January 18, 2022
Mary Karr's Chapter 1 from On Memoir
Aimed at ENG106 students (access the reading separately through BlackBoard).
What is paraphrase?
Why is it important?
Look at the first sentence of her chapter... What does she mean? ("At unexpected points in life, everyone gets waylaid by the colossal force of recollection")
I present an example from my own experience to illustrate Mary Karr's point
What is critical thinking, and how is paraphrasing a first step in developing your own ideas?
Why are we reading things that are "not literary"
How is memoir literary?
November 24, 2021
If you think you’ve done something really wrong, you might feel emotions like shame or guilt. So what do you do then? Do you go and tell someone? Would that make you feel better? In this East and West Learning Connections lecture, I discuss St Augustine's Confessions, a book which is about fifteen hundred years old. I also discuss the idea of confessing (telling your life story) and coming to a realization that you've been involved in a struggle of good versus evil, that your whole life has been a lie - an idea that we find in modern novels and biography, as well as Augustine's Confessions. [25 mins]
November 16, 2021
Has anyone ever shot at you? Mary Karr, in her memoir of her life, tells us that her mother shot at her husband – actually, two of her husbands – she had five.
This kind of detail immediately gets your attention. This is why memoir is fun. It’s also why fiction is fun. In this lecture I’ll talk about memoir and memory, as well as poetry and fiction and the connections between them. Other questions I talk about include, what’s the difference between poetry and song.. and when did that difference emerge? What does it mean for a work to be literary? What is the theme of a work? What is literary about memoir? I’m going to discuss the answers to these questions while I talk about a book by Mary Karr, The art of memoir. [Transcript available for students]
November 10, 2021
In this audio I’m going to talk about how to cover a topic properly in the final blog. [Transcript available through BlackBoard.) Some of the issues covered here are
- How to write something that's more your opinion rather than a summary of someone else's research
- Using critical thinking to come up with your own ideas
- Getting beyond saying something that is totally obvious
- Choosing a topic based on life experience or your own insight (which is unique because only you have lived your life!)
- I want to know more about YOUR idea (based on your research)... not just other people's ideas
October 14, 2021
(15 mins) Comments on Lewis Nathaniel's "Grind culture" article. Nathaniel says "Grind or Hustle culture is a culture of raw achievement where longer and longer hours are not just the norm, they are the metric for success." I agree and consider the implications of what he says about "performative workaholism" and "transcendence." I also consider how his ideas are related to the phenomenon of burnout and the Confucian approach to work. Detailed notes available through the ENG106 course portal.
October 13, 2021
Today in this lecture for East and West Learning Connections, I will talk about who Boethius was and why his book The Consolation of Philosophy was important in European literature. In this book Lady Philosophy attempts to console Boethius by teaching him that philosophy is more useful than the ephemeral pleasures of poetry or song. If Boethius can grasp that the universe is perfectly ordered and that all things happen for a reason (due to the divine order of things) then he will no longer be unhappy. As part of her instruction, meanwhile, Lady Philosophy uses literary imagery to convey the richness of our troubled minds and our struggles in the world.
East and West Learning Connections lectures and meetings are a great way for newcomers to Canada to learn about Canadian culture and practice their English.
October 8, 2021
In this lecture for East and West Learning Connections, I talk about who Dante Alighieri was, and I discuss his 14th century poem Paradiso. Dante’s Paradiso has some beautiful images - of fish swimming in pools, of sunlight reflecting off the snow, and of light being filtered through coloured glass. All of these beautiful images are metaphors, and it’s the power of these metaphors that has made Dante stand the test of time. (1 hour)
August 27, 2021
In this lecture for EAWLC.org I discuss Aristotle’s Poetics and Rhetoric. Some themes in this lecture are the use of poetry to define what it means to be human, whether or not rhetoric/persuasion is "good" for us, why Aristotle finds it important to talk about dialectic (dialogue) in order to define rhetoric, whether or not poetry is really "mimetic" (imitative of life), and how useful this idea of poetry-as-mimesis can be to us today. I mention ethos, pathos and logos, and how Aristotle attempts to separate his method of rhetoric from Plato's anti-rhetoric stance. At several points I mention Sophocles and Oedipus Rex as examples for Aristotle's theory of tragedy. Poetry is interpreted very broadly (as being the source of all sorts of modern artforms, including pop songs, movies, novels, and essays). The lecture was given in July 2021. A transcript is available from EAWLC.org.
July 7, 2021
In this lecture for the East and West Learning Connections lecture series, I discuss the plays Oedipus Rex and Antigone by Sophocles. These plays date to about 2400 years ago. I cover topics such as tragedy in medieval and Renaissance England, how Greek tragedy shaped our understanding of theatre today, and the importance of kings, family, speech, and idealism in Sophocles's plays. This lecture was given on June 9th, 2021. A transcript is available from EAWLC.
June 23, 2021
Alex + Ada - Chad R. and Emma G. talk about the graphic novel by Jonathan Luna [1 hour].