“Trigger Warnings” for Hamlet

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This week the British publication The Guardian reported that “Students in America have been asking for “trigger warnings” to be included on works of literature which deal with topics such as rape or war.”  Works that were of concern to students at the University of California at Santa Barbara included Things Fall ApartMrs. Dalloway, and The Great Gatsby, all of which I have taught.  This demand for fair warning so that those who have been traumatized can adequately prepare for the shock of what they read assumes that having something in a syllabus (which may or may not be read by students anyway) will insulate students from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that may come up in any given text.

I’m not so sure.
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Gatsbymania: Baz Luhrmann’s Wild Ride

ap_great_gatsby_wm_dm_130509_wblogLet me just say right off the bat that it takes guts to take a sacrosanct American novel, let’s say, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and turn it into a film.  And that is exactly what Baz Luhrmann has done.  Art begets art, and so I would never be the kind of person who would refuse to see this film because “the movie is never better than the book,” or “I can’t stand Tobey Maguire,” or, “Jay-Z is not the Jazz Age,” although I know people that I profoundly respect who do not wish to sully the novel that is in their heads with Baz Lurhmann’s outsized pop-opera cinematic style.

Fair enough.

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Anticipating Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby

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Gatsby fever is at an all time high–temperatures are soaring whether you are in love with the idea of a new film version of The Great Gatsby, or if you are dreading it like some sort of 3-D technicolor train wreck.

In either case, I have never seen such a polarized anticipation of a movie in my lifetime.  I mean when the last installment of the Star Wars saga or the Indiana Jones franchise came out, was anyone against it?  Of course not.  But the divided reaction against Baz Lurhmann’s Gatsbyesque hubris in staging an ambitious visual version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s sacrosanct Great American Novel has us buzzing, so we should all probably go see it anyway. Continue reading

Bloglandia: Five Things I Have Learned So Far

jk_oldjournalThis essay was also reposted on July 2nd, 2013 by The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog.

Six months ago today I started blogging for Reflection and Choice, and it was this scary new thing that I had never done before.  Like many things in life, I just agreed to it because I like the person who thought up the idea, even though I knew, as I was smiling, and nodding my head, and saying, “Sure, that would be great!” that I had no idea what I was doing, no idea what I would write, no idea if I could even do this. Obviously, I had been overdosing on Snow Patrol songs and “Just say yes!” was ringing in my ears.  So, I said “yes.”

My first post was called “The End of Something,” but little did I know that it would be the beginning of something really meaningful to me, and a reminder of the big reason I love teaching at a university is that I get to learn something new every day.  Plus, nothing makes me happier than when a professor gets schooled: Consider me a permanent student in the course known as “Blogging 101:  You Don’t Know What Will Come of This.” Continue reading