Fifty Shades of Shame

Yes, that’s right…after holding out for forever, and feeling buried by work and so many other things, I finally gave up and decided to read Fifty Shades of Grey. Why? Well, as Neil Gaiman said, we all need an escape sometimes, and sometimes the heavy fiction I am so prone to reading is just not good to read in the midst of a school year. Also, friends of mine – and my mother-in-law (YIKES!) – have read it, and they seemed largely unaffected by it (both literally and intellectually), so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to read just the first book of the series. After all, an escape is fine every once in a while: a balanced approach is always good, right? After all, I try to read “real” literature the majority of the time.
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Working Together…

Yet again, NPR made me think on the way to work this morning. I heard about how Denver now has a shared workspace called Galvanize, a place in which workers from various technology-based companies come together to work, and most importantly to share ideas.

I immediately thought to myself, “Algonquin Round Table!” and “nerdfest that gave birth to Frankenstein!” Both of those groups paved the way for developments in literature and ideas and making connections – among other things.

I think it’s great that there are ways for companies to share space and ideas and think together (or, as the story points out, share a cup of coffee or a beer at Galvanize’s bars). I also think it’s great that many teachers allow their students the chance to collaborate about their work and share ideas.

And then of course I had to wonder where the real opportunities are for today’s writers, authors, anthropologists, sociologists, etc. get together and discuss ideas. Yes, I understand that the internet is here for us to collaborate and share ideas in a variety of ways. However, I believe face-to-face conversation and collaboration are invaluable when it comes to actually making true connections and also true developments in ideas, literature, and, well, the humanities field.

For something as valuable to the human experience as the humanities, we should make more of those connections happen.

Oh, the Humanities!

Seems I’m not the only one paying attention…

I grabbed this bit of writing from The Answer Sheet as I was browsing the internets the other day. Thanks to Liz Willen, I had a lot to think about on my day off.

Let me begin by highlighting the quotes that caught my attention the most:

“It saddens me to think of a world without literary references, of people who can make a living but come out of a movie theater with nothing to talk about.”

The first thing that came to mind after reading this particular quote was the ease with which I (over) analyze movies anymore. Thanks to teaching literary analysis at a higher level, I can easily identify Christ (or anti-Christ but not the scary kind) figures, sniff out plot twists (see my recent post on the novel Allegiant), and comment on the inner struggle portrayed by the movie character’s external struggle (Gravity). Oh, and I can also tell you what it means when people eat together (take your pick of literature here), and what it means when Okonkwo can’t fire his gun. I love being able to have conversations about things like this, and I absolutely LOVE that my daughter sees these things too – in books, no less, not just movies. My students make connections too, albeit they are more likely to connect what we’re studying to Keeping Up With the Kardashians instead of to Shakespeare. I guess one has to have a place to start.

The next bit is from Willen’s colleague Justin Snider:

“Many enter college believing their only career options are in business, engineering, law or medicine,” Snider told me. “These are the professions they know—or think they know—and these are the professions their parents most often hope they’ll pursue.”

While he continues on to say that a lot of those who enter college with that mindset eventually discover new fields of study (sociology, anthropology, even sustainable development), “[t]hey learn that success can take many shapes, not just in the form of initials (M.D., J.D. or M.B.A.) on their résumé. I tell them that what matters most in college is not what they major in, but that they find something they love—something they can imagine doing for a lifetime.” Great. Except that those people choosing to do “something they love” are becoming harder and harder to find, especially in an economy like the one we live in today. There is a great push for success over symbiosis and support, and for notoriety over knowing and knowledge. I see this a lot in my role as a teacher, and I’m fighting against it “tooth and nail,” as my mother would say, at home.

Is there any joy anymore in just knowing things? Any joy at all in being able to draw a parallel between things that happen in pieces of literature, and how they play out in everyday life? For instance, the recent post I did about Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus” cropping up in an NPR story about people working in boring jobs. People (the people doing the study, not me) only make that sort of connection when they are well-read and, well, they know things. Right? Do we still, as a society, place any value in being, well, smart? We should – and that is why we should not let go of the humanities, but hold on to them for dear life.

Until next time…

New Sensation…

So, as I was watching the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma the other night, and I spent a few moments explaining the relationships of the people in the book/film to my significant other, I thought of an idea for a new literary research paper. Mind you, I’m not currently taking any courses; my application for my Master’s in Humanities is still pending. My idea centers on the father figures in Austen’s works. I’m sure someone else has already focused on this, but, just like the time I took an entry-level Shakespeare course at a different University after already acing senior-level courses on Shakespeare, I believe a different perspective is always good. So, having just finished Pride and Prejudice, I’ve set my sights on Sense and Sensibility, one of the two Austen novels I’ve not yet read in their entirety (the other being Northanger Abbey).

At any rate, that’s where I am. Since, however, I generally read for pleasure only at night due to my other obligations (curses to the grading!) this could take quite some time. I’ll post updates to my thinking as I read, as well as  include research that I find during my search. Soon, I’ll try and frame out my ideas on Mr. Bennet. Baby steps toward the big idea, right?


We, as a culture of educated people, have to keep ourselves from losing the humanities forever. My blog will focus on my own exploration of the humanities, including papers focusing on history and literature, and how that exploration helps me recognize the humanity around me.