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Margaret Atwood: English lessons teach us to miss the true meaning of literature

Every time I teach a college literature class, I have to budget time in the syllabus to help my students unlearn the way they learned to read in high school. Atwood does a great job explaining the role a reader plays in constructing the meanings they find in a literary text. It’s all the fault of how we were taught in high school, in which the teacher had the benefit…

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Practicing Intellectual, Evidence-based Disagreement

This is what a busy literature seminar on evidence-based disagreement looks like. I’ve asked the students to pair up to create a 2-3-minute podcast that demonstrates they can participate in a respectful, evidence-based disagreement over Poe’s “The Raven.” I asked each student to introduce the other student’s position, and to do so respectfully, without caricaturing or demeaning the ignorant or evil jerks whose opinions or values or life experiences dare…

William Shakespeare (Portrait)

Imagine, if you will, a Shakespeare course / Propos’d in blank verse like the Bard would write

Verses Proposing a New Course: “Shakespeare in Context” You’ll pick a modest count of Shakespeare plays– Say, five. Three weeks to each you’ll dedicate. One context week, one week on text, and next One week to multi-modally create A research paper, podcast, monologue, Or supercut of twenty diff’rent Lears Who curse their sixty daughters’ cruel hearts. Professional and student actors we will hear, In stagings mounted locally. What’s more, We’ll screen some films that Shakespeare’s paths re-tread: “Shakespeare in Love,” “Forbidden Planet,” “Ran,” And “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are…

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Scientists Trace Society’s Myths to Primordial Origins

Ancient cultures from Africa to Asia to the Mediterranean share core myths such as the animal pursued by a hunter who is transformed into a constellation, or a sculptor falling in love with a statute that comes to life, or a clever hunter outwitting a monster who keeps animals in a cave. This Scientific American article describes a method to trace the origin of stories through waves of human migration…

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Ode to Huckleberry Finn, Dec’d

(Inspired by Emmeline Grangerford, Dec’d.) Girls, take his cold dead hand and kiss The knuckle – very thin, And bid adieu and ballyhoo Poor Huckleberry Finn. And was it prowling cannibals Or adversary’s sin That spilled the flood of crimson blood Of Huckleberry Finn? O hear my sad, sad words of woe (As I more clement wax) And mark! His brain was cleft in twain By yonder guilty axe! What…