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Sandra Gilbert Reflection

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Sometimes a person dashes your hopes and expectations.  Sometimes a person crushes your expectations by being so awesome, you feel sad that you held such low hopes in the first place.  Sandra Gilbert decimated my expectations and I couldn’t be more happy.

She was inspiring, and interesting, and wonderful.  It is not everyday that I have the chance to hear a world renown scholar speak, and it is rarer yet that such a scholar will speak about a topic I feel passionate about.  Her lecture about finding the lost content of Atlantis, in this case women’s literary tradition, was inspiring.  And it was also important.  I, and expect many of my generation, take the advances of feminism for granted.  Who really believes that women should not be allowed to vote?  to take part in higher education? (Goshen for one would be about 65% poorer…) or to pursue a vocation in whatever area interests them?  These things seem as natural as breathing to me, and so it is important to step back and remember that this was not always the case.

Gilbert reminded us that only 35 years ago Women’s literature was not studied in any intentional way.  Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar literally wrote edited the book on women’s literature in english.

I sit here trying to type out exactly what it was that made her visit so incredible and words, traitorously enough, fail me.  These are the moments, the times, that make me glad and proud to be an english major.  English provides connection, continuity and creativity for the substance of our existence.  I live in the legacy of giants, one of whom I just had the privilege to meet.

Sandra M. Gilbert

Monday, April 5th, 2010

We have the distinct privilege of having well-know scholar, Sandra M. Gilbert, on Goshen Campus.  She is best known for her work editing the Norton Anthology of Literature by Women.  As well as being a world class scholar, she has also published multiple books of poetry.  We are honored to have her visit.

She will be giving a lecture titled “Finding Atlantis: Thirty Years of Discovering Women’s Literary Traditions” this Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Newcomer Center 19.  The event is free and open to the public, so any and all are welcome.

Below is one of her Poems

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Broadside

Monday, April 5th, 2010

To those who do not know since 1976, the Goshen College English department has published short works, prose and poetry, in a publication called Broadside.  This is an opportunity for students and other members of the campus community to get their creative works put through participate in the editing process and eventually see their creative work published.

I have the pleasure of noting that these works can now be read online at http://www.goshen.edu/english/Home/Broadside.

The English Writing Major – Thoughts

Monday, March 29th, 2010
Awww.... Who knew a brain could be so cute?

This brain can now hop on two paths rather than one


Now that the English department is offering the English writing major, I think it’s worth stopping to think about the applications for this, as well as the traditional English major.

I’ve written before about the applications of an English major for both job prospects, and for having an impact on the world.  Writing is, I think, about as valuable a skill as one can have.  It prepares people for a multitude of jobs, and can change hearts and minds in ways that many other skills cannot.  Further, the more experience with Critical Theory I get, the more I see English as practice for flexible thinking.  Wrapping minds around approaching the same text from an number of direction teaches people how to think creatively from many perspectives. (more…)

Exciting Changes in the English Department

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

I’m excited to announce some changes coming to an English Department near you.  Some of you may have heard about these changes before, but I’m going to give you the scoop as accurately and as best I can.  I will be writing and exploring the implications and reasons for these changes later.  This is just a primer on what is going on right now.

So, here are a list of the changes that are coming.

The biggest change is:

The English Writing Major!!: In its continuing efforts to promote the craft and practice of writing, the English department will soon offer a major dedicated to honing the art of writing in its many forms (expository, creative, play writing, non-fiction etc.)  This major will have at it’s core foundational English writing courses such as Expository Writing, The English Language, and others.  From this base, English Writing majors will then be able to build their own course path from classes like Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Non-Fiction.

This major will expand the offerings for students who love language and writing, but do not feel fully served or interested by a focused Literature Studies curriculum.

For the English Major: English majors will now be required to take only two literature survey classes rather than three (one in British lit. and one in American lit.)  And, in place of the third literature survey class, students will now take World Literature to reflect more fully Goshen College’s commitment to global citizenship.

For TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages): TESOL will similarly now include a World lit. requirement to add exposure to literary models for teaching language in a global context.

For the English Minor: The minor now has fewer required courses, allowing people to create their own, more flexible plan of study.

Identity

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

One thing that I love about studying English (though I suspect that it is true in many other fields as well) is its continuing ability to express my identity.  I don’t mean that in a “writing helps me express myself” kind of way, but rather in the sense that analyzing and studying literature enables one to find patterns of identity.

