Bad Books

Recently The American Book Review released an article titled “Top 40 Bad Books,” in which a host of literary critics were invited to identify “bad books.” Some of the contributors went with the obvious: Bonnie Wheeler (SMU) listed Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code – which seems just a little bit too easy. Marc Bousquet (Santa Clara) listed David Horowitz’s right-wing screed, One Party Classroom, and Liedeke Plate (Radboud Universiteit) Pride…

It’s English, but not as we know it

At some point in every semester, I give my students a really difficult assignment that I am not sure they are capable of completing. I’ve been to assessment workshops, and I know that when you issue an assignment, you are supposed to have a clear vision of what you will receive in return—visualize a butterfly, I think the metaphor was, and if you can’t, don’t complain when you get beetles…

Publish or Publish

In a recent essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education, David Alpaugh bewails the proliferation of poetry in America. He notes that, at a conservative estimate, American journals, print or on-line, will publish 100,000 poems this year, and that’s a bit much. Like, about 99,900 poems much. My first reaction to Alpaugh’s thesis was: OK, let’s also crack down on the millions of Americans who play musical instruments. Some of…

Bidding for Books

This weekend I had a new experience: bidding on Ebay for an antiquarian book. One of my graduate students informed me that a book by the eighteenth-century author, Susanna Rowson, was for sale on Ebay. I was amazed! True, Rowson is not well known outside of academic circles and, as a result, does not have the cultural cache of her contemporaries Benjamin Franklin, Washington Irving, or others. But, surely an…

“The Likelihood of Feeling Lonely Scale”

In response to Tim’s last post, one person mentioned the phenomenon of “celebrity scholars,” and how they, alone among English professors, are able to finance lavish and jet-setting lifestyles. Although surely not all celebrity scholars are bad (I’m afraid that I can’t say here that some of my best friends are celebrity scholars), I have taken a class with one and it involved neither a syllabus nor the learning of…