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What to Do With a B.A. in English?

Some good tips on what to say about your English major during a job interview, and some realistic advice about English grad school. English majors choose a major that not only challenges them intellectually but gives them pleasure. They love to read and think that reading matters. Or they hope to be writers and have taken courses in creative writing to test their potential as poets, fiction writers, and dramatists.…

Transmedia Storytelling 101

Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story. So, for example, in The Matrix franchise, key bits of information are conveyed through three live action films, a series of animated shorts, two collections of comic…

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Why Our Brains Make Us Click on Lists

The article-as-numbered-list has several features that make it inherently captivating: the headline catches our eye in a stream of content; it positions its subject within a preëxisting category and classification system, like “talented animals”; it spatially organizes the information; and it promises a story that’s finite, whose length has been quantified upfront. Together, these create an easy reading experience, in which the mental heavy lifting of conceptualization, categorization, and analysis…

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Modern Masterpieces of Comedic Genius: The Art of the Humorous Amazon Review, Part Deux

I love me a good Amazon mock review. Here are several. From scientific miracles to literary criticism, by way of bodily functions and failures of common sense. Many moons ago, I wrote about the art of the humorous Amazon review as a modern masterpiece of parodic genius, embodying Arthur Koestler’s seminal “bisociation” theory of how humor and creativity work. It turns out this peculiar micro-genre of satire is surprisingly expansive…

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Digital Storytelling (EL231: Topics in Creative Writing)

EL231 “Digital Storytelling” (Dec 18-Jan 22) Unit 1 (Dec 18-22) mostly experiencing digital stories (reading, watching, listening, playing, whatever), and reading articles & discussing them online. (We take a break Dec 23-Jan 1: no classes, no homework.) Unit 2 (Jan 2-7) trying out 4-5 tools for creating digital stories, and learning two in a little more detail. Unit 3 (Jan 8-14) planning and creating your own original digital story. Unit…

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Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

Neil Gaiman tells us why books matter: When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you…

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SAT essay section: Problems with grading, instruction, and prompts.

In my freshman writing courses I work hard to convince students that many of the strategies that helped them get by in high school simply won’t lead to college-level work. For instance, I actually read their drafts, ask probing questions about their goals, options, and strategic choices, and then expect their revisions to follow up on that feedback. I had high school English teachers who worked some drafting and revision…