The Ideal English Major

By Mark Edmundson

… there are readers and there are readers. There are people who read to anesthetize themselves—they read to induce a vivid, continuous, and risk-free daydream. They read for the same reason that people grab a glass of chardonnay—to put a light buzz on. The English major reads because, as rich as the one life he has may be, one life is not enough. He reads not to see the world through the eyes of other people but effectively to become other people. What is it like to be John Milton, Jane Austen, Chinua Achebe? What is it like to be them at their best, at the top of their games?

English majors want the joy of seeing the world through the eyes of people who—let us admit it—are more sensitive, more articulate, shrewder, sharper, more alive than they themselves are. The experience of merging minds and hearts with Proust or James or Austen makes you see that there is more to the world than you had ever imagined. You see that life is bigger, sweeter, more tragic and intense—more alive with meaning than you had thought.

Real reading is reincarnation.

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The Importance of Learning throughout Our Lives

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” – Albert Einstein

What is Life Long Learning? Simply, I believe it is the consistent and deep engagement of the mind and body in the active pursuit of knowledge and experience from birth to death. Now, science is helping to support the importance of learning in keeping brains active and healthy for a lifetime. The Maryland State Department of Education with the Johns Hopkins University School of Education published a set of guidelines in 2010 entitled Healthy Beginnings, supporting development and learning from birth through three years of age. The Dana Alliance for the Brain states in its paper Learning as We Age (2012) that “mental exercise, especially learning new things or pursuing activities that are intellectually stimulating, may strengthen brain-cell networks and help preserve mental functions. The brain is just as capable of learning in the second half of life as in the first half.”

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13 Little-Known Punctuation Marks We Should Be Using

Because sometimes periods, commas, colons, semi-colons, dashes, hyphens, apostrophes, question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks, brackets, parentheses, braces, and ellipses won’t do.

Joseph Boyden tackles native torture, colonial amnesia and ongoing racism

from The Globe and Mail:

History class has rarely been so fun. But rarely has the teacher been anyone like Joseph Boyden, the Ontario-born, Jesuit-educated, New Orleans-based self-described “mutt” of Scottish, Irish and Anishinaabek heritage whose new novel, The Orenda, is destined to be one of the biggest books of the season. A brilliant and bloody dissection of Canada’s early days, it follows on the heels of two other acclaimed historical novels by the author: His first book, Three Day Road, set just after the First World War, won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize; his second, Through Black Spruce, nabbed the Giller.

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Meet the 2013 Giller Prize longlist

Read more about the 13 books long-listed for this year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize at Quill and Quire.

Meet the President! by Zadie Smith

from The New Yorker:

“What you got there, then?”

The boy didn’t hear the question. He stood at the end of a ruined pier, believing himself quite alone. But now he registered the presence at his back, and turned.

“What you got there?”

A very old person, a woman, stood before him, gripping the narrow shoulder of a girl child. Both of them local, typically stunted, dim: they stared up at him stupidly. The boy turned again to the sea. All week long he had been hoping for a clear day to try out the new technology—not new to the world, but new to the boy—and now at last here was a break in the rain. Gray sky met gray sea. Not ideal, but sufficient. Ideally he would be standing on a cairn in Scotland or some other tropical spot, experiencing backlit clarity. Ideally he would be—

“Is it one of them what you see through?”

A hand, lousy with blue veins, reached out for the light encircling the boy’s head, as if it were a substantial thing, to be grasped like the handle of a mug.

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Top 10 skills children learn from the arts

1. Creativity – Being able to think on your feet, approach tasks from different perspectives and think ‘outside of the box’ will distinguish your child from others. In an arts program, your child will be asked to recite a monologue in 6 different ways, create a painting that represents a memory, or compose a new rhythm to enhance a piece of music. If children have practice thinking creatively, it will come naturally to them now and in their future career.
http://blog.artsusa.org/2012/11/26/the-top-10-skills-children-learn-from-the-arts/1. Creativity – Being able to think on your feet, approach tasks from different perspectives and think ‘outside of the box’ will distinguish your child from others. In an arts program, your child will be asked to recite a monologue in 6 different ways, create a painting that represents a memory, or compose a new rhythm to enhance a piece of music. If children have practice thinking creatively, it will come naturally to them now and in their future career. – See more at: http://blog.artsusa.org/2012/11/26/the-top-10-skills-children-learn-from-the-arts/#sthash.vhKrMFNq.dpuf
1. Creativity – Being able to think on your feet, approach tasks from different perspectives and think ‘outside of the box’ will distinguish your child from others. In an arts program, your child will be asked to recite a monologue in 6 different ways, create a painting that represents a memory, or compose a new rhythm to enhance a piece of music. If children have practice thinking creatively, it will come naturally to them now and in their future career. – See more at: http://blog.artsusa.org/2012/11/26/the-top-10-skills-children-learn-from-the-arts/#sthash.vhKrMFNq.dpuf

