- Sep 2021
Imitation, Paul says, allows us to think with other people’s brains. It is a key technique — globally and transhistorically — for learning, from babies imitating parents to apprentices imitating masters. And yet imitation is seen in contemporary US society, and schooling especially, as so debased that it is frequently punished. In fact, if Paul is correct (and I think she is, and have thought so for years when teaching writing), we should build imitation into many more of our lesson plans.
On the importance of imitation...
I'm reminded of Benjamin Franklin imitating what he thought were good writers to make his own writing more robust.
Maybe the aphorism: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," should really be "Imitation is the sincerest form of learning."
- Aug 2021
The Echo & Narcissus Writing Club is all about mimicking the work of exceptional writers in order to learn from them.
I'm reminded here of a portion of Benjamin Franklin's passage in his Autobiography where he describes his writing process and work to improve.
Also the main plotline of the movie Finding Forrester.
- Jun 2021
Writing is a verb, a practice. It is labor. A paper is at least one step removed from that labor and learning. It is a product of your labor, not your labor itself. So our grading system should align with what this course is mostly about, which is your acts of learning, your labors of writing.
I'm reminded here of a portion of Benjamin Franklin's passage in his Autobiography where he describes his writing process and work to improve:
About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator. It was the third. I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. With this view I took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the book, try'd to compleat the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them. But I found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in recollecting and using them, which I thought I should have acquired before that time if I had gone on making verses; since the continual occasion for words of the same import, but of different length, to suit the measure, or of different sound for the rhyme, would have laid me under a constant necessity of searching for variety, and also have tended to fix that variety in my mind, and make me master of it. Therefore I took some of the tales and turned them into verse; and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the prose, turned them back again. I also sometimes jumbled my collections of hints into confusion, and after some weeks endeavored to reduce them into the best order, before I began to form the full sentences and compleat the paper. This was to teach me method in the arrangement of thoughts. By comparing my work afterwards with the original, I discovered many faults and amended them; but I sometimes had the pleasure of fancying that, in certain particulars of small import, I had been lucky enough to improve the method of the language, and this encouraged me to think I might possibly in time come to be a tolerable English writer, of which I was extremely ambitious. My time for these exercises and for reading was at night, after work or before it began in the morning, or on Sundays, when I contrived to be in the printing-house alone, evading as much as I could the common attendance on public worship which my father used to exact of me when I was under his care, and which indeed I still thought a duty, thought I could not, as it seemed to me, afford time to practise it.
- Apr 2021
As I was gearing up to start my PhD last fall, I received a piece of advice that made a lot of sense at the time, and continues to do so. My colleague, Inba told me to 'write while I read', meaning that I should take notes and summarize research while I read it, and not just read and underline article after article. That way, not only do I not lose my thoughts while I'm reading an article, but I am actively thinking through the arguments in the paper while I am reading it and my writing is thoroughly grounded in the literature.
This is generally fantastic advice! It's also the general underpinning behind the idea of Luhmann's zettelkasten method.
I'll also mention that it's not too dissimilar to Benjamin Franklin's writing advice about taking what others have written and working with that yourself, though there he doesn't take it as far as others have since.
- Oct 2020
At two this morning, he confesses that he opened the drawer in which his cigars are put away. He only succeeded in locking it up again by a violent effort. His next proceeding, in case of temptation, was to throw the key out of window.
The Moonstone was also put away in a drawer. This parallel highlights the use of the Moonstone as a symbol for addiction, and its effects on personal relationships. The insidious temptation of addiction can only be resisted by violent effort and self-denial. Addicts become pariahs of society, represented here by the 'foreignness' of Ezra and Franklin. No good Englishman would be an addict, no sir.
“What right has she to suspect Me, on any evidence, of being a thief?”
How is Franklin so oblivious to the hypocrisy here? What "right" does he have to suspect anybody of being a thief in that case? I believe Collins is trying to push the point that we are quick to take our own knowledge for granted while disregarding this fact for others. Again, another reference to the subjectivity of "truth" and the difficulty in distinguishing it from "belief".
He has failed to do that
According to Erza, the results of the experiment were only half of those that were expected. It may be possible of course that this is all that took place during that night. Someone else could have been present during Franklin's 'sleep walking' phase, just like how Franklin was observed during this experiment by Erza, and took the stone when Franklin tossed it to the ground? Or perhaps this outcome goes to show a more realistic point of view, in that it would have been actually impossible to replicate the whole night entirely, and that even the fact that they were able to reproduce it to such an extend is in itself an impressive accomplishment.
life had two sides to it
It's interesting that Godfrey is the character now associated with duplicity when Franklin was the first character said to have multiple sides. Betteredge's discription of Franklin as having an English side, Italian side, German side etc. proved to be not really true when we got to follow Franklin's own narration, or at least not as true as Betteredge implied in his introduction. Meanwhile Godfrey was the goody two shoes boy for most of the book until we started to see some flaws with his engagement to Rachel.
