It’s probably a good idea just to say…

that I do not regularly update this blog.  I tend to update it in spates of three or four posts, punctuated by months of silence. Still, there may be something here that interests you. Feel free to browse.

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My View: What will you do with an English degree? Plenty – Schools of Thought – Blogs

My View: What will you do with an English degree? Plenty – Schools of Thought – Blogs.

Well, strange as it may sound, if you’re an employer who needs smart, creative workers, a 50-page honors project on a 19th century French poet might be just the thing you want to see from one of your job applicants. Not because you’re going to ask him or her to interpret any poetry on the job, but because you may be asking him or her, at some point, to deal with complex material that requires intense concentration – and to write a persuasive account of what it all means. And you may find that the humanities major with extensive college experience in dealing with complex material handles the challenge better – more comprehensively, more imaginatively – than the business or finance major who assumed that her degree was all she needed to earn a place in your company.

Michael Berube

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Reading and Marking Up PDF Texts for Teaching: Some Observations on Using iAnnotate

iAnnotate Tools

Some of the markup and other tools in iAnnotate

Last fall semester, I experimented with using an iPad (courtesy of TLT @ CofC) to read and mark up some of my students’ writing in a graduate course in a late 19th century American literature and some of the literary texts that I was teaching in a lower-division course covering the same territory.

In the Faculty Technology Institute put on by TLT last May, we tried one or two free PDF readers/annotators for iPad, but I decided to shell out $9.99 for a more fully functional annotation app. A couple of friends and colleagues recommended iAnnotate, and I recommend it as well.  There are a number of different markup and navigation tools, it syncs to my Dropbox account, which is very handy, and you can quickly export any marked up PDFs to email or a variety of other applications on your iPad. Continue reading

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Reading List for ENGL 362: Regionalism and Local Color

Bret Harte, “The Luck of Roaring Camp

—, “The Outcasts of Poker Flat

Constance Fenimore Woolson, “Solomon

—, “The Lady of Little Fishing

Mark Twain, Old Times on the Mississippi

Hamlin Garland, “Up the Cooly

Charles Egbert Craddock, “The Dancin’ Party at Harrison’s Cove

—, “Over on T’Other Mounting

Continue reading

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Test Post for OAKS Integration

This is a post to see if a link on this blog will open in OAKS, CofC’s online learning management  system (LMS). I’m testing because I am strongly considering using a blog as my course homepage and to have that blog open in the LMS as the course main page.  This would save me a lot of trouble.


And it appears to work.  Yay!

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Book Order for ENGL 524- Fall 2012

Here’s the book order for my graduate class in the fall, the wildly-imaginatively titled, ENGL 524: Nineteenth- Century American Literature II.

Heath Anthology of American Literature: Late Nineteenth Century (1865-1910), Vol. C.
ISBN: 9780547201665

Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham. Penguin Classics.
ISBN: 9780140390308

Norris, McTeague. Penguin.
ISBN: 9780451528919

Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Random House.
ISBN: 9780375757808

These books are available at the college bookstore, but shopping online with the ISBN might also yield good results.

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Planning the First Year Seminar on Mark Twain

Meander Map of a Section of the Lower Mississippi River

Meander Map of a Section of the Lower Mississippi River

I am taking time out from my research for a bit to plan my first year seminar on Mark Twain for this fall.  I am excited about the course–about the opportunity to learn more about Twain myself and the opportunity that my students will have to study his writing.

I have made a few decisions, but many more remain.


Students will read a few short pieces, the serial “Old TImes on the Mississippi,” The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnA Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson.

In addition, they will view the Ken Burns PBS Documentary on Twain and read some biographical and critical pieces.

Students will complete assignments on critical reading, write reading responses in and out of class, discuss Twain’s writing in class, write a short paper, write a longer paper using research to support their analysis and conclusions, and present their research and ideas on the final exam day, likely in pecha kucha style.

Not Yet Decided

Continue reading

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The Benefits of Making It Harder to Learn – Do Your Job Better – The Chronicle of Higher Education

technical difficultiesvia The Benefits of Making It Harder to Learn – Do Your Job Better – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

A suggestive article by James M. Lang on the positive effects of a little difficulty.  Barriers between a learner and material to be learned, even if it’s just an unfamiliar font, can improve learning.  Here’s the idea in a nutshell.

To put this as oversimply as possible, learning material in fluent conditions—easy-to-read fonts, clear causal connections—is like driving to the grocery store on cognitive automatic pilot. You get from Point A to Point B, but you are not really paying close attention, and, hence, are unlikely to remember your trip in any detail later.

Learning material in disfluent conditions would be like driving to a grocery store in England if you are an American, having to navigate an unfamiliar route from the other side of the road. Getting the job done in such challenging conditions compels you to slow down and think more carefully, and so you are much more likely to remember details of the experience.

Of course, one can make the barrier too much of an impediment, the result of which may be students turning off or giving up entirely. There needs to be a balance. Continue reading

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The Neuroscience of Your Brain On Fiction –

The Neuroscience of Your Brain On Fiction –

A nice, compact, tantalizing run-down of contemporary thinking about what neuroscience has discovered about what goes on in our brains when we read fiction.  Worth the read.

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Teddy gets all reasonable and stuff.

Teddy points fingers at shallownessfrom Theodore Roosevelt, “Socialism, II — Where We Can Work with Socialists” (Outlook 27 March 1909).

I have copied below a couple representative excerpts from part II of Theodore Roosevelt’s 1909 essay on socialism published in the Outlook in 1909.  I have to admit, he caught me off guard a bit.  I was expecting way more fiery anti-socialist rhetoric and for him to go for the throat throughout, but Roosevelt mostly steers a middle course here (and in part I, too, published a week earlier) between what he sees as the excesses of individualism and those of socialism.

My reason for reading the two pieces in the first place was to look at TR’s understanding of what socialism might do to the family (many more things to read in TR on this), and let’s just say it’s not good, according to TR and others, but more on that later, perhaps. Mostly, I like the moderate angle TR takes on the politics of labeling policy as “socialistic” and then rejecting it on those weak, definitional grounds, and not, as one should, taking a good hard look at the policy itself and asking reason- and values-based questions about it.  I think it’s worth sharing. I’m not a huge fan of Teddy (look into his nativism, if you’d like one of my reasons), but I admire his ethical pragmatism here. Continue reading

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