Author Archives: Kate Stover

“Students rated sociability (e.g., friendliness, warmth) as significantly more important than did faculty.”

A 2014 study by Megan Gerhardt evaluated how instructors and students ranked contributors to teaching credibility. While everyone agreed that competence in subject matter and character are most important, students noted a desire for sociability that “has important implications for … Continue reading

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“He didn’t fit in.”

Even though he was wealthy and influential, Charles Dickens didn’t fit into middle-class life in Victorian England for many reasons. Here are three: He made fun of “society” people in his novels. Instead of writing anonymously, as the other novelists … Continue reading

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“There is a great deal of poetry written and published today that turns its back (sometimes with apparent disdain) upon the reader.”

Who is poetry for?  What is its purpose?  If you like fist fights and barroom brawls, go ahead and ask poets and professors these questions.  You’ll see two sides emerge: One will agree with “the noted American poet” who said … Continue reading

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“Who is it you are writing for? It surely could not be the average person who just enjoys a good read.”

The reader who asked Jonathan Franzen this question touched a nerve. Franzen’s answer — a 30-page essay titled “Mr. Difficult” — describes two models for relationships between writers and readers. In the “Status” model, writers aim to create great art, … Continue reading

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“There are many of us who need to reprocess our garbage, but who can’t bear the idea of writing memoir . . .”

Jessica Lourey continues: “. . . whether it’s because we are too close to the trauma, don’t want to hurt or be hurt by those we’re writing about, or simply prefer the vehicle of fiction.” Students in my classes on … Continue reading

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“The pupils formed in line and buzzingly passed a ragged book from hand to hand.”

What?  Only one book for all the students to pass around?  In England? In many of his novels, Charles Dickens describes how difficult it was for ordinary families to get any sort of education. In Great Expectations, Pip’s family had … Continue reading

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“The secret of all art, also of poetry, is, thus, distance.”

Czeslaw Milosz, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, continues, “Thanks to distance the past preserved in our memory is purified and embellished.”  We can consider the past “without our former passions”  so we can find “details that had escaped … Continue reading

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“Of the students who report having disabilities, the largest and fastest-growing group is students who have ‘invisible disabilities.’”

One of my greatest challenges as an English instructor is to address the learning needs of students with invisible disabilities, such as anxiety disorders. This population is growing at an astonishing rate. Between 2008 and 2016, the number of college … Continue reading

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“Education, when rightly understood, will be found to lie in the art of asking apt and fit questions…”

Bronson Alcott continues, “…and in thus leading the mind by its own light to the perception of truth.”  Using discussion questions to develop ideas instead of using the rote learning method to reinforce “the” right ideas was considered outrageous in … Continue reading

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“More often than we think, our limits are self-imposed.”

I once asked the director of our program for non-traditional college students what the biggest challenge was for these students.  Was it ability?  “No,” she said. “It’s their perception of their abilities.  They don’t think they’re smart enough. Then they … Continue reading

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“When I was younger, anxiety sometimes flat-out crippled my ability to work.”

In every class I teach, there is at least one student who will talk with me at some point about how high levels of anxiety are preventing him or her from completing assignments. This memoir by Andrea Petersen provides a … Continue reading

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“The Hopper painting hung on the wall with an indifference so vast it began to feel personal, as though it had been painted for this moment”

The passage continues: “Your troubles are huge and meaningless, it seemed to say, there is only the sun on the side of the house.”  The troubles of the people in this illuminating book are vast indeed: no novelist, including Charles … Continue reading

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“The truth is that my greatest enemies stand not within the crowd outside . . “

What will happen when the reigning 92-year-old queen of England, Elizabeth II, dies and her son Charles, Prince of Wales, becomes king?  This play by Mike Bartlett, which PBS presented last Sunday, speculates that Charles will make a desperate attempt … Continue reading

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“We have to keep making choices, keep transforming.”

Some memoirists see themselves as products of their times.  Others see themselves in terms of the obstacles they surmounted or movements they created. Samantha Ellis measures herself against the strongest women who live between the covers of novels.  Her approach … Continue reading

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So what about Dylan’s song “Blowin’ in the Wind”?

Tony Beck, who wrote his dissertation for Cambridge University on Bob Dylan, notes that Dylan “borrowed extensively” from the English poets Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley and Bryon, who also used the “wind” as a central image in their poems. For them, … Continue reading

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