From the category archives:


HOF: Proofreading

by Dr Davis on December 29, 2014

Forumite azuzu: Sorry to confuse you! I will make sure i prof-read what i write and make sure it sounds right. You awnsered all my questions and i will see you at class tomorrow.

Forumite chaosbydesign: Prof-read: To read something and imagine it being said in your professor’s voice. The more errors, the more disapproving the voice will be. (This email was read with a very disapproving voice.)

Forumite profreader: I couldn’t have said it better myself.

from the CHE fora


Holiday Reading

by Dr Davis on December 27, 2014

I have read 35 novels this break. All for fun, which means short, light, and happy-endings. Well, except for one. It wasn’t particularly long or heavy, but the happy ending was incomplete–that is, everything wasn’t happy ever after.

I have now read sufficient numbers of light reads that I am ready to get back into something more substantial.


CHE Fora HOF Reading

by Dr Davis on December 13, 2014

computer and glasses closerThe Chronicle of Higher Education fora Hall of Fame has given me some interesting post-final-grading entertainment and ideas. As I read, I will continue to post these.

Note: I am reading backwards through the HOF because… because I am reading backwards.


Fiction Readers Make Better Lovers

by Dr Davis on November 30, 2014

mic dot com people read fictionThe article on doesn’t actually say that.

It does, however, say that “Fiction readers make great friends as they tend to be more aware of others’ emotions.”

Brains are changed when people read!


SCMLA: Close Reading Toolkit

by Dr Davis on October 25, 2014

Jennifer Sapio
Close Reading Interpretive Toolkit: Transforming how we teach close reading

Graduate student at University of Texas at Austin
Tasked to think about traditional large lecture format, try flipped classroom techniques

Close reading interpretive tool

text associated instructions
handout of crit steps

video, 1 minute, background
3D images
students rush to judgment—How does it connect to my life?
But we want the students to go through the process to examine the text in order to discover how a text creates its meanings.
How does a text create its meanings?

“When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” (1867) by Walt Whitman –steampunk?

1. Paraphrase
2. Observe –as many observations as possible. They don’t have to justify why they notice something.
Poem is single sentences
1st 4 sentences start with When
shift from quantity to quality (proofs, figures, charts ?mystical, time to time)
3. Contextualize –important, keeping history in mind illuminates
Whitman’s Transcendentalist beliefs
4. Analyze—return to observations, justify, which are most important? Which can string together?
Fourfold When helps convey the static quality of the data-stuffed lecture. Tedium, boring, …
Mood shift from quantity to quality
5. Argue—synthesize an interpretation, one argument built on the evidence gathered in previous steps
6. Reflect
Why is it important that the poem is a single eight-line sentence? And what are we to do with the fact that the astronomer received “much applause” from the audience? Do these facts support our interpretation or challenge it? …

Students at UT are able to access with Get started and electronic id.
Everyone else, adapt this process in paper copy. Did paper for two years until site up.
Database of short passages, searchable.
Students are able to keep the passage at the top of the screen on every step.
Can move between the different steps and able to review and submit.

Gave students a pre-test. No content or skills instruction.

Cold reading poem pre-test they had never seen before. Average was 4.59.
Cold reading poem at the end of the semester. Average was 7.02

STEM students felt this was “more accessible and more objective” because before “English seemed frustratingly abstract” Jason Escandell (TA F2012)

Why is contextualize after observe?
Been talking about it for 3 years.
Not tied to the language of the text. We could contextualize at the beginning. Or at the end to add contextual frame.

After observe and before analyze.

Give students opportunity to make observations without any justification.
By placing contextualize between, hoped it would emphasize the difference between observe and analyze.


Bacon-Smith on Cosplay

by Dr Davis on October 14, 2014

These are notes from chapters 2 and 3 in the book, specifically related to cosplay (walking the halls and attending panels in costume). Recall that chapter 3 (31ff) primarily is discussing Worldcon, though other conventions and the cosplay there sometimes fits too.

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0Bacon-Smith, Camille. Science Fiction Culture. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2000. Print.

When Boskone (Boston convention) had problems and was uninvited from its venue “costuming was discouraged” (19).

Elisabeth Carey … “Some of the fans … couldn’t see why the paramilitary costume and the Trek costume got different reactions.” (19) from the hotel staff and non-convention guests

9Worlds 2014 Lady Elsie-6237defined one of the subsets of true fans as “Those who form their primary fan identity around a particular science fiction activity or product, such as costuming or folksinging or television science fiction” (32). Says these folks see Worldcon (and presumably other cons) as “a convenient place to gather and share their own part of the science fiction continuum” (32).

