News on Writing and Reading

by Dr Davis on September 2, 2015

“Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write”

No matter the quality of your prose, the act of writing itself leads to strong physical and mental health benefits, like long-term improvements in mood, stress levels and depressive symptoms. In a 2005 study on the emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing, researchers found that just 15 to 20 minutes of writing three to five times over the course of the four-month study was enough to make a difference.

By writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events, participants were significantly more likely to have fewer illnesses and be less affected by trauma. Participants ultimately spent less time in the hospital, enjoyed lower blood pressure and had better liver functionality than their counterparts.

It turns out writing can make physical wounds heal faster as well. In 2013, New Zealand researchers monitored the recovery of wounds from medically necessary biopsies on 49 healthy adults. The adults wrote about their thoughts and feelings for just 20 minutes, three days in a row, two weeks before the biopsy. Eleven days later, 76% of the group that wrote had fully healed. Fifty-eight percent of the control group had not recovered. The study concluded that writing about distressing events helped participants make sense of the events and reduce distress.

I’m not sure I am totally surprised, but I do wonder what kind of shape I would be in if I didn’t write.

Great News for Those Who Read Actual Books
The following is a fairly serious issue, especially for someone–like me–who created iBooks for my literature course.

While e-readers try to recreate the sensation of turning pages and pagination, the screen is limited to one ephemeral virtual page. Surveys about the use of e-readers suggest that this affects a reader’s serendipity and sense of control. The inability to flip back to previous pages or control the text physically, either through making written notes or bending pages, limits one’s sensory experience and thus reduces long-term memory of the text.

This is also interesting:

Slow-reading advocates recommend at least 30 to 45 minutes of daily reading away from the distractions of modern technology. By doing so, the brain can reengage with linear reading. The benefits of making slow reading a regular habit are numerous, reducing stress and improving your ability to concentrate.

Regular reading also increases empathy, especially when reading a print book. One study discovered that individuals who read an upsetting short story on an iPad were less empathetic and experienced less transportation and immersion than those who read on paper.


Why Folks Avoid Literature

by Dr Davis on September 1, 2015

girlwithabook via art inconnuThe authors says it’s all about us. If the readings were interesting, the students would be there.

What can students learn from literature that they cannot learn elsewhere? Why should they bother with it? For understandable reasons, literature professors assume the importance of their subject matter. But students are right to ask these questions. All courses are expensive, in money, time, and opportunity costs.

No, the real literary work is the reader’s experience.

This means the first thing a teacher needs to do is help students have the experience the author is trying to create. There is no point in analyzing the techniques for creating an experience the students have not had.

Students need to have such experiences, and not just be told of their results. It is crucial for them to see how one arrives at the interpretation and lives through that process. Otherwise, why not simply memorize some critic’s interpretation?

Why College Kids Are Avoiding the Study of Literature


30 Year Anniversary

by Dr Davis on August 31, 2015

Fireworks_in_San_Jose_California_2007_07_04_by_Ian_Kluft WC CC3I realized today that I have been a teacher for 30 consecutive years now.

I started as a graduate student as the teacher of record in my classes at Sam Houston State, Abilene Christian, and Purdue; worked solely as a homeschooling teacher for fourteen of those years; and have taught as an adjunct, a full-time adjunct, a full-time instructor, a professor, and an assistant professor at five colleges and universities. That is a wide variety of experiences.

Had we stayed here, instead of leaving, I would be a full professor now, one of the senior members of the department, with 25 years (though only 15 since my PhD, so maybe I would only be barely professor-ed). That was not a viable choice at the time and it sometimes amazes me that it is a viable choice now.

This is my fifth year back at my university as a full-time teacher. I am going up for tenure and promotion soon.

It is an amazing experience to look back over an academic career that spans so many schools, years, and levels of education.

I am grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to teach and hopefully I can keep teaching for the next 30 years.


Gaming the Classroom

by Dr Davis on August 30, 2015

Gamification: Engaging Students With Narrative begins:

When looking at how engaged students are in playing games, it makes sense to capture some of the ideas that game designers use to engage the player. This idea of applying gaming mechanics to non-game situations is known as gamification.

