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…

Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read

It was pleasurable to encounter a familiar reference to Plato’s Phaedrus (which I just assigned in my Media & Culture class) in this Atlantic article on memory in the digital information age. With its streaming services and Wikipedia articles, the internet has lowered the stakes on remembering the culture we consume even further. But it’s hardly as if we remembered it all before. Plato was a famous early curmudgeon when…

During World War II, Literature Reigned Supreme

Books symbolized freedom. Posters of 1942 quoted the president: “Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever. No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man’s eternal fight against tyranny. In this war, we know, books are weapons.” During the Blitz, Muriel Rukeyser recalled, “newspapers in America…