How Not to Read Literature

The problem, I think, is that upon closer examination, none of these books is exactly a “how-to” guide: each bears a deceptive name. Mortimer’s How To Read A Book ought to be called How To Dissect a Book To Within an Inch of Its Life. Bloom’s should certainly be called What (Rather Than How) To Read and Why. A more fitting title for Foster’s would be How to Read Literature the Way Non-Professors Think Professors Read Literature. But of course, none of these titles “sell.”

Now, Terry Eagleton, the literary theorist and critic, has decided to toss his thinking-cap into the “how-to read” ring and offers this genre yet another disappointment. Eagleton’s addition is titled How to Read Literature, and it, like all the others, has been misnomered. So what then should Eagleton have called his book? One problem, actually, is that the appropriate title seems to change as the book moves forward. The first third feels a lot like How To Read Literature Like Terry Eagleton. The second third begins to feel like How Terry Eagleton Reads Literature. But by the end, the reader will find the most apt title for the entire work to be Terry Eagleton Talks About a Bunch of Books He Once Read.

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On “Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco” by Gary Kamiya

Kamiya — who moonlighted as a San Francisco cabdriver while earning degrees in English literature at the University of California, Berkeley, en route to becoming a founding editor of Salon — calls this “doing the knowledge,” the term London cabbies have for the notoriously difficult test they must pass to earn their hack license. But Kamiya wasn’t content taking in and transmitting back the lay of the current land. Oh, no. He wanted to tell the tale of San Francisco through time as well as space, to write a kaleidoscopic homage both personal and historical, to “mix the perfect San Francisco cocktail.”

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18 obsolete words, which never should have gone out of style

Just like facts and flies, English words have life-spans. Some are thousands of years old, from before English officially existed, others change, or are replaced or get ditched entirely.

Here are 18 uncommon or obsolete words that we think may have died early. We found them in two places: a book called “The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten” by Jeffrey Kacirk, and on a blog called Obsolete Word of The Day that’s been out of service since 2010.

Snoutfair: A person with a handsome countenance — “The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten” by Jeffrey Kacirk

Pussyvan: A flurry, temper — “The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten” by Jeffrey Kacirk

Wonder-wench: A sweetheart — “The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten” by Jeffrey Kacirk

Lunting: Walking while smoking a pipe — John Mactaggart’s “Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia,” 1824

California widow: A married woman whose husband is away from her for any extended period — John Farmer’s “Americanisms Old and New”, 1889

Groak: To silently watch someone while they are eating, hoping to be invited to join them – www.ObsoleteWord.Blogspot.com

Jirble: To pour out (a liquid) with an unsteady hand: as, he jirbles out a dram — www.Wordnik.com

Curglaff: The shock felt in bathing when one first plunges into the cold water — John Jamieson’s Etymological Scottish Dictionary, 1808

Spermologer: A picker-up of trivia, of current news, a gossip monger, what we would today call a columnist — “The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten” by Jeffrey Kacirk

Tyromancy: Divining by the coagulation of cheese — “The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten” by Jeffrey Kacirk

Beef-witted: Having an inactive brain, thought to be from eating too much beef. — John Phin’s “Shakespeare Cyclopaedia and Glossary”, 1902

Queerplungers: Cheats who throw themselves into the water in order that they may be taken up by their accomplices, who carry them to one of the houses appointed by the Humane Society for the recovery of drowned persons, where they are rewarded by the society with a guinea each, and the supposed drowned person, pretending he was driven to that extremity by great necessity, is also frequently sent away with a contribution in his pocket. — “The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten” by Jeffrey Kacirk

Englishable: That which may be rendered into English — John Ogilvie’s “Comprehensive English Dictionary”, 1865

Resistentialism: The seemingly spiteful behavior shown by inanimate objects — www.ObsoleteWord.Blogspot.com

Bookwright: A writer of books; an author; a term of slight contempt — Daniel Lyons’s “Dictionary of the English Language”, 1897

Soda-squirt: One who works at a soda fountain in New Mexico — Elsie Warnock’s “Dialect Speech in California and New Mexico”, 1919

With squirrel: Pregnant — Vance Randolph’s “Down in the Holler: A Gallery of Ozark Folk Speech”, 1953

Zafty: A person very easily imposed upon — Maj. B. Lowsley’s “A Glossary of Berkshire Words and Phrases”, 1888

via Death and Taxes