Category Archives: Uncategorized

Retirement Changes How Time Feels

Terry Pratchett examines how we handle time in “Thief of Time.”

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What Is America’s Favorite Novel?

NPR has compiled a list of 100 books to determine America’s favorite novel. It’s often an infuriating list but the exercise is worthwhile all the same.

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My Three Book Projects

In which I share my first three sabbatical–I mean retirement–book projects.

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In Lit, Who Best Represents Each Job?

I present the best literary representatives–at least imo-of a range of professions.

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Are Blogging Scholars a Step Forward?

Is academic blogging good or bad for blogging? A podcast run by my two sons discusses the issue.

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Which Fictional Death Still Haunts You?

In which I try to answer the question, “Which fictional death are you still not over?” Tess Durbeyfield tops my list.

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My “Last Lecture”

I share here my “last lecture” from my retirement ceremony. (But rest assured: I will not be retiring from this blog.)

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Read Your Children Poetry

A middle school teacher describes how he starts every class with a poem. Also, a note on school shootings, this one at a local high school.

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Theories about Lit’s Impact

A transcript of a talk given at the University of Ljubljana on “how literature changes lives.”

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English, a More Practical Major than STEM

A recent study by Google of its 72,000 employees discovered that humanities training is more beneficial than STEM.

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Nature Lit Has Healed for Centuries

For years my Intro to Lit class has had a nature theme.

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Literature That Caused a Commotion

I list my student Senior Seminar projects, which examine literary works that caused a stir and try to figure out why.

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Religion in Class? Teach It, Don’t Preach It

Is academe biased against religion? Maybe to a degree, but religious background is essential for understanding most of the literature we teach.

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How Nazis Used Art’s Soft Power

Hitler and Mussolini took the arts seriously and tried to use them to extend their power. They had mixed results.

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A Ninth Century Prayer for Yom Kippur

A 9th century poem honoring Yom Kippur.

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Free Speech on College Campuses

Pew says that millennials are more in favor of policing offensive speech than other groups, which helps explain some of the commotion on college campuses. I seek to understand why and how to use literature to address it.

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The Crushing Pain of a Heart Episode

Giles Corey from “The Crucible” came to mind when I started experiencing what felt like a heart attack. I’ve been admitted to Washington Hospital Center, but they now think it’s something less drastic (!).

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Reasons to Read

Will Schwalbe, author of “Books for Living,” has a great list of reasons to read.

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Gogol Would Understand Trump

I may just have discovered the ultimate literary parallel for Donald Trump: Gogol’s Nozdrev from “Dead Souls.” Reading about Nozdrev helps us understanding our fascination with Trump.

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Does School Teach Kids to Hate Reading?

An elementary school teacher is accusing traditional teaching assignments of killing kids’ natural love of reading. Is he right?

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Most Impactful Books for Every Country

For fun, someone has created a map in which the most impactful works of literature are shown for almost every country in the world. Many of the selections are debatable but the map is good for starting conversations.

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Lit, An Antidote to Authoritarianism

Literature’s universalism functions as an antidote to the exclusionary politics of figures like Donald Trump and Marine LePen.

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Freikorps Fantasies and Trump’s Policies

David Brooks of “The New York Times” wonders whether Donald Trump’s policy preferences all come down to a preference for masculine hard over feminine soft. Klaus Theweleit’s study of fascist fantasies in the 1920’s describes such tendencies.

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Not a Reader (and Proud of It)

What do a president’s reading habits say about his/her vision of America? Obama’s celebration of a diverse America is the vision of a voracious reader. Trump’s shallow narrative is the vision of one who doesn’t read.

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Obama Calls Upon Us To Be Wiglaf

Putting the president’s farewell address last night in terms of Beowulf, Obama was calling upon us to be Wiglaf. Wiglaf is Beowulf’s nephew who, after having lived a comfortable life during Beowulf’s reign, realizes that Beowulf can’t solve all his problems. He must step up himself to save the country from the dragon.

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My Next Project: How Lit Changed History

I lay out the parameters of my current book project, “How Literature Changed Western History.”

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For the Final, We Shall Be Tested on Love

Thomas Centolella applies the language of testing to love in this witty and moving poem.

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Good Readers Make Good Presidents

Continuing with the favorite literature of our presidents, here is Eisenhower through Obama.

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Looking Back: Trump & Clinton in Lit

I look back at all the literary comparisons I’ve made for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton over the past year and bring you the list.

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Nobel Laureate Wrote Archetypal Ballads

Among Nobel laureate Bob Dylan’s notable accomplishments is the ability to write archetypal ballads like “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts.”

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A Pure Heart To Speak without Fear

Spiritual Sunday, Anticipating Yom Kippur I have been reading up on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement when Jews gather to confess their sins and ask for forgiveness. Yesterday I came across Avodah: Ancient Poems for Yom Kippur. “Avodah” is the name of the Yom Kippur service. According to editors and translators Michael D. Swartz […]

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