UTA English Obituary: Simone Turbeville

Simone Turbeville, who died on 27 December 2009, was a long-time Associate Professor in the English Department at UTA – though it’s a measure both of the ephemerality of life and the huge turnover here in the past decade that few reading this obituary will remember her. It’s important to mark such passings – maybe more important to mark them than those of academics who get awards or professorships or…

Linguistic Sesquicentenary: L.L. Zamenhof

Ludwig Zamenhof, inventor of the language Esperanto, was born on 15 December 1859, which means that Tuesday is his sesquicentenary. (Incidentally, “sesquicentenary” deserves to be a Word of the Day one of these Days. OED tells me that it derives from the prefix “semi-” and the suffix “-que”: IOW “half-and,” or “half again as much.” The things I never knew . . . I always assumed that “sesqui-” things, like centennials and…

Oh, Christmas!

Here’s a poem by a former professor of mine.  He used to read it to us at the end of every fall semester, on the last day of class, as a final send-off before the Christmas break.  I’ve always loved this poem for the way that it so perfectly explores the mixed blessings the American holiday season bestows upon us. Advent By: Scott Cairns (from Figures For The Ghost) Well,…

Proof that novels about clergymen and spinsters can be good

Much as I hate to plaster my post over Tim’s diverting discussion of academic bureaucracy, it is time for me to report back on another “Neglected Classic,” which this time is F.M. Mayor’s The Rector’s Daughter. I had never heard of F.M. Mayor. Not that this necessarily means much, since twentieth-century literature was a blind spot of my undergraduate degree in English. In 1991, which is when I started the…

Welcome to the New Website of the Circumlocution Office

In the popular imagination, the “English professor” is pictured as an individual of middling gender, sporting a certain amount of corduroy and tennis shoes, and having a really bad hair century. We imagine English professors, if they’re over fifty, as being halfheartedly obsessed with symbolic archetypes in the plays of T.S. Eliot and keen on converting the young to the latest version of MLA style. We think of under-50 English…

Thanksgiving Poem

This is Thanksgiving Week — and what better than a poem that inspires the deepest gratitude? This is one of my favorite poems and certainly a poem of thanksgiving, but it describes a very simple, quiet, solitary day — a day very unlike the busy, noisy, bustling one that most of us will be having this Thursday. Yet, in the midst of the feast, between football games or puzzles, during…

In Praise of the American Short Story

Last year, in an article for the New York Times lamenting the lack of appreciation many American readers have for the short story, Stephen Millhauser said, “…here in America, size is power. The novel is the Wal-Mart, the Incredible Hulk, the jumbo jet of literature. The novel is insatiable — it wants to devour the world. What’s left for the poor short story to do? It can cultivate its garden,…

Not the “Neglectedest” Classic

As promised in my last post, I am making my way (very slowly) through the nominations for “neglected classic” made by ten contemporary authors for the radio 4 program Open Book. This past two weeks I read The Snow Goose, by Paul Gallico, and Samuel Johnson’s This History of Rasselas Prince of Abissinia. I will only have room here to address The Snow Goose—it’s just that kind of book, and…

Lyric Centenary: Johnny Mercer

The “American songbook,” music written in the half-century 1920-1970 for Broadway, radio, and Hollywood, is dominated by composers: George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael. The lyricists who wrote the words for their songs were brilliant too, but are usually granted a smaller helping of fame. Ira Gerswhin excelled at ringing changes on vernacular phrases; Lorenz Hart was the master of…

Libraries: An Argument

Suzanne E. Thorin, dean of libraries at Syracuse University, made the news last week when she declared “Let’s face it: the library, as a place, is dead … Kaput. Finito. And we need to move on to a new concept of what the academic library is.” Thorin made these startling comments at the 2009 Educause Conference, sparking a lively debate amongst the conference participants that has now been taken up…