From Jane Austen to Quentin Tarantino: How Movies Can Help Us Teach Literature

You don’t want to watch a movie with me. No, really. I consider it a test of true friendship if someone can sit through two hours of me constantly pausing, rewinding and talking over the figures on screen. It’s a bad habit I cannot break. After helping teach a film and media class this semester however, I don’t think I should.

While my near constant commentary might be distracting to say the least, it isn’t meaningless. I am often pointing out how camera angles, body language, costumes, set design, lighting all come together to hint at a future plot point or reveal some sort of narrative truth. I can often predict the ending to a movie, which never ceases to be a sort of useless party trick for my friends and family, but underneath that novelty however, lies real critical thinking. Continue reading

The Body on Display: A Day at the NYAM Medical History Festival

Late eighteenth century physicians (for the most part) increasingly L0025772 A. Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica libri septum.embraced the wisdom of learning anatomy directly from a dissected corpse. Feeling the textures and depths of the body’s interior and seeing it all firsthand became an invaluable tool for beginning physicians. However, this method of teaching ultimately relied on the advancements in medical thought demonstrated in the sixteenth century by one man: Andreas Vesalius. The brief version of his contribution to this field is that he turned a system in which the physician dictated dissection from a space removed from the actual body, and a surgeon performed what he was told on the body. Physicians, in this system, rarely encountered the actual interior of the body. Vesalius changed all that. Not only did he dissect his own corpses, but, by doing so, he corrected many of the errors in previous anatomical texts based on an assumed closeness between human and animal anatomies. His most famous work is the beautiful, fully illustrated De Humani Corporis Fabrica (often referred to as just the Fabrica). You probably recognize the frontispiece pictured here. Continue reading

Poem: Rideau Canal

Hello all! I wrote this poem after reading a bunch of Wordsworth’s sonnets (although – a bunch is a relative term, since I read somewhere recently that he wrote 535). In terms of both content and especially  rhyme scheme, this poem was written with some of those sonnets in mind. I should also mention that the Rideau Canal is a beautiful waterway running right through the middle of Ottawa. In the winter it is literally a road, as people skate on it (it’s a big tourist attraction, but there are also those who take the opportunity to skate to work).

Rideau Canal

The water is a photo: strips and stills,
Darkrooms. The sun has nestled lower, deep
In branches that dip down to let it creep
Across them. Slowly sinking as it spills
Over the sky, messy, breaking, it fills
The –
            No – the water is a painting, and
The ripples moving brushstrokes, and the land
A frame; the sun a sloppy stain that kills
Or blisters colour.
                                   Best to say, maybe,
The water is a road. And as the sun
Slips down into the city, almost one
Might think the light that’s settling there could see
A path on which to build and blind, one long
Highway to run from night, and to grow strong.

Misunderstanding Music Theory

By Andrew Welch

I’ve a problem I suspect is endemic to academia: the hopeless, near-pathological attraction to disciplines, fields, discourses, and texts I can’t understand, and likely never will. Is there a name for this malady? The worst part is that once a once-opaque knowledge begins to make sense, it loses its mystique. Perhaps this condition would be more tolerable if it didn’t so closely resemble the delusion of chivalric romance—or, for that matter, the troubled frisson of orientalism. I know that I know an understanding is just a calcified and stable misunderstanding. Whatever I think I know, I don’t. And any knowing is always dissolvable and resolvable. But once knowledge starts to feel understood—however poorly—something changes. It no longer exists out there, as something mysterious and opaque: it’s now in here, joined to my conceptual armature. Once appropriated, a concept becomes part of the machinery of appropriation. Continue reading

Peripatetic Scholarship, or, the Romance of Ideas

I’m reading from a used copy of Wordsworth’s Complete Poetical Works; there’s no date in the front matter other than a note giving the textual provenance as an earlier edition from 1857, but the pages are densely-columned and Biblically thin, and an inscription reads “To Rose with love. 1909.” The thing is hard to read and unwieldy, and I realize that I tend to forget that during the vast majority of Wordsworth’s reception history, readers didn’t pick up Broadview Press’s Lyrical Ballads, complete with both 1798 and 1800 editions, prefaces, notes, contemporary reviews, and scholarly appendices. Systematicity may seem like a professional mandate, but it’s also a luxury of modern scholarship. Continue reading

Rethinking Workspace

My husband got a new job as a software developer, and right now he’s working from home. I have found in the short time since he took this new position that we cannot both work from home at the same time. The work environment he cultivates to be productive does not jive with my own. I like to work from my couch, preferably with a dog or two sleeping next to me. I like to have the television on but muted, and the front windows open to let in natural light. My husband works in the adjacent room, our office, with two computer screens in front of him, listening to the comedy station on Pandora and holding videoconferences with his development team intermittently throughout the day. My threshold for how many stand up routines I can endure is severely low, I must admit. So in the last month, I have been transitioning to an on-campus work routine. Continue reading

On First Looking into…The Lucy Poems

By Gabriela Minden

Upon delving into the second edition of Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads (1800) for the first time, I was struck by the disparity between the Lucy poems and the rest of the collection. The Lucy poems are elegiac, written about a mysterious female figure whose nature seems to change from poem to poem, and they seem to constitute their own corpus that does not quite mesh with the other poems in the collection. In hopes of clarification, I turned to Coleridge’s explanation of his and Wordsworth’s artistic goals in composing Lyrical Ballads. Continue reading

Online and Off Kilter: Navigating the Online Classroom

istock-18586699-monkey-computerIn my composition class this semester, we’ve been talking a lot about education: teaching methods, evaluation, structure, etc. There’s a new documentary out called Ivory Tower, and, though I haven’t seen it yet, we read a few articles about it in class, like “The Hi-Tech Mess of Higher Education,” which links panic over the value of education to increasing emphasis on technology. It’s not new or surprising to say that online education is on the rise. More instructors are offering online classes, and more students are electing to take them. Not only will they allow you to pursue your education from anywhere with an internet connection, but many of them will allow you to have a flexible schedule as well. Personally, I will probably always prefer the traditional classroom setting (and my current students told me they would, too), but there are undeniable benefits to an online course, alongside many challenges for those of used to the face-to-face interaction with students and/or teachers. Continue reading

Resources for Graduate Students of Romanticism