Archive for June, 2011

5 From the Bookshelf: On Language, Writing and Lifelong Learning

Iceland

That's me, in Iceland. I swear this has a connection to the story.

Back in the dark ages when I was an undergrad student at Tulane, the English major was divided into two separate tracks: “Literature” and “Language, Writing and Rhetoric,” or LWR.

Those of us in the LWR track were fighting a losing battle against its gradual and eventual phasing out, which meant during registration each semester you could always spot a few LWR majors frantically pacing from table to table, looking for something – anything – to sign up for that would count towards our requirements.

There was some upside. I may have missed the opportunity to take Medieval English as a foreign language my senior year, but I ended up instead in a Medieval Literature seminar focused on early Icelandic sagas. A surprisingly entertaining class taught by a professor with a passion for all things Icelandic, it’s something I never would have considered taking if it hadn’t been essentially the last English class left with an open slot. And had I not taken it, I probably wouldn’t have been so motivated to take a trip to Iceland a few years ago.

But all those “history of the language” classes? I never did get them. That’s probably why I find myself picking up all kinds of language and writing books now – some easy-to-read and fun, others a little technical and dense (and I’m not even going to mention the various squads of The Atlantic’s Word Police Academy I’ve been inducted into).

More than just a hobby, though, these kinds of books can come in handy when you’re faced with a blank page or trying to decide if it should be “toward” or “towards,” so I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you. Whether you’re a recovering LWR major, want some context to make it easier to understand the quirky rules of English grammar and usage, or just have an unhealthy obsession with the language like I do, here’s my summer reading list for the classes I never took.

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June 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm Leave a comment


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