Children’s Literature vs. Nationalism: IRSCL’s Statement of Principles

The International Research Society for Children’s Literature (IRSCL) — an organization of which I am a member — is today issuing a statement in support of academic freedom, and against the rising tide of nativism/nationalism that threatens to curtail it.  We’re issuing it in 20 different languages (with more to come) and you can see…

Upgrade Vortex

upgrade vortex, n. The hidden temporal, cognitive, and/or financial costs of getting a new electronic device (tablet, smart phone, computer, etc.). We need a term to describe the experience of obtaining a new technological item, and then the (guaranteed but never mentioned) troubleshooting and cost that inevitably follows. I propose “upgrade vortex” — upgrade both because this is…

Commonplace Book: Children’s Literature, Part III

Children’s literature distills experience into concise, often pithy nuggets of wisdom. When you happen upon one such pearl, it often feels as if — for just that moment — the author (and not the narrator or character) is talking directly to you. From time to time, I gather a few such quotations in my irregularly appearing “Commonplace…

How to Mispronounce “Dr. Seuss.”

Offering a great example of information without context, The Week‘s Amanda Green says we should not pronounce “Dr. Seuss” as “Doctor Soose” but as “Doctor Zoice.”  She’s wrong. The professional pseudonym of Theodor Seuss Geisel is Dr. Seuss, and all the English-speaking world pronounced it “Doctor Soose.”  If you pronounce it “Doctor Zoice,” you’ll sound…

8 Stray Pieces of Knowledge (Imported)

What happens to the odd bits of knowledge you accumulate while traveling? Unless you write them down, much vanishes. So, here are a few things I learned while traveling in Switzerland, France, and Norway during the past ten days. 1. The Basilisk originates in Basel, Switzerland.  You know the basilisk from Harry Potter and the…

Harry Potter, the American translation

In remembrance of a great university press, I’m posting: my essay, “‘You Say ‘Jelly,’ I Say ‘Jello’?: Harry Potter and the Transfiguration of Language,” and a full list of each difference between the Bloomsbury (UK) and Scholastic (US) editions of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books — well, to be accurate, the first three Harry Potter books, and…

Research, Writing, and Getting a Life

One of the many pleasures of Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance (2010) is its evocation of the thrill of research. As he traces the history of his family’s netsuke (small Japanese ivory and wood carvings), de Waal describes great-great-great grandfather Charles Ephrussi’s art-collecting in nineteenth-century Paris as “‘vagabonding’ … done with…

Wordplay: A Mix About Language

In North America, those of us who are teachers or students are thinking about school.  In August and September, the summer holidays end, and a new term begins.  To commemorate (or commiserate?) this season last year, I posted Dark Sarcasm in the Classroom: A Back-to-School Mix.  This year, I’m posting a mix about language.  Enjoy!…

How to Talk Nonsense

Last Friday, in my English 703: Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature class, the students and I spent 5 minutes talking nonsense.  We’d been reading theories of nonsense, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice books — I thought it would be both fun and educational to put those theories into practice. So, based on our readings of Tigges,…