The doctor’s pretty housemaid
It appears to me that Franklin is very sensitive to beauty, or the lack thereof. He almost never fails to present a person without describing their looks (for better or worse). It seems to almost define them, in his eyes. It would be interesting to search in his text for mentions of appearance and compare it to other narrators.
There was only one way to take with him. I appealed to his interest in Rachel, and his interest in me.
Franklin has this odd mix of characteristics. at times, he is obtusely unaware of his social status at times and assumes immediate self-importance. at others, he knows exactly who to ask for favors. he has a headstrong approach with Rachel, but manages to wheedle/manipulate Betteredge. like godfrey, he seems to be a smooth talker. just not with the ladies.
Interesting that he refers to Ezra by his full name (as opposed to the pretty servant). Even though he doesn't know anything about the person but the way he looks, Franklin appears to admire him. On the other hand, perhaps so as to subdue his admiration/jealousy for him, he pities Ezra for "being unpopular everywhere," implicitly preening himself for being so well-known.
I never noticed her.
Well, at least he's honest about that. it's incredible to me how self-centered Mr. Franklin could be. Up to that point, he barely even recognizes the excruciating pain she must've endured, being treated as non-existent by him; he doesn't exhibit any empathy or sympathy (which is hilarious given that he's chasing Rachel so desperately), as if it is so inexplicable and absurd that she's had feelings for a person so above her societal rank, that it can simply be disregarded. Notice how the entire time he's reading the letter, all he cares about is finding a clue for the Moonstone, or his own ostensible guilt.
However, he's surely endeavoring to justify himself here, not to be seen to the reader as a supercilious, ill-mannered man!
But she died a dreadful death, poor soul–and I feel a kind of call on me, Mr. Franklin, to humour that fancy of hers
Aww Betteredge. Even though he's got detective fever he wants to do right by Rosanna's last request. I really like how this chapter lets us see an outside perspective of Betteredge, and how he really is the good guy I thought he was.
I asked him if any slander had been spoken of me in Rachel’s hearing.
Something intersting Franklin seems to be doing more than the other narrators so far is paraphrasing, so it calls into question the veracity of what he's saying. Obviously the question of the reliability of the narrator is always present even when they're directly quoting passages, but I wonder if he'll keep this up. I have a suspicion Franklin knows more than he's letting us know.
the hospitable impulse was the uppermost impulse
Earlier in this passage, Franklin made it clear that he objects to Betteredge's 'overdrawn' account of his (Franklin's) character. This quote, is a nice reversal of Betteredge's use of 'uppermost'.
Having heard the story of the past, my next inquiries (still inquiries after Rachel!) advanced naturally to the present time. Under whose care had she been placed after leaving Mr. Bruff’s house? and where was she living now?
Mr Franklin seems more concerned with himself, than with Rachel. He doesn't ask about how she's doing regarding her mother's death. Similarly, in regards to his own fathers death, he only mentions the inheritance and the responsibilities that came with it. It's a little selfish, no?
I saw her, and heard her, no more.
It is rather sad that the two characters never met each other again afterwards, similar to the sudden end of the relationship with her and Goffrey. As if the diamond strips all the people away from Rachel one way or the other. Mr Verinder, Goffrey, Franklin, one by one seems to be going away from Rachel. Albeit in Goffrey's case, it might have been a blessing rather than a diamond curse. In general, Rachel seems to be at the center of the diamond 'curse', which begs the question of what is going to follow with regards to the future of that character.
“I do remember! I slept soundly.”
This seems to suggest that Franklin stole the diamond under the influence of opium, which is also why he forgot that he ever stole it. This also reminds me of that scene with the three indians and the little boy during the First Period, although I am not sure if the two are connected. It also finally explains the role of opium in the plot. I am not sure how this drug works, but to my knowledge this is supposed to be a pain killer. Not sure how it would make someone 'do things' without recollection, which is the only thing that confuses me about all this. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see what else happened during the period that Franklin cannot recall, as I am sure that it will be revealed at some point later on.
“Yes. My objection is, that your proposal obliges us to wait.”
It would be rather anti climactic for the mystery to be dependant on waiting for the reclaim of the diamond from the bank. It makes me believe that something else is likely to happen in between that timeframe, perchaps a new fact that reveals a different location of the diamond. At any rate it seems as if this part of the plot (the diamond resting in a bank) may not be what's really going on... Interested to see what is missing here, maybe Franklin will somehow remember something from before that event that renders this fact irrelevant, assuming that Rachel is truthful and did indeed see Franklin steal the diamon.
