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Why scientists should care about art

My artsy daughter loves stories about science far more than she loves science; she has won “Best Display” for her age group in a science fair. When my son was 5, when given the choice he would invariably ask me to read him a nonfiction book rather an a fiction book; he has won “Most Creative” in a a science fair, and is a voracious reader, from Ray Bradbury to…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu
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Real college classes have writing assignments and required reading.

While I can imagine teaching a course that intersects with the interests of a wide, non academic audience, a series of free, optional online public lectures would be great public service, but not great teaching. I’m sorry if this bursts anyone’s bubble, but watching videos on the Internet and maybe writing a few very short essays that the professor never sees isn’t college. Real college classes have writing assignments and…

A warning to college profs from a high school teacher

My students did well on those questions because we practiced bad writing. My teaching was not evaluated on the basis of how well my students did, but I felt I had a responsibility to prepare them for the examination in a way that could result in their obtaining college credit. I would like to believe that I prepared them to think more critically and to present cogent arguments, but I…

The “Bogosity Generator” Tool In Science Fiction

A wonderful analysis of an important part of world-building in science fiction. As most of you probably know, filmmakers use the term “MacGuffin” to stand for some object that various characters in the tale are competing for. A secret paper, a formula, a stunning gem, a statue of a Maltese falcon… In Fantasy and SF novels we have a slightly different convention—a special device or procedure or organism with special…

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My View: What will you do with an English degree? Plenty

I just found my first reading assignment for the “Intro to Literary Study” class I’ll be teaching in a week. Almost every college student who considers majoring in English – or French, or philosophy, or art history – inevitably hears the question: “What in the world are you going to do with that?” The question can come from worried parents, perplexed relatives, or derisive, incredulous peers, but it always implies…

Worried about the future of books? Here’s what you can do.

It’s a lot easier to be selfish, to be an artistic libertarian who decides “I will just concern myself with making my work and I’ll just hope and pray there’s still some kind of an apparatus in place to edit, design, produce, market, distribute and sell it when it’s done, or else imagine that I’ll be able to do all those things myself better than professionals who have devoted their…

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Well-chosen words

Why is English spelling such a tangle? It all started when Latin-speaking missionaries arrived in Britain in the 6th century without enough letters in their alphabet. They had 23. (They didn’t have “j”, “u” or “w”.) Yet the Germanic Anglo-Saxon languages had at least 37 phonemes, or distinctive sounds. The Romans didn’t have a letter, for example, for the Anglo-Saxon sound we spell “th”. The problem continues. Most English-speakers today…

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‘The Fun Stuff,’ by James Wood, and More

Virginia Woolf had to reassure the public in 1922: “Oh, yes dear reader: the essay is alive. There is no reason to despair,” even as journalists crowed over the death of “that lavender-scented little old lady of literature.” “Everybody is forever saying that the essay is dead,” John Leonard observed in 1982. “This is always said in essays.” The essay doesn’t die. It’s too protean. It only grows more indispensable…