Picture of the Pevensie children arriving in Narnia, from the 2005 movie.

Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories

If Harry Potter and Huckleberry Finn were each to represent British versus American children’s literature, a curious dynamic would emerge: In a literary duel for the hearts and minds of children, one is a wizard-in-training at a boarding school in the Scottish Highlands, while the other is a barefoot boy drifting down the Mississippi, beset by con artists, slave hunters, and thieves. One defeats evil with a wand, the other…

Closeup of a person's hand pulling a book off of a shelf.

How Common Core Testing Damaged High School English Classes

Helping my students understand how my role as a college literature teacher differs from the role of a high school English teacher is a sometimes daunting task. Preparing students for a standardized reading test is completely unlike teaching them about a work of classic literature. In an English class addressing The Great Gatsby, depending on student ability and prior knowledge, the teacher might take several weeks to help the students find their…

The Curtains Were Blue: In Which I Fix Another Meme.

Above is my response to a meme that makes some shaky assumptions about the purpose of an English classroom. Exploring the intent of the author is a huge part of the English discipline, but it’s far from the only way to study (or teach) literature. Author intent, new historicism, reader-response, structuralism.. the list goes on. Perhaps I will make more of these memes to introduce some of these other topics…

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JANE EYRE Steps In and Out of Darkness at PICT

Jane Eyre is not a two-person show, and the smallish cast must take on double duty at least, filling a wide variety of roles in this production. Besides the previously mentioned [Paige] Borak, multipurpose players Jill Keating and Carolyn Jerz must be singled out- Keating takes on three different variations of the “matronly, unpleasant Victorian lady” type and makes each one grotesque but unique, and Jerz serves as a one-woman stage…

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…