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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…

Apology of Socrates, By Plato

Aristotle classified Plato’s work, representing Socrates’s defense against charges that he corrupted the youth of Athens, as a fiction. But what words! What a defense! (“Greatest mind of history / Solving life’s sweet mystery.” —Schwartz) For I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons and your properties, but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of…

Certainty vs. uncertainty: “In which are we more likely to be deceived, and in which has rhetoric the greater power?”

I’ve taught Plato’s Phaedrus before, but in the past I have mostly focused on brief passages in which the characters discuss writing, which is really just a side issue. The purpose of today is mostly just to accustom my “History and Future of the Book” students to oral classical culture, in the hopes they’ll get more out of their exposure to Plato’s Apology of Socrates (which is on the syllabus…

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What Grammar and Style Checkers Miss

Teaching students to write does not mean correcting their errors, or even preventing them from making errors. While I’m grateful that autocorrect catches most of my typographical errors, I have so far been unimpressed by software tools that aim to check grammar and style. Most of my students are pretty good readers and writers; if they are familiar with the material, when given a prompt they can churn out a…