Dining With Characters, Part 2 — Revisited

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For the next installment of this series, I wanted to focus on a few characters out of Shakespeare with whom I would like to spend a couple of hours eating, drinking, and talking. I have loved Shakespeare’s plays and poetry for much of my life. I have acted in and directed some of his work, and I have studied and taught his writing both at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA and in the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, so I would be thrilled to be able to speak to some of his characters.

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I would have Hamlet, Henry V, and Macbeth as my guests. I imagine we would meet in an English tavern and have a basic meal and beer.  I hope that my royal attendees would not mind not having a grand meal; I am reasonably sure that Henry V and Hamlet spent a fair amount of time in such modest places before their respective plays begin, and as a Scot and a warrior, Macbeth probably was used to basic accommodations while in the field.

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I would ask them about their views of leadership and the responsibilities of a leader and about their portrayals in the plays.  Henry V and Macbeth are both based on historical persons, while Hamlet is perhaps based on a real person–that is a debate for another day, so I wonder what they might have to say.

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I think this would be a lively and deeply fascinating discussion.

With whom from the world of drama, not necessarily Shakespeare, would you choose to invite to dine and speak?

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The Liberal Arts: Crucial for Education and Society

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I was looking over some of my early blogposts, and I decided I wanted to revisit this piece about the Liberal Arts–the humanities–and their importance. The idea I write about in this little post is crucial for our society–the importance of the Liberal Arts in Education.

I had a piece published in the “Education Guide” of the Sunday, 2/15/15, edition of The Morning Call, the largest newspaper in the Lehigh Valley, PA. I am very proud of have the article in the paper, because I am very proud to be part of the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.

The Wescoe School is the name of the adult college program for Muhlenberg College. In this school, adults are able to gain full Bachelor degrees in a variety of majors and programs as well as certificate of study if they are focused on one specific area.

I have been teaching college English courses for many years, and I have been an adjunct instructor at many colleges, but I am deeply impressed with the quality of education and the care for the adult students that are demonstrated in this program.

I was honored to have been asked to write this piece, and I hope that I delivered a clear and sound explanation of the Liberal Arts, both in terms of history and application. I am an unrepentant Humanist; I still believe in the power of education to help people and in the ability of writing and words to help bridge gaps among people. Even at my age, I remain an idealist. Especially in the Wescoe program, I see education having a positive impact on students, many of whom have never attended college, might be starting their higher education in their 40s or 50s, and many of whom have full-time jobs and families. Their ability to learn and achieve never fails to humble me and to reinforce my belief in the strength of the Liberal Arts.

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French On English: A Guide To Writing Better Essays by Charles F. French–Part of the Lehigh University Celebration of Authors

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I was honored to have been included in a lovely event this week:   Harvest of Ideas: A Celebration of Lehigh Authors reception hosted by the Friends of the Lehigh University Libraries.

This was an annual recognition of Lehigh University faculty, including adjunct faculty, who have had works published and placed into the library collection. The event itself occurred in Linderman Library’s  Bayer Galleria, which is a room of stunning beauty. In the photograph, I am standing in front of a fireplace that was once a functional heating system. The wood paneling and bookshelves that fill the large space complete the extraordinary atmosphere of the room.

In addition to a wonderful spread of food and drink, the faculty books were put on prominent display on tables along the main wall of the room. I am honored to have my book on writing essays included.

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I was also delighted that a jazz combo of Lehigh undergrad students performed during the event, and they were excellent! These young adults sounded like they had been performing jazz for many years. I closed my eyes, and I imagined an old, smoke filled room with such musicians playing!

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It is always a wonderful feeling to receive recognition such as was given here, so I offer my thanks to the Friends of the Lehigh University Libraries, the staff who prepared everything, and the wonderful librarians! Thanks to all!

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

FOE_Cover_French

 

Available on Amazon

 

Libraries and Bookstores of the Lehigh Valley, PA: Linderman Library at Lehigh University

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I mentioned a little over a week ago that I was beginning a new series on libraries and bookstores of the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, and I am finally making the first entry in that series. My beginning piece will feature the beautiful Linderman Library of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.

