Category Archives: Teaching Literature and Writing

What Should Be Taught in an English Teacher Preparation Program?

Recently, I was teaching in a high school, and a directive came down from our administrators that final exams were to be graded on a curve. In a meeting with the other English teachers in my department, I found that … Continue reading

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Approaches to Literary Criticism

There are many ways in and out of works of literature. Here are a few of the most widely espoused. This is by no means a complete list, but it covers many of the most historically influential approaches. Agonistic Criticism … Continue reading

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How to Prevent Another PARCC Mugging: A Public Service Announcement

NB: Everything said of PARCC here applies, as well, to all the standardized tests in English language arts currently being used by state departments of education. In other words, PARCC is singled out, here, as an example of a general … Continue reading

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The Propaganda Value of the Omniscient 3rd Person POV

An omniscient, third-person point of view typically (but not always) assumes a Godlike understanding of how things are, and readers go along with this . . . until they don’t–until the POV of the little man behind the curtain becomes … Continue reading

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A Little Lesson on Anglo-Saxon and the Fossilization of History in Language

Consider the following examples of the language learned, for the most part, by English speakers when they were children: cow, bull, heifer, ox (from Old English cu, bulla, heahfore, oxa) beef (from Old French boef)   sheep, ewe, ram (from … Continue reading

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The Writer Puts Words in Their Place

I’ve seen it argued that animals (by which the authors meant nonhuman animals, for we are animals too) can’t be self-aware because they don’t have language. Yikes. The notion here is that in order for a creature to have a … Continue reading

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Notes toward Answering the Questions “Where Do Poetry and Language Come From?”

“The most exciting phrase to hear in science,” wrote Isaac Asimov, ” is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny!” Well, in the middle of the last century, anthropologists discovered something funny (in the sense of surprising): so-called “primitive” hunter-gatherers like the … Continue reading

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