On Modern bestsellers: a lack of 18th-century leisure and 19th-century boredom. Having dropped out of Little Dorrit after the first trimester, I am determined to see Bleak House through. I’ve been listening to a delightful audio recording. I woke up on an elliptical machine from a protracted daydream yesterday, though, and found that I had [...]
“I believe my dear sir, that a class is the greatest drawback in the world. You must do everything which the class does and nothing else.” – John Randolph of Roanoke, while at Columbia University, to his stepfather St. George Tucker in 1788 (from David Johnson’s John Randolph of Roanoke, pages 21 – 22) “[Woodrow] [...]
November and poetry. I named my only stuffed animal November; I don’t know why. I became aware of him when his eyes were scratched out and his rabbit ears were torn from their metal wires. I remember accepting on some level that I had done this before I was I, before I remembered anything, and [...]
A federal trial court judge’s clerk usually handles the prisoner petitions. When I clerked, I would read the petitions, research them, and write an order for my judge to sign deciding the case. Most of the research was in constitutional law because prison administrators have a lot of leeway in running their prisons with only [...]
Before I started teaching, I never thought that a high school English teacher is, or should be, a reading teacher. But literary criticism really is reading instruction, and we English teachers distill literary criticism into decoctions for our students to drink with challenging texts. That’s why I’m so thankful for the New Critics, despite my [...]
I like “like,” but I hate “wait.” Some of my snootier colleagues get around to expressing their exasperation with this generation’s overuse of “like,” but I never hear anyone complain about what drives me bats: my students’ use of “wait” in addressing me. For my entire five-year teaching career, most students have addressed me as [...]
Still, the moral component persists in me. I guess it’s my hard-wired Calvinist-Strunkist upbringing. I still like to read a sourpuss like William Zinsser (On Writing Well, itself recently released in a thirtieth anniversary edition) just in case I’ve really backslidden. After reading that Times symposium this evening, I reread Strunk and White for the first time in five years. I’m happy to report that, unlike the last time I read the little book, I’ll have very little to unburden myself of in confession tomorrow.
[This] is a criticism of the tendency to burden institutions, especially educational institutions, with the impossible task of selecting the best. This should never be made their task. This tendency transforms our educational system into a racecourse, and turns a course of studies into a hurdle-race. Instead of encouraging the student to devote himself to [...]
I did have one of my professors pick me out of his giant English lit survey to take to lunch one day freshman year. I remember his pleasant patter at the University Cafeteria, but I never remembered anything he said. Like Stoner with his professor and, later, Stoner’s students with theirs, I must have been staring at my hands for most of the meal.