I Am Proud Of My Students!

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I feel blessed that I am able to follow two of my passions in my life–teaching and writing. I spend a great deal of time in this blog speaking about my writing, but now I want to talk about one of the classes I teach at college.

I love all of my classes, but something extraordinary happened this semester in one of my classes at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. This was part of a cluster–two courses taught by two different professors about a central issue or question. This cluster’s name is America on The Cusp of Crisis: The Literature and History of A Nation in Turmoil, and it is about the history and writing of the Civil War of the United States of America.

I was also fortunate to be able to work with Dr. William Feeney, who taught the history course. Dr. Feeney is one of the most talented teachers I have ever had the honor of knowing, and I have known many in my now 25 or so years of teaching English at college. Dr. Feeney is a scholar on the Civil War and is deeply invested in teaching and finding new and challenging ways for his students to learn. Any student who has him as a professor is fortunate.

The students were given a project, working in small groups, to conceptualize, design, and print a model of a Civil War monument. This was not working on an existing monument, but creating a new one about an aspect of the Civil War they found important and interesting. The students would use the college’s 3-D printer to make the model. They also had to write a dedication speech and a reflective essay on their projects. The students were aided in the design and printing by Instructional Technologist Jordan Noyes.

The 4 groups created monuments to Civil War horses, Clara Barton, The Sanitary Commission, and the Battle of Shiloh.  All of the models of the monuments demonstrated an abundance of work, planning, and execution. I was astounded by their efforts.

The students presented the models, including a ribbon cutting and a reading of their dedication speech. They then spoke about the process of their work. Their presentation was covered by the student newspaper The Muhlenberg Weekly. This was an exercise that included analysis, knowledge, creativity, design, and production, and I believe this work brought out the best in these students.

The models are now on display on the main floor of the Trexler Library of Muhlenberg College.

I am honored to have worked on this cluster with Dr. Feeney and with Jordan Noyes. I am deeply proud of the work of my students.

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Beautiful Writing, Part 6: Tim O’Brien

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(Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0.)

One of the most extraordinary books I have ever read is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. The book itself presents an interesting question: is this a novel or a collection of interrelated short stories? I do not intend to delve into that conundrum now, but it is something we often explore when I use this book in literature classes.

O’ Brien deals with the Vietnam War, writing, story, and memory, among other issues in this text, but what I want to show is the power and beauty of his writing. Following are several excerpts:

“Forty-three years old, and the war occurred half a life-time ago, and yet the remembering makes it now. And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.” (38)

“I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.” (179)

“I can see Kiowa, too, and Ted Lavender and Curt Lemon, and sometimes I can even see Timmy skating with Linda under the yellow floodlights. I’m young and I’m happy. I’ll never die. I’m skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt between the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy’s life with a story.” (246)

Works Cited

O’ Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Broadway Books. New York. 1990.

 

 

Happy Birthday to Bram Stoker!

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Today is the 170th anniversary of Irish writer Bram Stoker’s birthday. As the author of Dracula, a book I consider one of the finest Gothic novels ever written, he has had enormous impact on the worlds of writing, theater, and film.

To commemorate this day, the wonderful librarians at Lehigh University’s Linderman Library organized a showing of the classic film Dracula (1931) and starring Bela Lugosi. I was asked to give a short presentation about the film, which I enjoyed doing.  Given the opportunity to talk about this book and film, I always grasp the chance.

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So I wish Bram Stoker a happy birthday!

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Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I by Charles F. French is available for purchase on Amazon either as an ebook or a print book!

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

Books That Have Influenced Me: Part One

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I have ready many books over the course of my life, and books have become a central part of who I am. I read books for pleasure, for study, and for examination. I teach books in my literature classes at Lehigh University and Muhlenberg College, I write about them in scholarly work, and I write novels. As I was considering the topic for this post, I started to think about what books have influenced me the most in my life.

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I do not mean that I want to explore what books are the most meaningful or the most important literature. That is a completely different discussion. Certainly there can be crossover in my choices, because I will not eliminate a text on its literary value, but I am interested now in which books had a part to play in my development as a human being and which ones helped to form me into the person I now am.

