Puget Sound English Department

April 5, 2011

Emerging Stories of the Puget Sound

According to KOMO News, Kali Kucera is attempting to evoke and preserve what he describes as “fantastilicious” tales of South Sound folklore. PapaKali, Kucera’s website, solicits and provides exposure for local lore and legends, and aims to practice old-style community, built around shared tales, through 21st-century media.

February 7, 2011

Are you funny?

Professor Joshi forwards an announcement of a new online literary journal dedicated to humor. According to co-editor Neil Thorne, the ShimmyHoots Review is produced by a group of students from Mary Washington and Virginia Commonwealth universities, and “its focus is to feature humorous, consistently-updated web literature.” Thorne writes, “Right now we are seeking submissions of humorous prose, poetry, artwork, video, and multimedia content. We are looking for a diverse range of quality material from both published and previously unpublished writers.”

Send your previously unpublished, original work to submissions@shimmyhootsreview.com

Direct questions about the publication or submissions to

And please send your scholarly or anecdotal knowledge of the term “shimmyhoots” to your Puget Sound blogmaster, who is utterly befuddled by what is (we hope?) a regionalism from the Other Coast.

September 12, 2010

More lists! We love the lists!

Filed under: Internet/Digital Technology,Literature — ATH @ 1:14 pm
Tags: ,

There’s something about the simultaneously reductive and celebratory nature of the “essential list”–of great books, popular celebrities, essential items to have on hand for the apocalypse, most repulsive recipes involving jello, etc.–that makes it eternally popular. We can discuss endlessly how any literary “best of” list is inevitably fraught with outrageous omissions and ludicrous inclusions, how its criteria are too broad, too narrow, too historically specific, too self-consciously universal. This list, for example, from Nashville Public Television, titles itself (ironically?) a list of “The thirteen novels every American should read,” although with a very few notable exceptions (Michael Chabon? Colum McCann? Sir Thomas Mallory?), it looks much more like a list of “the thirteen novels a bunch of Americans educated in public high schools in the 1960s and 70s remember and are proud of themselves for having read.”* It’s heavy on political allegory, fictionalized history, and civil rights era-fueled critique of the status quo. All of those are good things, indeed, but they reinforce my point: what any individual, generation, or set of readers identifies as “great” or “essential” literature likely has far more to do with its own historical moment, and its collective self-image, and what was being taught widely in high school, than with any sort of universal aesthetic criteria or pure literary merit. This is not, by any means, a suggestion that such lists are inaccurate, ill-intentioned, or useless; in fact, they are fascinating not only for the books they remind us to (re)read (I’ve not yet read Let the Great World Spin, and can’t even remember where my copy of Gulliver’s Travels has got to), but for the insight they provide into how we understand ourselves, our nation, our era.

*Edited, with thanks to our commenter, who reminds me that it’s unwise to write and post while under analgesia. I want to acknowledge that this list is very clearly introduced as personal and idiosyncratic–something not properly acknowledged in my original entry, which moved to reflecting about the nature of making such lists without clearly developing the context of this particular one. As Joe notes, such lists inevitably provoke reactions, and usually, outrage, over their omissions, unexamined biases. As with almost any contemporary discussions about literature and culture, they too often devolve into simplistic accusations–charges of “elitism” on one side, and “political correctness” on the other.

July 24, 2010

The Sound [of] the Fury

Filed under: Internet/Digital Technology,Literature — ATH @ 7:23 pm
Tags: ,

According to many scholars today, technology is slowly killing the written word, but it’s also keeping interest in it alive. The University of Virginia has created a new archive, Faulkner at Virginia, which compiles a series of lectures Faulkner gave on campus 1957-58. Those of us not quite ready to yield our grip on the intentional fallacy (in short, the notion that a work’s ‘meaning’ inheres in its author’s intentions) can pore over these audio files, seeking insight into the most ambivalent passages of one of the 20th century’s greatest American authors. The audio archive provides contextual information, as well as “search” and “browse” functions.

May 6, 2010

Blast from the Past

From the Collins Library Blog comes word of an exciting project on the history of Puget Sound. John Finney (’67), former Associate Dean and University Registrar, has been instrumental in scanning historic photos from the campus archives, creating a digital collection of our shared past.

Our thanks to John and to the folks at Collins Library for preserving our history, and for finding ways to make it relevant and accessible.

April 4, 2010

National Poetry Month

Snow on Lilacs

Snow on Lilacs

April may or may not be “the cruelest month,” but it is National Poetry Month. Inaugurated in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, the designation serves to “celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.” In honor of National Poetry Month, then, we offer you the following link to a collection of “Poems for April” from the Electronic Poetry Center, as well as a cool hypertext site for T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922), which is, of course, the source of that “cruelest month” crack at the beginning of this post. The site integrates Eliot’s own notes on the poem alongside the text, and includes as well commentary from other scholarly sources. And finally, on a less serious note, a link to the website PoemHunter.Com, where you can search for poems about April, poets named April, quotations including April, etc., etc., etc.

