Excerpt from Dr. Seuss cartoon of hills, a castle and arch, and balloons floating into sky

Oh the places they’ll build!

If you talk to almost any professor at Davidson, we’ll say that our students are the best part about working here. I’ve got to agree (though I’ve got some pretty inspiring colleagues, too). And while lots of folks like to bemoan the decline of Generation X, Y, or Z in the age of smart phones and social media, I’ve seen them do some remarkable work with their new-fangled gadgets. On or about December 2013, Davidson College unfolded “Davidson Domains,” an […]

Serendipity: “Sead” for Yourself

Long ago and far away in a land called Persia, there were three princes who spent their days traveling the world. As they roamed far and wide, thither and yon, across amethyst mountains, emerald valleys, and sapphire seas, the princes “were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a mule blind of the right eye had travelled the same road lately, because the grass […]

What Poetry Doesn’t Tell You

Ok, this morning’s earlier post was the public story, but as you might of guessed, there’s a private story lurking behind it. Or more accurately, a story “Formerly Known as Private,” since I’m about to tell it. The public story was proper and tidy. This story is going to be messy, because I’ve just gotta get it down and then get on with grading all those papers. What set off the explosion of gloom I alluded to was simply a […]

Grading with Love: an open letter to my first-year writers

I hate grading papers. This revulsion led me to innovate, so maybe misery is the real mother of invention. My thought process went like this: Papers: they hate writing them; we hate reading them. What’s wrong with this picture? So I tried to change the picture. I turned to WordPress, a platform whose beauty and flexibility I hoped would make students more excited about writing, so that I could be more excited about grading. It’s not a perfect fix, but […]

The Originality of Ideas and Other Scholarly Myths

I’ve been sitting with Andrew Rikard (Davidson class of 2017) in a classroom all morning. We’re attending ILiAds (Institute for Liberal Arts Digital Scholarship) at Hamilton College to work on our digital Mina Loy project. We’ve spent most of the week attending presentations, exchanging ideas with other teams, and tinkering with our website.  This morning, we sequestered ourselves in order to write. We wanted to reflect on the collaborative process and on the ways in which digital tools can transform […]

Hard Rock Returns to the Panopticon

I’ve been teaching a unit on prisons in my first-year writing course, “Building Stories.” We read Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, which offers a persuasive argument about how racial discrimination lies at the heart of the American prison system, even in the absence of explicit racial animus. Alexander doesn’t mention the French philosopher Michel Foucault, but when she describes the way in which our American disciplinary system has “perfected” itself, accomplishing social control in ever more subtle and […]

What Does the Fox Say? Onomatopoeia & the myth of pure language

This weekend my sons have been belting out lines from the Norwegian duo Ylvis’s viral video, “What Does the Fox Say?” Fortunately, a student in my seminar had introduced me to the video last week, so I was able to impress my sons by joining in. “You know that song?” Zac asked incredulously, to which I replied, “Joff-tchoff-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoff!” Like 3 million others, I found the video to be funny and infectious—an irresistible sing-along song the likes of which I haven’t enjoyed since […]

Playing in the Dark with Whitman

Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” is a powerful elegy for Abraham Lincoln—a personal remembrance that also serves as a national memorial, uniting a deeply divided nation in a communal song of praise and mourning. As much as I love this poem, however, I am troubled by it. In sections 5 & 6, Whitman pans out to give us a vast panorama of the U.S., describing the land, cities, lanes, woods, fields, orchards, and streets through which Lincoln’s coffin […]