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The Stronghold of Bioinformatics

Jan 5, 2013
No one likes gamification or MOOCs, as far as I can tell. What I should say is that anyone trained in the hermeneutics of suspicion might even find it hard to accept their existence. It’s hard to come up with a hypothetical concept that would cry more piteously to the heavens for critique, for example. True to form, until a few weeks ago I had never earned a badge in my life and would have regarded the prospect of doing so with contempt and a touch of pity for whoever was naive enough to suggest it.

The Modern Apocalypse

Jan 31, 2008
Is the title of the graduate seminar I’m teaching now (borrowed from Kermode’s The Sense of an Ending). Here’s the course description: The twenties and thirties were revolutionary, violent, low, and dishonest by turns. They were also haunted by the promise of a better world. This seminar will examine how writers of the British Isles envisioned the future and diagnosed the present in the interwar era. We will read works written in an overtly apocalyptic mode and those whose vision is more restrained, more concerned with the changing perception of time in the emerging modernity of the present.

The Value of Teaching Literature

Jan 18, 2008
Stanley Fish has attracted significant attention, at least from those of who us who feel compelled to comment on such things, with his NYT posts on the value of the humanities. Before Fish’s posts, I read this response to an MLA panel. Dr. Crazy cogently notes that socialization to literature varies widely within different student populations. I want to respond to this paragraph in particular: To give students a vocabulary for discussing things that are complex, which is ultimately about socializing them to talk, think, and feel in ways that allow them to be upwardly mobile.

On The Impossibility of Teaching Anecdote of The Jar

Oct 19, 2007
My course blog for an American Lit survey at ECU last year gets about ten-to-twenty hits each day for “anecdote of the jar analysis” or similar. I told the students in that class that this would be likely to happen and that they were writing for future generations (and even developed a poster presentation based on this alarming pedagogical thesis). Other than habit and general inertia, one of the reasons this happens is that it’s a deeply mysterious poem, one that probably deserves no place in freshman and sophomore anthologies.

The Lost Glove Is Happy

Aug 11, 2007
I’m contemplating the following as a syllabus: Metamorphosis Ficciones The Street of Crocodiles Pale Fire Imaginary Magnitude and/or A Perfect Vacuum But I think something is missing. I don’t think that something is The Waves, though there are reasons to think so. Nor Calvino. (But were there an affordable edition of the Codex Seraphinianus!) It’s not Barthelme or Danielewski or Zadie Smith. Byatt, maybe. If those books form a series, what is the next term?

Some Teaching Notes

Apr 10, 2007
I have three back-to-back classes this semester. Yesterday, I taught Endgame, “To Room Nineteen,” and an exercise about mapping social space (pp. 195-200 of Fieldworking, to be exact.) There was nothing particularly depressing about the last one, of course, but I think most will agree that the first two aren’t pick-me-ups. So I was thinking about existential despair and the problems of communication and memory. (Clancy [a rising video star] and I have also been watching the second season of Twin Peaks.) Via Semi-dispensable PTDR I found Margaret Boden’s review of Douglas Hofstadter’s latest book.

Some Brief Notes and Queries on Teaching Borges

Mar 11, 2006
I’ve taught some of Borges’s fictions in two out of three of my last classes and am spending this week on “The Immortal,” “The House of Asterion,” “The Zahir,” and “The Aleph.” I’d be interested in hearing from any of you who’ve taught Borges, particularly in an introductory course. How did it go, and how specifically did you handle Borges’s awesome and conspicuous erudition? “Pierre Menard,” which I taught a few weeks ago, is among the commented-upon of all the stories; and I have yet* to read a satisfactory explanation of Menard’s recapitulative bibliography or of the role of the atypical narrator.

Quine's Digital Babel; Dennett on the Res Cogitans

Feb 21, 2006
I’m teaching “The Library of Babel” tomorrow, and I was pleased to find Quine’s piece from Quiddities (an elegantly written book) online. Dennett, who also mentions the Borges story in his “In Darwin’s Wake, Where Am I?” (citation available in my Citeulike directory), presents yet again the res cogitans as a “skyhook.” Has he ever addressed Chomsky’s response to this, that Newton’s demonstration of action at a distance actually rendered the concept of a body obsolete?


Jan 9, 2006
That’s the title of my course this semester. I’m thinking possibly of substituting Primer for eXistenZ. I think Primer’s engagingly baffling, and it’s also one of the best movies about engineers qua engineers I’ve seen. I did ‘solve’ Rhem, and getting the bridge to rise is really just the start of it. Clancy bought me the sequel as a present, and I’ve vowed to get through it without looking at a walkthrough, which I admit I did out of frustration two or three times in the first game.

The Teaching of Intelligent Design

Jan 25, 2005
As long-time readers know, I taught a course last semester called “The Rhetoric of Evolution in America.” This course was organized into three sections, with last two focusing on debates without and within evolutionary theory. As you might expect, in the fomer I taught selections from intelligent designers along with even YECs. One of the student comments on the course evaluation complained that I only taught “well-written articles from an evolutionist perspective and poorly written creationist ones” or something similar.

Game, Puzzle, Paradox

Jan 11, 2005
Here’s the syllabus for my above-titled course this semester. I decided that the “Addiction and Necessity” course would be better taught as my original idea, “The Pharmaceutical Imagination,” which would primarily consider the rhetoric of debates about access to and the development of drugs. I plan to teach it in the fall. I very well may set up a course blog to be hosted right here at jgoodwin.net., your one-stop shop, etc.

Kevin Drum Overreacts to Google Initiative Criticism

Dec 17, 2004
The former Calpundit has some harsh things to say about this L.A. Times piece by Michael Gorman, the president-elect of the ALA. Drum’s main criticism is that there is no rational grounds for Gorman to object to an initiative that will make it easier for scholars to do what they already do in physical libraries. Gorman argues that the process of digitization will encourage the improper use of scholarly knowledge, turning instead into mere decontextualized information.

Teaching with Inform

Dec 7, 2004
I’m seriously considering asking students to create an Inform project for my “Addiction and Necessity” Introduction to Literature course next semester. I haven’t yet done much research into whether anyone else has tried this particular pedagogical gambit, but I think it could prove interesting. A long-standing wish is to create an enter an interactive fiction into the annual contest. I missed this year’s, but I might still make the Spring Thing.

The Rhetoric of Evolution

Dec 5, 2004
That was the title of my introductory writing course this semester, and I’m now beginning to assess what worked well and what didn’t. There was an impressive amount of often insightful discussion from the students, which is hidden away behind a proprietary message board, unfortunately, but I’ll try to transfer it over before long. I had them read in the third section a couple of semi-technical articles: “Spandrels of San Marco” and Gould’s “Is a New and General Theory of Evolution Emerging?” in the third section of the course, and, while I think the issues raised therein were not too difficult for the students, who had vastly different levels of preparation in biology, to follow, they might have been.