My #AugustWilson #Steampunk Nightmare

Today is my last official day teaching a compressed winter term “Special Topics in American Literature” course devoted to August Wilson’s Century Cycle. Last night I had a dream that Wilson wrote an eleventh play that I didn’t know about; or that I somehow missed covering one of his plays.  In my dream, I was shuffling through my stack of books, trying to put them in order, so that I…

Gem of the Ocean (August Wilson’s Century Cycle, 1 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle > Spoiler-free scene breakdown. Premiere: 2003 Setting: Aunt Ester’s parlor, 1839 Wylie, Pittsburgh. 1904. Prologue (late at night) Troubled Citizen Barlow arrives, seeking Aunt Ester. Eli (handyman and “gatekeeper”) tells him to come back Tuesday. Citizen tries to push past him; they tussle, upsetting a lamp. Ester picks up Citizen’s hat and hands it to him, gently telling him to come back Tuesday. Act I.1 (next…

Robot wars: 100 years on, it’s time to reboot Karel Čapek’s RUR

I was honored to play Alquist in Artistic Prosperity’s virtual production of RUR over the summer. I’m glad to see Čapek’s play is getting some attention in the Guardian. Not many plays introduce a new word to the language. One that did was Karel Čapek’s RUR: Rossum’s Universal Robots that had its premiere in Prague 100 years ago this month. Every time we use the word “robot” to denote a…

Stunned by Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman and the rest of the cast in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Stunned by Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman and the rest of the cast in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Loved the documentary aesthetic in the opening sequence. Loved the intimacy of the cinematography and acting. Some of my favorite monologues were cut or trimmed, but I recognize a movie can express in a montage or a camera angle a relationship it takes a stage play longer to tell. August Wilson’s script has…

My J-Term course on August Wilson doesn’t actually start until tomorrow, but the first assignments are already coming in. Sixteen weekdays to cover Wilson’s 10-play Century Cycle.

We’ll cover all 10 plays, but each student will only be responsible for reading an overlapping list of six plays. The movie adaptation of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom opens on Netflix this weekend, and we’ll be covering that play on Monday.

Responding to Literature at the College Level

A new handout, based on the opening lecture I give in every literature class. I’m trying to uncouple this chunk of content, which never changes, from the “intro to the course” lecture, which is topic-specific. Your high school teachers probably praised you for summarizing what you read and perhaps relating it to your own life in an engaging way. But your college professors will probably ask you to do a…

Amusing Reference to ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’

Imagine a scenario in which circumstances outside your control confine you to a single room for an indefinite period of time — and you have basically nothing to do but stare at the walls. Available activities are strictly limited; you aren’t allowed company; you can’t really go outside; time collapses in on itself; and your sense of reality starts fraying at the edges. Does this sound like the plot of…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In December 2000, I was blogging about typeface snobbery, freedom in video game spaces, the first email message, and T.S. Eliot’s anti-semitism

In December 2000, I was blogging about Typeface snobbery (The Onion) Videogames as gendered play spaces (Henry Jenkins) Who wouldn’t want to trade in the confinement of your room for the immersion promised by today’s video games? …. Perhaps, my son finds in his video games what I found in the woods behind the school, on my bike whizzing down the hills of the suburban back streets, or settled into…

Motivation Amid Crisis (Autotrophic Bat)

As part of an independent study project, a graduating Seton Hill student wrote a blog about self-publishing her original collection of fairy-tale adaptations. She’s a double-major in creative writing and graphic design, and she freely adapted each story and illustrated each one in a different style. (She’ll be self-publishing her anthology soon, and I’ll certainly post about it.) Here is a reflection she wrote on staying motivated during the pandemic:…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In November 2000, I was blogging about the US Presidential election, mirrors, Arts & Letters Daily, and more

In November 2000, I was blogging about Ursula K. Le Guin Why we perceive mirrors reversing things left/right but not up/down Pioneering blog Arts & Letters Daily (just a year older than my own blog) Nick Montfort’s constrained poem “Upper Typewriter Row“ The 2000 US Presidential Election controversy (ballot design, hanging chads, recounts, political cartoons) The Web Economy Bullshit Generator The Onion’s fake “Fontly Speaking” typeface design column. James Lileks’s…

R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) Artistic Prosperity 2020
1

R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) Full Play (via Zoom)

All 3 acts and the epilogue to R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) are now available on YouTube. I’ve loved this quirky play for almost 30 years. I’m thrilled that I got the chance to play Alquist, a humble builder who witnesses the Robot rebellion and its surprising aftermath. (I also designed the set backdrops in Blender 3D.) A story about a robot uprising is cliche now, but this Czech play coined…

PICT Classic Theatre brings The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll to the airwaves

I’m proud of the daughter for her involvement in this Equity audio production.  (Some of the screams mentioned by the reviewer are hers.) One would be hard-pressed to find a more perfect production for the pandemic, as the radio drama comes with no visuals and forces one to shut out the outside world for the hour and 57 minutes of the performance. The recording and editing is clean and crisp,…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In October, 2000, I was blogging about bobbed hair, Woolf, a CFP for interactive fiction scholarship, the hyphen in e-mail, and a book with glow-in-the-dark pages

In October 2000, I was blogging about The F. Scott Fitzgerald Short story “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” (background; full text) A biography of Virginia Woolf The precarious status of English as a global language A call for papers for a special issue of Text Technology devoted to interactive fiction (I have a copy on my shelf now) Wired News picks “e-mail” over “email.” (AP Style is currently email.) A book with…

Daughter is in 2 theatrical productions opening this weekend

The daughter plays Laertes in Seton Hill’s free, live Zoom production of Hamlet (with a film noir theme) which opens tonight at 8. (The first half will be performed tonight and next Friday; the next half will be performed Saturday and next Saturday.) Free tickets to Seton Hill’s livestreaming video production of Hamlet Through the magic of recorded audio (not live), the daughter is also part of PICT Classic Theatre’s…