Those who form their main fan identity as above “find their solidarity based on the products of the science fiction industry” (33).

“The first line of defense, clothing, reflects the specific communal enterprise of science fiction.” (34)

“Clothing functions internally for the community itself to establish a visible marker of group inclusion/exclusion, and to allow for the expression of individual identity within the allowable parameters of the community” (34).

“creates a visible boundary that shuts out the mainstream culture” (34)

“… many fans add a detail or two from a variety of costume like options to signify the wearer’s particular interest.” (35)

“the participant who wears science fiction fashion [jeans or dirndl skirt and tee] rather than a full costume seems to be expressing primary identification with the group rather than with a personalized vision of a character” (35).

Some of the professionals, who generally dress more formally, also add an element of costuming. Maureen McHugh wears an ear clip. Steven Brust wears a cavalier’s plumed hat (wears all the time, not just at cons). (35)

“Costume marks the territory of the convention as more clearly “other” than science fiction fashion…” (35)

“costumes appear in a wide variety of styles and carry a range of potential meanings that cannot be decoded simply by reading the clothing. To understand costume, we must look at both the coding on the body and the intention of the costumer, which may remain hidden.” (36)

“The costume itself always provides a visual referent, sometimes to a specific character or situation, but almost always to a specific genre, subgenre, or special interest. Costumers walk the convention site like the living books…” (36)

“For many conventioneers, particularly newcomers who have not yet been completely enculturated into their own social networks, the boundary that costumers defend holds them safely inside–safely because their growing ability to read the costumes demonstrates their growing enculturation. Making this easier, costume has engendered a variety of classification systems, including, most importantly, genre.” (36)

9Worlds hexadecimal 2014-6181“Fantasy, science fiction, and historical are the three main costume categories” (36)

“Monsters are often created by young men…” (36)

“For the person who creates and wears the costume, the purpose and meaning can be varied and complex. Participants may costume as an artistic endeavor, as play, or as an expression of a commitment to a special interest or a personal perception of the past or the future.” (36)

“costume is a declaration of solidarity with others who share the fantasy and its presence in great numbers in the convention site creates a visual boundary for the frame of the event” (37).

An entry point into fandom can be through the aesthetic of costume. (47)

Masquerade at Worldcon
The masquerade (costume contest) “has increasingly come under fire by long-time fans. Resentment of the event arises out of the clash of meanings the masquerade presents” (56).

For fans who see fandom as “small, long-distance community of likeminded readers… the masquerade is a waste of resources. It draws and audience that this group perceives as primarily passive receivers of a produced show rather than the active participants these core members value.” (56)

“members of the community for whom costuming provides the primary fan identity have … added to this sense of division” (56)

“For a community suffering the effects of sudden growth and the loss of homogeneity, the masquerade became a ritual of inclusion for socializing newcomers as well as a source of affirmation for many long-term participants.” (57)

“As a ritual of inclusion, it turns the crowd into fandom” (57).

Costume is not the end of Masquerade. Must have performance as well. “the totality of the performance is required for full aesthetic effect” … “not just a pretty piece of clothing but a fully developed concept represented by the costume” (57)

a very cold Weepng Angel RonThis is not always understood by newcomers and sometimes the Masquerade costumes at non-Worldcon conventions are not the best costumes there and also are not presented within a skit or with acting. Sometimes the conventions encourage this by PA announcements inviting folks to sign up for the costume contest.

RMCF (Rhetorical Memory Cosplay Fandom)


Bacon-Smith on Conventions

by Dr Davis on October 13, 2014

I have been reading Bacon-Smith’s book Science Fiction Culture and am putting notes up on the blog. I read the book in print and underlined and wrote notes in the margins. These blog posts represent not all my notes but a collection of ideas in the notes. This particular set of notes is on the conventions themselves.

This particular set of notes is from the second and third chapters of the book.

steampunk_icon_for_Safari_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d4zhax0Bacon-Smith, Camille. Science Fiction Culture. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2000. Print.

