Worldwise is a set of events sponsored by the ARHU department. Our next major event is going to be February 24th and it is going to be a set of presentations on ENERGY.

Check out the website for more details and send in a proposal!



It has come to my attention that some students don’t do all of their course readings. I don’t know what to say about this other than I’m completely taken aback by the concept. Luckily, (and the sarcasm stops here), we have Nancy Bunge to tell us how to work through this crisis of education. Make the texts harder!

A statistic is floating around that says that only 26 percent of students do their course readings and the basic argument that spawns from this is that we are living in a new age and today’s students don’t want to engage difficult texts when there are so many other shiny exciting ways to learn. With tools like Google and streaming media and all that jazz, who wants to curl up in a corner and read?

Nancy says that’s all bologne and I have to say I agree with her.

Here are a few choice quotes from her blog:

“My classroom experiences suggest that blaming university students for this depressing development makes little sense — and not only because faculty members have the power to challenge students’ self-destructive behavior. I’ve discovered that a sizable number of my students enjoy engaging hard books. When I ask them why, they give the reasons that researchers are beginning to validate: Students believe that complex reading nourishes their brains, and they find the experience satisfying. Or, as one of my students put it, “The books were tough but made me think.”


“The students recognize the same thing as those who worry about the study by the National Endowment for the Arts documenting declining reading skills. Despite their affection for visual media and technology, my students realize that if they do not grapple with difficult, abstract texts, they will miss an important dimension of human learning and thinking. As one student wrote: “I like a challenge when I am trying to learn. Putting in more effort yields better results.””

It’s not the quantity of the books that we read (although the more the merrier), but the quality of the book and the voracity with which we engage it. Only 26% of students do their course readings because only 26% of readings are of the level that they require close reading to understand the point and talk about them intelligently in class or in an essay.

I’ve been in courses that fail to teach me much because the readings were too easy. And to be fair I’ve also been in a course that fell apart because the readings were very difficult. However, I feel that the course failed because the students were not prepped appropriately. They assumed that it was going to be just another course that they could do a little bit of the reading an hour before class and coast on through. But by the time the students realized that these texts required a special level of engagement they had either soured on the course or were unable to catch up.

Another piece of advice that I have is to avoid easing students into difficult texts by progressing from easy texts to hard ones. Slam us right away with the hard ones so we can get a handle on the it while we are still figuring out how much energy we need to put into each course. Then you can ease up and let us apply the concepts to some more readable texts.

The moral of the story is that most students want to read difficult texts that change the way they see the world. Just be sure to wake them up when you assign one.

Am I wrong? Comment and let me know!

Maud Newton, literary femme fatale and all-around delight, blogs (and twitters! how progressive) from the 80th anniversary of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Biggest development?  The third edition of the 20-volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary will also be its last!  After publication of “the first comprehensive and up-to-date edition of the OED in one alphabetical sequence since the original edition of 1928″, the OED will (figuratively) close all 20 of its covers and move on to a bigger and brighter future as an internet-only text.

My prediction: the next groundbreaking dictionary to box up its dusty, leather cover in favor of a more hip internet form will be the Urban Dictionary.  Oh, wait…

Is the OED’s move to an exclusively electronic form good or bad?  Will this spell the end of civilization’s erudite ability to trace the exact diachronous history of a word?  Or simply the proletarianization of mankind’s intelligence?  You decide.

On Thursday, the Swedish Academy announced the 2008 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature–Mr. Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio.  Yet, who is this mysterious (at least, in the annals of the collective American consciousness) J.M.G. Le Clézio?

According to the NY Times:

Mr. Le Clézio’s work defies easy characterization, but in more than 40 essays, novels and children’s books, he has written of exile and self-discovery, of cultural dislocation and globalization, of the clash between modern civilization and traditional cultures. Having lived and taught in many parts of the world, he writes as fluently about North African immigrants in France, native Indians in Mexico and islanders in the Indian Ocean as he does about his own past.

Mr. Le Clézio is not well known in the United States, where few of his books are available in translation, but he is considered a major figure in European literature and has long been mentioned as a possible laureate.

Sounds fancy and French.

Yet, as the article mentions, Mr. Le Clézio isn’t well known in the United States because we’re still in the 1700s and news and ideas just haven’t made it across the Atlantic Ocean.  Or, at least that’s what the Nobel Prize committee seems to think.

