Does this sentence make your heart leap with joy? Or does a sentence ending with a preposition make you stop and stare, dumbfounded? Do text-messege-speak emails and Facebook status updates make you cringe? Well, my friend, you are not alone.

The technological world we live in today is making our spelling and grammar suck, to be quite honest. “Your” is confused with “you’re” on a regular basis, and in recent days I’ve seen the phrase “Renaissance man” reduced to a jumble of letters without capitalization. “Saturday” is now “Satueday,” an ad’s “tattoos” is now “tattoo’s,” and compliments are returned with “thanx” instead of “thanks” or “thank you.” (And, apparently, WordPress believes that “thanx” is, indeed, a real word according to its lack of an angry red underline.)

This all goes back to my love of the written word and my shock at the lack of basic writing skills in every age group.  High schoolers, college students, advanced degree-holders (BA, MA, even beyond!), and baby boomer professionals are making basic mistakes in spelling and grammar.  I’m convinced that the necessary use of technology–computers, mobile phones, and social networking sites like Facebook–has chipped away at the English language.

Works Cited: njlplive.jex.com

I can rant as long as I want about the troubling evolution of our language and writing, but that won’t do much.  Instead, all I can do is ask each person to not reduce to text speak in everyday communication and to encourage his or her peers to use correct English.  Mistakes happen, but we can set an example like my friend, Nick.  He ended a sentence within a normal conversation with a preposition, and then corrected himself.  Perhaps writing well and speaking well will eventually lead others to do the same.  Who wants the next generation to look back on us and wonder what the heck we were saying?  Will we need an English to Text Speak dictionary alongside the French, Spanish, Latin, and Old English tomes?  Let’s hope not.  And, if all else fails, you can remember this joke an English professor once told my class:

Visitor: Where is the library at?

Professor: Around here, we don’t end our sentences in prepositions.

Visitor.  Okay…  Where is the library at, asshole?

Here’s to good writing, readable communication, and better education!

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I have a new goal, which for me is actually quite a challenge.  It’s something close to things already on my list, but this one has a definite end date and is actually manageable.

Thirty Books Everyone Should Read Before They’re Thirty

So, in the order of the list, here are the books.  The books I have read are in dark green type.

  1. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  2. 1984 by George Orwell
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  4. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  5. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  6. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  7. The Rights of Man by Tom Paine
  8. The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  10. The Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin
  11. The Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton
  12. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  13. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
  14. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
  15. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein
  16. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  17. Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot
  18. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  19. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  20. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  21. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  22. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  23. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  24. The Republic by Plato
  25. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  26. Getting Things Done by David Allen
  27. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  28. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  29. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  30. The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulakov
  31. BONUS: How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
  32. BONUS: Honeymoon with My Brother by Franz Wisner

So, as anyone can see, I have a bit to go on this list.  Some of these I haven’t ever heard of (Wisdom in the Desert, The Master and the Margarita), while others I’ve avoided because of their style (anything by Charles Dickens or Charles Darwin or Ernest Hemingway, more by Steinbeck; I feel reading A Separate Peace four times in high school and Great Expectations three times has put me off of that almost lumbering and depressing storytelling).  I also, as you may have guessed, don’t especially like older American literature.  I’m a fan of the more modern “literary fiction,” which is on the rung above romance novels and Twilight, but doesn’t have the prestige of the “greats” like Dickens.  Others on this list I’ve avoided because of the story, like Clockwork Orange and Lord of the Flies.  While I love the film of CO, my mental theatre is quite imaginary, and somehow I find the words and suggestion more influential and uncomfortable than the screen imagery.

I have a lot on this list to do, and after I finish my Isabel Allende/Spanish kick, I may read these.  This will be a challenge, but reading is supposed to inform and sometimes entertain.  Hey, I got through my high school readings just fine, and this time, I have medieval texts to balance it out…

Also on the topic of books, I turn my attention to the declining sale of hard, feel-them-in-your-hands books.  Beloved Barnes and Noble has put itself up for sale and Kindles are being snatched up as fast as Amazon can produce them.  I stumbled upon this post by another WordPress blogger with an amazing quote from a Wall Street Journal writer.  The blogger does not, I repeat DOES NOT lament the change from physical books to electronic, and maintains that readership of literature will still be big in this digital age.  From what I was able to read from the WSJ article (I couldn’t read the entire thing, as I have not paid for a subscription, alas!), the author (like me) feels a loss and sadness about the replacement of books.

Brightly flashing screens have not only replaced letters and face-to-face contact, but have begun to replace the one material thing I value above all others: books.  I cannot believe that this is just the next step to a civilized and technology-filled society and that “it’s proven to be one of the best things that can happen to something we love.”  Can you imagine as a child snuggling up to your mom or dad to read a story from a Kindle or Nook?  Would you want to teach your kid to read on a screen?  If you went on a trip or got lost on an island, what would you read once the power went out?  As a student at university or of life, how will you remember passages from books that have touched your soul when you only have a screen?