“Secret Masters of Fandom” (11-29)

“fans organized localized spaces… and purely conceptual space” (11)

fans wrote in fanzines which were read by other fans writing in other fanzines and they commented in their own and those fanzines (11)

The Enchanted Duplicator is an allegory of the fan’s progress through discovery of fan culture and entrance into the core of fans…” (12)

“fanzines created a conceptual landscape” (12)

“fans were traveling from one city to another to gather and gossip and chat … The science fiction convention was born…” (12)

“roots of a community whose geography exists primarily in the minds of its members” (12)

“Fan culture reflects regional distinctions” (12).
in northeast “sometimes seems little difference between the business and professional worlds the club members navigate during the day and their science fiction fan community” (13)
fan clubs “provide a base of continuity that transcends the memory of the individual and passes the traditions from generation to generation” (14)
West Coast fandom and conventions are not organized around clubs. (15)

“a science fiction convention requires that a group of volunteers enter into a public commercial sphere” (16)

“science fiction community brings to the hospitality industry a set of cultural norms very different from those of an academic conference or traditional trade show” (17).
–”Ideas of personal space are different…”
–”an ethic of personal hospitality”
–”fan culture’s concept of time” (17)

Boskone specifically (and cons in general)
“new participants were young and attracted to … ancillary activities: video, gaming, costuming” (18)
low staff required and drew people into rooms (18)

“difficult for new volunteers to establish themselves” (18)
“new fans … had no understanding of the etiquette of conventions” (18)

“very large conventions run twenty-four hours a day” (18)
“celebratory hysteria caused by overcrowding, lack of regularly scheduled food or sleep, and an overdose of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol” (19)

The convention was told it could not come back.

“club discontinued its usual publicity” (19)
“Costuming was discouraged” (19)
“Laurie Mann, 1988 convention cochair explained… ‘tried very hard to recreate Boskone as more of a convention for readers’” (19).

Other Clubs responded to Boskone
moved to suburbs (20)
created “stable but aging convention population” (20)

Dragon Con
“Atlanta’s Dragon Con, the largest science fiction convention in the country” (21)
“Our area directors are basically responsible for running the convention” (Ed Kramer, qtd 21).
“streamlined decision-making and greater autonomy within divisional boundaries” (22)

Most cons have not moved “from counterculture to culture” (20)

“‘totally apocryphal, nonexistent permanent floating Worldcon committee.’ This group, whose unstated membership is nonetheless fairly well known” (23) = secret masters of fandom (SMOFs)

“mosaic of creating a science fiction convention” (Peggy Rae Pavlat, qtr 23)

“SMOFs even have their own convention” (23).

“a Worldcon requires the work and expertise of about two-thirds of all the dedicated convention organizers in the country” (26)

“fandom is based primarily in the books, the clubs, and the fanzines” (29)

convention “socializes participants” (29)

“Worldcon: Mobile Geography in Real Time” (31-62)

“three issues of convention geography–boundary maintenance, enculturation, and rituals of solidarity and identity” (32)

There are conflicts intrinsic to conventions, including the stratification of the cons. (32)

“mobile geography of community life” (32)

“four factions… with competing interests” (32)
1.convention work is “primary social identity” (32)
2. fan identity “in the support and maintenance of fandom as a source of history-based traditions” (32)
3. “fan identity around a particular science fiction activity or product” (32)
4. “Those who wish to change their identity from fan to science fiction professional…” (33)

con organizers are “working to create a place for their community life to flourish” (33)

“a multiplicity of conceptually differentiated spaces within the convention venue” (33)

huge cons “make it more difficult for the individual to find and share community with like-minded participants” (33)

:all conventions must provide a defended space for the playing out of events and the safe practice of community” (34)

Con dress code:
1. casual dress (jeans, tee shirts)
2. costumes (34)

“convention experience fulfills many of the necessary steps to a more flexible understanding-based approach to knowledge. … Fandom also provides learning through many entry points:
1. Narrational, through the literature itself and through personal narratives of members.
2. Logical-quantitateive, through the panels and science slide shows and lectures.
3. Foundational, in the infinite arguments about categories, definitions, and criteria for inclusion at every level of activity.
4. Aesthetic, with the are of filk music, dance, and costume.
5. Hands-on experiential, at every point, as gopher, baby-sitter, participant on panels nd in masquerades and dances, songs, and skits.” (47)

“multi-entry delivery system, the science fiction convention is a very powerful teaching/learning institution” (48)

1. “shows new members … how to be members of the community” (48)
2. “trains its members to learn in the particular way that fandom teaches” (48)

Mass events… (54ff)

“The convention is a performative event” (60)

RMCF (Rhetorical Memory Cosplay Fandom)


Why Teach English?

by Dr Davis on August 5, 2014

There are often editorials about it, but I like this one.