There were rumors floating around the internet that J.D. Salinger would be the next Nobel Prize laureate–the first American laureate since Toni Morrison’s win in 1993.  Yet, Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, says that the US “is too isolated, too insular” and doesn’t really “participate in the big dialogue of literature.”  Maybe the Europeans are just to exclusive for us “Joe Six Pack” Americans.  What are your thoughts?

Thursday, October 9 was the English Undergraduate Association’s first event of the semester (well, second if you count the Indoor Picnic).  As Kenton mentioned in the last post, it was led by Linda Macri and Gerald Maa (Vivianne Salgado was, unfortunately, unable to make it) and revolved around the (related, unrelated, hyperbolic, polemic…) topics of War and Literature.

It was an absolute delight, and Linda Macri and Gerald Maa were two incredibly articulate and well-versed people.  It’s difficult to encapsulate the entire conversation, because so much was discussed and it was all so interesting.  I was particularly intrigued by the small tangent on Ursula K. LeGuin’s Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction.  It’s interesting to think of the art of storytelling as a gendered idea.  LeGuin is a big shot in the world of science fiction, so she is no doubt aware of the gender bias against female science fiction writers (not to mention the bias against science fiction as “literature” in general).  From what little I’ve read of the idea, it seems that LeGuin takes a bit of a swipe against male narratives, saying they’re less interested in human narratives and more interested in events and “action.”

Some very interesting topics of thought that came up from the discussion:

  • Can you think of a “comedic” war story that is not anti-war?
  • How often do women write epic battle stories?  Is there something to be said about the gendering of narrative that women reflect more on internal rather than external struggles?
  • Why are people interested in war and it’s relationship to literature, anyways?

Hey all, I hope you had a good weekend! I know the semester is heating up for most people, exams and essays are starting to bear down on us in panic inducing numbers. But, if you can find the time there is going to be a great event put on by the English Undergraduate Association this Thursday at 5pm in room 1111 Susquehanna. You may have seen the fliers floating around Susquehanna, they are the ones with the big picture of a Nazi book burning titled “BOOKS, What are they good for! Absolutely nothing?”

Anyways, the event is part of our “Why Study Lit?” series and it is going to be a casual panel discussion featuring professors Linda Macri, Vivian Salgado and Gerald Maa. The panel is going to focus on discovering the relevancy of the representation of war in literature. As in, what effect, if any, does literature have on shaping our culture’s perspective on war? And does the resulting change effect policy? And if so, how?

  • Professor Linda Macri is teaching a course this semester on war and the graphic novel. Examining how war is represented in comics and graphic novels will bring a unique dynamic to the panel. She also has a strong background in rhetoric as it pertains to fiction.
  • Professor Vivianne Salgado is a native of Chile, and studied fiction for four years with Pia Barros at Ergo Sum, one of the most prolific literary workshops during Pinochet’s dictatorship. She is also the assistant director of the Jiminez-Porter Writer’s House.
  • Gerald Maa is a graduate student at the University of Maryland who also teaches poetry and has received many awards for his creative writing. Maa has also developed a cult following of students who think he’s the best thing since sliced bread. Perhaps you should come and find out why!

There will be food and drinks. The details, once again, are Thursday, October 9th at 5PM in room 1111 Susquehanna.

Harvard recently hosted its Ig nobel prizes in which they present awards to the most bizarre research projects recently completed in academica. I especially like the literature winner, David Sims, who wrote a study called “You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations.

I was equally as happy to discover that economists from the University of Mexico were able to, despite hours of grueling work, persevere and discover that “a professional lap dancer’s ovulatory cycle affects her tip earnings.” I was about to change my major until I found out that the research was conducted via a work-journal on an online web-site.

If you want to find out the rest of the winners The Chronicle has an article that includes links to the particular journals that published the Ig Nobel studies.

But, if you can’t access The Chronicle’s article, you can find one sans citations at network world

I would also like to give a nod here to Penn State Professor/Blogger Michael Berube for making me aware of what has since been my favorite subtitled essay of all time:

“Balancing the right to habilitation with the right to personal liberties: the rights of people with developmental disabilities to eat too many doughnuts and take a nap.”

Have a good weekend everyone!