America’s Shakespeare

Shakespeare continues to be the most performed playwright in the United States, but his appeal has a global extension, and it has long been so. Sublimity has ever called to sublimity. The great modern nations boast great writers who depict and define the national life and character: Victor Hugo for the French, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe for the Germans, Leo Tolstoy the Russians, Herman Melville and Mark Twain the Americans,…

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Shakespeare Popularized Falconry Terms

English is full of figures of speech popularized by Shakespeare. Some of those terms Shakespeare’s interest in falconry. “Hold onto Lima,” Healy-Rennison commanded, as I tightly pinched the speckle-feathered bird’s jesses, or tethers, under my thumb. “Now she’s ‘under your thumb’,” Healy-Rennison explained with a smile. “Quite literally,” I replied, amused to learn the etymology of a phrase that I’ve used for most of my life. Only now I was…

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Lie to Me: Fiction in the Post-Truth Era

I’m trying to remember what it was like, a few months ago when I was thinking about picking “fake news” as the topic for a media course, when I was briefly worried I wouldn’t be able to find enough background reading on the issue. I’m no longer worried about that. (I am, however, a lot more worried about fake news.) The problem with our “post-truth” politics is that a large…

Two classic novels returning to Accomack schools following vote

Accomack County Public Schools announced Tuesday that “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” will immediately returned to school library shelves. The books were temporarily suspended on November 29, after a complaint was filed….The Accomack County School Board voted on Tuesday to permanently reinstate the two novels. “These novels are treasures of American literature and inspirational, timeless stories of conscience and bravery,” said Dr. Ronnie E. Holden, Chairman…

Emily Dickinson’s Singular Scrap Poetry

There’s never enough time to cover Emily Dickinson in an AmLit survey course. Only ten of her poems were published in her lifetime, all anonymously; publication was, as she put it, as “foreign to my thought, as Firmament to Fin.” Not that she intended her poems to go unread—she often sent them in letters to friends, sometimes with other enclosures: dried flowers, a three-cent stamp, a dead cricket. She also…

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I Never Would Have Guessed I Would Be Able to Complete a Close Reading

I started my American Literature class by assigning students to listen to 40-minute audio lectures that provided context and walked them through the literary texts we were to discuss in class. As the semester drew on, I had students write podcasts to introduce texts to each other, and by the end of term I was asking students to read scholarly articles in which literary scholars aren’t introducing the texts to…