March 25, 2010

Jews in Early America: A blog

Many scholars are using blogs and other internet forums to publicize and popularize their work, especially its more esoteric aspects. There’s resistance among traditional scholars, as well as justified concern for the future of the scholarly press. But such blogs in their best instances allow scholars to maintain their academic and intellectual integrity while drawing on the breadth of their interests in ways conventional publications don’t yet allow. Professor Laura Leibman of Reed College is a respected and well-published scholar of early America who has chosen to create a blog “designed to provide interested lay-people, genealogists, and educators with resources on early American Jews and the communities they came from.” Her blog, Travels through Jewish History, features discussions of Jewish theology and early religious practices, comments on diasporic communities in early America and the Caribbean, reflections on (and photos of) Jewish cemeteries, and the occasional recipe. It’s lively, thoughtful, personal, and informative–especially as it brings to light an oft-overlooked element of the early American experience.

Take, for example, her post on the Letters of Abigail Levy Franks (1696-1756), in which she draws our attention to a new edition of the collected letters (Ed. Edith B. Gelles), provides a link to a brief on-line biography, and offers a fascinating–but concise–discussion of the role of the private (or, in 18th-century terms, the “familiar”) letter: a genre that not only allowed for the maintenance of familial intimacy across distances, but also served as a venue for the writer to display her social refinement and upward mobility–in part through her mastery of penmanship. As Leibman notes, “Letter writing manuals like The Young Clerk’s Guide (1708) and The Secretary’s Companion (1728) provided scripts for people to follow in order to display their social graces appropriately; handwriting guides helped the writer learn to display her refinement visually.” (Note that she provides a link to a guide to an early American handwriting guide, as well.) All this and a link to her Early American Handwriting Game, and early America starts to seem like a pretty great place to spend a virtual afternoon.

March 22, 2010

Blogging the 17th Century

Many scholars have begun to explore the literary and historical antecedents for the blog, noting that in its anonymous or pseudonymous periodical form, its topicality, and its brevity–as well as its implicit invitation to conversation and its inherent didacticism–the blog echoes in form and function such 18th century publications as the Spectator (for merely one brief discussion of the link, here’s U Minnesota Duluth M.A. candidate Chris Julin’s Mr. Spectator site).

One of the most charming examples of this connection is the recreation of Samuel Pepys’s famous Diary of life in 17th Century London, updated daily and maintained by Phil Gyford. In addition to posting a new entry daily, the site features links to further resources on Pepys and his life and world.

Even Cotton Mather, the 17th Century American Puritan leader, is getting some blogging action, through the online reading journal of a gifted undergraduate student, known as “Christine”: Puritan Writing. In it she processes her encounters with Mather’s Massive ecclesiastical history, Magnalia Christi Americana (1702) in lucid, relevant, readable entries.

Finally, if you develop a taste for such mergings of the old and new literary forms, there’s the online journal Common-place, sponsored by the venerable American Antiquarian Society as a forum for all things early and American.

Such literary/creative/technological couplings are rampant: which would you add to the admittedly short and specialized sites listed here?

March 8, 2010

Help out an alum

Ryan Honick (’09) is currently pursuing a degree in public communication at American University, and has requested our help with gathering data for his capstone project on the ways undergraduate and graduate students use social media (yup, Facebook). If you are a current student or graduate student and are willing to take a few minutes to support the continued academic endeavors of one of our own, you can find a link to Ryan’s short survey and more information here. Ryan’s hoping to get at least 200 responses by the end of March, and we’d like to show him that Puget Sound takes care of its own. In return, he offers the chance to contribute to the furtherance of human knowledge, and the possibility of an Amazon.com gift card.

Here is Ryan’s request:

As many of you know, I am conducting my graduate capstone research on the way undergraduate and graduate students use Facebook. As part of that research, I have created a survey online and I am looking to gather as many responses as possible. You may also feel free to encourage your friends to participate in the survey.

The survey should take no more than 5-10 minutes to complete. If you do decide to take it you will have the opportunity to enter yourself in a drawing for a $50 Amazon.com gift card as my way of saying thank you.

If you would like to take the survey, visit


Thanks for all of your help. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


February 24, 2010

The Death of Irony

Apparently, the move to embrace the “snark”–a new mark of punctuation intended to help readers interpret irony or sarcasm–is gaining ground. The mark–for those of you whose communication devices lack it–is most simply indicated by adding a tilde (~) immediately after the period following a sentence meant to be read ironically, or sarcastically. The creators of The Snark’s self-appointed official website (“Home of the Verbal Irony Mark”) offer a history of attempts to designate irony, presumably as wielded by authors less skilled that Jonathan Swift, whose 1729 satire “A Modest Proposal” is, I believe, still the gold standard for literary irony.

The site also offers a somewhat apologetic explanation for the slippage between sarcasm and irony, deferring to the linguistic gods of popular usage (see “FAQs”), along with instructions for adding the snark to your compositional and punctuational arsenal (usefully provided along a continuum from borderline-computer-illiterate users to the highly technologically savvy).

Will it catch on? Should it? If verbal irony is made visible to everyone, will it still be…well…ironic? Or does part of the effect of irony rely on its potential for exclusivity?

Your English faculty await the latest developments in this saga with bated breath.~

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