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Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve racked up prizes — and completely misled you about the Middle Ages

Recently on Facebook I made some of my friends go “hmm” when I corrected a meme that suggested the medieval church burned Copernicus at the stake for teaching that the sun is the center of the solar system. (“Contrary to popular belief, the Church accepted Copernicus’ heliocentric theory before a wave of Protestant opposition led the Church to ban Copernican views in the 17th century.” CS Monitor). The label “The…

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Watching Shakespeare With Your Kids

My retired parents and bachelor engineer brother came from out of state so they could see Carolyn and me in the Latrobe Cabaret Theatre’s Midsummer. Mom says it was the first Shakespeare play she had ever seen. My family was sitting in the front row, so I could see their reactions from the stage. I’m so glad they could make it! (The show continues Thursday through Saturday.) Shakespeare’s plays—indeed, all…

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The cultural implications of the myth that English majors end up working permanently at Starbucks

Would you like facts with that? English majors are statistically more likely to end up as CEOs, doctors or accountants than food service workers. The top occupations for English-degree holders ages 27 to 66 are elementary and middle school teachers, postsecondary teachers, and lawyers, judges, magistrates and other judicial workers. Indeed, English majors, who go on to a range of careers, are less likely to work in food service than…

Your Brain on Books
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What You Read Matters More Than You Might Think

Seton Hill is revamping its freshman writing program, previously implemented as a pair of courses, “Basic Composition” and “Seminar in Thinking and Writing” (STW), and now called “Composition and Culture” (which students can take in one semester or stretch over two). The new design includes more focus on reading, and also seeks to erase what had been a sharp division between an emphasis on the personal essay (in the “Basic”…

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The Myth of the Unemployed Humanities Major

Students who work their way up to leadership positions in clubs, get work-study jobs or internships writing press releases or running social media accounts or editing newsletters, who take challenging courses (and do the hard work necessary for getting an A), and who practice writing and talking about what they learn are already demonstrating the skills employers want. Writing a few music reviews for bands you like couldn’t hurt, but…

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Teaching Shakespeare in a Maximum Security Prison

Good essay by Mikita Brottman. When I read Macbeth for the first time, I understood almost nothing. The play’s immediate subjects (kingship, Scottish history, nations at war) did not engage me, nor did I have any interest in theater. I loved Macbeth not for its story but for its language. I was fascinated by the weight of the words, their sequence and rhythm, the way they made me feel, even…