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My Kids Loved Narnia but Were Unimpressed by Turkish Delight

American kids today would have little idea how Britain’s wartime rationing may have prepared Edmund to sell out for Turkish Delight. Turkish Delight, or lokum, is a popular dessert sweet throughout Europe, especially in Greece, the Balkans, and of course Turkey. But most Americans, if they have any association with the treat at all, know it only as the food for which Edmund Pevensie sells out his family in the…

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Why Is Othello Black?

To us today, the word “black” carries with it a specific cluster of associations informed by history, culture, stereotypes, and literature. Othello may have started in conversation with Shakespeare’s definition of blackness, but today, he speaks with ours. A much more interesting question, really, is: Why is Othello black? Why did Shakespeare write a domestic tragedy about jealousy, and make the husband a Moor? Is Othello’s race a canard, or…

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Reading should not carry a health warning

This is probably the first time in history that young readers themselves are demanding protection from the disturbing content of their course texts, yet reading has been seen as a threat to mental health for thousands of years. In accordance with the paternalistic ethos of ancient Greece, Socrates said that most people couldn’t handle written text on their own. He feared that for many – especially the uneducated – reading…