Another challenge for me is to find a way to help people to respect the written word and the various forms in which it comes.  While I appreciate any medium that helps people to read and to expand their minds, I cannot help but think of the books that could have been picked up and appreciated in their dust jacketed glory.

“Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.”

    (from a letter to Ophelia, Hamlet 2.2.116-119)

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

    (Sonnet 18)

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no!  It is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

    (Sonnet 116)

Maybe you’ve seen Shakespeare in the news recently, with the whole “refudiate” situation and Sarah Palin.  While I did hear about that, the most important reference to Shakespeare is my new class on post-1603 Shakespeare.  I’m terrifically excited, and am in love with my new Bevington collected works.  It’s huge, and takes up 75% of my messenger bag, but it’s beautiful.

We’re reading Othello (and seeing an outside performance August 1), Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear.  The professor’s area of interest is in gender and sexuality studies, and so the overarching theme will be *drumroll* gender roles and sexuality!  I find that extremely interesting, as I take every opportunity to explore women’s roles in antiquity and the Middle Ages and am a proud feminist myself thanks to Gustavus.  (No, I wasn’t indoctrinated, or anything, but I experienced how my female friends and classmates view the world as professionals, independent people, gay, straight, bisexual, Christian, atheist, etc.  Plus, the red “This is what a Gustavus feminist looks like” didn’t hurt either…  I still have fond memories of a male poli sci professor speaking to the senior class wearing one of these under his robes and flashing it like Clark Kent becoming Superman.)

Anyway, it will be a nice change from SQB and an uninformed, interruptive instructor.

I’ve begun to read the first play for Monday, Othello.  It’s so beautiful, and the marriage between Othello and Desdemona begins better than any marriage I’ve read about recently (The Miller’s Tale, The Franklin’s Tale, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Lanval, etc.).  Those marriages begin either with the man in total domination over the woman, the woman in complete control over the man, or a marriage of “equals” to the depressed extreme as in the marriage between Averagus and Dorigen.  Othello and Desdemona love each other in the Christian way and in Venus’ way.  It’s true love mixed with passion.  Of course, Iago comes to stir those flames of passion, creating doubt and destruction by the end, but the beginning is good, right?  The issues of the Moor’s bestial qualities corrupting the pure, white, Venetian virtue of Desdemona is interesting.  (“Even now, now, very now, an old black ram / Is topping your white ewe.”  Othello, 1. 1)  Disturbing, but interesting.  Language is carefully used to convey meaning, and I think my maturity since last reading any Shakespeare, my viewing of several plays last summer, and the Bevington’s notes all make me very aware of language.

Chasseriau's Othello and Desdemona in Venice, 1850

And that brings me to a nice stopping point before I go on another lecture about the importance of the text and construction of language…  To sum up, the text is important.  The author uses it carefully as a whole work and in pieces, ultimately creating a text larger than the sum of its parts.  You should appreciate the text.  Please?

Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field,
Of hair-breadth ‘scapes i’ the imminent deadly breach,
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence
And portance in my travels’ history.

But words are words; I never yet did hear
That the bruised heart was pierced through the ear.
Othello, 1. 3 (both)

I understand a fury in your words,
But not the words.
Othello, 4. 2

Movie note: The Kenneth Bragnagh Othello is breathtaking, with Laurence Fishburne as Othello and Bragnagh as Iago.  Stage Beauty with Billy Crudup and Clair Danes focuses on the staging of Othello just as women were being allowed on the stage.  For a true and good version of Othello, pick of Bragnagh.  For a commentary on the gender roles of Renaissance England and the evolution of staging, Stage Beauty is entertaining.

So, continuing a train of thought from my last post: Stupid Question Boy.

I talked with him earlier this week when I got out of my first class early and could pounce on him before class.  I wanted to be private about it, and not draw attention to him or the fact that I was calling him out.  After tedious tangents and interruptions all term, I felt it was time to ask for a bit of peace and quiet for the last week or so.  Hopefully, everything’s going to work out.  He seemed amenable to my feelings, though a bit, erm, muddled in his understanding of how courtesy towards one’s peers and a lecture class work.  He said, “I don’t want to be the moron in the back of the class that never talks” (I’ll leave you to figure out what was racing through my mind when he said that).  In addition to that, some other gems from the past weeks of class:

Prof: “What do you want me to call you?”  SQB: “I go by ‘Chris’ and put ‘Christopher’ on my papers.”  Prof: “But what do you want me to call you?”  SQB: “‘Jesus!'”

After a much rambling about nothing in particular during discussion of Dante.  Prof: “Did you read The Inferno?!”

With a date, including B.C. and c., on the board.  SQB: “So, what is that?  Like, I know B.C., but what’s the ‘c.’?  And why are they going backwards?”  All of us in the front row: “It’s ‘circa!'”  SQB: “But why is it backwards?”  Prof: “It’s B.C., so the dates go from bigger to smaller…”

Yes, this is the kind of stuff I deal with in history class on a daily basis.  Some people don’t understand B.C., I know, but for a person who constantly interrupts to talk about how often he’s read Aristotle, (you know, a guy from the B.C. era?) it’s a bit much.  Interrupting in class, not just of me but of other students and especially the professor, is one of my pet peeves.

