in Joyce’s characterization of the modern Odysseus, Leopold Bloom. However, it would be shortsighted to write this inclusion of stereotypes off as a racist product of another place and time. In line with other modernist and Joyce scholars, I believe that this kind of thinking is one reason, among others, why so little critical work has been done on the figure of the Jew in Ulysses when compared, for example, to the amount of work that has been done on the notion of Bloom as the modern everyman, a kind of common, yet universal, savior. Rather than diving any deeper into this subject here, however, I’ll save it for another time.
Summer Side Projects
With coursework out of the way and just under a year of research and writing ahead of me, I decided to spend a large part of my summer figuring out how to make money to pay my tuition for the next two terms at UdeM. Armed with a student work permit allowing me to work off campus for up to 20 hours per week and a competency in French not quite suitable for any sort of specialized work environment, I received very few responses to the dozens and dozens of resumes I sent to employers of every sort imaginable (on the plus side, I learned one of my favorite new words in French: plongeur). Disheartened but not defeated, I decided to go with what I know: Internet marketing and the English language.
Starting at the end of June, I began posting ads on Craigslist and Kijiji for general English tutoring services that included private lessons in reading, writing, and speaking and extended as far as English editing and revision for anyone and everyone in need of such services. The response was pleasantly surprising, and I quickly accumulated a good half-dozen regular students whom I met with weekly throughout the summer, and some of whom I am still meeting with on a weekly basis at the current moment. I have also started working with a Professor in the Psychology Department at UdeM who hired me to edit and revise various scholarly papers and academic documents that both her and her students write and submit in English. I’d say this has been the best job to come across my desk this summer, as it has both forced me to adjust my eye for a type of writing with which I am almost completely unfamiliar and, in the process, encouraged me to take a closer look at my own style of writing in comparison to a sparser more compact form of delivery.
I’ve gradually built out my marketing efforts to include a page on this very website, which has (also surprisingly) generated a few leads here and there. Tuition is now more than paid for, and there’s something warmly satisfying about making money doing something that you would have, in all likelihood, done for free in another setting, at another time.
Although it had been in the works long before this summer, June 15 marked the official launch of AKLASU Magazine. This online magazine, of which I am Editor in Chief, is the official publication of AKLASU, a menswear company that produces timeless garments for those who understand the value of simplicity and an understated style. Right now, the company sells neckties, bow ties, ascots, and pocket squares, all of which are designed in Canada and handmade in Italy.
OK, that’s enough of a plug.
I started with AKLASU and its founder and owner, Mensah Aklasu, back in 2011. Since then, the brand has gone through some changes, and I was out of the picture for about a year. I’m glad to be working with the company again in a role that varies from editor, to consultant, to social media expert (hah). We’re expecting some growth this holiday season—a trend that will hopefully carry over into 2015. I’ll be posting something more extensive on AKLASU in the future, which will mostly be an excuse to take a break from literature to write about clothes and style. For now, if you’re in the market for high quality accessories, or if you’d simply like to learn more, don’t be shy and visit our website.
Other Summer Stuff
Montréal undergoes an incredible transformation towards the end of spring. Although the snow and ice might not be completely melted away well into May, the arrival of T-shirt temperatures sets off something in the head of your average Montrealer. Terrasses quickly fill, entire stretches of major streets close down as “rues piétonnes,” and festivals take up the better part of the city’s spare time. Indeed, people here appreciate summer in a way I’ve never seen. Though traditionally not a summer person (due to the inferno that Las Vegas turns into from the middle of May until, well, right about now), I found myself—quite in line with what I had repeatly been told would happen come summer—falling in love with Montréal during the warmer months of the year. Rather than write about it, however, I’m going to forego my natural impulse to describe things in words and simply finish with a handful of photos1 that capture of some of the best moments this summer brought with it.