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What do students need to know about rhetoric?

I love giving the “what is rhetoric” lecture in my freshman writing seminar. Most students have at least heard of a rhetorical question, but most don’t know what “rhetoric” means, nor have they heard of logos, pathos and ethos. The first thing that students need to know about rhetoric, then, is that it’s all around us in conversation, in movies, in advertisements and books, in body language, and in art.…

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We don’t need more STEM majors. We need more STEM majors with liberal arts training.

A chemist celebrates the liberal arts. Our culture has drawn an artificial line between art and science, one that did not exist for innovators like Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs. Leonardo’s curiosity and passion for painting, writing, engineering and biology helped him triumph in both art and science; his study of anatomy and dissections of corpses enabled his incredible drawings of the human figure. When introducing the iPad 2,…

"Due Date" vs "Do Date"
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“Do Date” vs “Due Date”: Do Profs Really Have to Explain the Difference?

If there really are teachers who list assignments by “do date” rather than “due date,” I’ve never heard from one. Students who fall behind sometimes say “I didn’t know whether the readings listed for Monday are due on *Monday* or whether they are due on *Wednesday*.” How likely is it that the student really *is* confused about whether Monday=Monday or Monday=Wednesday? How likely is it that the student is exaggerating…

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I’m Asking My Students to Be Deliberate about the Word “Novel”

In the past few years, I have noticed more students are applying the word “novel” to any text they might be asked to study in class, whether that text is a book-length fictional narrative, a play, a poem, a political manifesto, or a collection of academic essays. I wrote up this lecture to introduce the concept of literary genre, in the hopes of communicating why it’s important that we recognize…

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Ancient Sea Rise Tale Told Accurately for 10,000 Years

“It’s quite gobsmacking to think that a story could be told for 10,000 years,” Nicholas Reid, a linguist at Australia’s University of New England specializing in Aboriginal Australian languages, said. “It’s almost unimaginable that people would transmit stories about things like islands that are currently underwater accurately across 400 generations.” –Scientific American.

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Why I Still Blog

I particularly value blogging because of the visibility of older content. Facebook and Twitter don’t make it easy for you to contextualize links pointing to something relevant you posted a month or a year or decade ago. It may seem right to ask, after so many years: what is left to discuss about blogging? We all know what it is. We all know what it does. What used to be…

How to Write Dialogue -- Jerz's Literacy Weblog

Writing Effective Dialogue (Punctuation and Actions in Creative Writing)

“Punctuating dialogue properly is important,” says the old man, “But actions speak loudly, too. When I offered you tea, and you unlaced your boots at my hearth, we didn’t need any words stating that there was a comfortable lull in our conversation. The careful placement of details created a little pause. It was a good example of showing rather than telling.”