Posts in Literature
Literary Reading in the Gospel of Luke

There’s a passage in the Gospel of Luke to which I have historically applied some bad reading habits. It’s the scene where Jesus compares his listeners to children calling out to one another in the street, saying “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.” (7:32) To be honest, I usually just keep on reading right past this verse and move on to more accessible material…

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On Starting the Year Exhausted

When I sat down last week to teach my first class of the year, I will admit I was feeling less than enthusiastic. As you may have heard elsewhere, this was a big summer for the CenterForLit crew. I spent long days bent over my laptop in a hidey hole, fiddling with fonts and website design for our new CenterForLit Schools project. By the time I exited my dark den, eyes blinking in the harsh light, August had rolled to a close and it was time to take up the teacher’s mantle again…

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Of Books and Boundaries

For as long as I can remember, books have been my companions. I carried them to grocery stores, to doctors’ offices, to school, and to work. I toted tomes to movie theaters, to beaches, to park benches, and to parties. I never go anywhere without them. As a young girl, I remember reading while walking with my mother through the aisles of the local grocery store, my mom telling me to put the book away before I ran into someone…

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Self-Judgment and Hamlet's Mutiny

My last blog post on The Hovel is dated April 17, 2017 – over one year ago. There are plenty of reasons and justifications for my silence: I’ve been busy working on more pressing projects, Ian and I moved across the country again, we bought our first house, etc., etc. If I’m honest, though, there’s one sad underlying cause for my lack of productivity that trumps all the other excuses: I have become Hamlet…

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Restoration and Remembrance in Cinderella

I’m currently in the middle of a unit in some of my literature classes where we are reading and discussing fairy tales. Reading and talking about fairy tales is quite possibly my very favorite thing to do ever. I might be only a tiny little bit hyperbolic about that. Just a smidge. I could honestly do nothing but teach fairy tales all year, every year, and be perfectly happy. We kicked off our unit with “Cinderella.” The girls in my classes were thrilled when I announced the title. The boys, on the other hand, groaned. “Just you wait,” I said. “You only think you’ve heard ‘Cinderella.’”…

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"Close Reading" and Postmodern Criticism

My mother hates the term “Close Reading.” To her it is emblematic of the postmodernist deconstructive literary criticism she encountered during her own college years in the late 80’s. To engage in this sort of “close reading” was to focus so intently on the trees that you missed the forest entirely; to purposefully evade and ignore the overarching thematic meaning of an author’s text and to decide what the work “meant to you” by evaluating how the granular details of the story made you feel...

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In the House of Tom Bombadil

Blog articles always seem to start with some catchy hook – a ‘lede,’ we used to call them in my college writing class. A reader will only persist in finishing the article, so said my professor, if the earliest lines are pithy, terse, and challenging, like the turn in a sonnet, or the rhetorical question in a stump speech. I don’t have one of those this time around. I do, however, have a rambling thought or two about human nature brought on by contemplating one of my favorite characters in all of literature: Tolkien’s master of the woods, Tom Bombadil...

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Trapped by the Rules: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Emily and I just had the distinct pleasure of teaching a tricky and delightful poem called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Picture this: King Arthur and his noble Knights of the Round Table are busy throwing a Christmas feast, when in through the big double doors rides, you guessed it, a Green Knight. Now, before your 21st century modern imaginations dress an entirely normal, if large, knight in green clothes and call it good, allow me to emphasize a poetic reality: this dude is green... 

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How Then Shall We Read? – An Apology for Literary Analysis

Much has been made in recent years of the prime opportunity childhood presents to shape lifetime readers. Reading aloud, in particular, is the word on the street where methodology is concerned. With videos and entertainment on the cultural rise, parents no longer have the luxury of throwing a book at a child and hoping it will “take.” Now, they must read it to them, guide them, captivate, and verily, enchant them into the magical kingdom of imaginative literature...  

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Dawes, Art, and Good Criticism

So, I’ve been listening to an album recently, and it has me thinking about the purpose of “art.” The album is perkily titled, We’re All Gonna Die, and I’m thoroughly obsessed with it. I’ve spent hours unpacking the lush orchestration, focusing this time on the perfectly liquid bass parts, next on the engrossing and sensitive drum tracks, and then on Taylor Goldsmith’s quietly pitch perfect voice. I just can’t seem to get enough. But, being a reader by nature, I also can’t help but be confronted with the sadness written into each track...

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