I just wish I could also tell my instructor from my lit class that interrupting others is rude, too.  Before I’ve made my point, she’ll interrupt to “correct” and not even listen to what I’m saying.  She’s also insisted something rooted in the text is wrong.  In The Miller’s Tale, the carpenter, John, insists that the Flood is “Nowel’s Flood.”  I pointed this out, saying that it goes towards his characterization as a foolish man.  She hadn’t picked up on this before and said something along the lines of “well, here’s an instance of different manuscripts saying different things.”  Another former classmate in my Chaucer class backed me up, but she never admitted to being wrong.  The instructor never said anything like, “Oh, I never noticed that” or “Oh, I understand what you’re saying.”  She also spelled “Absolon” (which is the way I’ve seen it written in every text) as “Absolom” the entire period and encouraged us to say “Asparagus” instead of the proper “Averagus.”  GAH!

It reminds me of what I will make a point of never doing as a professor or teacher or lecturer in the future.

I wrote a letter writing manifesto earlier, and all this class insanity brings me to…

My Future Teaching Manifesto:

  • I will instruct my students to raise their hands before speaking to avoid interruption during the class.
  • I will acknowledge and look into anyone’s observation(s) and feeling(s) about a text.
  • I will refer to the text as my main source and defer to that at all times.
  • I will spell things correctly.
  • I will be a champion for peer editing and multiple drafts.
  • I will make outlines before lecture/class with important dates, characters, etc. so I don’t misinform students.
  • I will be as accessible via office hours and e-mail as possible.
  • I will get exams and essays back as quickly as possible, within a week.
  • I will evaluate students on an individual basis instead of on work in a group.
  • I will not tolerate texting or use of a mobile phone.
  • I will get to know students on a first name basis, and try to understand them as individuals.
  • I will encourage actively using the text and finding textual evidence to support any conclusions in papers and in class.

    I think this all comes from the respect I have for a text as a text and for those who analyze and know what they’re doing.  Literature is so amazing, and to hear it not appreciated, its characters debased, and things I’ve learned from professors who have been in the field longer than I’ve been alive burns me to the very core.

    I hope that ends the ranting I’ve been doing primarily in my head for the past 24 hours because of the evaluation of the group website for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, for which I apparently used too many sources and went too in depth in my textual analysis for the poetics section.  I will endeavor to make the things that irk me here into better conduct later, and to fine tune how I think a class should be: no interruptions and yet conducive to learning and rooted in the text.

    This coming week is the end of A term, and then I go into a guided reading for medieval England and a class on Shakespeare after 1603.  The time to move back to Oklahoma is rapidly drawing closer, as is my deadline to get my butt to the UK.  I’ll keep you posted on how A term ends, how B term begins, and what camera I end up choosing (more on that later).

    For now, I will *facepalm* in the privacy of my own apartment and wait out the rest of term.  I think all will turn out well, and after next Wednesday, I won’t have to deal with either SQB or this lit instructor again.  I will think happy thoughts and be in a better, more amicable mood!

    Ohmmmm….

    So, I’m yet again beating you over the head with my love of books, but I had to share this great site.

    Fabulous Covers

    I’ve had my love of books reenergized over the weekend, as I’m working on a lit group project about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  I’m getting to talk about ring composition, alliteration, and the creation of the manuscript.  Woo-hoo!  I really am not a fan of group projects, but I’m kinda helming this one, as I have the most experience and have an Arthurian legend library here at the apartment.  However, all that really means is that I can focus on what I want and can really go in depth about the poetry and the themes.  This is the last full week of A term, and I’m planning on meeting with my team early tomorrow morning and to talk to an irritating classmate in history.  I’ve had three weeks of stupid questions (yes, I’ve discovered that there are stupid questions) and interruptions.  Even the professor is having a hard time taking this guy as a serious student.  He asked some question about The Inferno, and she replied with “Did you read The Inferno?!”

    I’ll let you know how the week goes, and if I can end the history class without slapping Stupid Question Boy.

    As I’ve lamented before, computers, e-mails, text messages, etc. have taken away not only traditional grammar and spelling rules, but also personality and care.  While I am still trying to write at least one letter a week by hand, I know that this won’t always be possible with the high price of stamps and the long time it takes to actually sit down, write a letter, and either go slowly to not make mistakes or carry a jumbo-sized Write Out bottle for frequent touchups.  Pilot, the pen company, has a solution to this:

    Pilot Handwriting Online

    I may try this.  Tomorrow.  It’s almost 2:00 am here, and I’m still up after getting 5 1/2 hours of sleep last night due to the crummy heatwave in the Seattle area.  Even if our livelihoods rely on the internet and on technology, let’s not completely lose our contact with others.