Literary Archetypes

The following is a list of archetypes that occur in the literatures of different cultures across time and space. Whether these are evident in the ostensible literatures of extraterrestrial cultures is yet to be seen, but for the time being we can agree that these are symbols all humans can recognize, whether aged nine or … Continue reading Literary Archetypes


Our Little Life

Throughout most of Act IV of The Tempest, Prospero, Ferdinand, and Miranda watch a masque enacted for them by Ariel and other spirits on the island. But before the pageant can reach a proper conclusion, Prospero remembers he needs to direct to a close matters elsewhere on the island, and so he orders the masque … Continue reading Our Little Life

Love Stinks

  When you study the Western conception of Love throughout the ages, you quickly realize that the loving feeling is usually depicted as painful. Consider Cupid: he causes people to fall in love by piercing them with arrows. The Greeks used this explanation to account for the "piercing" feeling one feels when falling in love: … Continue reading Love Stinks

On Ahab: “Canst Thou Draw out Leviathan with an Hook? Thou Should’st Bet I Might!”

Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down? Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn? Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee? Will he make a covenant with thee? … Continue reading On Ahab: “Canst Thou Draw out Leviathan with an Hook? Thou Should’st Bet I Might!”

In Brief: Why Teach Archetypes to Middle Schoolers?

Friends and colleagues sometimes ask me why I have my students perform archetype analyses almost every day in class. What, they ask, is the point of having a 13- or 14-year-old scrutinize these universal symbols? It is a reasonable question, especially when you consider that the texts that discuss archetypes tend to be dense, esoteric … Continue reading In Brief: Why Teach Archetypes to Middle Schoolers?

In Brief: How to Write Well

There is an insidious assumption thriving amongst American students and their families that teachers can teach young people certain tricks that will automatically improve their writing. The ubiquitously-unheeded truth is that there are no tricks. Students become effective writers by reading effective writers; conversely, they become poor writers by reading poor writers. Thus, the best … Continue reading In Brief: How to Write Well