What defines a game is having a goal or objective. However almost all games also have some sort of theme or story.

Interesting. Relates to book read three years ago and book on game design read two years ago.


Videogame Narrative

by Dr Davis on August 29, 2015

Looks relevant:
Narrative in Videogames by Patrick Holleman on The Game Design Forum

Designing Game Narrative from HitBox Team: good graphics too
“In games, you can discover further depth from doing the scene. With interactivity, you now get to experience the story firsthand.”
“Narrative isn’t automatically a crucial component in games, as it often is in film or literature. Interactivity is the defining feature of games – and indeed, games that excel in their gameplay are most often great games.”

The difference between (video)games and narrative, which is an introduction to ludology

Games and Narrative: international research group on interactive and computer game narrative

Plot is Overrated: Game narrative is all about your characters

Narrative in Video Games Are video games an effective storytelling medium?

Narrative in Games, good introduction

NCTE on Videogames in the Classroom and Narrative

Using User Research to Improve Game Narrative
“gamers struggle to remember even their favorite game narratives (in contrast to other media), only remembering big moments or characters in isolation”

Narrative and Ludic Nexus in Computer Games, scholarly paper

Theorising Video Game Narrative, a master’s thesis

A Model of Videogame Narrative Architectures

Less useful to what I am looking for, but interesting:
Narrative, Games, and Theory on Game Studies

Narrative and Videogame Design, English course syllabus



by Dr Davis on August 28, 2015

Undergrad syllabus on Classical Rhetoric and Modern Political Discourse from MIT Open Courseware

undergraduate course in Rhetoric of Science from MIT Open Courseware

A Geographical History of Online Rhetoric and Composition Journals, from Kairos

Comp-Rhet resources on the Web from UMass

Semiotics for Beginners by Daniel Chandler

The rhetorical forest at BYU

Digital Rhetoric Collaborative blog


Why Have English Majors?

by Dr Davis on August 27, 2015

The New Yorker has an article entitled “Why Teach English?” that answers the question of why English majors exist. It’s an interesting read overall. But I found this section particularly intriguing.

No civilization we think worth studying, or whose relics we think worth visiting, existed without what amounts to an English department—texts that mattered, people who argued about them as if they mattered, and a sense of shame among the wealthy if they couldn’t talk about them, at least a little, too. It’s what we call civilization.

Even if we read books and talk about them for four years, and then do something else more obviously remunerative, it won’t be time wasted. We need the humanities not because they will produce shrewder entrepreneurs or kinder C.E.O.s but because, as that first professor said, they help us enjoy life more and endure it better. The reason we need the humanities is because we’re human. That’s enough.


Wildly Successful English Majors

by Dr Davis on August 26, 2015

Business Insider has a post on famous, successful people with English majors.

The list includes business tycoon Mitt Romney and a former governor of New York.

It also includes Sting, the former CEO of NBC, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Barbara Walters, and the seventh commissioner of Major League Baseball.

The most inspiring, to me anyway, is Steven Spielberg.

Thanks to my colleague Al for pointing out this.


English Major Jobs: Fun List

by Dr Davis on August 25, 2015

Sell Out Your Soul, the blog of a PhD in humanities who quit academia, has a post of 35 Awesome Jobs for English Majors. They are, in fact, awesome jobs and was last updated in 2015.

Jobs include:
Search Engine Marketing
Direct Response Copywriting
Public Relations
Corporate Blogger
Policy Analyst


English Degree = Opportunity

by Dr Davis on August 24, 2015

A Washington Post article from ten years ago shows that the question of what to do with an English major has been around for several years and that there are more varied answers than teach. Perhaps our students are sometimes focused on what they already know. They’ve been in school for 16 years, so of course they should teach.

The article introduces different people who graduated with English majors and have done other jobs.

Dinsmore sold his English degree and teaching experience to hiring managers as an advantage, not a hindrance. “Although I admitted that it was a different field, I described the ways in which my teaching skills would translate to that of computer support tech: patience, ability to put myself in the user’s shoes, comfortable speaking in front of crowds.”