So many come to mind and are possibilities for discussion, especially when I think of some of the books I read as a youngster in high school. Among these novels are Dracula, The War of the Worlds, A Tale of Two Cities, Frankenstein, The Lord of the Rings and Fahrenheit 451.  Certainly, there were many more books that I read at that time, and I have always been a voracious reader, but these books, in a variety of ways help to shape my interests and some of my directions in life.

Today, I will focus on Dracula and what its influence on me was and is. This was one of the first Gothic novels I had read, and its power caught me immediately. I was drawn to the images of dark castles, terrible villains, and the supernatural. That I love Gothic is still clear, because not only do I teach Gothic literature, but also I write it.

Dracula, however, had a much deeper impact on me that simply the horror aspect; I was drawn to the idea of the need for good people to oppose evil.  It is a theme that, on the surface, might seem simplistic, but a person need only look at the history of the 20th Century into our contemporary time to see that evil does exist, especially in the form of people who would oppress, torment, exclude, and bully others. Of course, I am not making an argument that the supernatural evil in this novel exists, but that human evil certainly does.  The Nazis demonstrated that human horror in its full capacity.

In this book, a fellowship of human beings is created, and they decide to fight a creature that is far more powerful than anything they could have imagined, and they do so at the risk of their lives.  This act of defending others, even if the people do the battle are put at risk, became a central part of my ethos.  There will always be those who would bully and oppress others, and they must always be opposed.  While in early high school, Dracula helped to form that idea in my mind.

In the next entry in this series, I will discuss a book in which the idea of fellowship is a central theme.

wp-1476386546701-maledicus

Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I by Charles F. French is available for purchase on Amazon either as an ebook or a print book!

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

Quotations on Creativity

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“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

                                                                    Sylvia Plath

 

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“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

                                                                  Albert Einstein

 

George Bernard Shaw

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“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.”

                                                                 George Bernard Shaw

Quotations on Education

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“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

                                                                      Mahatma Gandhi

 

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“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

                                                                      Nelson Mandela

 

Margaret Mead (1972)

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“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”

                                                                     Margaret Mead

Beautiful Writing: Part I: Ray Bradbury

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One of the reasons that I love to read, in addition to experiencing other worlds, walking in the path of other characters, learning about the world around us, and escaping from reality for a short time, is to enjoy the beauty of words. Some writers are able to elevate their writing to a level of poetry and beauty that is exhilarating and joyful to read.

One writer, whose use of words, reaches poetic levels is Ray Bradbury. He is a writer not easily confined to one genre and whose work is defined by love of story. I have taught his work in several college classes in both Muhlenberg College and Lehigh University, and his writing has been an influence on me as a novelist.

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I will offer two passages from his brilliant novel Dandelion Wine, a BildungsRoman or coming-of-age story, set in late 1920s in Green Town, Illinois. These passages are from the perspective of a boy who is beginning to see possibilities in life, both the external world and in himself.

The first passage is the opening of the novel:

It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed.

Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing

of the world was long and warm and slow. You only had to rise, lean from your

window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living,

this was the first morning of summer.

Douglas Spaulding, twelve, freshly wakened, let summer idle him on its

early-morning stream. Lying in his third-story cupola bedroom, he felt the tall

power it gave him, riding high in the June wind, the grandest tower in town. At

night, when the trees washed together, he flashed his gaze like a beacon from

this lighthouse in all directions over swarming seas of elm and oak and maple.

Now . . . (1)

That is an extraordinary opening to a novel. It pulls the reader into the story with a seemingly simplistic prose, but within that simplicity is beauty and the poetry of the world being seen through young eyes.

Another passage shows Douglas at night time:

Douglas sprawled back on  the dry porch planks, completely  contented

and reassured by these voices, which would speak on through eternity, flow

in a stream of murmurings over his body, over his closed eyelids, into his

drowsy ears, for all time. The rocking chairs sounded like crickets, the crickets

sounded like rocking chairs, and the moss-covered rain barrel by  the

dining-room window produced another generation of mosquitoes to provide

a topic of conversation through endless summers ahead. (33)

 

Both excerpts, in my view, are beautiful, compelling, and poetic. All writers should read and study Ray Bradbury.

Works Cited

Bradbury, Ray. Dandelion Wine. New York. Avon Books. 1999.