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Socrates envisaged a time when we would forget how to remember.

From Daisy Dunn’s review of Puchner’s The Written World: Socrates envisaged a time when we would forget how to remember. The Iliad, the Odyssey, the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Indian epic Ramayanahad been preserved through an oral tradition that seemed destined to perish through overreliance on papyrus. Akhmatova remembered because she had to but Socrates simply chose to. He is one of many great thinkers to have earned a place in Puchner’s book on…

You come very close to successfully combining argument and explication here…

I recently came across a box of old writing, including a binder where I had saved some undergraduate papers.   When returning a Beowulf paper for a Brit Lit survey, my instructor had stapled a page of hand-written notes that began, “You come very close to successfully combining argument and explication here, much closer than most papers in the class.”   What I’m asking my students to do is not…

Details from the author’s life are not the magic ticket to “correct” interpretations in literature class

Students who are new to college literature classes often value literary biography very highly, expecting that one of their tasks is to spot one-to-one relationships between the literary texts and the personal lives of the authors. For instance, from the two Sylvia Plath poems that use Nazi imagery to describe troubled relationships with paternal figures, they begin their literary interpretation with the assumption that Plath’s real-life father was an SS…

AmLit Rescue — Scratch Game

A student in my “American Literature: 1915-Present” class used the medium of a 2D graphic adventure game to deliver her multimodal final project. (Students also wrote a traditional term paper.) You are the cameraman of a new TV show based on Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth.” But things quickly go downhill when a mysterious criminal shows up and takes over the set. Unexpected faces and scenarios appear at…

How reading fiction can help improve our mental health

In general, I avoid clicking on any headline with the weasel words “can” or “might.” However, I did enjoy this reflection on the positive impact of literary reading. I’m teaching a compressed online literature course, so that involves re-reading the literary works I assigned, as well as engaging with what my students write about those works. I’m reading ahead to prep for my spring courses, but in addition to the…