Thornton Wilder’s Optimistic Catastrophe: “The Skin of Our Teeth”

From a review of a 2017 production in Brooklyn. “The Skin of Our Teeth” first opened in New Haven, at the Shubert Theatre, in 1942. It was directed by Elia Kazan, and starred Tallulah Bankhead, Fredric March, Florence Eldridge, and a very young Montgomery Clift; Variety wrote that the play “bewilders, bemuses, and befuddles, as it amuses.” When it moved to Broadway, to the Plymouth Theatre, it was met with…

I’m really enjoying seeing how my students are responding to Hamlet.

As part of a class assignment, one student took some friends to see the Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Park all-female production of Hamlet. One of her friends is from Vietnam, and my student was very proud that she could answer his questions about what was going on. Many students, even the English majors, confess that in high school they never tried to read Shakespeare’s language, but instead depended totally on…

Trying to Tame Huck Finn

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the most frequently banned books in America. I regularly teach it in my American Lit class. I never use “the n-word” in lectures, and I remind my (mostly white) students of the power of the word, but the version of the text I assign doesn’t edit that word out. I also have students listen to an audio interpretation of Pap’s tirade, in order…

I’m not a big fan of Disney’s corporate greed.

I’m not a huge fan of Disney, largely because as a grad student in the 1990s, I chose the 1920-1950 time period for my dissertation based on my expectation that the literary works I studied from that time period would fall out of copyright one by one during my career. I planned to mine my dissertation, using what I learned about the literary works in that time period to create…

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

In September, 2001 I was blogging about…

With a grant from UWEC, I was able to invite foundational computer game designer Scott Adams to a seminar on Storytelling in Computer Games. I used tiny analog tape recorder at the speaker’s podium, and later worked with my student Matt Hoy to post a hyperlinked transcript to go along with the audio. (This was really cutting edge stuff 20 years ago, and I’m glad the site still works. This…

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

In August, 2001 I was blogging about…

Broken Links and Poor Information Architecture (and of course the link to that article had broken, and the site taken over by low-value clickbait… but the Internet Archive preserved the original article) Helvetica Bold Oblique Sweeps Fontys (satire from the Onion, from an alternate timeline where typefaces get the respect they deserve) Boys and handwriting (from “equal-but-different” feminist Christina Hoff Summers) Velma from Scooby-Doo (a year or so before the…

Sights, Sounds, and Smells of Elizabethan Theater

Somewhere during my education I picked upon the meme that “Shakespeare’s contemporaries referred to ‘hearing’ a play, not ‘seeing’ a play,” and I regularly trot it out to emphasize how growing up in an auditory culture meant that the average Elizabethan probably got a lot more out of casually attending a Shakespeare play than the average student gets from studying an annotated script. Practically speaking, I encourage students to listen…

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

In June, 2001 it seems I only blogged three times…

I’m not sure what else I was doing during the month of June 2001, but I only blogged three times. All three links were dead, like tears in rain. As is my habit with all items I feature in my “I was blogging about…” series, I’ve replaced the broken links with archived content from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Author “used up all the hardship” from her youth in her…

1993: Curses (Aaron A. Reed’s “50 Years of Text Games”)

The latest in Aaron A. Reed’s monumental project” 50 Years of Text Games” focuses on Graham Nelson’s programming language Inform, and in particular his game “Curses.” “You have to get a coin from the temple of zeus to buy the ekmek,” explained one responder. “To do that you need to use the rod of luck. To use the rod of luck you have to change the nature of the universe.”…

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

In May, 2001 I was blogging about lanuguage, design and Cliffs Notes

In May 2001, I was blogging about Business and the English language (a humorous rant against business jargon) — Clint Witchalls, Spectator Some features you may need on your computer (like “Extend Deadline” and “Read Bosses’ Minds” The Creator of Cliffs Notes has Died (though I know you won’t read his whole obituary) “Telling the Truth about Damned Lies and Statistics“ The Gist Generation –Jeff Barbian Bad Design Can Be…

Breaking up with your favorite racist childhood classic books

A good article analyzes the strong cultural reactions to voluntary changes made by the companies that manage the “Potato Head” toy line and the books of Dr. Seuss. Cries of “censorship” and “cancel culture” rallied passionate citizens who defended their nostalgic memories of childhood and sought targets for their rage. I just read an article on new allegations against Peter Yarrow. I knew that he was convicted of sexually assaulting…

First time visiting the Point. Listening to Quantum’s 10 for 21 (audio adaptation of the Decameron, set on a pandemic-era walk through Pittsburgh).

My first time visiting the Point. Listening to 10 for 21 — Quantum Theatre’s audio adaptation of The Decameron, directed by John Shepard, adapted by Martin Giles, with sound design by Steve Shapiro. The voice talent is phenomenal, with ensemble moments that nicely frame the intimate and personal storytelling sessions. I live about an hour away from Pittsburgh, and though I do go into the city regularly (or I did,…

Bottled Authors: the predigital dream of the audiobook

There was no way to preserve sounds before the nineteenth century. Speeches, songs, and soliloquies all vanished moments after leaving the lips. That situation changed in 1877, when Thomas Edison began working on a machine that could mechanically reproduce the human voice. Edison’s team successfully assembled a device on which Edison recorded “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” a nursery rhyme that would become the first words ever spoken by the phonograph.2 Depending on how you define the term, Edison’s inaugural recording of verse might be considered the world’s first audiobook.. –Matthew Rubery, Cabinet Magazine