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Showing posts from August, 2020

Should the Washington Redskins Be Renamed the Washington Rednecks?

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The Washington Redskins' name controversy
Wikipedians have outdone themselves in outlining the multiple aspects and perspectives of the Washington Redskins' name controversy.  Personally, I have always interpreted the expression "redskin" as a racist slur.  However, despite complaints, protests and a number of court cases, "Redskins" has survived as the name of the Washington NFL team since 1933.  Justification and defense of the name include the fact that some Native Americans support its use and even use it themselves as an object of pride.  Additionally, the expression's origins are etymologically neutral and only took on negative connotations from the way the locution has been used.  
How language evolvesAs I've pointed out elsewhere, in the evolution of language, usage trumps definitions and origins.  How a word gets used eventually becomes its meaning.  "Redskin," particularly as it has been dominantly used in American culture, is an i…

What Is Literature about?

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Can literature be about life? When I was teaching a course on American Literature, one of my students, a woman in her twenties, was a mother of five children.  I would occasionally see her and her husband with the kids in the park where my son played soccer.  One evening her husband was alone with the kids and approached my son and me as we were tossing a Frisbee.  He emanated an intensity that I associated with being the young father of five.  Nodding hello, he said, "My wife is in your American literature course."  Honestly, I assumed I was in trouble and braced myself.  "At night we sit at the kitchen table," he said, "and my wife tells me about your course."    Then he told me, "I thought a literature course would be just about books, but yours is about life." He went on to express his regret that he couldn't take the course.

The Rules of postmodernism It was a supreme compliment, and I cherish it to this day.  But, at the time, I rem…