Category Archives: language

by

Let This Satirical Campus Newspaper Live

In 2007, a group of students at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln fought to establish the first satirical newspaper on the campus. Eight years and nearly 70 issues later, the paper still hits the newsstand every other week. Recently, however, a committee charged with allocating student fees proposed defunding it — saving students a mere 15 cents annually — for the one reason that scares and baffles me the most. “While it does create a number of opportunities for students,” the commit…

by

A Literary Scramble for Africa

Hiring: an annual ritual at the MLA. This year the Yale English department advertised a position in the 20th and 21st centuries. What we were really looking for, though, was something much more specific: Anglophone world literature. Already we had hired a senior Africanist, so Africa was not a high priority for us; we were looking for (and were sure we would be inundated with) work on South Asia and the Caribbean—the admittedly great but hardly eyebrow-raising trinity of Salman Rushdie, Derek …

by

Associate Dean of What?

The School of Social and Clinical Medicine at the University of Bristol is hiring a new “associate dean of eureka moments.” The job advertisement went viral on academic social media last Friday.

This is a real job at a real British university, not a satire. Someone decided to advertise for a new associate dean, an important leadership position, by using the phrase “eureka moments.” What’s going on here?

Jonathan Sandy, incoming dean of the faculty of health sciences at Bristol, writes in an emai…

by

Academic Freedom and Repellent Speech

What are professors allowed to say? Where are we are allowed to say it?

Last week Deborah O’Connor, a senior lecturer at Florida State University, was pushed to resign after making racist and homophobic comments on a public Facebook page. She said some pretty horrible things, like blaming Europe’s troubles on “rodent Muslims.” She also told a well-known gay hairstylist to “Take your Northern fagoot [sic] elitism and shove it up your ass. ”

I am revolted by her remarks. However, I spent quite a l…

by

#FergusonSyllabus

How should academics respond to the death of Michael Brown and the non-indictment of his killer? If you teach critical race theory, criminology, modern American history, African-American studies, or any number of other subjects explicitly linked to Brown’s death, then I suspect you already have a plan. But what about the rest of us?

One of my beliefs about public engagement is that the process of becoming an academic, as both a scholar and a teacher, creates habits of mind that we can bring to b…

by

Prospective Literary Fitness Apps

“[Zombies, Run!] is an audio adventure that features missions in which the runner tries to escape from a horde of the undead while picking up survival gear along the way. The app … offers more than 200 missions, including one with the author Margaret Atwood, who is holed up in a tower and offering zombie intel.”
“Wearable Gear and Apps to Make Running Healthier, and a Lot More Fun,” The New York Times, November 5, 2014

Other literary fitness apps in development:

Run, Rabbit, Run! You are Rabbit…

by

Cursive Is an Endangered Species

hotchkiss photo

(Photo courtesy of the author)

Over the past decade or so, something big has been happening in public schools throughout the United States: Instruction in cursive writing has all but disappeared, cut from curricula as schools bring more technology (and keyboarding) into the classroom. The new Common Core Standards for education omit training in cursive handwriting altogether. Even in the few schools where cursive is still taught, the subject is often covered in one year and writing in cursive is…

by

Yes, the Humanities Are Struggling, but They Will Endure

Listen to the dire talk around colleges and universities, read op-eds and magazines, and you might think the humanities were in greater danger than the earth’s climate. In fact, despite the overheated rhetoric, the humanities are not at death’s door. Contemporary pressures will more likely push them into a new shape, even ultimately a healthier one.

That claim might seem bizarre. The proportion of college students majoring in the humanities has sunk to an all-time low. Students have turned their…

by

The ‘Relatable’ Fallacy

I think I first heard a student declare a book “not relatable” about five years ago. I got the gist, but the word struck me as strange, clumsy. Before long, though, it had become a regular part of student vernacular, and I started to see it even in the The New York Times. Students use this word to express their sense that a text can be related to, that it is accessible to them. Unsurprisingly, contemporary pop culture is by and large relatable. Daniel Defoe? Not relatable. There’s a kind of po…

by

In Defense of ‘Expressionist Crap’

Personal writing is frivolous, something best left to those students with the poor judgment to actually major in creative writing. This was essentially the opinion I heard expressed in an English-faculty meeting last fall. We should be teaching our first-year, general-education students to write for their intended professions, my colleague said; teaching “expressionist crap” is a pointless diversion, a waste of our students’ time and ours.

I have been on the fringes of higher education, as an ad…