Under a glamour

Graduates shun teaching as it doesn’t offer enough ‘glamour’, according to a new study, reported in the press today.

But is glamour a good thing? A dictionary defines it as ‘Magic, enchantment; delusive or alluring beauty or charm’ (Concise Oxford). A glamour (as a noun) is a kind of spell, usually bringing dire consequences: a type of bewitchment whereby the victim becomes enamoured of an object of desire to the exclusion of all else, wasting away as they ignore the real world… By these standards, a profession that ‘lacks glamour’ could be a good thing.

A certain amount of delusion is part of the human condition, but however alluring delusion might be, reality is surely better. After all, being under a glamour (or geas or other cantrip) is being under someone else’s control…

I accept that neither the survey authors or respondents were thinking of glamour as it may be deployed by denizens of faerie in the Dark Ages, in the pages of the Morte D’Arthur or even in a Harry Potter book. Presumably they mean glamour as in fame, celebrity, glitz – the type of thing a 13-year-old in the grip of a sugar-rush might be impressed by. Accepting (reluctantly) a modern meaning of glamour as ‘appeal’, one consider other aspects of the appeal of teaching. In a survey of teachers’ status earlier this year it was “rated second – beating city-based jobs such as law and accountancy – in a poll of what was considered the ‘most talented profession'” (TDA).

Corrupted by blogging

Last week I was asked to write a short piece for E42, the new Edge Hill magazine – basically to fill a gap in a spread about the University’s Short Story Prize. Despite my protestations that my collection of Warhammer 40k novels and extensive reading of paperback westerns of the 1970s haven’t equipped me to be a literary critic, I gave it a go – with deadlines looming and better-qualified staff on leave, it seemed the only option. After all, I had read the books and attended the event, so writing 400 words in an hour seemed like the least I could do. (And my western-writing buddies could knock out a novel in three weeks, so I’d be a wimp no to start hitting the keyboard.)

Along the way I got Jennie ‘CLTR Nexus‘ Barnsley to proofread. This process was interesting. Based on Jennie’s input I
– stripped out vast amounts of hyperbole (‘shellshocked and reeling’ became ‘exhausted’; a ‘horrendous’ task became ‘difficult’)
– deGothicised the title (‘Icepicks in the Brain’ became ‘Involving Glimpses’)
– removed a bunch of Americanisms and some non-PC terminology (for which I could have been had up on a summons)
– made it slightly more about the topic and less about me me me.

Mike Nolan talks about people avoiding blogging because they aren’t ‘used to writing like a blogger’. I think I have the opposite problem – I’ve forgotten to write any other way.

Although a blog can be written in any style on any topic, I think there are some ‘genre conventions’ that one can fall into. These include
– attention-getting headings, with a degree of unexpectedness
– personal viewpoint and style
– the conventions of online communication – all those acronyms and terms that have been around since the days of the Well and other prehistoric parts of the internet.

Is there a blogging detox camp that Mister Roy can go to?

Congregation liturgy

You go to a special place at a special time.
Organ music is playing.
Family members sit in rows, dressed smartly.
People in robes process in.
There is standing up and sitting down.
Symbolic objects and costumes are in evidence.
Special words are spoken, which change the identity of the participants for all time (as long as they and others believe in what is said.)
The event comes to an end, and everyone spills out into the sunlight, blinking and reaching for cameras.

This could describe a wedding, a baptism, or a graduation ceremony. Sitting in the audience of the Edge Hill ceremony (a splendid event) yesterday I mused on whether this ritual is as secular as it seems. Obviously it isn’t attached to a particular religion (though the graduation events of some institutions are, to a greater or lesser extent). Nevertheless, an observer might see some structural similarities between the use of space, time, ritual and speech-acts in degree ceremonies and sacred or spiritual events. There was no mention of God but plenty of appeals to, and invocations of, large, transpersonal, intangible concepts – the future, achievement, success, society, development.

Perhaps these events are a kind of secular spirituality?