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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,…

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Vandal scratches Poe phrase into car at dealership

Language nerds will appreciate this news story about a Latin vandal. The scratching on one of the cars spelled out “Nemo me inpune lacessit.” The phrase means “No one attacks me with impunity.” The quotation, in fact, comes from Edgar Allan Poes classic horror story “The Cask of Amontillado.” It is the family crest of Fortunato, the unfortunate victim of revenge by his neighbor, Montressor. The narrator lures the drunken…

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Harper Lee to publish new novel, 55 years after To Kill a Mockingbird

Lee said in an announcement from her publisher, Penguin Random House, that she completed Go Set a Watchman in the mid-1950s, but set it aside after the publication of her debut and never returned to it. “It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman and I thought it a pretty decent effort,” said the reclusive writer. “My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood,…

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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…