- Mr Franklin
- Mr. Franklin
- Ezra Jennings
- Sep 2020
I don’t want to force my opinion on you
This is false. Betteredge himself confesses during this conversation that his thoughts were "muddled" until "Mr. Franklin took them in hand, and pointed out what they ought to see". Furthermore, wasn't it Franklin who pushed Betteredge to write his recollection in the first place? Franklin's influence on the Betteredge is apparent, putting into question the reliability of his narrative as well as Franklin's motives.
It again brings up the dichotomy of opinion versus fact, subjective versus objective. This reminds me of "In a Grove" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, which was adapted into the film "Rashomon" by Akira Kurosawa. Very similar themes and narrative structure.
Betteredge, your edge is better than ever
Hilarity aside, it's interesting that Franklin makes such an obvious pun at Betteredge's name. Is this simply a wink and a nudge from Collins, or is he trying to hint that the character names carry some meaning? Alternatively, could it be that Betteredge is actually a bumbling buffoon who has no clue of what's going on? This pun serves to remind the reader to keep an eye out for clues and double meanings that may be hidden within the lines.
it’s the varnish from foreign parts
The varnish from foreign parts, not his supposedly good nature. Obviously first impressions aren't everything, but even the word varnish implies it's covering up something that shouldn't be seen, an idea foreshadowed a couple sentences later
- Jul 2018
which seems to grow keener and keener, as the time comes nearer and nearer when I shall endure and feel no more? How useless to ask these questions! Mr. Blake has given me a new interest in life. Let that be enough, without seeking to know what the new interest is.
Ezra Jennings expressed his yearning for human sympathy and his admiration for Mr.Franklin here. It appeared to me that nearly every character of the novel had some reason to adore Mr.Franklin. The peculiarity of Jennings is that he had long been plagued by distrust and dwelt in solitude. This and the impending death painted his affection towards Franklin rather melancholy, since this affection was intertwined with his crave for youth, riches, health, etc., all of which he had never, and probably would never have, an opportunity, to possess.
If the excellent Betteredge had been present while I was considering that question, and if he had been let into the secret of my thoughts, he would, no doubt, have declared that the German side of me was, on this occasion, my uppermost side.
Franklin's resolution to solve the mystery about the Moonstone was taken to a higher level. Previously, he was only piqued by the mystery solely because it can help him restore his relationship with Miss Rachel, but here, as he confessed, the obstinate German side of him, despite him claiming that it was merely the conjecture of Mr.Betteredge, took over. What is fascinating is that in this part of Franklin's narrative, he seemed to profess his determination quite a lot. Perhaps we could run a similar word detection and plot the dispersion of it, to discover how frequently he used words related to determination.
- Aug 2016
June Callwood once asked her how she acquired “an exquisitely developed conscience.”Dr. Franklin replied: “You tune it like an instrument. You know, when people start singing they develop an ear. They develop their voice. They begin to hear dissonances that they didn’t hear before. You become attuned to having to make responsible and moral decisions. … [In Quakerism] you don’t have a creed, you don’t sign something; the only proof of your faith or lack of faith is how you conduct your life. Consequently it’s like singing. At every point you say, ‘Am I in tune?’”
- Feb 2014
The Benjamin Franklin Programming Practice Model
- Find a program that you greatly admire and read it.
- Takes note on the roles, inputs, and outputs of each major component.
- Take notes on how the components interact.
- Rewrite the program.
- Compare your code with the original.
- Note where you can improve and study accordingly.
Benjamin developed his method in his early teens and worked hard at practicing his craft. Here is the exceprt with a few added line breaks for legibility. About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator. It was the third. I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. With this view I took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the book, try'd to compleat the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them. But I found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in recollecting and using them, which I thought I should have acquired before that time if I had gone on making verses; since the continual occasion for words of the same import, but of different length, to suit the measure, or of different sound for the rhyme, would have laid me under a constant necessity of searching for variety, and also have tended to fix that variety in my mind, and make me master of it. Therefore I took some of the tales and turned them into verse; and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the prose, turned them back again. I also sometimes jumbled my collections of hints into confusion, and after some weeks endeavored to reduce them into the best order, before I began to form the full sentences and compleat the paper. This was to teach me method in the arrangement of thoughts.
Benjamin Franklin on developing proficiency.
The hard part is teaching the consequences of each choice.
Once you get the syntax and basic language idioms out of the way this is the real problem that faces us no matter what language we pick.