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Linderman Library is the humanities library, and it is my favorite place on campus. I earned my M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature at Lehigh University, and this extraordinary abode of books is a comforting and inspiring place to work. I have spent many hours doing research and writing in this safe haven for book people.

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Linderman Library has many places to work, including a long reading room, which feels like something out of Hogwarts from the Harry Potter books, many nooks with desks, and one of the best features of the library–the rotunda. Several levels of books fill the outside circle, and a winding metal staircase goes from the first to the third floor.

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One of the most beautiful features that is often missed is the dome that caps the rotunda. It is one of striking beauty,  and made of stained glass. If you have the opportunity to visit Lehigh University, you should go to Linderman Library, visit the rotunda, and look up at the dome!

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I am fortunate to live in an area with so many bookstores and libraries, and I was doubly fortunate to attend a University with a humanities library that is not only filled with thousands of volumes of books and journals, but also it is beautiful. The very nature of its architecture encourages students to study in its comfortable environment.

I will continue this series on libraries and bookstores in the Lehigh Valley, PA soon.

 

Quotations on History

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“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”

                                                                         Michael Crichton

 

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“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

                                                                         George Santayana

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“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

                                                                        George Orwell

Doc Chuck’s Recommended Readings–Revisited

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This blogpost was written several years ago, but I thought it was worth revisiting, especially because I love to suggest books for people to read.

I had the good fortune this week of delivering a talk at the Muhlenberg College Board of Associates Meeting on the topic of Great Books.  I spoke with the audience for about 20-25 minutes about what I consider to be great books and why they matter. The main argument I made about the importance of books is that they connect us as people.  I am an unreserved humanist; I believe that human beings have the power to improve themselves, that education is crucial to develop of an informed  society, and that books allow readers to experience the worlds of others.

The audience was one of professionals from many fields but very few English Literature majors; however, their interest in reading and books was heartening for me.  They wanted to hear suggestions about what books I would recommend.

In my classes, I sometimes do something I call — Chuck’s recommended readings.  I ask the students to write the title and author and then tell them that what they do with that information is entirely up to them.  Since several of the attendees of this talk asked for further suggestions, I decided to put together a list, very abbreviated I admit, of books I would recommend.  Some of them I consider among the best and most important books ever written, and some I simply found to be wonderful and entertaining.

Now, the list:

Doc Chuck’s Recommended Readings
Agee, James and Walker Evans. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

Allende, Isabel. The House of the Spirits.

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451.

Brown, Larry. Fay.

Cervantes, Miguel De. Don Quixote.

Delaney, Frank. Ireland.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities.

Doyle, Roddy. A Star Called Henry.

Eco, Umberto. The Name of the Rose.

Gaiman, Neil. American Gods.

Grass, Günter. The Tin Drum.

Helprin, Mark. A Soldier of the Great War.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . The Pacific and Other Stories.

Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom The Bell Tolls.

Homer. The Iliad.

. . . . . . . The Odyssey.

King, Stephen. Hearts In Atlantis.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . The Stand.

Lee, Harper.  To Kill A Mockingbird.

Poe, Edgar Allan.  Complete Works.

Rice, Anne. Interview With the Vampire.

Rowling, J. K. The entire Harry Potter series.

Shakespeare, William. The Collected Works.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein.

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath.

Stoker, Bram. Dracula.

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings.

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Zafon, Carlos Ruiz. The Shadow of the Wind.

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief.

I am certain there are many books I have forgotten to mention.  This is neither intended to be all-inclusive, nor is it meant to be authoritarian.  I hope that someone may find a book or books from this list, read them, and enjoy them.

Happy reading!

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

Beautiful Writing, Part 5: John Donne

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John Donne was a poet, philosopher, and man of the church in Renaissance England. His writing covered a wide range of material, including poems, songs, and sermons. I want to quote from one of his most famous pieces: “Meditation 17”, which many readers will recognize as the epigram at the beginning of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

This quotation is an expression of Humanism and the connection of all people. It is especially important in our current world.