I was writing a reflection in one of my classes in which we were asked to consider what our particular critical standpoint was.  I suspect that my initial reaction was similar to most people in the class; I thought to myself, “I don’t have any particular critical standpoint or inclination.”  But, when I stopped to think about it I found that I did to some extent.  When I write papers my first instinct is, almost without fail, to write about women and gender.  Surprise!  I’m pretty sure that makes my critical standpoint to be at least nominally feminist.   (As a male, I question how truly feminist I can possibly be.)

But beyond this one example, in taking numerous literature classes and critical theory, I found my temperament.  I know what I like, and for the most part, I know why.  Just being a part of English studies, I have honed my ability to predict what I will and will not enjoy.  For example, taking my experience in the classroom, I can pretty accurately predict that, at any given moment, I would probably rather hear a lecture or take part in a discussion about gender than I would like to watch a football game (though, the two issues have some interesting overlap).  And while I realize that makes me sound strange to many people, I am glad to have that self-knowledge.

Has English English, or any other area of study helped you find out who you are?  Do you think that identity formation should be a more intentional part of a college education?  If you have any thoughts, please, feel free to comment, or email me at jacobs11@goshen.edu if you’d rather more anonymity.

Sociable English

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

I often make fun of English, though much more in person than in print.  Just the other day I commented that my holey flannel shirt and patchy facial hair (it was Februhairy) was a trial run for my eventual career as a homeless person.  And while I think it should probably go without saying that studying English does not, in fact, lead to a life of destitute poverty, there is a similarly common stereotype of English majors: the isolated artist producing work that no one else cares about or understands.  I’m sure there are cases of this, but a recent experience reminded me of the common fallacy of this stereotype.

A few days ago I pulled my head out of my books and homework long enough to go to the campus coffee shop to refuel.  When I got there, I ran in to a number of friends including a fellow English major.  He was sitting with a limp little sign advertising that he, as a TA for an English class, was there to help people with their papers and homework.  No one, it seemed, was particularly in need at that moment and so he instead sat reading a book for yet another English class.  I sidled into the chair across from him and struck up a conversation about Critical Theory and Practice, the one class that we share.  We had recently been studying postmodernism and had a paper on the subject due in a few days.  I brought up the paper, not thinking that I really had much to say, and mostly expecting it to fill up some small talk space.  What happened instead was a full blown, impassioned discussion of postmodernism and the work we were doing.  It turns out that, though I was not excited thinking about postmodernism abstractly for a paper, I was thrilled to talk about it in person.  And, when I returned to writing, our conversation had set my mind abuzz with new, exciting ideas.  Isolation is the enemy of English studies, not its natural end point.

My point, if I have one, is that when I think of English students I don’t think of people who can’t stand people and are so caught up in their own world that they miss out on everything else.  I think of people who happen to love activities, reading and writing, which generally require some solitude. Nonetheless they (we) love to explore the worlds and ideas that they find on the page with anyone and everyone.  Students of English may be a bit incorrigible, but few of them suffer from self-isolation.  English, in its myriad forms, is and will remain a social activity because, at its core, it is about communicating.

Theory v. Lit Survey – FIGHT!

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

So, despite having been an English major for quite some time, I am only now taking Critical Theory and Practice — which is, for all intents and purposes, the introductory course to upper level English classes.  One of the main messages I have been getting from the class is that a reader can interpret a text any number of ways and defining if and why a work is good is pretty much impossible.  So the problem for any English class is considering what to teach and why.  From my experience the English canon is pretty much entirely received; we mostly still read the “classics” of literature, or, as someone in my theory class noted, “the books that we are supposed to read.”  Why, if much of that canon was established before Critical Theory had its day, do we continue to read specific hallmarks of “great literature?”  Especially if the insights of theory teach us that if “great literature” exists at all, we can’t really explain why.

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How to Write Badly Well

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

My recent post about how much I enjoy sifting through this blogs spam made me think about a fantastic and telling blog that I found.   This spam seemed to follow the rule “Always Use a Thesaurus.”  What I thought was interesting about this blog was the way reading it made me feel like I was becoming a better writer.  Or at least, a less bad one.  It works as a pretty effective list of things not to do in your writing, and, by offering humorous examples of each, does a pretty good job of ensuring you won’t soon forget them.  It’s definitely worth a look.

Our Spam is Hilarious – Part 2

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

spamAs a follow up to the greatness of the last spam that I told you about, I wanted to share with you another recent round of goodness.  Enjoy.

Advantageously, the post is really the sweetest on this precious topic. I concur with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to your coming updates. Saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the exceptional lucidity in your writing. I will immediately grab your rss feed to stay abreast of any updates. Gratifying work and much success in your business efforts!

Ahh yes.  I glad whoever wrote took such pains to use big, unnecessary words, otherwise I might not have noticed that it was spam.  Except… I don’t really have business efforts.  Not really sure where they got that.