Books vs. Kindles: The Choice No One Made Ever

“I bought a Kindle. I didn’t immediately go home and burn all my other books. I didn’t stop buying paper books. I read both and no one came knocking at my door. It’s a boring story, I know. I’m thinking of adding in a talking pig and a plot to destroy Lady Elaine from Mr. Roger’s world of make believe. But it’s the truth. There is absolutely no reason you can’t…

Chapbooks — the latest assignment in my “History and Future of the Book” class.

Students have already done a 400-word speech, a 400-word manuscript, and a 400-word typescript. I asked them to make multiple copies of their books. They wrote, cut, pasted, photocopied, folded, and bound. Our classroom today smelled cheerfully of glue.  Up next: A “Futuretext” (whatever that means).

How Zuckerberg’s Facebook is like Gutenberg’s printing press

Historian Niall Ferguson notes that Silicon Valley is not that interested in history, which is one reason why technological gurus keep making the same mistakes. Technology that decentralizes power brings its own problems. According to Ferguson: “The idea that witches live amongst us and should be burned went as viral as anything that Martin Luther said … Indeed, it turned out that witch burning was more likely to happen in…

The Girl Has Started Rehearsals for PICT Classic Theatre’s Jane Eyre

I’ve chauffeured the girl into Pittsburgh for the first rehearsal for PICT’s Jane Eyre. She’ll be playing Leah (Mr. Rochester’s servant at Thornfield Hall), Barbara (a different servant at Lowood school), Georgiana (one of Jane’s girlhood tormentors in the Reed household), and “Girl 1″ (maybe one of the adult Jane’s pupils, or perhaps a classmate of the young Jane? She’ll tell me after the read-through). I’m on Spring Break, so…

An Hour of Monastic Silence in Media Studies Class (plus an awesome drum solo)

I announced that my 300-level Media and Culture class would spend an hour in monastic silence, collaborating on a Google Doc. I expected the students would understand I was helping them get into the mood to appreciate the 14th century setting of The Name of the Rose. What I didn’t expect was an awesome drum solo. I had already encouraged my students to approach The Name of the Rose the…

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Jane Eyre and the Invention of the Self

Those who remember Jane Eyre solely as required reading in high-school English class likely recall most vividly its over-the-top Gothic tropes: a childhood banishment to a death-haunted room, a mysterious presence in the attic, a Byronic hero, and a cold mansion going up in flames. It’s more seemingly the stuff of Lifetime television, not revolutions. But as unbelievable as many of the events of the novel are, even today, Brontë’s biggest accomplishment…