“English departments democratize the practice of reading.” from the article Why Teach English? in The New Yorker


Intersection of Genres

by Dr Davis on July 22, 2014

Intersections of Genres: Genre-lizing
FenCon10 notes

bisect codes (paranormal werewolf)

gothic romance
science fiction
noir mystery
dark fantasy
urban fantasy
detective mystery
science fantasy
historical romance

iconic covers?
mainstream and genre
Star Wars poster re-dos
George R. Martin cover
single object in a landscape

Goblin Fruit is an online fantastical magazine with mythological elements.
–muse immigrating to Australia
daughter of the muse of poetry attempting to produce art


Sir Walter Scott at the Royal Society of Edinburgh

by Dr Davis on June 16, 2014

Sir Walter Scott and the New Science of Reading, a discussion forum
Royal Society of Edinburgh
June 16, 6 pm

Sir Walter Scott, 1771 - 1832. Novelist and poetWhat caught my attention on the small sandwich board announcing the forum was the idea of brain science and “online” perception and the idea of virtual realities created by our brains for us as we read. This is not my experience with reading, but it sounded interesting and I thought I might be able to use some of the information, if it was, in fact, digital.

Having re-read the sandwich board, I don’t think there is any digital aspect, but it will be interesting nonetheless and I am interested in what Scottish academics have to say about Sir Walter Scott.

I went inside and signed up, as registration was required. They wanted my name, my address, and my email. I gave them that and was glad they didn’t want my phone number.

I wish I had make-up in my backpack today, as I’ve sweat the makeup off, but it appears that academics here don’t wear much makeup. I guess that means I’m good to go.

It appears to be an older crowd, most grey-headed, except for a couple of us with dyed hair. At 15 till, there are 26 people seated in the room, including myself. … It looks like there are 75 or so folks here as we begin.

I asked permission to drink my water and take notes on my computer during the address. Both of those, they assured me, are allowed.

The president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh is introducing. The RSE was formed in 1873, eight years after the birth of Scott. Scott served for 13 years as the president of RSE.

Dr. Elspeth Jajdelska, English Studies, U of Strathclyde
Sir Walter Scott’s Legacy and the New Science of Reading

Scott, and others, today and think about why he is not as popular as he once was. Example, Sir Walter’s Scott’s Ivanhoe was shortened and recently republished.

What about Scott’s day?
Reading for the plot… “Read the conclusion for the 50th time.” Byron
great descriptions, “as Claude (Village Fete is one of his paintings) L… on skies” Ruskin

history of reading itself
Abigail Williams, Leah Price—both worked on anthologies in the 19th C, the use of portions of writings instead of the whole thing (extracts)

amberg_wilhelm_lecture-from-goethe-value-ago_1870 book reading pd due to ageShared reading, family reading was common.

Folks “dipped into the Waverly Novels” as children…
shared versus silent reading
Showed images of lots of women/girls/children reading together.

performing works dramatically, but for your friends and family at home
no shame in just picking out the good bits
It is part of why the anthologies/extracts were popular.Tihamér_Margitay_Exciting_story 1898 boys reading author life+70 WC pd

What did they get from description?
Ruskin said he liked the descriptions…
But it’s not just like going to a gallery and seeing a picture.

neuroscience… evidence from brain scanning degree to which when we imagine things, we use the same resources as when we see them, taste them, touch them…

movements v action words
performing an action and hearing the words that depict that action

literature can create an embodied experience.
Description potentially can create these rich, embodied experiences.

almost literally a picture of the image seen is in the brain (cat research)

are they getting a simulation?
no. It’s complicated.
normal object perception—upside down—They look identical.
But right way round we can tell one of them is frowning evilly.

object agnosia see only facesobject agnosia (see only faces) illness
Face agnosia (see only objects)
While looking for images of these to post, I found a set of lecture notes that more fully develop the non-Scott related ideas the professor presented.
describing faces can mess with the problems
If the victims describe the face of the bad guy, they will have a harder time recognizing the face.
face is stored holistically as a single unit

Rebecca Ivanhoe
“turban of yellow silk suited well with the darkness of her complexion. The brilliancy of her eyes, the superb arch of her eyebrows, her well-formed aquiline nose, her teeth as white as pearl, and the profusion of her sable tresses…” broke the parts of her face into other sensations… brilliance was associated with diamonds… molded nose
Rebecca_Gratz by Thomas Sully 1831 model for Ivanhoe Scott WC pd
Rebecca Gratz was supposedly Scott’s model for Rebecca in Ivanhoe.

sable hair, pearl teeth (doll—Is this relevant? Does someone discuss?)

a sequence of perceptual manipuatlions relying heavily on other sensations

reconstruction and performance, how to reconstruct audience

How can we use this research?
Perhaps re-create Scott’s audiences’ experiences:
shared oral readings of extracts
science as a hook to enter the mind of the past
permission to cherry pick
permission to go slow (over a year to a class)