Playing Favorites

In the previous post, Jackie Stodnick stated that the most common question she’s asked is how she ended up working on what she works on. I’m rarely asked this question — probably because I work on American literature — and I’m American — and women’s writing — and I’m a woman. I think people presume that my identity perfectly explains my area of expertise — and there may be some…

The Making of a Medievalist (or rather an Anglo-Saxonist)

I am frequently asked—I think more often than most English professors—why it is that I ended up doing what I do. There’s something about being an Anglo-Saxonist just freakish enough to require explanation. Or maybe it’s my palpable lack of a beard, which, as I have noted before on this blog, is practically a requirement of membership in the field. In any case, I have been thinking a lot recently…

What I Learned About Writers (and Writing) At the AWP Conference in Denver Last Week

Last week, approximately ten million writers (or what felt like it, at least) descended upon the Hyatt Regency Hotel (we also took over the convention center across the street) in Downtown Denver for the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference. When I first started going to the conference, back in 1995 (it was in Pittsburgh that year) the conference registration fees were twenty bucks (this year? $185), there…

Friday Cat-Blogging

Friday cat-blogging, as an Internet phenomenon, was invented by Kevin Drum, late of Calpundit and Washington Monthly, and currently of Mother Jones. (As a pre-Internet phenomenon, cat blogging appears to have been invented by cave painters in Stone Age France though the Romans have a certain claim to being the first cat-bloggers and by the Middle Ages, the practice was firmly established.) Anyway, Kevin Drum, a center/left blogger who has…

“Authors we’re a little in love with,” or “Why John Donne is my homeboy.”

It’s that week I’ve been waiting for all semester. What, the mythical time when I have finished all my reading for class and my grading, and still have hours leftover for guiltless gardening? No, it’s John Donne week in History of Brit Lit. Could life get any better? Which brings me to the purpose of my post. Admit it, some authors you just have a little bit of a crush…

News Flash! Neuro Lit Crit is IT!

I’m always a little wary when the media declares the next new thing in literary criticism. After all, journalists have delighted in the past in telling us that 1) literature is dead and 2) literary theory is really dead. Most of the major newspapers enjoy regaling their readers with articles that mock the absurdities of contemporary literary criticism — for example, in their annual “Can you believe they crazy things…

So, What DO We Look For When We Read?

Recently, Tim Morris sent me the link to an editorial by James Woods in the New Yorker that explores, among other things, the predictability of the tropes many contemporary writers employ in their novels. Mr. Woods argues that tropes aren’t a recent development in novels (he points out that the 19th century novels relied on popular plot manipulators such as eavesdropping, or gossip, or evil wills that leave the protagonist…

Tier One Comes to UTA

I got a phone call this morning from my friend Chaim Knott, Executive Associate Vice Provost for K-20 Initiatives here at UTA. “Hey Tim,” said Chaim. “I really can’t talk right now.” “You called me, Chaim. What’s up?” I said. “Can I tell you something in confidence?” asked Chaim. “Of course not,” I said. “I’m a blogger. Anything you tell me will be lunchtime reading across the globe later today.”…