Most Americans have a high opinion of the humanities, and 81% use at least one humanities-related skill on the job

While some survey respondents were unfamiliar with the term “humanities” (apparently guessing that it had to do with the study of the human body), once they were given the definition “studying or participating in activities related to literature, languages, history, and philosophy,” most respondents had a high opinion of the subject. Predictably, people who were educated at liberal-arts colleges were the most favorable towards the humanities, but science and engineering…

Fun and Games with Samuel Beckett and Pict.

Beckett’s masterpiece Waiting For Godot was once famously described as ‘the play where nothing happens – twice.’ First produced in French and then re-written by Beckett into English, it remains one of the most significant plays of the twentieth century. Beckett described it as a tragi-comedy: it has as much comedy within the characters and the plot as it does tragedy, and is, perhaps, the ultimate play concerning the human…

Why Computers Will Never Write Good Novels

If it were possible to build a digital novelist or poetry analyst, then computers would be far more powerful than they are now. They would in fact be the most powerful beings in the history of Earth. Their power would be the power of literature, which although it seems now, in today’s glittering silicon age, to be a rather unimpressive old thing, springs from the same neural root that enables…

Radio Golf ( #AugustWilson #CenturyCycle, 10 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 2005; Broadway 2007 Setting: 1997; office of Bedford Hills Redevelopment Co. Small cast — just 5 actors. I.i (Office of Bedford Hills Redeveloment, Inc.) Mame is unimpressed with the tin ceiling Harmond is excited about, saying it won’t do for a campaign office. He wants to put his campaign office in the Hill District, where he’s from, but the professional and…

Nellie Bly: A Race Against Time | Heinz History Center

On Nov. 14, 1889, Bly waved goodbye to family and friends from the New Jersey Hoboken Pier aboard the Augusta Victoria steamer. Traveling by steamships and trains, her journey sent her around the world from America to England, France, Italy, Egypt, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Japan, and back to a port in San Francisco. She then traveled by train across the U.S., with four major stops including Harrisburg, Pa., before arriving back in New Jersey on Jan. 25, 1890.

King Hedley II ( #AugustWilson #CenturyCycle, 9 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1999; Broadway 2001 Setting: 1985; backyard of row houses; Pittsburgh Hill District Prologue (starry night) Stool Pigeon, clicking ham bones, monologues to an offstage cat (which belongs to Aunt Ester). “The story’s been written. All that’s left now is the playing out.” I.i King (30s), ex-con with scarred face, plants seeds; his mother Ruby (60) asks him about getting a phone…

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

Having a rough day. But in a span of about 24 hours, three former students reached out to thank me.

One former student said I’m the only adult male in their life who ever supported their creative efforts. A second former student posted an essay on social media, describing bouncing back from alcohol and cocaine addiction, and after mentioning several life-savers, mentioned me in the final line of the essay — thanking me for teaching them how to write. A third former student thanked me for the “Dystopia in American…

Jitney ( #AugustWilson #CenturyCycle, 8 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1982; Broadway 2017 Setting: 1977; Becker’s cab station, Pittsburgh Act I.i (morning?) Youngblood accuses “old man” Turbo of cheating in checkers; Turbo accuses Fielding of drinking his gas money; Youngblood turns down a grocery run, which Turbo takes; Youngblood gets defensive at Doub’s silent look; Shealy the numbers runner describes seeing the face of the one woman he loves in all…

Two Trains Running ( #AugustWilson #CenturyCycle, 7 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1990 (Broadway 1992) Setting: 1969; Memphis’s small restaurant, Pittsburgh Act I.i Memphis (hard-working and honest) complains that Wolf (notorious numbers runner) is tying up his phone; Risa (waitress with self-scarred legs) doles out sugar at Wolf’s request; Memphis complains his “old lady” left him and wouldn’t even shake his hand; Holloway (whose anger at injustice draws him to the supernatural) describes…

Fences ( #AugustWilson #CenturyCycle, 6 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1985 Setting: 1957; 1965; Troy Maxon’s lived-in backyard, Pittsburgh A prose prologue contrasts the experience of European immigrants who were embraced by cities, with the opposition faced by the descendants of African slaves. I.i. (Friday evening) Troy (large man) and Bono (his “follower”) “engage in a ritual of talk and drink.” Troy is hoping his union will back his push to…

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Seven Guitars ( #AugustWilson #CenturyCycle, 5 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1995 Setting: 1948, backyard of a house, Pittsburgh I.i. (Sunday; right after Floyd’s funeral) Louise sings a “bawdy song” as Red Carter and Canewell squabble over pie; Canewell admire’s the preacher’s sermon, and Vera reports seeing six angels that came out of the sky; Canewell and Red Carter confirm they saw the group and spoke to a man from the group;…

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The Piano Lesson ( #AugustWilson #CenturyCycle, 4 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1987;  Broadway & Pulitzer Prize 1990 Setting: 1930s, Doaker’s house, Pittsburgh Scene description mentions an old upright piano with legs carved in African style. I.i. (5am) Offstage Boy Willie calls, waking Doaker (severe, settled railroad cook). BW introduces Lymon, from “back home.” He asks for Bernice. They have driven from Mississipi in Lymon’s truck, full of watermelons to sell. He tells…

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom ( #AugustWilson #CenturyCycle, 3 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1984. Setting: a recording studio in Chicago, 1927. 10 characters An opening note describes the context of the city and the significance of blues music. Act I Money-man Sturdyvant orders manager Irvin to keep “her” in line. To Sturdyvant, this is all just business. When band leader Cutler, bassist Slow Drag, and pianist Toledo enter, Sturdyvant is annoyed that Ma isn’t…

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (August Wilson’s Century Cycle, 2 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1988. Setting: The Hollys’ boarding house, Pittsburgh. 1911. 11 characters (a fairly large cast for a drama, including 2 children who would typically be double-cast; not an easy play to produce) Long stage directions before the first scene describe the children of freed slaves moving north. I.1 (morning) Ornery Seth describes to his long-suffering wife Bertha the “heebie-jeebie” pidgeon-blood ritual that…

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 ten cycle plays.  In my dream, I was shuffling through my stack of books, trying to put them in order, so…